Starting with the tensions in the early family constellation, Gloria C. Erlich traces Edith Wharton's erotic evolution—from her early repression of sexuality and her celibate marriage to her discovery of passion in a rapturous midlife love affair with the bisexual Morton Fullerton. Analyzing the novelist's life, letters, and fiction, Erlich reveals several interrelated identity systems—the filial, the sexual, and the creative—that evolved together over the course of Wharton's lifetime.
Gloria C. Erlich is the author of Family Themes and Hawthorne's Fiction (Rutgers, 1984), which won the House of Seven Gables Hawthorne Award and the Modern Language Association Prize for Independent Scholars. She lives and writes in Princeton, New Jersey.
"This is a rare biographical work and an illuminating contribution to literary psychology. Gloria Erlich's documented study of Edith Wharton's sexual development demonstrates in dramatic fashion the extent to which human sexual drives penetrate and dominate creativity in all the arts."—Leon Edel, author of Henry James: A Life
"A beautifully written, fascinating exploration of the effects of surrogate mothering on the life and work of Edith Wharton . . . that challenges certain contemporary assumptions about the infinite flexibility of the mother-infant bond. Erlich's triumph is the way in which she transcends the politics of motherhood by rendering a convincing portrayal of the reciprocities between Wharton's experiences of mothering (and fathering) and her art. Tracing the intermeshing of Wharton's imaginative fictional accounts with her actual history of marriage, sexual awakening, mentorship, friendship, and female attachments, she enables us to see clearly how Wharton spent her adulthood forging through fiction what childhood had withheld—an internal mothering experience."—Louise J. Kaplan, author of Female Perversions
"Imaginative and thought-provoking, The Sexual Education of Edith Wharton speculates interestingly about the author's early life and its residual influence upon her work. The discussion of the Fullerton affair ("The Passion Experience") is especially illuminating, allowing us to understand the important implications of The Touchstone, a novel that scholars have too often neglected."—Cynthia Griffin Wolff, author of Emily Dickinson and A Feast of Words: The Triumph of Edith Wharton