University of Glasgow’s ‘Transatlantic Literary Women’: Edith Wharton Workshop

This blog post was contributed by Margarida Cadima.

On Wednesday October 4th, 2017 an Edith Wharton Workshop took place in Scotland, at the University of Glasgow. The workshop is part of the ‘Cultural Connections: Transatlantic Literary Women’ series, founded by Wharton scholar Dr. Laura Rattray, and offers an array of free events including talks, workshops, symposia and reading groups.

The workshop was advertised throughout the university campus and on social media with a poster by Katie Falco, picturing one of Edith Wharton’s beloved dogs. A classic! It was a fun, informal and relaxed afternoon devoted to one of America’s most versatile writers. This versatility was reflected in the vast range of talks we had: starting with Dr. Rattray’s talk ‘Edith Wharton in Context’ a summary of all things Wharton in twenty minutes. No easy feat! Taking her title from her 2012 book, Laura covered a variety of contexts that are very relevant to Edith Wharton’s career and reminded us of the still often overlooked diversity of her writing.

This talk was followed by Dr. Ailsa Boyd, an independent scholar who spoke on ‘Wharton, Taste and Design’. Ailsa’s talk focused mostly on Wharton’s The Decoration of Houses, but also how decoration features in Wharton’s fiction such as The Custom of the Country and Summer. Next, Katie Ahern, a PhD candidate at University College Cork, talked about ‘Race and Class as Causes of Anxiety’ which relates directly to her doctoral research on the representations of urban space in 20th century American literature. Then we had a half-time break for tea and sandwiches, signalled in our program with a photo of Edith Wharton smoking… Shocking!

After the break, we had Anna Girling, who is a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh whose doctoral research focuses on Edith Wharton’s early fiction. Anna talked about ‘Edith McWharton? Edith Wharton in Scotland’s Archives’. She discussed Wharton’s presence in Scottish archives, such as some of Wharton’s letters to her first British publisher John Murray that can be found in the John Murray Archive in the National Library of Scotland.

Laura concluded the workshop with a talk about ‘Wharton and  Theatre’ where she explored Wharton’s fawork for the theatre, including the original full-length play The Shadow of a Doubt, which has attracted so much media interest recently. Laura and Dr. Mary Chinery’s work on the play was recently published (along with the play itself) in The Edith Wharton Review.

Throughout the workshop there was an Edith Wharton quiz and the winner of the quiz and the winners of the writing competition were announced!

It was an engaging and informative afternoon. Participants travelled from Scotland, England, Ireland, Germany, China and Canada and learned a lot about one of America’s most successful writers. Because, after all as Edith Wharton herself said: “The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing.”

For more information on the Transatlantic Literary Women Series, see or follow the Transatlantic Ladies on Twitter: @atlantlitwomen and on Instagram: @transatlanticladies