The Age of Innocence
  • Publication Date: March 21, 2002
  • ISBN: 9781551113364 / 1551113368
  • 432 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Age of Innocence

  • Publication Date: March 21, 2002
  • ISBN: 9781551113364 / 1551113368
  • 432 pages; 5½" x 8½"

The Age of Innocence marks the pinnacle of Edith Wharton’s career as one of the finest American novelists of her era. The narrative follows Newland Archer, of upper-crust 1870s New York, whose passion for the mysterious Countess Ellen Olenska leads him to question the very foundations of his way of life. Written in the aftermath of World War I, the novel explores the psychological and cultural paradoxes of desire in a world undergoing unprecedented transformations.

This edition includes a critical introduction and a range of appendices that contextualize the novel in terms of its modernist themes and tensions.


“From the wide-ranging and expert introduction to the appendices (one of which gives readers Wharton’s plot outlines for the novel), Michael Nowlin’s edition is eminently useful. The book provides us with representative reviews from the time of the initial publication, writings by Wharton and others about ‘feminism,’ Wharton’s letters, and excellent notes for both the text and supplemental materials. No one working on Wharton today places her so accurately as Nowlin.” — Linda Wagner-Martin, The University of North Carolina at Chapel-Hill

“The beauty of The Age of Innocence rests in the beauty of Wharton’s language and the precision of her insights into human nature; the supporting reference materials provided here in appendices and notes illuminate the cultural and social history of Old New York, the city in which Newland Archer and the Countess Olenska discover their forbidden love. Michael Nowlin’s edition is an excellent resource.” — Shari Benstock, University of Miami

Edith Wharton: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

The Age of Innocence

Appendix A: Wharton’s Outlines

Appendix B: Wharton’s Correspondence About The Age of Innocence

Appendix C: Contemporary Reviews

  1. Edmund Wilson, “Edith Wharton” (1921)
  2. Vernon L. Parrington, “Our Literary Aristocrat” (1921)
  3. Henry Seidel Canby, “Our America” (1920)
  4. Carl Van Doren, “An Elder America” (1920)
  5. William Lyon Phelps, “As Mrs.Wharton Sees Us” (1920)
  6. Times Literary Supplement, “The Age of Innocence” (1920)
  7. Gilbert Seldes, “The Last Stand” (1921)

Appendix D: From “A Little Girl’s New York”

Appendix E: Wharton and Others on the Status of Women

  1. Theodore Roosevelt, “Women’s Rights; and the Duties of Both Men and Women” (1912)
  2. Carrie Chapman Catt, “Why the Federal Amendment?” (1917)
  3. Emma Goldman, “Marriage and Love” (1911)
  4. Edith Wharton, “The New Frenchwoman” (1919)
  5. Edith Wharton, “In Fez” (1920)

Appendix F: Ethnographic Discourse, Victorian to Modern

  1. Edward B.Tylor, from Primitive Culture (1871)
  2. John F. McLennan, from Primitive Marriage (1865)
  3. Sir James George Frazer, “Taboo” (1888)
  4. Sir James George Frazer, “Our Debt to the Savage” (1911)
  5. Edward Westermarck, from The History of Human Marriage (1903)
  6. Edward Westermarck, from The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas (1906)
  7. Franz Boas, “The Limitations of the Comparative Method of Anthropology” (1896)
  8. Elsie Clews Parsons, from Fear and Conventionality (1914)
  9. Bronislaw Malinowski, from Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922)
  10. Ruth Benedict, “The Science of Custom” (1934)

Appendix G: Wharton on Modernity and Tradition

  1. Notebook entry (c. 1918‒1923)
  2. From A Backward Glance (1934)
  3. From Fighting France: From Dunkerque to Belfort (1915)
  4. From French Ways and Their Meaning (1919)
  5. From In Morocco (1920)

Select Bibliography

Michael Nowlin is Assistant Professor of English at The University of Victoria. He has published articles on Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Toni Morrison.