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French Ways and Their Meaning: Edith Wharton, An American Writer in France

Professor Hermione Lee discusses the great novelists Edith Wharton and Henry James and their American views of France.

The great American novelist Edith Wharton spent much of her life living in France and was passionately fond of its cities and landscapes, its literature and its culture. She toured much of France in a motor-car with her dear friend Henry James, and in the First World War, she committed herself to an exhausting and dedicated programme of war-work in Paris. Wharton wrote extensively, in fiction and non-fiction, about what she called her “second country”, and made an analysis of French customs and society which owed a good deal to nineteenth-century Bostonian Francophiles and especially to James. France is always compared with America in these writings, with the biting wit and profound social observation for which Wharton is famous – and usually not to America's advantage. Hermione Lee, Goldsmiths' Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford and biographer of Virginia Woolf and Edith Wharton (forthcoming), discusses Wharton's and James's American views of France.


Professor Hermione Lee | talks


Date and Time:

16 September 2005 at 6:30 pm


1 hour



Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House
020 7300 8000

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£14/£6 students (incl. exhibition entry & drink); £10 (incl. a drink)

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