Felicitous Space: The Imaginative Structures of Edith Wharton and Willa Cather

Felicitous Space: The Imaginative Structures of Edith Wharton and Willa Cather

Felicitous Space: The Imaginative Structures of Edith Wharton and Willa Cather

Felicitous Space: The Imaginative Structures of Edith Wharton and Willa Cather

Synopsis

Judith Fryer's study of novelists Edith Wharton and Willa Cather is a rich examination of the actual and imagined spaces women inhabit, perceive, and create. Turning to the period of "America's coming of age," Fryer offers a woman-centered inquiry into an era whose traditional landmarks are the frontier, the rise of the city, and World War I.

Excerpt

This book is set in a time and place historians--writing of "America's coming of age," "the search for order," "the incorporation of America," "the feminization of America," "the good years"--describe as the beginnings of modern America. The usual landmarks are Frederick Jackson Turner's address on the significance of the frontier in shaping the American character, Henry Adams's elegy to the Virgin as the world for which she stands succumbs, in the twentieth century, to the force of the Dynamo, the rise of the city, the bloodbath of World War I. This book, however, is a woman-centered inquiry; its focus is the experience of women, and its conceptual bounds are women's structures: the Woman's Building at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and the feminist utopian community, Herland, imagined in 1915 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who sought in restructuring the domestic environment to revolutionize the relationship between the sexes.

The first chapter is an investigation of women in terms of the spaces they inhabit, break free from, transform. Seeking to understand the interconnectedness between space and the female imagination, I turn to the fields of history, literature, environmental psychology, sociology and anthropology, geography, philosophy and the arts. All of this provides a context for my study of "Literature"--not as our critics have taught us to think of Literature, those "melodramas of beset manhood," as Nina Baym calls the canonical texts, that are particular expressions of being "American" in the dominant culture, but rather what Sarah Orne Jewett meant when she wrote to Willa Cather that "the Thing that teases the mind over and over for years, and at last gets itself put down rightly on paper-- whether little or great, it belongs to Literature." During this period I define, two women writers depart from the canon to explore and inscribe their own experiences, those of a muted culture. Their imaginative structures are the focus of my inquiry in Chapters 2 through 11: Edith Wharton's meticulously conceived interiors, which include all that the eye can . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.