A comparative study of two influential early 20th century American women writers, this course (re)examines well-known and less familiar works as well as their critical reception and recent theoretical treatments. Despite divergent professional and personal lives, Wharton and Cather converge suggestively in the intersections between realism and modernism, fiction and autobiography, creative standards and career demands, gender roles and social expectations, technology and art, architecture and nature, the European past and the contemporary American present.
Readings will be chosen from among such pairs of Wharton/Cather texts as the novellas "Bunner Sisters" and "The Bohemian Girl"; early short story collections (THE GREATER INCLINATION and THE TROLL GARDEN); non-fiction works such as THE DECORATION OF HOUSES and THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF S.S. MCCLURE; critical essays published in THE WRITING OF FICTION and NOT UNDER FORTY; and novels with strong structural or thematic links: THE HOUSE OF MIRTH and THE SONG OF THE LARK; ETHAN FROME and MY ANTONIA; THE CUSTOM OF THE COUNTRY and THE PROFESSOR'S HOUSE; OLD NEW YORK and DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP; THE BUCCANEERS and SAPPHIRA AND THE SLAVE GIRL.
In place of shorter papers and to focus discussion, a reading/critical journal will be kept and critiqued bythe professor and class members, when possible. The course will culminate in an individual project, presented to the class, pursuing a topic or problem in works by Wharton and/or Cather and/or a relevant contemporary in literature or the arts (e.g. Henry James, Sarah Orne Jewett, Bernard Berenson, Gertrude Stein, William Faulkner, Georgio O'Keeffe, Virginia Woolf, Sinclair Lewis, Mary Austin). Requirements may be modified depending on the needs of the class.