A Haven for the Suffering Soul: Ellen Glasgow’s Lifelong Quest: Brigitte Zaugg
Brigitte ZAUGGUniversity of Lorraine, France
Posterity has not been fair to Virginian writer Ellen Glasgow, who in her lifetime was a renowned and respected figure well beyond the boundaries of her native Richmond and enjoyed her share of the literary limelight as a social historian and a novelist of manners. Yet after her death in 1945 she fell into (relative) oblivion, and even today she is not the author scholars think of spontaneously as one of the leading figures of early 20th-century southern literature. Only a small portion of her work1 is still in print and readily available. Her name is now mostly associated with Barren Ground (1925), the novel which marked a turning-point both in her literary career and personal life, in that it heralded the beginning of her best years as a writer and signaled her “reconciliation” with the hand life had dealt her, as well as the end of the spiritual quest she had begun when still in her teens. In the preface to the novel, written in 1933, she underlined its therapeutic effect: “it became for me, while I was working upon it, almost a vehicle of liberation. After years of tragedy and the sense of defeat that tragedy breeds in the mind, I had won my way to the other side of the wilderness.”2
Several critics, seizing on the links Glasgow established between herself and the novel and considering the heroine’s refusal of romantic involvement, hastened to claim that this...
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