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The Rise of Silas Lapham: An Authoritative Text, Composition and Backgrounds, Contemporary Responses, Criticism (Norton Critical Edition)by William Dean Howells
Synopses & Reviews
Extensive historical annotations have been added to the text of this Norton Critical Edition.
The process of composition is followed through Howells' initial sketches and letters. Analysis of the contemporary stereotypes and myths that Howells parodied in his novel is provided by Robert Falk, Clark W. Bryan, Theodore Dreiser, and Robie Macauley, and by letters from Roswell Smith to Howells.
Contemporary responses by friends and readers, and by critics, illustrate the misunderstanding and hostility with which realistic fiction was sometimes greeted in Howells' time. Critical essays by Donald Pizer, William R. Manierre II, John E. Hart, Harold H. Kolb, George N. Bennett, Everett Carter, and G. Thomas Tanselle represent a variety of ways in which the novel has engaged the attention of critics as well as a broad selection of the critical methods that have been applied to it.
As one of the primary documents of American literary realism, the novel raises questions as to the meaning and utility of realism as an aesthetic ideal. These questions are treated in essays by C. Hugh Holman, Henry James, Larzer Ziff, Edwin H. Cady, Robert M. Figg, Charles L. Campbell, and Howells himself.
A Selected Bibliography is also included.
This edition of The Rise of Silas Lapham reprints the text established by Walter J. Meserve and David J. Nordloh for A Selected Edition of W. D. Howells.
Silas Lapham is a rough-hewn entrepreneur who has made his fortune in mineral paint. Socially ambitious for their daughters, Lapham and his wife encourage the suit of Tom Corey, son of an aristocratic Boston family, whose own parents are appalled by his consorting with vulgar upstarts. But which Lapham girl does Tom really love: the pretty blonde Irene or her bookish sister Penelope? As the romantic confusion is sorted out, Lapham suffers calamities that threaten both his financial and personal integrity. His rise is ultimately a moral one. The first major American novel to centre on a businessman, The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885) explores the capitalist ethos of the American Gilded Age. It is also a brilliant novel of manners that shows the comic confrontation of old wealth and new riches.
About the Author
Don L. Cook is Professor of English at Indiana University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles and has been granted a Fulbright award, an American Philosophical Society grant, and an Eli Lilly Open Fellowship. He is one of the editors of A Selected Edition of W. D. Howells; he has also edited The Algerine Captive by Royall Tyler and has headed the MLA Committee on Scholarly Editions and the Association for Documentary Editing.
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