Feminist Readings of Edith Wharton: From Silence to Speech


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Edith Wharton Vintage. Description Table of Contents Product Details Click on the cover image above to read some pages of this book! Our Awards Booktopia's Charities. Item Added:.

Are you sure you would like to remove these items from your wishlist? Remove From Wishlist Cancel. In addition to her appearance in classical mythology, Arachne also appears in Native American religious myths in the gure of Spider Grandmother or Thought Woman who also weave stories; however, Spider Grandmother's power is even more signicant than Arachne's because she has the power to create life itself.

Marta Weigle explains that for Pueblo peoples, Spider Grandmother is a "supreme being who creates everything by thinking, dreaming, naming, and ritual singing". In another context, Pueb lo w riter Leslie Marmon Silko narrates Spider-Woman's story: Ts'its'tsi'nako, Thought-Woman is sitting in her room and whatever she thinks about appears.

Thought-Woman, the spider, named things and as she named them they appeared. Silko's poem tells the story of the mythological spider who creates the Universe by thinking it into being, just as Thought-Woman or Spider Grandmother weave the stories that tell the world into existence. As a result, when set beside that of Spider Grandmother or Thought-Woman, the story of Arachne can be re-seen as an empowering woman's mythology that can revise the perspective of a somewhat silent classical Arachne.

Arachne is a powerful metaphor for the study of women writers who, like Spider Grandmother, think up new worlds in the stories that they spin, and who, like Arachne, dare to challenge the establishment by comparing themselves to it. Like Spider Grandmother Arachne, the women writers studied here foray into realms traditionally forbidden to their sex in order to weave new ctional worlds and create new female and feminist mythologies.

All of the women I study here create narratives that employ both modernist literary techniques and classical or mythic tropes; however, my goal is not to use my analysis of these women writers to create an ultimate denition of either literary myth or literary modernism, nor is this a comparative study of classical and contemporary texts.

Instead, my intention is to explore literature that exists on the margins of both modernism and myth in order to provide a provocative, albeit partial, rereading of all three. These include the women writers studied here. For example, because myth is part of a general cultural tradition shared through narrative, it is unlikely that these writers were specically inuenced byor that a critic can claim that they were inuenced bya single textual source. Indeed, the sources these authors may have drawn upon might include not only traditional classical texts such as Homer, but also visual, musical, theatrical, and poetic texts presented by turn-of-the-twentieth century painters, composers, and authors.

It is difcult to determine if these writers studied the primary works of classical writersindeed, it may be irrelevant, because these women writers were sensitive not to the staid intellectual and masculine culture of warmly paneled lecture halls, but to the vibrant and dynamic popular culture of theater, public art, women's magazines, and fashion. An examination of these late-nineteenthand early-twentieth-century women writers in juxtaposition with mythwhich is one of the crucial threads of high modernismcreates an engaging dialectical lens with which to view a period of literature written by women.

Moreover, Ann Ardis observes that "to attend to marginality, to narrate a shifting limit between the New Woman novel and high modernism, means challenging the familiar periodization of modern literary history". In the spirit of Ardis's design, my goal is to similarly pick up a thread woven throughout so-called high modernism, to follow it along the fringes of modernism, and to see how it is interlaced with the work of late-nineteenthand early-twentieth-century women writerssome lesser known, some very familiar.

Consequently, my specic intention is to trace the path of one thread within the tapestry of modernism: namely, these women authors' weaving of mythic and occult elements into their work. In doing so, it is possible to show how these women put to early use a modernist "mythical method," to use T. Eliot's famous phrase. Moreover, I hope to demonstrate how these women reshaped mythic themes and occult tropes in their semiotic narratives to create a liberatory exploration of women's position under patriarchy and the limitations of women's words.

PAGE 13 Mythic Methods and Femin ine ist Fictions As readers have learned from any number of histories about the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, modernism as an artistic, historical, literary, or social period is characterized by its multiplicity: symbolism, impressionism, imagism, vorticism, futurism, expressionism, dadaism, and surrealism. Similarly, it is interpreted through the form of the novel, poem, prose poem, free verse, theatrical production, journalism, essay, and manifesto.

It is a literature by whites, blacks, Asian Americans, Chicanos, and American Indians; by women, men, lesbians, bisexuals, and gays; who were also Christians, Jews, protestants, agnostics, atheists, goddess worshippers, mystics, gypsies, mediums, rationalists, fascists, communists, anarchists, and individualists. It was written by artists who were working-class, middle-class, upper-class, classically educated, self-educated, or educated by life experienceand by people who rejected simple denitions of gender, race, class, status, and intellectual ability. My point here is that modernism is a mix, a movement of an artistic social community that allowed everyone to rub elbows with each other at one time or another.

Like Ardis, Ammons, and Cutter, I have purposefully grouped together late-nineteenthand early-twentieth-century American women writers to consider some of the multiplicities of gender, race, class, age, regionalism, narrative form, and philosophy. As these critics demonstrate, the period from around through that of World War I saw great social, political, and cultural changes for American women, changes reected in the works produced by turn-ofthe-twentieth-century women writers who explored, analyzed, critiqued, embraced, or rejected the verities of their positions in American society.

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Grouping together women writing around the turn of the twentieth century intersects with questions about periodizing American literary history itself. Like Ammons, I believe that examining a historical cross section of women writers in this period can contribute "to the ongoing revision of the still-popular modern thesis that the nation's best' and most characteristic literature is antirealistic" Conicting Stories ix.

Instead, I believe it is interestingly productive to examine these writers not in terms of their differences but in terms of their similaritiesbecause that is where their revolutionary power can be exposed. In this way, it is possible to examine a writer such as Edith Wharton as both a realist and a modernist, depending upon which textual threads in her works are studied.

Viewing women's texts in this way creates a literary history that is more uid, exible, and accurate. Certainly, literary realism did not "shut off" in January of a certain year while another period beganthese historical changes are more gradual and supple than syllabi typically allow. Moreover, such rigid classications only serve to isolate writers in an articial way, discounting the inuence of literary works and historical experience on later texts.

With this in mind, my study examines three generations of American women writers in order to soften the lines of women's modernism to examine where the anchor lines of women's modernism might be found. I have organized my analysis of these women writers as others have done quite loosely around the historical time period of America's Progressive Era: with the texts of the rst generation of writers appearing at the beginning of the era in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the texts of the second generation during the Progressive Era's height through the early twentieth century, and the texts of the third during its decline.

Assembling together the ction produced by women around this period brings into relief an important interval in American ction wherein the works of these women writers begin to coalesce into a web of recurring, but complicated, themes that focus on issues of liberatory language and authority for women in a drastically changing world. Viewed under this light, a body of work begins to emerge, characterized by what Ammons explains in Conicting Stories as a "shared focus on issues of power: The will to break silence by exposing the connection among institutionalized violence, the sexual exploitations of women, and female muteness; preoccupation with the gure of the woman artist; the need to nd union and reunion with the world of one's mother, particularly as one journeyed farther and farther from that world into territory traditionally marked off as forbidden; the corrosion of racism, including and often especially the oppression of women of color by white women; and the difculty of dealing with multiple discrimina- PAGE 15 Mythic Methods and Femin ine ist Fictions tionbeing an immigrant, being lesbian, being black or Eurasian or Indian".

For the women studied here, the power of narrative was to be found in the power of the word as a tool with which to explore the intellectual, psychological, and social isolation of women living under patriarchy. Thus, my study focuses on the interrelatedness of women's social and artistic positions expressed through the magical power of narrative. Kelley-Hawkins, Onoto Watanna, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Edith Wharton, and Djuna Barnesrepresent three generations of women writers who write within and around the time period known by the literary tag modernism.

While writing different ctional styles, these writers are united by the fact that they employ in their works variations of occult and classical myths about women, drawing obliquely on the familiarity, ambiguity, and persuasiveness of the mythic journey from the myths of Demeter and Persephone, Aphrodite, Andromeda, Undine, and Hekate. Furthermore, after seeding their work with mythic images, these writers can deploy them as paradigms for female self-control and power, thus occulting revolutionary plans under tropes of traditional gures.

My understanding of how these works are also modernist is not just a matter of historical period, but one that is inherently tied up in how these works use myth. Generally, theories of myth dene it as a special kind of narrative that interprets aspects of the world around us. A quick tour of some of the ideas held about the nature and denition of myth by major scholars underscores the broad-based intellectual, social, and psychological territory of myth. For example, Joseph Campbell argues that myths operate on both the spiritual and physical levels to give people social, individual, and psychological direction.

Ernst Cassirer shows how myths are both symbolic and meta phorical, while Mircea Eliade maintains that myths are often stories of creation and origin and sacred in nature. Sir James Frazer argues that myths are prescientic explanations for events in the natural world, while Sigmund Freud explains myths as types of public dreams and Carl Jung shows how myths are manifestations of the human collective unconscious.

Brockway explains, is the fact that "all myths are stories". Of course, the most famous essay articulating the intersection of modernism and myth is T. Eliot's touchstone analysis entitled "Ulysses, Order, and Myth". Here Eliot describes the "mythic method" he sees at work in James Joyce's celebrated work of high-modernist ction, Ulysses. Contrasting Joyce's "new" narrative method with simple classical allegory, Eliot explains that "Mr. Joyce's parallel use of the Odyssey has a great importance.

It has the importance of a scientic discovery. No one else has built a novel upon such a foundation before: it has never before been necessary [. In using the myth, in manipulating a continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity, Mr. Joyce is pursuing a method which others must pursue after him". The rst is that the central thesis of my inquiry argues these women authors built their novels upon a literary-mythic foundation more than two decades before Eliot identied this narrative strategy in Joyce's masterwork.

The second is that Eliot's specic articulation of the "mythic method" is a useful lens with which to view the works of these women writers.


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In the interest of clarity and brevity, I turn for a moment to an analysis of Eliot's theories by Jewel Spears Brooker who identies in his articulation of the mythic method "a dening feature of this modernism, namely, the tendency to move forward by spiraling back and reguring the past".

As Brooker argues, and as I also argue below, an obsession with antiquity is central to writers of the modern era; indeed, Brooker explains, many modernists "insisted that going forward involves going back, that securing the future means redeeming the past". Brooker identies this pattern as "a metamorphosis of Hegelian and Marxist dialectic" which "involves a play between opposites that moves forward by spiraling back a return and up a transcendence ".

But, Brooker argues, Eliot's philosophical notions surpass Hegel "in resisting linearity, eschewing mentalism, and evading synthesis". Here, Eliot found an example of a narrative method he identies as one that uses classical allusion as "a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and a signicance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history" Eliot.

Brooker outlines Eliot's fear of thinking analytically because of the distortion produced by binary logic. As she explains, "By its very nature, analysis takes a person from the unity of immediate experience into the fragmentation of dualism, and, furthermore, analytical thinking tends to lock the thinker into the dualistic mode [. Feeding on itself, analytical thinking produces the endless list of oppositessubject and object, mind and matter, real and ideal".

Thus, Eliot's modernist refusal of synthesis strives to hold both sides of the dualism at once. This is key to Eliot's interpretation of the mythical method in narrative, because it is a thesis that lies within the belief that the antithesis between past and present is false. As Brooker explains, Eliot instead substitutes a complementarity that identies the past as part of the present, the community as part of the individual, and tradition as part of individual talent.

And when viewed from a perspective of decades of work on feminist philosophy and theory, Eliot's theory here can be seen as interestingly feminist. As Eliot remarks in his essay on Ulysses, "Psychology [. Instead of narrative method, we may now use the mythical method". Baeten determines that "a certain skepticism must be brought to bear" on texts such as Frazer's and Eliot's and the theories that emanate from them as well. Indeed, that skepticism can include an understanding that while The Golden Bough and Eliot's article on Ulysses certainly might have had a profound inuence on many modernist thinkers, they were not the only inuences.

Moreover, the possibility exists that Frazer and Eliot identied a thread of thought that had been previously present in intellectual culture. If one were to trace parallels here, it is possible to see that while "scholarly" articulations of myth in the form of the Greek classics or the ethnographic accounts of Frazer's work inuenced a cohort of university-educated men, unwritten oral history and folk myth traditions certainly may have inuenced writers who did not participate in advanced formal educational training.

After all, these myths were circulating in oral tradition before they were transcribed as works for scholarly analysis. With these cautions in mind, T. Eliot's "mythical method" is still useful for structuring a reading of my three generations of modernist women writers. Keeping Eliot's theory in mind, readers remember that the decades preceding and following the turn of the twentieth century were years of great upheaval and changeindeed, this picture of a fragmented and chaotic world is one of the hallmarks of the modernist historical period.

Reecting his historical standpoint, Brooker tells us Eliot believed that "to be true to history, art must reect the world in which it is produced; and to be true to itself, art must be unied. To meet both of these conditions, art would have to be at once chaotic and unied". Eliot found an answer to this seemingly unsolvable problem in Joyce's use of the mythical method.

As Brooker explains, "The mythical method solves the chaos-unity dilemma by allowing the coexistence of surface chaos and subsurface unity. Such unity derives neither from sequence nor from abstractions shared by a culture, but from an abstraction selected by an artist and constructed collaboratively with individual readers". As a result, Eliot's indebtedness to Joyce and Frazer is revealed in the fact that each author "does not assume the existence of a culturally shared myth or abstraction. He brings his own myth and takes special care to keep it always in his reader's mind".

This last point is probably the most important aspect of the narrative process of the mythical method. The rst is that unity in the texts of these writers is created by invoking an extranarrative wholeness; unity "does not derive from the sequential relation of part to part, either chronologically or logically" Brooker. Instead, this unity is a result of a "reference to an abstraction chosen by the artist and brought to his [or her] work". In the case of the women writers studied here, that abstraction is an oblique reference to female gures in mythology. In order to be true to its time, a work using Eliot's mythical method "must consist of juxtaposed fragmentsfragments of contemporary life, fragments of past life, fragments of myth" Brooker.

These fragments are used by the author as they exist in the author's time, even if they are not truly historical and have been changed over time. This is why mine is not a strictly comparative analysis, but one informed by the popular and intellectual culture of the time. Like Frazer's reference point of the myth of the golden bough in his classic work, or Joyce's reference point to the gure of the hero Ulysses, writers using the mythic method will bring a reference myth to their work, and keep it in the reader's mind throughout the narrative by use of parallel story structure or characters, titles, or fragments of the myth within the text in the form of literary trope, symbolism, or metaphor.

In the works of the women studied here, those mythic reference points are seen in implicit and explicit evocations of Demeter and Persephone, Aphrodite, Andromeda, Undine, and Hekate. It is important to note that in neither the works of these writers, nor the works that Eliot champions, are mythological references substantial and explicit. Brooker explains that for Eliot and his mythical method, "the reference point myth exists as an abstraction.

It is not contained in the text, but in the mind of the artist and a reader. Artists do not bring the myth in its entirety; they bring, rather, the information needed to construct the myth". As a result, the myth might exist as a shadow plot or fragmented background myth within the text. Each reader then takes the fragments on the surface of the text and re-collects or re-creates them, thus constructing a variant of the myth and the material of actual life "that will be rened and changed with each reading". As a result, readers become coauthors of the text they are reading in a "mythical method that enables artists and readers to begin with fragments and generate comprehensive abstractions, to begin in isolation and end in community".

Thus, I have chosen to use the term "femin ine ist" in the course of this analysis because I do not nd current philosophical denitions of "woman," "female," "feminine," or "feminist" to be satisfactory individual key terms for a discussion of the complexities of these writers. Since the writing of the women studied here was nothing if not an attempt to break out of rigid patriarchal dichotomies, I do not consider it appropriate for me to always use male-dependent terminology to describe it.

Edith Wharton

He is the Subject, he is the Absoluteshe is the Other" xix. But this position of Other can also be liberating; thus Luce Irigaray theorizes that "Woman" is the "Volume Without Contours," and the "excess of identity.

In this sense, women's narratives become the ultimate witchery that takes power from the language of what Irigaray describes as the "everywhere elsewhere" of woman opposed to the "always already" of patriarchy. She is the everywhere elsewhere, unable to be identied by our current terms except through patriarchal denition.

This inability to dene and theorize woman as subject within modernism reects the complex dynamics of feminists studying women's writing, as the terms "female," "feminist," and "feminine" all are trapped within a patriarchal denitive reality.

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The latter does not pace Kristeva entail any specic political position no clear-cut feminism , although it does not exclude it either" ; Moi's emphasis. While these individual categories are useful, they do not help the student of women's narratives theorize their transformative powers that stand at once within the reality of patriarchy where they have been dened by androcentrism, while also existing as the everywhere elsewhere outside of that denition. Thus, I choose to collapse the terms "feminist" and "feminine" together into femin ine ist in order to better understand women's narratives as those that: develop a textual space that exists in the space between a free woman's reality and the tyranny of patriarchy, and use feminine ambivalence to speak to an imagined framework for feminist alternatives, expressed through narrative.

This femin ine ist narrative style reinterprets what Sandra Kemp describes as women's literary strategies of "ellipsis, erasure, obliquity, compression, symbolism, ambiguity [and] the desire to reinvent identity". Thus, patriarchal narrative tools are taken over by women writers to structure a kind of textual "woman's house.

Her narrative shows patriarchy as existing in eternal fear of what it sees as the vacuum of woman's words, of the "not yet," and of the paradox of her ability to exist everywhere elsewhere. She uncovers her narrative little by little and touches upon that which patriarchy seeks to keep hidden: the presence of the everywhere elsewhere of women's experiences. Stated another way, the femin ine ist writer uses language to mediate the conict between woman and patriarchy. So here she is left with a thesis: patriarchy; and its antithesis: woman; bound up in the synthesis "literature," itself a mediation between patriarchal and femin ine ist narrative.

The femin ine ist writer recognizes the Word as Arachne's thread that reweaves the power of patriarchy into a web of her own. Thus, the recognition and re-visioning of these strategies of "word-web-warfare" is crucial to this femin ine ist analysis. My study examines the intricacies seen in the intersections along a web of late-nineteenthand early-twentieth-century women's writing and the relationships between classical gures and liberatory tropes. It represents one way of considering American women writers collected around American modernism that I parallel with a life cycle of femin ine ist narrative.

The selection of authors I have made here certainly cannot be considered denitive or comprehensive; instead, I have chosen what I consider to be key texts that are representative of the stopping points of what I consider femin ine ist modernism. Central to my consideration of this point is their intersection with and use of occu lt strategies and trop es from c lassical G reek myth, specically the authors' use of classical goddess imagery as a way to relocate themselves culturally and to structure a woman-centered vision.

Moreover, I argue that the very process of reclaiming and rewriting the stories of classical gures functions as an oblique political commentary that challenges the notion that turn-of-the-twentieth-century women's ction is generally divorced from overt political concernsespecially in so-called domestic ction. Chapter focuses my survey of the theoretical, social, and historical territory that inuences the writers studied here. It examines the relationship between classical myth and popular American culture and how the fusion of the two can be seen as forming the foundation for a rich treasure trove of literary symbols.

Similarly, this chapter expands my discussion of the literary aspects of myth into a discussion of late-nineteenthand early-twentieth-century writers' fascination with spirituality and other occult theories. Here, and throughout this study, I will use the term "occult" to signify the secret or extrarational knowledge gained by writers after signicant spiritual and philosophical struggle. By tracing mythic and occult themes in the prevailing American culture, I hope to elucidate what I see as a cycle of femin ine ist literature that generally moves from a utopian late-nineteenth-century spiritualism to a more dystopian twentieth-century occult modernism.

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In chapter I move to a specic analysis of how this group of women authors reconstructs myths that reect and attempt to resolve the conicts facing women during specic historic periods. Using the framework of the myth of Demeter and Persephone, these two novels represent the hope and promise of a new era, one that was inuenced by a utopian spiritualism that rst called into question the convictions of masculine culture and set the stage for a full realization of femin ine ist modernism.

These were the women w ho attempted to create positive women-centered communities with which to mediate the trials and tribulations of patriarchal reality; however, their narratives also investigate the separation of feminist foremothers from their turn-of-the-twentieth-century daughters. These are narratives that trace the ev olution of the goddess Aphrodite as a femin ine ist model to her usurped form as the water sprite Undine. This is the peri od on which the bridge from a feminine utopian mediation of patriarchy to a feminist dystopia rests. Finally, following the turn of the femin ine ist cycle, in chapter I will consider one text situated in what I believe to be the "full owering" of femin ine ist modernism in the time period after World War I.

The stereotype sets up this view: she is white, monied enough to expatriate herself to Paris, chooses writing as her vocation only for the sake of the beauty of language itself, while she lives the single exotic life of the exiled intellectual surrounded by the great male minds of Europe and America. Her texts are wild, experimental, and beautifullike herself, and they come from nowhere to ourish in a springtime of high art, only to fade quickly in the winter casualties of World War II.

She remains always the youthful Cinderella whose ball was cut short by the midnight stroke of war. Of all the women modernists, only Natalie Barney could t this description, and she went to great lengths to portray herself as such. Of the women expatriates, Djuna Barnes and Janet Flanner were both working journalists, Kay Boyle was a wife and mother of ve children, and Edith Wharton certainly could not be considered "young and wild. Moreover, signicant contributions to modernism were being written stateside, outside of its social and historical parameters, by writers including Willa Cather, Kate Chopin, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Sui Sin Far, Susan Glaspell, Katherine Anne Porter, Anzia Yezierska, and Onoto Watannawomen writers often marginalized into "ethnic" or "local color" sections of literary anthologies.

In addition to their use of the mythic method, one key to power for writers such as Sarah Orne Jewett, Emma D. Kelley-Hawkins, Onoto Watanna, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Edith Wharton, and Djuna Barnes was their exploration of women's silence and the failure of words to break open imposed patriarchal restraints on women's speech. These women writers used words that access and reveal the realities of patriarchal rationality and feminist subjectivity.

For example, Julia Kristeva explains that under patriarchy, words are used to privilege the symbolic and the paternal, while the semiotic aspects of language are relegated to an exiled other.

From Silence to Speech

In her feminist critique of language entitled The Revolution of Poetic Language , Kristeva opposes the symbolic aspects of language, which she views as patriarchal and masculine aspects of dominant discourse, with the "semiotic," which she views as a kind of feminine "other" of la nguage. While the sem iotic implies language's opposite, it is not an alternative to conventional discourse; instead, like the mythic method, it is one that operates within and necessarily intertwines with traditional narrative and language and is able to subvert its patriarchal aspects.

It is uid and plural in its pleasurable excess over the precise meanings of the symbolic aspects of language. Similar to T. Eliot's thrill over the possibilities of the mythic text, Kristeva views the semiotic text as that which is truly revolutionary. Moreover, as a layer of the mythic method found in women's writing, this aspect of Kristeva's work is key to understanding late-nineteenthand early-twentiethcentury writers such as Jewett, Kelley-Hawkins, Watanna, Dunbar-Nelson, Wharton, and Barnes. These writers, I contend, understood the power of the semiotic albeit not in Kristeva's precise, twentieth-century terms to forge words with indeterminate meanings: ones that reveal cracks, ssures, and disturbances in the matrix of the language used in dominant discour se.

In their own way, then, they are Arachnes of modern language, stitching together fragments of personal and ctional experience into a narrative tapestry that tells the story of a new world. The ction of these women seized a contradictory power through the faulty medium of wordsone that is catachrestic and deliberately paradoxical, creating a narrative destabilization leading to the production of new and different word combinations, which in turn, lead to the production of new and different knowledges about gender, race, class, ideology, or art.

This is the "synchronicity of the word" and the "pure linguistic energy" that underlies high modernist style, described by Malcolm Bradbury and James McFarlane.

Unfortunately for the woman modernist, however, her radical experimentation with narrative forms revealed that words only partially communicate and that they are a paradox because they both mean and fail to mean simultaneously. Certainly, this is a dimension of modernism that exists in the works of both women and men modernist writers; however, the paradox of words is especially apparent in the works of femin ine ist writers. For the writers of the rst generation of modernist women writers such as Jewett and KelleyHawkins, the power of words was liberating, allowing for transcendent and positive narrations, but writers of subsequent generations such as Onoto Watanna, Edith Wharton, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and especially Djuna Barnes saw that there is nothing in the words themselves that has any meaning.

Because of this, the narratives that characterized the "full owering" of femin ine ist modernism were an attempt to form words into sentences that connote, denote, and emote the semiotic. One result is the triumph of "silence" over the spoken word in Wharton's The House of Mirth, as well as Gertrude Stein's evocation of the semiotic in her rhetorical constructions "a rose is a rose is a rose" or Barnes's complicated and poetic metaphors in Nightwood.

In spite of the artistic innovations of these women, they faced cultural difculties in addition to patriarchal m isrecognition of their use of the word, thereupon limiting both the scope and quality of their publications. In a world where most literary endeavors were piloted by white upper-class men, womenand especially women of colorfaced an uphill battle to establish careers as artists of letters.

In this male-dened world, women often existed in a literal "no man's land" between their mothers' world and that which they imagined for daughters not yet born. As they professionalized themselves as PAGE 27 Occulted Words and Mythic Worlds artists for a new century, these women wanted to leave behind the didacticism of abolition and suffrage to look toward a future that could barely be imagined.

But too often, androcentric ignorance of these women writers' innovative use of the word meant that their work underwent substantial revision to make it "acceptable" to the male-directed literary marketas in the case of Djuna Barnes's heavily edited Nightwood or it was left rejected and unpublished,1 as in the case of Alice Dunbar-Nelson's novels. Thus, these women learned early that the occulted or "hidden" narrative was key to staying true to the types of stories that they needed to write.

Above all else, women's modernism was shaped by a radical challenge to linguistic, spiritual, and social conventions, particularly as these writers journeyed further and further from the world of their foremothers into territory marked off as forbidden by patriarchal ideology. For these writers, a reinvention of social and spiritual truths through the alchemy of language was their primary task.


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  4. In June the writers who contributed to the full owering of modernism published the "Proclamation on the Revolution of the Word" in transition [ sic ] magazine that expressed twelve foundations of the "New Text. Their twelve points are:. The revolution in the English language is an accomplished fact. The imagination in search of a fabulous world is autonomous and unconned.

    Pure poetry is a lyrical absolute that seeks an a priori reality within ourselves alone. Narrative is not mere anecdote, but the projection of a metamorphosis of reality. The expression of these concepts can be achieved only through the rhythmic "Hallucination of the Word. The literary creator has the right to disintegrate the primal matter of words imposed on him by text-books and dictionaries. He has the right to use words of his own fashioning and to disregard existing grammatical and syntactical laws.

    The "Litany of Words" is admitted as an independent unit. We are not concerned with the propagation of sociological ideas, except to emancipate the creative elements from the present ideology. Time is a tyranny to be abolished. The writer expresses. He does not communicate. Jurecic, Ann. Analyzes the characterization of Justine Brent in The Fruit of the Tree in terms of a contrast between the conventions of literary realism and sentimental fiction.

    Lidoff, Joan. Contends that The House of Mirth is "a romance of identity" that portrays Lily Bart as a self-obsessed child-woman whose maturation destroys her. Marchand, Mary V. Elucidates the feminist subtext that informs the structure of The Fruit of the Tree, focusing on the connection between the conventions of early twentieth-century women's writings and industrial reform objectives.

    McDowell, Margaret B. Traces the evolution of feminist concerns implicit in Wharton's writings, noting her changing attitudes toward women throughout her life. McGowan, Marcia Phillips. Examines Hudson River Bracketed and The Gods Arrive as encoded fictions of female development, or examples of the bildungsroman form.

    McManis, Jo Agnew. Analyzes the theme of female self-sacrifice in Wharton's novels, assessing the motives of the characters. Orr, Elaine Neil. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, Reviews previous feminist readings of The House of Mirth and Lily Bart's characterization, showing that the novel's themes of marriage and sorority are represented as interrelated rather than as a choice between options available to women.

    Reviews the two-volume Collected Stories, detailing Wharton's life and career in terms of the stories' plots, themes, and characters. Williams, Deborah. Examines selected correspondence between Wharton, Willa Cather, and Zona Gale to illustrate each writer's strategy of identification with and separation from their public personae as women writers. New York: Palgrave, Examines the reasons behind Wharton's and Cather's hostility toward fellow women writers, contrasting their attitudes with that of Gale, whose feminist literary accomplishments remain largely unknown. Woods, Susan L.

    Analyzes the gendered spatial signifiers in The Mother's Recompense in terms of the heroine's struggles to articulate her voice and place in patriarchal society. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. September 23, Retrieved September 23, from Encyclopedia. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.

    Wharton, Edith: Further Reading gale. Provides a descriptive bibliography. Offers an annotated bibliography.

    Feminist Readings of Edith Wharton: From Silence to Speech Feminist Readings of Edith Wharton: From Silence to Speech
    Feminist Readings of Edith Wharton: From Silence to Speech Feminist Readings of Edith Wharton: From Silence to Speech
    Feminist Readings of Edith Wharton: From Silence to Speech Feminist Readings of Edith Wharton: From Silence to Speech
    Feminist Readings of Edith Wharton: From Silence to Speech Feminist Readings of Edith Wharton: From Silence to Speech
    Feminist Readings of Edith Wharton: From Silence to Speech Feminist Readings of Edith Wharton: From Silence to Speech
    Feminist Readings of Edith Wharton: From Silence to Speech Feminist Readings of Edith Wharton: From Silence to Speech
    Feminist Readings of Edith Wharton: From Silence to Speech Feminist Readings of Edith Wharton: From Silence to Speech
    Feminist Readings of Edith Wharton: From Silence to Speech Feminist Readings of Edith Wharton: From Silence to Speech

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