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Memorial Boxes and Guarded Interiors, Memorial Boxes and Guarded Interiors, 0817315616, 0-8173-1561-6, 978-0-8173-1561-0, 9780817315610, , , Memorial Boxes and Guarded Interiors, 0817354190, 0-8173-5419-0, 978-0-8173-5419-0, 9780817354190, , , Memorial Boxes and Guarded Interiors, 0817388826, 0-8173-8882-6, 978-0-8173-8882-9, 9780817388829,

Memorial Boxes and Guarded Interiors
Edith Wharton and Material Culture

2007. 408 pp.
Price:  $64.95 s
Quality Paper
2007. 328 pp.
9 illustrations
Price:  $39.95 s

In Edith Wharton’s works, references to architecture, interior decoration, painting, sculpture, and fashion abound. As these essays demonstrate, art and objects are for Wharton evidence of cultural belief and reflect the values, assumptions, and customs of the burgeoning consumer culture in which she lived and about which she wrote. Furthermore, her meditations about issues of architecture, design, and decoration serve as important commentaries on her vision of the literary arts.

In The Decoration of Houses she notes that furniture and bric-à-brac are often crowded into a room in order to compensate for a "lack of architectural composition in the treatment of the walls," and that unless an ornamental object "adequately expresses an artistic conception" it is better removed from the room. These aesthetic standards apply equally to her construction of narratives and are evidence of a sensibility that counters typical understandings of Wharton as a novelist of manners and place her instead as an important figure in the development of American literary modernism.

Essays in this collection address issues such as parallels between her characters and the houses they occupy; dress as a metaphor for the flux of critical fashion; the marketing of Wharton's work to a growing female readership ; her relationship to mass culture industries such as advertising, theater, and cinema; the tableaux vivant both as set piece and as fictional strategy; the representation of female bodies as objets d’art; and her characters’ attempts at self-definition through the acquisition and consumption of material goods. All of Wharton’s major novels—The House of Mirth, The Fruit of the Tree, Ethan Frome, The Custom of the Country, Summer, The Age of Innocence, and Twilight Sleep—as well as her short stories, criticism, and essays are explored.



Gary Totten is Assistant Professor of English at North Dakota State University. His essays on Wharton and her contemporaries have appeared in American Indian Quarterly, American Literary Realism, College Literature, Dreiser Studies, and MELUS.

Individual essays ‘speak’ to one another, and the volume coheres as a whole. Scholars and general readers alike will welcome this study of Wharton’s engagement with material cultures of her time
—Carol Singley, author of Edith Wharton: Matters of Mind and Spirit

This is a valuable collection of essays containing illuminating insights
—Elsa Nettels, author of Language and Gender in American Fiction: Howells, James, Wharton, and Cather

Also of Interest

Edith Wharton
by Helen Killoran

Edith Wharton in Context
by Adeline R. Tintner

Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Her Contemporaries
Edited by Cynthia J. Davis and Denise D. Knight

Sinclair Lewis Remembered
Edited by Gary Scharnhorst, Matthew Hofer