E 395M • Henry James and Edith Wharton
12:00 PM-3:00 PM
We will read as many works (early, middle, late; long, short, medium-length) by James and Wharton as time allows, including some of James's essays. Specific text selection will to some extent depend on which James and Wharton works seminar members have already read and/or are eager to read in a class setting. We will read at least one of James's three "major phase" novels (The Ambassadors, The Wings of the Dove, The Golden Bowl). For Wharton, in addition to her better-known texts (The House of Mirth, The Custom of the Country, The Age of Innocence), we will read at least one novel from her less-known "late period," such as The Mother's Recompense, Twilight Sleep, or The Children. Recent critical and theoretical writing will play a secondary role in the course. Secondary writers may include Eve Sedgwick, Wai-Chee Dimock, Sara Blair, and Ken Warren, among others.
Some of the issues that I anticipate the class discussing are (in no particular order) Anglo-American constructions of "whiteness," battles over cultural authority in a rapidly-changing society, turn of the century sexual "crises" involving both masculinity and the New Woman, the varying models of realism that can be extrapolated from James's and Wharton's works, James and Wharton as modernist writers, and the relative pertinence of historicist, psychoanalytic, queer and other critical approaches to these authors and to prose fiction in general. In addition to Americanists, the course should appeal to students interested in the history of the novel and in transatlantic literatures.