The members of the class will break into teams to do some preliminary research into Edith Wharton's life, work, and times. Each team should choose as its focus one of the topics listed on the Wharton Resources Page. Be prepared to present your findings to your classmates by the beginning of next class. Your report should include a summary of your findings, as well as a list of the questions you have generated for future research. You should also include in your presentation a "tour" of potentially useful resources you have identified.
After the team reports, we will discuss the opening scene of The House of Mirth. What rules of behavior do Lily Bart and Lawrence Selden observe--or violate--in their initial encounter in The House of Mirth? Select passages from nineteenth century etiquette manuals to explain those rules and their purpose.What can you deduce from these conventions about the world in which "Miss Bart" and "Selden" live, and what can you deduce about the characters and the novel from their response to these codes? Write a brief log summarizng your observations, investigations, and hypotheses and come to class prepared to share your thoughts.
Related resources can be found on the following pages:
Etiquette and Dance Manuals in 19th Century America
Conduct Manuals in 19th Century America
Women and Work in 19th Century America
Rich and Poor in Turn-of-the-Century America
You can also use Search Engines at the Lyceum locate additional resources on the web.
Home Page for Lucia Knoles
Department of English, Assumption College
The Search for Improvement in Antebellum America
Project in Progress