The widespread resurgence of interest in Edith Wharton's career over the past twenty years has restored to print most of her fiction, travel books, and writings on architecture, gardening, and interior decoration. Yet one significant and substantial portion of her accomplishment has remained largely overlooked: Wharton's numerous exercises in literary criticism. Constituting an unusually little-known body of work by an otherwise preeminent American writer, Wharton's many scattered reviews and essays, literary eulogies, and forewords and introductions (to her own work, and to works of others) have never before been collected in a single volume. Covering works of various literary traditions, including eloquent general considerations of fiction and criticism, and embracing novels, volumes of lyric and dramatic verse, and works by other critics of literature, art, and architecture, these critical writings uniquely demonstrate the extraordinary range of Wharton's critical interests and intelligence. A searching and comprehensive introductory essay places her critical prose in the context of Wharton's career as a whole, and draws on a wealth of unpublished materials in exploring the uncertainties and inhibitions against which she had to struggle in order to express herself as a critic at all. Assembling her miscellaneous critical writings (including some newly discovered texts), this authoritative edition makes an exceptional contribution not only to the ongoing "Wharton revival" but to the study of American literature, of literary criticism, and of women as writers of criticism.
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