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Literature in English, North America

Literary criticism

2010

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Going No Place?: Foreground Nostalgia And Psychological Spaces In Wharton's The House Of Mirth, Sean Scanlan Apr 2010

Going No Place?: Foreground Nostalgia And Psychological Spaces In Wharton's The House Of Mirth, Sean Scanlan

Publications and Research

This essay argues that the power of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth comes not from Lily Bart's function as a mere symptom of historical and economic pressures, but from the complex narrative and psychological process by which she negotiates a sequence of homes and their repeated collapse. Informing this process is nostalgia, a feeling that frames Lily Bart's step-by-step fall from riches to rags. Reading Lily via cognitive and family systems approaches suggests that Lily's rootlessness is predicated on a subtle transformation from her reliance upon simple “background” (aesthetic and monetary) nostalgia to a more ...