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Cross-Cultural Encounters between the Mediterranean and the English-Speaking Worlds

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Edited By Christine Reynier

The Mediterranean world has long had strong cultural links to Great Britain as well as to the United States. Through the analysis of artistic objects and critical writings that crystallise this encounter, the essays in this volume demonstrate the variety and complexity of the connections between two geographical zones and two or more cultures.
Mediterranean cultures are shown to haunt American and British culture and artistic productions. The relation between British and American literature and art on the one hand, and Mediterranean arts on the other goes beyond the mere inscription of British and American culture in a Mediterranean tradition. British and American culture and art come out as unearthing a wide variety of Mediterranean artistic forms, renewing and transforming them.
This collection shows how lively the encounter between the Mediterranean and the English-Speaking worlds still is. It highlights how much English as well as American culture and art owe today to the Mediterranean ones; how, mainly in the fields of literature and art, the two civilisations have never discontinued the dialogue they adumbrated centuries ago.

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GUILLAUME TANGUY - The Museum and the Mosaic: Anti-Mythology or Counter-Mythologyin Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country (1913)? - 31

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GUILLAUME TANGUY The Museum and the Mosaic: Anti-Mythology or Counter-Mythology in Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country (1913)? The list of mythical allusions in The Custom of the Country is a long one: Andromeda, Diana, the Olympians, Pegasus, Persephone, Perseus, Prometheus, the Titans, and Venus, to cite but a few. These allusions enable the author to make a cultural statement on gender in America. The ‘custom of the country’, as one character in the novel points out, excludes women from ‘real life’ and confines them to a gilded cage of frivolity. The wealth of classical references enables Edith Wharton to make the point that women need not be ignorant. But more importantly the constant use of antiquity illustrates America’s problematic relation- ship to classical culture. In American Visions Robert Hughes notes that the intellectual framework of the Gilded Age – the period Edith Wharton writes about – was characterized by its ‘Hellenism’: Hellenism […] meant an idealized eclecticism […]. The superrich of the Gilded Age […] were tired of being cultural appendages to Europe. They wished to lead the world. They would express this desire in the magnificence of their buildings and the comprehensiveness of their collections. […] One must look to the Gilded Age as the point where the Museum began to supplant the Church. […] To buy the art object […] was also to appropriate its history […] and its aura. Thus, with a huge sucking noise, old Europe began to vanish into America. (Hughes 215-228) The Gilded Age was indeed the period when America acquired...

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