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This book examines representations of war throughout American literary history, providing a firm grounding in established criticism and opening up new lines of inquiry. Readers will find accessible yet sophisticated essays that lay out key questions and scholarship in the field. War and American Literature provides a comprehensive synthesis of the literature and scholarship of US war writing, illuminates how themes, texts, and authors resonate across time and wars, and provides multiple contexts in which texts and a war's literature can be framed. By focusing on American war writing, from the wars with the Native Americans and the Revolutionary War to the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this volume illuminates the unique role representations of war have in the US imagination.
For scholars thinking about the function and meaning of whiteness today, reading the works of Edith Wharton offers ways both to make visible the cultural history and influences that have led to current damaging white behaviors and to formulate strategies for rewriting whiteness. Her fiction and non-fiction delineate the behaviors and attitudes – articulated as the arbitrary codes of taste, form, and tact – of upper-class life that have trickled “down” to and have been adopted by middle-class readers and currently linger in white American consciousness as signs of the good, the right, and the normal, devaluing some non-white customs as alien and other, hiding racism within classism and perpetuating the damage of binary thinking. At the same time, Wharton’s criticism of American society and her richly allusive literary style offer ways in which today’s readers can learn to critique both her works and, more broadly, white history and culture. In particular, her late novel The Children (1928), with its attention to manners and education against the backdrop of global blackness, offers useful strategies for readers invested in re-thinking whiteness as a positive identity that values history and collectivity.
Gay’s praise reminds us, if we need it, of both Wharton’s prominence as a writer and her contemporary relevance. At the same time, Gay’s admiration for a woman “unafraid to offer opinions” speaks to ongoing divided reactions to such women, applauded in some quarters, damned in others, for the very acts of thinking and speaking for themselves. Gay defines Wharton’s stature and contributions expansively: The Writing of Fiction “showed how the work of the fiction writer is not only to create fiction but also to consume fiction and be able to hold forth on matters of craft.” For Wharton, writing was, however noble, however much a calling to “the Land of Letters” (BG 119), ultimately just that: a “craft” – a conviction underscored in The Writing of Fiction by its validation of, and interdisciplinary links to, a variety of practical but creative art forms, among them acting, music, and design.
The New Edith Wharton Studies uncovers new evidence and presents new ideas that invite us to reconsider our understanding of one of America's most highly acclaimed, versatile, and prolific writers. The volume addresses themes that have previously been missed or underdeveloped, and examines areas where previous scholarship does not take account of key, contemporary issues: Wharton and ecocriticism, Wharton and queer studies, Wharton and animal studies, Wharton and whiteness, and Wharton and contemporary psychology. Essays explore Wharton's treatment of the poor in her emerging career, the ways in which French thinkers helped her envision community, the importance of Greece to Wharton, her transnationalism, the ongoing revelations of the author's archives, and new perspectives on her agency in the literary marketplace. It addresses key themes and examines contemporary issues, while reassessing Edith Wharton's life and career.