The Age of Innocence

by Edith Wharton

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Ammons, Elizabeth. Edith Wharton’s Argument with America. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1980. An insightful study that chronologically traces Wharton’s evolving point of view and her complaints with American society from the female perspective. Extremely well written and particularly useful for feminist issues, the text covers all Wharton’s works. Contains bibliographical notes and an index.

Auchincloss, Louis. Edith Wharton. New York: Viking Press, 1971. An excellent biography that contains many photographs of Wharton and her houses, friends, and travels.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Edith Wharton. New York: Chelsea House, 1986. A collection of ten essays that analyze both her stories and novels. The essays are arranged chronologically; the first appeared in 1968, the last in 1985. They are each brilliant and full of useful information. An index and a bibliography are provided.

Fryer, Judith. Felicitous Space: The Imaginative Structures of Edith Wharton and Willa Cather. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986. An important inquiry into the meaning of actual and imagined spaces in the works of the two women writers. Explores Wharton’s anthropological knowledge in the structure and characterizations of The Age of Innocence.

Howe, Irving, ed. Edith Wharton. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1962. An excellent collection of critical essays. Also includes a letter to Wharton from Henry James about her book The Reef and a memoir of Wharton by Edmund Wilson. Contains a bibliography.

Lewis, R. W. B. Edith Wharton: A Biography. New York: Harper & Row, 1975. This biography of Wharton’s life won a Pulitzer Prize. Enormously detailed, beginning with a discussion of Wharton’s English and Dutch colonial ancestors and tracing her life and artistic development.

Lewis, R. W. B., and Nancy Lewis, eds. The Letters of Edith Wharton. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1988. Wharton’s letters from 1874 to 1937. Includes letters to Henry James and Morton Fullerton. Contains photographs, a biographical chronology, and a helpful index.

McDowell, Margaret. Edith Wharton. Boston: Twayne, 1976. An excellent introduction to Wharton’s life and work. Interprets The Age of Innocence as satirical portrait of a society that Wharton also respected. Annotated bibliography of secondary sources.

Vita-Finzi, Penelope. Edith Wharton and the Art of Fiction. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990. A close look at Wharton’s sources of inspiration and imagination, which then turns to her method in practice. The appendix contains extracts of Wharton’s notebook, chapter summaries, and excerpts from typed drafts. An index is provided.

Wershoven, Carol. The Female Intruder in the Novels of Edith Wharton. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1982.

Wolff, Cynthia Griffin. A Feast of Words: The Triumph of Edith Wharton. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977. An exceptional psychological study of Wharton’s life and artistic career that complements the Lewis biography. The Age of Innocence is read as Wharton’s most significant Bildungsroman, tracing Newland Archer’s struggle to mature.

Wolff, Cynthia Griffin. “The Age of Innocence: Wharton’s Portrait of a Gentleman.’” Southern Review 12, no. 2 (1976): 640-658.

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Essays and Criticism