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Edith Wharton and Cosmopolitanism$
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Meredith Goldsmith and Emily J. Orlando

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780813062815

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813062815.001.0001

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Wharton’s Italian Women

Wharton’s Italian Women

“My Beloved Romola”

(p.89) 4 Wharton’s Italian Women
Edith Wharton and Cosmopolitanism

Rita Bode

University Press of Florida

Chapter 4 examines Wharton’s first novel, the historical fiction The Valley of Decision, in the context of Wharton’s knowledge of and appreciation for Italy that began with her family’s European stays during Wharton’s childhood. In The Valley of Decision, Wharton engages Italian womanhood as a way of exploring womankind’s relationship to learning and culture. The chapter traces Wharton’s admiration for and literary indebtedness to her Victorian predecessor, George Eliot—a writer Wharton read from early on as her letters to Anna Bahlman indicate—and discusses how Wharton’s own female intellectual, Fulvia, is not a replication of but rather a response to Eliot’s Romola.

Keywords:   Italy, historical fiction, The Valley of Decision, George Eliot, Romola, female intellectual, Anna Bahlman, literary indebtedness

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