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CUSTOM OF THE COUNTRY

Edith Wharton (author) Sarah Emsley (editor)

ISBN: 9781551116730

Publication Date: Sep 2008

Format: Paperback

Ruthless and predatory, Edith Wharton's seductive young heroine Undine Spragg exploits a series of husbands from the American west to New York and France in her search for one with the ideal combination of social power, money, and material possessions–something "more luxurious, more exciting, more worthy of her!" Wharton's criticism of the leisure-class marriage market becomes a brilliant satire on the nature of desire, as the novel links marriage and divorce with selfish ambition and the culture of consumerism.
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Ruthless and predatory, Edith Wharton's seductive young heroine Undine Spragg exploits a series of husbands from the American west to New York and France in her search for one with the ideal combination of social power, money, and material possessions–something "more luxurious, more exciting, more worthy of her!" Wharton's criticism of the leisure-class marriage market becomes a brilliant satire on the nature of desire, as the novel links marriage and divorce with selfish ambition and the culture of consumerism.

This Broadview edition provides a critical introduction and appendices that include Wharton's outline for and correspondence about The Custom of the Country, excerpts from Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué's novella Undine, and passages from works by Charles Darwin, Emma Goldman, Henry James, and Thorstein Veblen, among others.

Reviews

This is an excellent edition of what I consider to be Wharton's best novel, and it is supported by very valuable supporting material. Arguing that the novel is a satire of consumerism, Sarah Emsley offers a particularly good analysis of Raymond de Chelles as one of the few positive forces, and a husband who acts as a counter to the rampant material ambitions which dominate other parts of the novel. Emsley's introduction also provides a succinct and successful summary of Wharton's life and a good survey of the relevant criticism. The edition ends with a series of extremely useful appendices, including Wharton's outline for the novel, examples of contemporary reviews, extracts from Darwin, Veblen and Santayana and sections on Aestheticism and Women and Marriage." - Robin Peel, University of Plymouth

"The Custom of the Country satirizes much that Wharton thought was wrong with the US at the turn of the century: serial divorce, rampant consumerism and materialism, indifference to art and literature, and a proudly provincial attitude toward the traditions of Old New York and European culture. Combined with Sarah Emsley's incisive and well-researched introduction and notes, this excellent new edition of the novel includes well-chosen readings ranging from selections by Charles Darwin and Thorstein Veblen to excerpts from novels by Harold Frederic and Anita Loos that shed light on Wharton's audacious protagonist, Undine Spragg. The result is a volume that not only restores the social and economic contexts for the novel but sharpens the reader's appreciation for Wharton's satire in this book, the most savage–and the most humorous–novel of her long career." - Donna Campbell, Washington State University
Pages 486
Date Published 30 Sep 2008
Publisher Broadview Press
Subject/s Literature & literary studies  
Sarah Emsley is a Preceptor of Expository Writing at Harvard University and the author of Jane Austen's Philosophy of the Virtues (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

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