The Edith Wharton Society Home Page
WHARTON-L Archives for January 1999.
Wharton and Freud   Call for Papers

Can anybody help direct me to info about Wharton's relation to
Freud's writing?  I'm especially curious about what specific Freud pieces
(or, for that matter, pieces by other psychoanalytic writers) she may read
and/or responded to.  Thanks.

Phillip Barrish

Date: Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:19:25 EST
Subject: Re:  Wharton and Freud

Dear Prof. Barrish - Wharton definitely read some Freud - References may be
found in R.W. B. Lewis Biography of Wharton, Collected Letters of Wharton, ed.
Lewis and Lewis and a book of Wharton and the Culture of the Thirties whose
title alludes me at the moment by Dale Bauer.  Her ostensible attitude seems
negative but as Faulkner is supposed to have said about his knowledge of
Freud, every writer lives in his age and knows of it.   Annette Zilversmit

Date: Sat, 23 Jan 1999 14:19:04 -0500
From: S_shaloo <>
Subject: Re: Wharton and Freud

In response to Phillip Barrish's query:

Wharton spoke disparagingly of Freud in letters to various friends and
colleagues.  I think you'll find a sampling of that sentiment in the
COLLECTED LETTERS, esp ones to Sally Norton, if memory serves.

While most of Wharton's analysis of exogamy and taboo in the
expulsion dinner party scene of AGE OF INNOCENCE is thought to
have come from her reading of Fraser's THE GOLDEN BOUGH, I
have often wondered whether one might productively look at Freud's
TOTEM AND TABOO in that context.

I have never been able to make a direct link between any one of Freud's
works and Wharton, though, and I have often thought that a possible approach
to the question would be to look at the quarterlies and reviews Wharton read
regularly to see what was being excerpted, discussed, and reprinted there.
One might then be able to make a case for what she would have been exposed
to (no pun intended!).

Another possibility:  her great friend, Mary Berenson, was quite a
Freudian, and I imagine Wharton was involved in many conversations
with her about his theories during their visits with one another.
I have never tried to track down Mary B's letters, but that might be

Though he's not a psychoanalyst, my sense from reading Wharton's letters is
that she had perused the sexology of Havelock Ellis, if only to dismiss its
use in her contemporary society.

I would be very interested to hear what you find on this subject,
Sharon Shaloo

Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 15:53:35 -0500 (EST)
From: Renee M Tursi <>
Subject: Re: Wharton and Freud

Wharton ladles up a good dose of her attitude about Freud in her February
21, 1922 letter to Bernard Berenson, often quoted. In it she directs him
to tell Mary Berenson to refrain from speaking about psychoanalysis (my
term) to their impressionable young acquaintance, Philomene de

"Above all, please ask Mary not to befuddle her with Freudianism & all its
jargon. She'd take to it like a duck to -- sewerage. And what she wants is
to develop the *conscious,* & not grub after the sub-conscious. She wants
to be taught first to see, to attend, to reflect."

Renee Tursi
Columbia University

Date: Thu, 28 Jan 1999 06:21:41 -0600
From: Abby Werlock <>
Subject: Re: Wharton and Freud (fwd)

Re:  Wharton and Freud (a fruitful topic that needs much more exploration!)

A few years ago, while preparing an essay that looks at Wharton's sense of
humor--which I believe includes her Freudian bantering with the depiction of
the sexual act in *Summer*--I came across a quotation from Gaillard Lapsley:
 Lapsley recalls that he and Wharton "used to rock with laghter over chosen
extracts from the *Journal of Abnormal Psychology.*"  The quotation appears
in Lewis' biogaphy, p. 324.  My essay is entitled "Whitman, Wharton, and the
Sexuality of *Summer,* in Jeanne Campbell Reesman's *Speaking the Other
Self:  American Women Writers* (U of GA P, 1997, 246-262). Although I didn't
pursue the Freudian connection in detail, I had great fun unpacking the
clearly phallic rendering of the fireworks scene in *Summer*; someone really
should explore further the Freud/Wharton connection!

Abby Werlock

Date: Thu, 28 Jan 1999 10:48:49 -0500
From: S_shaloo <>
Subject: Re: Wharton and Freud (fwd)

Abby's remark gives me the courage to offer a possibility that I had before
thought was a bit strained.  Freud noted that guilt over masturbation could
often be manifested in a feeling of being watched.  And I have always
wondered whether one might read EW's "The Eyes" as one way she poked fun at

Sharon Shaloo

Call for Papers
Date: Fri, 22 Jan 1999 23:13:51 EST
Subject: 1999 Chicago MLA

The Edith Wharton Society solicits papers for its two scheduled sessions at
the 1999 MLA in Chicago, Dec.27-30.
Send 1-2 page proposals by March 15 to the organizer of each topic below

             " Wharton and the Female Homoerotic"

Any approach to Wharton's work and life is welcomed.  Prof. Annette Zilversmit, 140
Riverside Drive, Apt. 16H, New York, NY 10024-2605

            "Public and Private Spaces in Edith Wharton"

Explorations and representations in Wharton's fiction, non-fiction, life, and
times.  Prof. Jean Blackall.  5106 Greenwich Mews,  Williamsburg, VA

Return to main page (frames). Return to main page (no frames).

This page last modified on 24 January 1999. Please send comments and suggestions to D. Campbell.