Katherine Joslin
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‘Embattled tendencies’
Wharton,Woolf and the nature of Modernism

Edith Wharton eyed Bloomsbury as an intellectually remote and morally murky world, admiring only one of its members, Lytton Strachey. Wharton's book The Writing of Fiction and Virginia Woolf's essay 'Modern Fiction' set the stage for their dialogic battle. Wharton's and Woolf's letters, diaries and essays allow us to view a drama of 'embattled tendencies' between individuals and cultures. Amy Kaplan acknowledges Wharton's 'un-easy dialogue with twentieth-century Modernism' in her essay 'Edith Wharton's Profession of Authorship'. Feminist scholars in the 1980s and 1990s grappled with the term Modernism, seeking ways of expanding our understanding of how women writers may have participated in the male-defined literary movement. Most have come to see Wharton as a transitional figure on a literary journey from the traditional novel forms of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries toward the supposedly braver, bolder experimental Modernist forms of the twentieth century.

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Anglo-American affinities and antagonisms 1854–1936

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