Spectacles of Leisure in Edith Wharton's New York
Routledge – 1998 – 272 pages
Routledge – 1998 – 272 pages
Displaying Women explores the role of women in the representation of leisure in turn-of-the-century New York. To see and be seen--on Fifth Avenue and Broadway, in Central Park, and in the fashionable uptown hotels and restaurants--was one of the fundamental principles in the display aesthetic of New York's fashionable society.
Maureen E. Montgomery argues for a reconsideration of the role of women in the bourgeois elite in turn-of-the-century America. By contrasting multiple images of women drawn from newspapers, magazines, private correspondence, etiquette manuals and the New York fiction of Edith Wharton, Henry James and others, she offers a convincing antidote to the long-standing tendency in women's history to overlook women whose class affiliations have put them in a position of power.
"Montgomery offers vital insight into the operation of [gender and class] in one particular, and culturally significant, place and time." -- American Literary Realism
"Students of US literature, culture, and women's history will welcome this well-documented, readable study of fashionalbe post-Civil War New York…All academic collections." -- Choice
"…Montgomery deftly shows how turn-of-the-century New York brought about the marriage of publicity and culture--a relationship where one could not survive or, rather, thrive without the other." -- Publisher's Weekly
"Recommended for all collections." -- Choice
"The leisured world of society women in Edith Wharton's New York may have disappeared completely as Schliemann's Troy or Imperial Rome, but it is brought vividly to life by Maureen Montgomery in this fascinating study of a rigidly and artificially ordered culture that brought women curiously unexpected advantages as well as deadly drawbacks." -- Louis Auchincloss
"Finally! A study of the truly elite women of the turn of the century metropolis, which uses all the best new tools of cultural studies and gender analysis. Maureen Montgomery has given us a crucial element for our understanding of class relations and of femininity at the dawn of the twentieth century." -- Ellen Carol DuBois, UCLA
"…the book is as interesting as it is relaxing, and as relaxing as it must have been for a pampered woman of the times to have that cup of tea after her rounds of debutante balls…" -- The New York Times Book Review
"Students of US literature, culture, and women's history will welcome this well-documented, readable study of fashionable post-Civil War New York." -- Choice
"This excellent study of New York society women takes us well beyond the question of whether upper-class women are worthy of our attention; Displaying Women demonstrates convincingly that they played a key role in the formation of America's ruling class and of our late twentieth-century cult of celebrity."
Maureen E. Montgomery is Chair of the Department of American Studies at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.