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Dangerous Domesticity : Gossip and Gothic Homes in Edith Wharton's Fiction

Title data

Horn, Katrin:
Dangerous Domesticity : Gossip and Gothic Homes in Edith Wharton's Fiction.
In: Edith Wharton Review. Vol. 35 (2019) Issue 1 . - pp. 22-46.
ISSN 2330-3964
DOI: https://doi.org/10.5325/editwharrevi.35.1.0022

Official URL: Volltext

Abstract in another language

In the United States of the late nineteenth century, the home was increasingly discussed in terms of privacy and the domestic was viewed as a protected “feminine sphere.” Focusing on the work of an author almost synonymous with the literary depiction of homes, Edith Wharton, this article questions domestic myths of the US home. As a vehicle for its critique, it relies on a mode of communication that is firmly located in the domestic sphere and yet destabilizes its premises of privacy and sanctity: gossip. By analyzing the depiction of homes and the reliance on “idle talk” as both content and narrative technique in “The Lady's Maid's Bell,” The House of Mirth, The Custom of the Country, and Summer, the article shows how Wharton exposes the feminine sphere as a dangerous place. To this end, she combines elements of Gothic fiction that subvert the domestic ideal with depictions of homes that are porous to gossip, which both uncovers abuses and invites them. Concentrating her attention on female protagonists (rather than enfranchised white men), Wharton paints a drastically different picture of the home and the possibility of shielding the private from economic or public concerns than evoked in contemporary legal and journalistic discourses.

Further data

Item Type: Article in a journal
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Gossip; Novels; Narration; Privacy; Edith Wharton
Subject classification: American Studies; Literary Studies; Gender Studies
Institutions of the University: Faculties > Faculty of Languages and Literature > Chair American Studies / Intercultural Anglophone Studies > Chair American Studies / Intercultural Anglophone Studies - Univ.-Prof. Dr. Sylvia Mayer
Result of work at the UBT: Yes
DDC Subjects: 800 Literature > 810 American literature in English
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2019 08:35
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2019 08:35
URI: https://eref.uni-bayreuth.de/id/eprint/49884