Dr. Irene Goldman-Price examines disturbing evidence of Wharton’s prejudices gleaned from her writings, setting it within the context of her life and times and probing its implications.
Edith Wharton (1862-1937), an American author of immense erudition and talent, was born during the Civil War into a wealthy and prominent family of Old New York. She wrote more than forty volumes of stories, novels, poetry, memoir, house decoration, travel, and other subjects, for which she received a number of literary awards, and she is now considered one of America’s greatest writers. For her humanitarian service in Paris during World War I, Wharton was honored by both the French and Belgian governments. And, like her good friends Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Adams, and Henry James, she also harbored anti-Semitic prejudices.
In her talk, Dr. Goldman-Price will lay out evidence of this prejudice from Wharton’s letters and writings and from other sources and put these beliefs into the social, literary, and intellectual context of her time. The question of how one is to respond to such attitudes in a person of prominence will be open for discussion. Although it is not necessary, because Wharton’s most sustained fictional portrait of a Jew comes in her 1905 novel, The House of Mirth, listeners might enjoy reading the book before attending the lecture.
Dr. Irene Goldman-Price earned her PhD in English from Boston University and spent much of her career teaching English and Women’s Studies at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where she also headed their women’s studies program. She is the co-editor of American Literary Mentors and editor of My Dear Governess: The Letters of Edith Wharton to Anna Bahlmann, for which she earned fellowships from the Beinecke Library at Yale University and the Edith Wharton Society. Her article “The Perfect Jew in The House of Mirth” has been reprinted several times. She has taught American and Women’s Literature at several universities and community forums, including locally for OLLI. Her abiding interest in Edith Wharton has led her to serve on the editorial board of the Edith Wharton Review and as a trustee at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s house museum in Lenox.
The Mount is a Massachusetts Cultural Council UP designated organization welcoming participants of all disabilities. Please contact The Mount at 413-551-5100 or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org, to discuss accommodations needed to participate fully in this event.