Submission Date

7-21-2016

Document Type

Paper

Department

English

Faculty Mentor

Meredith Goldsmith

Comments

Presented during the 18th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 22, 2016 at Ursinus College.

Project Description

Studying a novel in the context of its paratexts — including the illustrations, advertisements, and captions surrounding the fiction — reveals how the publication context can shape a literary work. This project examines Edith Wharton’s Hudson River Bracketed (1929) and its paratexts by comparing the final version of the novel with textual changes made in its monthly periodical publication in the magazine The Delineator (1928-1930). As mass-consumerism and advertising increasingly targeted women during the 1920s, examining Wharton’s work in a popular middle-class women’s magazine like The Delineator illuminates how paratexts affect audience perceptions of the novel’s characters, conflicts, and themes. In Hudson River Bracketed, Wharton challenges the commercial publishing industry through her portrait of the artist, Vance Weston, as he struggles to adapt to New York’s high-brow literary society; however, her social critique of the industry often conflicts with the paratexts’ emphasis on ads for beauty and household supplies, romantic illustrations, and modernized captions. Using literature on popular women writers and the gendered consumer culture of the twenties, this analytical paper argues that The Delineator, its paratexts, and its textual changes to Hudson River Bracketed rewrite Wharton’s work as a romance novel, diminishing her critique of the publishing industry and ultimately promoting the commodification of women’s literature.

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