Did Edith Wharton Hate Jews?

Edith Wharton

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – Edith Wharton’s writings include base stereotypes of Jewish people and her personal correspondence includes anti-Semitic sentiments. Wharton scholar Irene Goldman-Price will discuss Wharton’s seeming prejudice against Jews in “Edith Wharton’s Anti-Semitism: A Consideration” at Hevreh of Southern Berkshires on Friday, July 15, at 10:45 am, in an event cosponsored by the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires and The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home.

Goldman-Price, a Wharton scholar and Mount board member, will prompt audience members to consider how to respond to disturbing attitudes in a person whose life and work one otherwise admires. Goldman-Price will lay out evidence of anti-Semitism from Wharton’s letters and writings and explore her beliefs in the social, literary, and intellectual context of the time. “My hope is to generate a robust discussion, to have the audience think deeply about how we respond to people who are both admirable and flawed,” explains Goldman-Price. “I want to provide context about her literary technique, as well as her era. Readers can appreciate Wharton’s artistry, even as they may condemn her attitudes.”

Edith Wharton (1862-1937), one of America’s greatest authors, was born during the Civil War into a prominent family of Old New York. She wrote more than 40 volumes of stories, novels, poetry, and memoir, for which she received a number of literary awards. After summering in Lenox, Mass., from 1902 to 1911, she lived the last 25 years of her life in France, where she is celebrated for her humanitarian service during World War I. Along with all of her talents and accomplishments, like many of her peers, she also harbored anti-Semitic prejudices.

Irene Goldman-Price (photo David Dashiell)

Dr. Irene Goldman-Price earned her PhD in English from Boston University and spent much of her career teaching English and Women’s Studies at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where she also headed their women’s studies program. She is the co-editor of American Literary Mentors and editor of My Dear Governess: The Letters of Edith Wharton to Anna Bahlmann. Her article, “The Perfect Jew in The House of Mirth,” has been reprinted several times. Since retiring to the Berkshires, she has lectured and taught locally at The Mount, at public libraries, and for OLLI. She is presently vice-chair of the board of The Mount.

This event will take place at Hevreh of Southern Berkshires, 270 State Road, Great Barrington, Mass., and will be followed by a luncheon. Walk-ins are accepted, but reservations for the luncheon to follow are required by Thursday, July 13, at noon. To make a reservation, call 413-442-4360, ext. 10 or email jfb.officemanager@verizon.net.



About The Mount:

The Mount is a National Historic Landmark and cultural center that celebrates the intellectual, artistic, and humanitarian legacy of Edith Wharton. The Mount engages a diverse audience by providing context to Wharton’s life and achievements through educational and public programs and the conservation and preservation of her historic estate and gardens. Each year, The Mount is host to over 45,000 visitors. The Mount is located at 2 Plunkett Street in Lenox, Mass. For more information visit The Mount or call 413-551-5100.




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