In response to the disintegration of Emersonian idealism at the end of the nineteenth century, some writers resorted to sentimental or sensational fiction; not so Edith Wharton who turned instead to irony as both her mark of literary distinction and her comment on the tendencies of the fiction of her day. This study will examine a relatively small group of stories that represent the span of Wharton's literary career and the "crucial instances" of Wharton's complex irony. Wharton's use of irony is directly related to her choice of three types of third-person narrators: the observer narrator, the spectator-narrator, and the suppressed narrator, each of whom convey different levels of ironic effect.
Professor Charlee Sterling received her Ph.D. from New York University and is a member of the faculty at Villa Julie College.
Preface by Carol B. Sapora; Acknowledgements; Introduction; 1. Irony and the Observer Narrator; 2. The Ironic Spectator; 3. Self-Conscious, Self-Ironized; 4. The "Difference" of Wharton's "Genius"; Bibliography; Index.