America’s Social Classes in the Writings of Edith Wharton: An Analysis of Short Stories

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Between 1891 and 1937 Edith Wharton published some eighty-six short stories, most of them in American magazines, and most of them in volume form as well. In 1968 all of these stories were published by Scribner’s in a two-volume set, The Collected Short Stories of Edith Wharton, edited and with an introduction by R.W.B. Lewis. The present work provides a history of the stories’ appearance in the magazines and their subsequent publication in volume form.


“Griffin’s work leaves students of Wharton much to think about for the future. Take, for instance, the stories he classifies as historical tales set in the distant past. His attention to narrative method in the history stories leads to a rich and subtle interpretation of the underrated “The Hermit and the Wild Woman” (1906) and to the suggestive conclusion that “the quality of the [history] story is in direct proportion to the successful integration of the framing story and its interior tale.” This insight might be applied to a wide variety of other stories, as might the suggestion that Wharton’s ghost tales and historical tales are more closely connected than has previously been thought. Many of the “connections” Griffin notices throughout his book are well worth pursuing. “ – Prof. Barbara A. White, University of New Hampshire

“. . . a significant contribution to both Wharton’s literary life and the life her short story corpus.” – Prof. Klaus P. Stich, University of Ottawa

“This study is not only the first to comment insightfully on all of the stories but also the first to make a detailed case for reconsidering the aesthetic worth of stories that have been ignored or misread. By focusing primarily on the portrayal of character, Griffin consistently manages to unearth something of interest that will force readers and critics to re-examine their assumptions about Wharton’s art.” – Prof. David Rampton, University of Ottawa

Table of Contents

A Note on References
1. The Short Stories: A History
2. Ghosts
3. The Upper Class
4. The Upper Classes
5. The Middle Classes
6. The World of the Arts
7. Town and Gown
8. The Past
9. And the Rest

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