‘Innocence’ consumed: packaging Edith Wharton with Kathleen Norris in Pictorial Review magazine, 1920–21

Author: Thornton, Edith

Source: European Journal of American Culture, Volume 24, Number 1, 1 February 2005 , pp. 29-45(17)

Publisher: Intellect

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The article discusses the friction between magazine editors, illustrators, art directors, and authors as a case study of the conflicts of modernity and Wharton's frustrated role in these struggles for interpretive authority. I examine the promotional material and the magazine's efforts to draw Wharton, a ‘literary’ figure, and Norris, a popular romance novelist, to an idealized ‘middle ground’ to appeal to the broadest possible readership. I then consider the illustrations from both serials in the light of filmic and theatrical conventions of representation from the period. This analysis allows me to discuss the uses of realism and melodrama, nostalgia and the modern, to ‘sell’ the two very different books and the two very different authors to the same readers/viewers. It is an example of the clash of authority over texts and images over which no one had sole control; and in the ensuing mixture of messages, readers/viewers were offered multiple points of entry into both texts provided by a host of interested, and competing, producers. This is the first sustained discussion of the original illustrations of The Age of Innocence and the first time they have been published since 1919–20, to the best of my knowledge.

Keywords: Norris; Wharton; best-sellers; early film; magazine illustration; magazine serialization

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/ejac.24.1.29/1

Affiliations: University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Publication date: February 1, 2005

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  • The European Journal of American Culture (EJAC) is an academic, refereed journal for scholars, academics and students from many disciplines with a common involvement in the interdisciplinary study of America and American culture, drawing on a variety of approaches and encompassing the whole evolution of the country.
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