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New York City: «Gilt Cage» or «Promised Land»?

Representations of Urban Space in Edith Wharton and Anzia Yezierska

Series:

Irene Billeter Sauter

New York City plays a significant, albeit previously neglected, role in the urban narratives of Edith Wharton and Anzia Yezierska at a time when the city was as new and central to the American experience as had been the Western frontier. New York City was the epicenter of the late 19th and early 20th century world at large; its constantly shifting landscape caused by urbanization, industrialization, women’s emancipation, and immigration found its representation in the extremes of the urban spectrum on Fifth Avenue and the Lower East Side. Narrating the domestic sphere from widely diverging vantage points, native Edith Wharton and immigrant Anzia Yezierska present a polarized city where domesticity is always a primal and existential concern. By analyzing exterior and interior city representations in Wharton’s and Yezierska’s New York literature, the author shows how urban space greatly affects, influences and alters questions of identity, assimilation, acculturation, and alienation in protagonists who cannot escape their respective settings. Edith Wharton’s «millionaire» heroines are framed by «conspicuous consumption» in the gilt interiors of their New York City while Anzia Yezierska’s «immigrant» protagonists hunger for a «Promised Land» of knowledge and learning in the perpetually changing urban landscape.

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Index alienation 19, 33, 106, 116, 156, 252 American Dream 18-19, 27, 60, 72, 77, 82, 136, 221, 223-226, 254 Anglo-Saxon 28, 33, 65-66, 81, 99- 101, 111, 142, 190, 192-194, 213, 246-247, 279 architecture 12, 36-37, 50, 98, 110, 129, 153, 165-166, 179, 188, 197- 198, 204, 209, 233, 236-239, 281 assimilation 19, 65-66, 76-77, 102- 103, 142, 192, 195, 221, 226, 245-248, 253 Bachelard, Gaston The Poetics of Space 23-24, 210 Bible 47, 60, 83, 112-113, 138-139, 214-217 cage 41, 63, 141 Codman, Ogden Jr. see Edith Wharton, The Decoration of Houses commodity 28, 117, 129, 182, 187 conspicuous consumption 20, 90-91, 205, 245 decoration 117, 129, 179, 187, 197- 198, 236-237 Denning, Michael The Cultural Front 25-26 Dewey, John 65-66, 191-192, 248-249 Dickens, Charles 269-270 Dreiser, Theodore 11, 31, 149-150 Fitzgerald, Scott F. 83 Freud, Sigmund 49 ghetto 19, 33, 62-63, 67, 70-73, 100- 106, 194, 228, 247, 254 ghetto pastoral 25-26 gilt cage 29, 55, 137, 232, 235-254 gilt vs. gold 137, 154, 203-204, 208, 237 golden door 278 golden land, golden country 60-61, 229 Handlin, Oscar 17-18 hope 17-18, 26, 33, 60-63, 211, 223, 235-254 hotels and hotel culture 21, 36, 55- 58, 79, 144, 147-158, 161, 165, 168, 203-204, 207, 240, 271 hunger 33, 42, 68-74, 77, 82, 101, 122, 190, 192-193, 213, 221, 223-226, 229-232, 246 identity 29, 37-38, 67, 71, 75, 82, 101, 104, 106, 111, 116, 133-136, 145- 146, 166, 179-180, 189-195, 211, 215, 241, 246, 252-254 immigrant, immigration 11-12, 17-...

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