CFP : Edith Wharton’s New York

Conference : Edith Wharton’s New York
(Bucharest, September 19-20, 2013)

Organizers :
EAAS (European Association for American Studies) Workshop
European Study Group of Nineteenth Century American Literature
FAAAM (Femmes Auteures Anglaises et Américaines) - Paris Ouest Nanterre La

Nineteenth Century American Women Writers Study Group “Iorgu Iordan – Al. Rosetti” Institute of Linguistics of the Romanian Academy

Call for Participation

Descriptions of cities, urban neighborhoods, urban environments, street scenes (happening on sidewalks, in public transportation, etc.), apartment buildings are fairly frequent in the modern novel, especially at the turn of the century, when cities were re-invented everywhere in Europe and the United States. They contribute to creating atmosphere, but they are also much more than an adequate background for the plot ; they help defining characters and situations, human relationships and psychological movements.
New York City in particular, “the great metropolis of the Western World,” was dedicated not only poems, songs, paintings, photographs, and (since 1894) movies, but also novels and short stories. Henry James, Edith Wharton, O. Henry, Theodore Dreisser, Stephen Crane are the best known authors in this respect.
The conference will concentrate on Edith Wharton’s New York, as featured in her novels, short stories, and novellas, and as reconstructed in movies by taking into consideration that New York itself is at times treated as a real character in the novels or stories ; the city has its own organic growth, almost like a living body. It is endowed with personality and idiosyncrasies. Furthermore, NYC evolves and seems to put American modernity in a nutshell, though it also appears at times as very "provincial."

Papers are welcome which will try to assess :

  •  Similarities and differences between the New York Edith Wharton lived in (1862-1937), and the New York she wrote about (1860-1910), as regards urban environment, culture, civilization, education, class differences, social and political problems.
  •  Is there a tension between these “two cities,” and which are the fictional means to convey it ?
  •  Is the presence of the city a salient feature of Edith Wharton’s works ?
  •  How does New York City change over the decades, and especially : how is this change perceived (enthusiasm, weariness, nostalgia, etc.) ?
  •  Are city changes relevant for the evolution of characters’ relationships ?
  •  Could one speak of a particular cachet characteristic of Edith Wharton’s New York, as different from the same city perceived and mirrored in her contemporaries’ works ?
  •  How is New York City (as described in Wharton’s works) different from other American and European cities present in her works ?
  •  Which is the role played by the implicit and explicit references to the city in Wharton’s works in the construction of characters, plot, fictional circumstances, etc.
  •  Is it possible to analyse the standpoint from which the city is described in the various pieces of fiction.

    We encourage contributions from literary scholars, as well as from historians, specialists in urban studies, etc.

    There is no conference fee.
    Please submit abstracts no later than February 1, 2013 to Mariana Net

    Basic bibliography :

    1) Books by Edith Wharton ;

    The House of Mirth, 1905
    The Custom of the Country, 1913
    The Age of Innocence, 1920
    Old New York, 1924
    The New York Stories of Edith Wharton, 2007

    2) Adaptations for cinema :

    The Age of Innocence, directed by Martin Scorsese, 1993
    The House of Mirth, directed by Terrence Davies, 2000

    3) Basic materials about NYC :

    Thomas Bender, The Unfinished City : New York and the Metropolitan Idea. New
    York : New Press ; London : I. B. Tauris, 2002
    Mary Black, Old New York in Early Photographs. 196 prints, 1853-1901, from
    the Collection of the New York Historical Society. New York : Dover
    Publications, 1976
    Joseph Byron, New York Life at the Turn of the Century in Photographs. From
    the Byron Collection of the Museum of the City of New York : Dover
    Publications, 1985
    Kenneth T. Jackson (ed.), The Encyclopedia of New York City. New Haven and
    London : Yale University Press, 1991
    Lloyd Morris, Incredible New York. High Life and Low Life from 1850 to 1950.
    Syracuse : Syracuse UP [1951] 1996
    New York : A Documentary (Directed by Ric Burns). CBS, 1999

    Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives : Studies Among the Tenements in New
    York.New York : Charles Scribner ?s Sons, 1890

    Trager, James, The New York Chronology. An Ultimate Compendium of Events,
    People and Anecdotes from the Dutch to the Present. New York : Harper
    Resource, 2003