Breaking the frame: How Edith Wharton's short stories subvert their magazine context


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Abstract

This article focuses on the restrictive nature of the American magazine in both the Gilded Age and Progressive Era of mass publication, the two periods in which Wharton published seventy-eight of her short stories. I consider the textual disunity often created by the use of illustrations, including advertisements, and the challenge to authorial autonomy presented by editorial intervention. I argue here that this material frame influenced Wharton's narrative strategies in her shorter fiction and examine how she successfully subverts the cultural frame in which her texts were placed, using apparent restrictions to add depth and complexity to her stories. To my knowledge, this is the first sustained study of the interaction between Wharton's short stories and their magazine frames, and the first focus on the subversive nature of her narrative strategies in her shorter fiction, in terms of challenging their material context.

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