Edith Wharton A Collection Of Critical Essays

Edith Wharton A Collection Of Critical Essays-41
(Tuttleton Wharton’s interest in imperfect, incomplete vision is evident not only in her poetics but also the content of her stories. Manstey’s View” (1891), “The Lamp of Psyche” (1895), “A Glimpse” (1932) and “The Eyes” (1910) demonstrate the importance she gives to the onlooker.Many of her narratives rest upon a misreading of a situation or even object, including a misread picture in “The House of the Dead Hand” (1904), a misread book in “The Descent of Man” (1904) and a misread diagnosis in her 1930 story of the same name.Mais c’est surtout par le rôle qu’elle attribue au lecteur de ses nouvelles que Wharton s’apparente à ses contemporains modernistes : le lecteur doit être actif, capable d’identifier ses reprises des récits traditionnels, de comprendre l’ironie et de combler les vides laissés dans ces textes souvent fragmentaires.

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It is in recent critical appraisals of her short fiction in particular, a literary form closely associated with the “new” writing of the twentieth century, that scholars have found Wharton’s poetics “experimental” (Ware 17), “subversive” (Whitehead 54), and “modernist” (Campbell 5), noting her innovative manipulation of traditional forms.stories, by contrast, remain firmly positioned within a single, often narrow-minded narrating consciousness, and rather than offering some reassuringly reliable narrative yardstick against which to assess a focalizer’s point of view, are themselves a testament to the idiosyncrasies of perception.Indeed, as she states in “Telling a Short Story,” “exactly the same thing never happens to any two people” and “each witness of a given incident will report it differently” (Wharton states that once the narrator of a tale has been decided upon, the writer should stay firmly within this mind and register, and not include any event, language or judgement from outside this character’s vision.The title itself bears an indirect, symbolic relation to the story, which the reader is left to deduce alone, rather like the titles of her other three stories “The Lamp of Psyche” (1895), “After Holbein” (1928) and “Pomegranate Seed” (1931), the last prompting letters from readers who were not able to make the implicitly signalled link.2 The pelican is traditionally represented as a selfless creature, frequently depicted piercing her breast with her beak so that her offspring can eat her own flesh and blood when food is scarce.In medieval times artists often placed the bird with its nest on top of the cross; Thomas Aquinas (who is mentioned later in the story) uses the pelican in his hymn .3 In fact, the bird beats its bill against its chest to get macerated food out for its young, which, against its white feathers, creates the startling illusion it is harming itself.Such interest in perception and its relation to meaning align her writing with what has since been regarded as the “essentially modernist concern” of the nature of perception and the psychology of the perceiver (Stevenson 27).Furthermore her use of imperfect vision, the incomplete or absence signals a refusal to offer authorial judgement and her expectation that the reader will recognise inconsistencies and ironies and so, fill in the gaps of her often fragmentary narratives.This is confirmed in the final scene of the story, by which time her son is a grown man with his own children who angrily demands to know why she continues this pretence.By this point the question the reader asks is not whether she really needs to give lectures, but why she actively chooses to do so.The implicit link between the pelican of the title and Mrs.Amyot suggests that the “actual suffering” (79) she claims she must go through by speaking in public for the sake of the baby, is a fallacy rather like medieval notions of the bird’s self-sacrifice.


Comments Edith Wharton A Collection Of Critical Essays

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  • Edith Wharton Bibliography -

    Edith Wharton's Dialogue With Realism and Sentimental Fiction. University Press of Florida. 2000. 224pp. David Holbrook. Edith Wharton and the Unsatisfactory Man. St. Martin's Press. 1991. 208pp. Irving Howe editor. Edith Wharton A Collection of Critical Essays. Prentice-Hall. 1962. 181pp. Josephine Lurie Jessup.…

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