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The Parvenu’s Plot
Gender, Culture, and Class in the Age of Realism
Stephanie Foote

Becoming Modern: New Nineteenth-Century Studies

New Hampshire
2014 • 264 pp. 6 x 9"
Literary Criticism / Comparative Literature

$40.00 Paperback, 978-1-61168-681-4
$39.99 Ebook, 978-1-61168-682-1

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

Fascinating assessment of the female parvenu in turn-of-the-twentieth-century literature and culture

In this very readable volume, Stephanie Foote gathers a range of print sources—from novels by Edith Wharton and Henry James to gossip columns, fashion magazines, popular novels, and etiquette manuals—to ask how the realist period understood the individual experience of class. Examining the female arriviste (the parvenu of the title) in turn-of-the-century New York (where a supposedly stable elite was threatened by the nouveaux riches), Foote shows how class became more than just an economic position: it was a fundamental part of individual identity, exemplified by a shifting set of social behaviors that form the core of many nineteenth-century novels. She persuasively presents the female parvenu as a key figure in turn-of-the-century culture that embodies the volatility of social standing and the continuing project of structuring and justifying it.

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Reviews / Endorsements

The Parvenu’s Plot is a canny, deeply researched, and utterly engaging book. It shows how the failed social climber is the crucial ingredient in an alchemy that turns class realities into subjectivities and converts the rules of the economy into the matter of the psyche. [This] is an indispensible study for scholars of social realism.”—Nancy Bentley, professor of English, University of Pennsylvania

“One of the distinguishing features of The Parvenu’s Plot is Foote’s exploration of how topics of interest to literary critics—print culture, realism—are in fact central to understanding the social codes that implicitly govern social relations. Foote is an elegant writer with a prose style that is at once witty and incisive. Engaging—both for its analysis and for its style—and persuasive, this is a book grounded in both considerable research and theoretical sophistication.”—Priscilla Wald, professor of English and women’s studies, Duke University

“The Parvenu’s Plot reveals the intricate operations of class at work in the hopes and fears and snubs and cringes of social climbing. No one could chart this territory better than Stephanie Foote, who shows that questions about the value and danger of imitation bedeviled practitioners of realism as well as social aspirants. This study sets a new standard for scholarship about the collaboration of novels with other machineries of class hierarchy and class aspiration.”—Nancy Glazener, associate professor of English, University of Pittsburgh

“This is a marvelous book. Foote’s incisive literary and cultural history of the surprisingly powerful (and highly gendered) figure of the parvenu not only reshapes our understanding of American narratives of class ambition but also refreshes our sense of realist interiority. A ‘sociological delight’ marked by imitative complicity rather than transgression, the parvenu emerges in Foote’s insightful analysis as both realism’s absent center and its limit case for the figuration of subjectivity itself.”—William Gleason, professor of English, Princeton University

STEPHANIE FOOTE is associate professor of English and gender and women’s studies at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

Wed, 17 Oct 2018 11:48:45 -0500