Edith Wharton and V. L. Parrington

Screen Shot 2019-05-29 at 6.35.44 AMIt’s no secret that literary critics are shaped by their era, no matter how much the New Critics tried to pretend that they existed in a realm of Universal Truths about Aesthetic Judgment, so I’m not here to pile on to Vernon Louis Parrington’s Main Currents in American Thought (1930).

Parrington was a giant in his day, and he synthesized and explained what he saw as, well, the main currents, etc.

Parrington died before completing the last volume of Main Currents, which exists as a sequence of lecture notes and previously published essays.  It’s a kind of critical voice–definitively categorizing, full of sweeping pronouncements, and obsessively worried about ethical actions and judgments–that would never get you past the covers of PMLA today. Who but Parrington could sum up Norris’s unfinished Vandover and the Brute  by calling it “a huge and terrible torso”? (332). And he does talk about now-forgotten naturalist authors like Ernest Poole (The Harbor, 1915) and progressivist Winston Churchill (the novelist, not the politician).

Yet the book is unaware of its own (whiteness) blinders: I saw no references to popular African American writers of the era that he covers so conclusively, such as Frances E.W. Harper, Charles W. Chesnutt, Pauline Hopkins, or Paul Laurence Dunbar. And how can you treat “main currents in American thought” without the insights of W. E. B. DuBois or at least a mention of The Souls of Black Folk?

As I alluded to in a tweet this morning (the one that made me want to write this post) Parrington’s judgments give a window into thoughts of the era but increasingly diverge from our own.

  • “Theodore Dreiser: Chief of American Naturalists.” Okay, there’s a case for that, which for Parrington relies on “sympathy and mercy” and Dreiser’s “vast and terrifying imagination.” (Just try getting away with language like that today at some of our more theory-oriented journals. Can you imagine what Reviewer #2 would have to say? I can, and it’s not pretty.)
  • “Sinclair Lewis: Our Own Diogenes.” Well, sure, if you really like Sinclair Lewis, and I do.
  • A short paragraph on “F. Scott Fitzgerald”: “A bad boy who loves to smash things to show how naughty he is. . . . Precocious, ignorant–a short candle already burnt out” (386). Obviously written before The Great Gatsby, let alone Tender is the Night. 
  • “The Incomparable Mr. Cabell.” I can hear you saying “who?” Like Joseph Hergesheimer, whom Raymond Chandler paired with Cabell as the “fancy boy” writers in contrast to his plainer style, James Branch Cabell was a well-considered writer whose fantastic novels set in Poictesme (link so that you can look up the pronunciation) were considered high art and whose novel Jurgen led to an obscenity case.  When I was writing the “Fiction: 1900 to the 1930s” chapter for American Literary Scholarship in 2000-2008, I read all the yearly criticism on him, and it’s fair to say that he’s much less popular than he was.  Parrington praises him for the “open door of woman-worship” that allows Cabell to “enter his world of deeper realities” (341)

Now here is the head-scratcher for modern readers: lumped under the heading “Certain Other Writers” with Willa Cather, comprising the front and back of two pages (381-384) for both of them, is “Edith Wharton–The Genteel Tradition and the New Plutocracy.”

In other words, Parrington devotes a chapter each to Dreiser, Lewis, Cabell, and Ole Rolvaag , but the front and back of a page each for Edith Wharton and Willa Cather, which for the time was probably about right.

Calling Wharton a “temperamental aristocrat” who was “isolated in America by her native aristocratic tastes” (I see what you did there, V.L.), Parrington approves of House of Mirth (Selden and Trenor are “the aristocrat and the plutocrat” [381]), Ethan Frome (“a dramatization of the ‘narrow house’ theme” [381]), The Custom of the Country (“a study of the social climber” [381]), The Age of Innocence (“an admirable work” [382]), and Old New York (“A return to her best manner” [382]). The rest of her work is “not important.”

Summing up, Parrington says “Mrs. Wharton a finished artist who grasps her material firmly; an intellectual attitude, delighting in irony” (382).

But she is is “Not a thinker like Cabell, whose irony springs from an imagination that contemplates man in his relation to cosmic forces, but an observer whose irony springs from noting the clash between men and social convention. The last of our literary aristocrats of the genteel tradition” (382).

For those keeping score at home, let me sum this up:

Cabell: a thinker, interested in “cosmic forces,” in touch with “deeper realities” through his contemplation of an abstract conception of “woman.”

Wharton: not a thinker but an observer, an “aristocrat” (x3), and–most damning of all–a relic of the genteel tradition.

I said on Twitter that Wharton must have been laughing in four languages at a judgment like this. Wouldn’t her extensive reading in social and biological evolutionary thought qualify her has a “cosmic” thinker? In fact, wouldn’t her status as an actual woman give her a little insight into what makes Cabell so special?

This little exercise in how literary reputations are made is just of many instances, of course, but if Edith Wharton–pictured in 1923 when she received an honorary degree from Yale University, the first woman to be so honored–is laughing, this may be why.

 

Leo Robson, “John Williams and the Canon that Might Have Been,” and making sense of a class from the past

Screen Shot 2019-03-25 at 6.47.46 PMIn “John Williams and the Canon that Might Have Been” (at The New Yorker), Leo Robson writes about the novels of John Williams, who co-won (if that’s a word)  the National Book Award in 1973 for his novel Augustus, along with John Barth’s Chimera.  Williams is best known today for the academic novel Stoner (1965), which has undergone a huge resurgence since Williams’s death in 1994.

As Robson says, Williams represented something at odds with the expansiveness of a Saul Bellow, but what? Robson: “Williams had been spellbound by [Yvor] Winters’s authoritative tone and by a set of absolutist convictions relating not just to Anglophone poetry but to literature as a whole. Modish, persona-heavy metafiction or fealty to a more austere and straight-backed standard: this was not a difference that could be split.” [emphasis added]

Robson goes on to explain the theory underlying Williams’s practice:

Winters thought that the high point of literary expression had come and gone during the Renaissance, when “the tougher poets” like Fulke Greville wrote with a sense of rational order in the “plain style.” In the early eighteenth century, a decisive break had occurred—the start of what Winters branded Romanticism, defined as the misbegotten idea that “literature is mainly or even purely an emotional experience.” In the fullest statement of Winters’s views, “In Defense of Reason” (1947), a compendium of his earlier critical books, he railed against what he called “the fallacy of imitative form”—the tendency to express disintegration or uncertainty through language that itself exhibits those qualities. The “sound” alternative, Winters wrote, was to make a lucid statement “regarding the condition of uncertainty.” The “conscious author” and the pursuit of “formal perfection” emerged as desirable alternatives to “the fragmentary and unguided thought of the character, as he walks down the street, or sits in a bar, or dreams at night.”

Robson ultimately asks “What if cool analysis and formalist precision had gained greater purchase at the time?”

But there was one place where it did gain purchase, if only for a semester: a course on the short poem in English that I took as an undergraduate.

We worshiped the plain style.

Fulke Greville was it. 

We were taught to have have little use for the Renaissance fancy guys like Sir Philip Sidney, because they were good but not plain. Literary quality was adherence to the plain style–tough, unemotional, understated.

Our principal text was John Williams’s English Renaissance Poetry. I didn’t know until Robson’s piece that this was (a) a transgressive and original anthology and (b) a book that seriously irritated Yvor Winters, who said “that Williams (‘the little bastard’) would make “a good deal of money out of me.”

Screen Shot 2019-03-25 at 6.47.00 PMOur other main text was Yvor Winters’s Quest for Reality,  a holy touchstone. (The cover I recall is a black and yellow one, but I may have conflated it with Forms of Discovery.)  Wallace Stevens made the cut, too, as did J. V. Cunningham.

Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth, and the rest of the Romantics, on the other hand, were infra dig–definitely not plain, and far too emotional to be real poetry, which had to constrained and contained.

The shock of recognition (TM Edmund Wilson) that I had on reading Robson’s piece was that I hadn’t realized back then that I was being taught school of literary criticism, much less one that had somehow gone underground and surfaced in an undergraduate class.  I was being taught poetry, full stop, and accepted those standards as given.

In addition to being interesting in its own terms and in reintroducing readers to John Williams, then, Robson’s essay is a reminder of how seriously students (well, one naive student, anyway) take in what they’re told and the ways in which canonicity can shape young minds–even if it’s a minor or uncanonical canon.

 

 

Editing devices for collation (a brief list)

Volume Editors have many methods of comparing texts, some of which are text based (relying on typed text) and some of which are image based (relying on photographs or physical volumes). This is a very limited list. If you have other resources, please feel free to add them in the comments.

Volume Editors have many methods of comparing texts, some of which are text based (relying on typed text) and some of which are image based (relying on photographs or physical volumes). If you have other resources, please feel free to add them here.

Different methods, text-based or image-based, will work better depending on what  you’re comparing.

  1. EDITIONS, which will usually be set from different plates and have different typefaces and page numbers (e.g., Scribner’s first edition, Macmillan [British] first edition, and so on), can’t be compared with image-based technology because of the the differences in typefaces and pagination.  What’s on page 31 of the Scribner’s first edition of The House of Mirth will not be similar enough to what’s on page 31 of the Macmillan edition to make a comparison of individual words and letters possible, for the words will not be on the same lines. EDITIONS will need to be typed so that the text can be compared using Juxta or another text-based method.

The image on the left is from page 31 of the first Scribner’s edition of The House of Mirth; the second image is from page 31 of the Macmillan (British) first edition.

  1. PRINTINGS, which will be printed from the same plate as the first edition with the same typeface and page numbers, will differ little in appearance. The same material will be found on p. 3 of the Scribner’s edition, first printing and the Scribner’s edition, 5th printing, and the words will appear on the same line. PRINTINGS can be compared using image-based comparison methods like the Hinman or other image-based technologies. 

Text-based comparisons

Text-based comparisons let you look at the differences between two typed documents. Most of us are already used to doing this in Word, but Juxta Commons is useful for more complex comparisons.

Juxta Commonshttp://juxtacommons.org/  This easy-to-use and free software can compare two screens of text at once and can identify the differences by highlighting them. Juxta looks like this: juxta

To get typed text to compare, you might try these:

    1. Typing the volume into a text editor (like Notepad or Text Wrangler) or into Word.
    2. Using a typed version or the raw OCR (Optical Character Recognition) version found online that you proofread carefully against the copy-text volume (usually the first American edition).
    3. When raw OCR text comes out of the scanner, you’ll see that it is kind of a mess. There are odd characters, like ! instead of 1, m instead of rr, and even worse. You can see a little of this if you try to convert a .pdf document back into text using Google Docs.  Whenever scanned text is used, it has to be carefully proofread.You may see references to “cleaning” the raw OCR text. “Cleaning” is just a term from data processing; it means to correct the data (in this case the text) according to the scanned material so that it makes sense.
    4.  Adobe Acrobat Pro can turn .pdf files into  text, but the text it creates must be carefully proofread.
    5. Google Docs is supposed to be able to turn .pdf files into text, but the text it creates must be carefully proofread.
    6. Scanning the copy-text volume with a specialty software such as ABBYY Finereader https://www.abbyy.com/en-us/finereader/ This text must also be carefully proofread but is supposed to have fewer errors than other scanning to OCR (Optical Character Recognition) kinds of programs.

 

Image-based comparisons

If you have taken pictures of several printings of the volume you’ll be editing, image-based or digital comparison software will be helpful.

  1. Traherne Digital Collator, a free comparison and collation software. The Traherne Digital Collator compares two page images so that you can see differences between, say, the first and second printing of a volume.

The download links can be found here: https://oxfordtraherne.org/traherne-digital-collator/ and http://www.robots.ox.ac.uk/~vgg/software/traherne/. These methods work for different printings or states of the same edition but not for different editions that have different fonts.

In the screenshots below, the top image compares the first edition of The House of Mirth, from a copy in the Lilly Library, with a copy of the first edition in the Beinecke Library. Note the broken character on the running title (HOUSE), which is illuminated by a red color instead of purple in the second image.

traherne1

traherne2

2. Pocket Hinman. The Pocket Hinman is a free experimental app developed for James Ascher and DeVan Ard. It’s a free iPhone and Android app, available through the App store and here: https://rossharding.me/#/pockethinman/

The Pocket Hinman allows you to compare visually a volume that you’re looking at with a previous picture of a volume. Differences will stand out by flickering slightly.

Mechanical Comparators and Collators

If you live near a research library or are visiting one, you can use these older devices to compare physical volumes of the text: the two major kinds are the Hinman Collator and the Lindstrand Comparator.  Developed by Charlton Hinman from WWII bomb target technologies that compared two images and found slight differences by flickering images and used in creating comparative versions of the First Folio, the Hinman Collator can find small differences that indicate changes from one printing to the next.

Here’s an article that lists the locations of mechanical collators:

“Armadillos of Invention”: A Census of Mechanical Collators

Author(s): Steven Escar Smith Source: Studies in Bibliography, Vol. 55 (2002), pp. 133-170 Published by: Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia

Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40372237 

What’s the difference between “laid” and “wove” paper? A quick guide.

laidpaper

Figure 1. Here’s a page from The House of Mirth on laid paper. Note the chain lines.

In bibliographies such as Stephen Garrison’s Edith Wharton: A Descriptive Bibliography, you’ll see information like this: “Typography and paper: 5 5/8″ x 3 3/8″; laid paper with vertical chain lines 13/16″ apart; 27 lines per page: Running heads: rectos and versos ‘THE HOUSE OF MIRTH.'” (76)

What is laid paper? There’s a more elegant explanation here, but basically it’s paper that has been created by drying on a form that has vertical and horizontal “chains.” When the paper dries, the parts where the chains were obviously could not absorb the paper pulp and appear lighter when you shine a light through the page.  Figure 1 shows the laid paper marks on page 136 from The House of Mirth.

wove

Figure 2. The same page with wove paper.

 

Wove paper (see discussion here) is paper that has been created in a form with brass (or other) wires woven together, so that no specific pattern is visible, except perhaps a watermark, which is made by putting a piece of wire with a logo or pattern in the form before the paper pulp is added. There aren’t any chain lines or pattern in wove paper. Figure 2 is the same page (p. 136) from a different printing of The House of Mirth, but it’s on wove rather than laid paper.

Why does it matter whether a book is on wove or laid paper?

The type of paper is just one of the many features used in, you guessed it, descriptive bibliographies so that scholars and book collectors will know which edition and printing of a book they have. In the case of The House of Mirth, knowing that Figure 1 has “laid paper” helps to determine that it is the first or second printing of the first edition. Figure 2 is on wove paper, and, since according to Garrison “Starting with the third Scribners printing, wove paper was used instead of laid” (80), I know that Figure 2 is from a third or later printing.

 

Disclaimer: I’m obviously not a rare books historian but thought this brief piece of information might be useful.

Which journals paginate by volume? Which by number?

mla8thFile this one under esoteric news you can use. Now that the MLA Handbook, 8th edition, pp. 39-40 has reverted to the old rule (If the journal is paginated by ISSUE, include the issue number. If it’s paginated by VOLUME, don’t.), here’s a reference list of some journals according to their numbering systems. Journals change their systems from time to time, so if you see an error, please let me know: campbelld@wsu.edu

Journals: Page numbers by volume or issue. This page lists which journals devoted to American literature number their pages by volume and which number them by issue.

Page numbers by VOLUME
African American Review / AAR
American Imago / AL
American Indian Quarterly / AIQ
American Jewish History
American Literary History / AmLH
American Literary Realism / ALR [Note: In 2001, ALR began numbering by volume rather than issue.]
American Literature / AL
American Quarterly /AQ
Americastudien / Amst
Biography
Callaloo
Children’s Literature Association Quarterly
College English / CE
College Language Association Journal / CLAJ
Comparative Literature Studies / CLS
Criticism
Early American Literature / EAL
ELH
European Journal of Cultural Studies
Explicator / Expl
Great Plains Quarterly / GPQ
Henry James Review / HJR
Journal of American Studies / JAmS
Journal of Narrative Technique / JNT
Journal of Popular Culture / JPC
Legacy
Menckeniana
Midamerica
Midwestern Miscellany / MMisc
Mississippi Quarterly / MissQ
Modern Fiction Studies / MFS
Modern Language Notes / MLN
Modern Language Quarterly / MLQ
Modernism/Modernity / MoMo
Monthly Review
Narrative
New England Review / NER
New Literary History / NLH
Papers on Language and Literature / PLL
Philological Quarterly
Philosophy and Literature / P&L
PMLA
South Atlantic Quarterly / SAQ
South Carolina Review
Southern Studies / SoSt
Studies in American Fiction / SAF
Studies in American Jewish Literature /SAJL
Studies in the Novel /SNTTS
Texas Studies in Literature and Language / TSLL
Theatre Annual
Twentieth Century Literature / TCL
Victorian Studies
University of Toronto Quarterly
Western American Literature / WAL
Women’s Studies / WS

Page numbers by ISSUE
American Literary Realism (pre-2001)
American Notes and Queries / ANQ
Arizona Quarterly / ArQ
boundary 2
College Literature / CollL
Critical Survey / CritSurv
Diacritics
Differences
Dime Novel Roundup / DNR
Dreiser Studies / DrSt (Became Studies in American Naturalism)
Edith Wharton Review / EWhR
Ellen Glasgow Journal of Southern Women Writers / EGN (*these are issues, not volumes)
Emily Dickinson Journal / EDJ
Frank Norris Studies / FNS (no longer publishing)
Frontiers
Hypatia
ISLE
Journal of American and Comparative Cultures / JAAC
Journal of Modern Literature / JML
MELUS
Modern Jewish Studies
Mosaic
Papers on Language and Literature / PLL
Rocky Mountain Review
Sherwood Anderson Review /ShARev (no longer publishing)
Shofar
Short Story / ShortS
Sinclair Lewis Society Newsletter / SLN
Southern Literary Journal /SLJ
Southern Quarterly / SoQ
Stephen Crane Studies / SCS
Western Humanities Review / WHR
Wicazo Sa Review / WSaR

To be added:


Excavatio
Centennial Review / CentR

English Language Notes / ELN
Journal of American and Comparative Cultures / JACC
Journal of the Short Story in English (JSSE) http://jsse.revues.org/
Literature and Belief
Modern Language Studies
Pembroke Magazine / PM
Postmodern Culture (paginated by paragraph)
Studies in Popular Culture
http://www.pcasacas.org/SPC/
TDR: The Drama Review

Novel: A Forum on Fiction

 

 

https://public.wsu.edu/~campbelld/journals.htm

Suggestions for Using Twitter

  1. Make your presence something that people will want to follow. You only have a few (less than 30) words for your description of yourself, so if you want a professional presence there, make those words count.
  2. You’re on Twitter basically for two reasons (1) to join conversations and add to them and (2) to provide value in the form of interesting information for your followers. You can do this through original information or posts, through likes, or through retweeting.
  3. A “like” helps you to save something for future reference and supports the original post; a retweet implies endorsement or information that you think others need to have. You can use the @ or hashtag # to call attention to the tweet if you think it would be useful or relevant for someone else.
  4. If you’ve just joined and are deciding whom to follow, try some of the following:
  5. Scholars in your area,
  6. Academic and research libraries and librarians, which often have great feeds featuring their collections as well as research grants. Beinecke Library, British Library, New York Public Library,
  7. Aggregator sites such as openculture or Century Past History.
  8. Groups–many scholarly societies have Twitter feeds (@SSAWWrs).
  9. Contemporary authors: Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood have active Twitter presences, for example.
  10. If you’re tweeting a conference panel:
  11. Be sure that it’s all right with the conference/panelists.
  12. Use the hashtag
  13. Don’t tweet individual tweets on the panel; instead, use a threaded tweet by replying to yourself. To post a series of individual tweets clogs up people’s twitter timelines.
  14. If there’s an unusual meme or piece of information, indicate where you got it. (This usually isn’t a problem if you’re retweeting, since the source is shown.)
  15. If you see a thread worth saving, you can use Threadreader to create it in one spot with https://twitter.com/threadreaderapp?lang=en
  16. You can choose to follow, unfollow, or mute people. You might discover that some people go on Twitter solely to promote themselves or their projects, so you might choose to follow them even if they never provide additional value in other ways.
  17. Follow junior scholars! A Twitter study a few years ago showed that users tended to follow those at or above their professional level, but that’s not the ethos you want.
  18. Set up your professional site (if WordPress) to post to Twitter and Facebook.

On visiting the Scribner Archives and being locked in a graveyard with Aaron Burr

houseofmirthThe Charles Scribner Archives at the Princeton University Library are a rich source for anyone doing research on Edith Wharton. They’re a rich source for research on other authors, too, for that matter, but I was there for Wharton and the edition of The House of Mirth I’m preparing for the Complete Works of Edith Wharton (CWEWh).

Charles Scribner’s Sons was Edith Wharton’s publisher at the start of her career, and she remained with the publishing house for many years until she moved to Appleton with The Reef, a break that was more like a breakup. As Hermione Lee describes it:

Charles Scribner never quite got over the divorce, and in 1921, still hoping to capture future novels,” he wrote sadly: “The loss of your books was the greatest blow ever given to my pride as publisher.”

Scribner’s published The Valley of Decision and The Joy of Living (1902),Wharton’s translation of Hermann Sudermann’s Es Lebe Das Leben, a 5-act drama.joyofliving, which sports a grayish-green cover unlike the familiar red binding used for most of her books.  Wharton supervised every aspect of the publishing process with great attention, and, when she finally moved to Appleton and they mimicked the familiar red Scribner’s binding for The Reef and Summer. 

 

Back to the archive: The correspondence between Wharton and various people at Scribner’s is voluminous, charming, witty, and businesslike. There are restrictions on photography in terms of number (no more than 10% of any folder, box, or collection) and use, however, and every image must be approved by a librarian before you take the picture, so I can’t reproduce anything here. Here’s a link to the finding aid, and you are sure to find something you need to see: https://rbsc.princeton.edu/collections/archives-charles-scribner%E2%80%99s-sons2018-07-27 18.37.48-1

How does Aaron Burr enter into this narrative? Well, Burr went to Princeton, which his father, Aaron Burr, Senior, had founded (as The College of New Jersey) and of which his maternal grandfather, the famous preacher Jonathan Edwards, had assumed the presidency when the senior Burr died when Aaron Burr was two years old.  I figured that Burr was probably buried in the Princeton cemetery, a short walk from the campus.

When my CWEWh colleague Carol Singley and I walked all around the cemetery after a day in the archives, however, we couldn’t find a way in. The graveyard is surrounded by a fence of iron spikes, and all the gates we saw were locked. We figured out which was Burr’s grave and left it at that.

2018-07-27 16.44.06-1The next day, I returned,  found an open gate, and went to the grave. It’s the white stone in front of the graves of his father (right) and grandfather (left).

A light rain had started to fall, along with some rumblings of distant thunder. I had stood there for a while, trying (with my rusty Latin) to read the lengthy inscription on his father’s grave.

When I went back to the open gate, it was locked, chained shut with a padlock. I wandered the perimeter a while longer, but all the gates were locked.

It would be a better story to imagine staying there as night fell and the thunder and rain intensified, and for a minute I imagined that was what was going to happen. Instead, I looked up the cemetery’s web site on my phone, called the emergency number, and was directed to an open gate that I hadn’t seen on either of the two trips. A prosaic rescue beats an exciting story any day, though, especially when the rain is really coming down.

I wondered after that why no one had put up a sign for clueless tourists like myself indicating either (1) that the gates were locked at a certain hour or (2) that there was an open gate to be found elsewhere. But Aaron Burr didn’t suffer fools gladly, and after teaching his “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and other writings for so many years, I’m morally certain Jonathan Edwards didn’t, either.