Monday, July 16, 2012

SAMLA Panel on Edith Wharton

Proposed Panel for the 2012 SAMLA Conference

Affiliated Society Session: Edith Wharton Society
Panel Title:  The Transatlantic Writer: Edith Wharton, Text, and Travel

Equipment Needs:             computer, overhead projector/screen, Internet access, PowerPoint software

Submitted by:            Mary Carney
Associate Professor of English, Honors Program Director, and Director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership
Gainesville State College
3820 Mundy Mill Road, Oakwood, GA 30566
Cell: (706) 224-3218; Work: (678) 717-3629

Chair and Secretary:  Mary Carney, Gainesville State College

The Decoration of Houses to The Book of Homelessness: Edith Wharton and Expatriation”
Heath Sledge, Teaching Fellow, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

 “(Con)textualizing Total War: Conflict, Exile, and Material Culture in Wharton’s Essays”
Mary Carney, Associate Professor of English, Gainesville State College

“Traveling from Despair: Edith Wharton’s Heroines, No Accidental Tourists”
Justin Askins, Professor of English, Radford University

“Ethan Frome’s Travel Choices” 
Richard Law, Associate Professor of English and Communication, Alvernia University
no email; 610-769-8205

Panel Title: “The Transatlantic Writer: Edith Wharton, Text, and Travel”

Panel Description:
The Edith Wharton Society panel addresses this year’s SAMLA conference theme: "Text as Memoir: Tales of Travel, Immigration, and Exile," examining a wide sections of fiction and non-fiction works.  Edith Wharton is a transatlantic figure whose writings focus on the sometimes fraught interplay between home and exile. In “The Decoration of Houses to The Book of Homelessness: Edith Wharton and Expatriation,” Heath Sledge argues that two pairs of books by Wharton, which bookend the beginning and the end of her career, treat the question of home. The House of Mirth (1905) and the much later Age of Innocence (1920) show Wharton’s progressively broadening notion of what “home” is. 

The second pair -- The Decoration of Houses (1897) and The Book of the Homeless (1916) -- reveals that Wharton’s sense of home was a deeply material one, linked to her identity as a writer and a woman.  As a result, Wharton attempts to materialize her missing home textually in the rich descriptive detail of The Age of Innocence in a way that she had seemed not to need to do in The House of Mirth. The second panelist Mary Carney will present “(Con)textualizing Total War: Conflict, Exile, and Material Culture in Wharton’s Essays.” She will examine how the essays in Fighting France, from Dunkerque to Belfort parallel travel texts, creating vivid portraits of the emergence of “total war” in France during World War I. As a transatlantic writer, she illuminates for her primarily American audience the material culture of war and the peculiar world of expatriates in France during the conflict. In the third presentation, Justin Askins will explore the leitmotiv of travel as escape in “Traveling from Despair: Edith Wharton’s Heroines, No Accidental Tourists.” While rarely compared with Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Wharton’s major works share with these novels the important leitmotiv of travel as escape. Examining major novels and novellas, Askins will illuminate Wharton’s narrative trajectories of the American pursuit of transformative exile. Finally, in “Ethan Frome’s Travel Choices,” Richard Law examines the character development that reveals the courage and misapprehensions of Ethan’s travel dreams. Law shows how the trail of (mis)judgments leads to the catastrophic escape attempt, reflecting Wharton’s portrait of a grotesque reality emerging from the search for exile.

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