Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)




Edith Wharton, Ellen Glasgow, and Willa Cather are often mentioned together as traditionalists, the supposition being that their common interest was inspired by similar forces; all women, all of the same era, all greatly appreciative of many of the same values, and all doing most of their outstanding work during their middle and late years.

It has become a convenience of criticism and scholarship to consider authors as belonging to certain schools. It has also been a convenience to study the origins of these schools as social phenomena having more to do with a direction of society as a whole than with individual psychological forces within each author. Such an approach may be adequate for a movement that rises to its apex and dwindles to a shadow all within one generation--as did the extreme Naturalism of Norris--, but it is not sufficient for traditionalism which has repeated itself several times throughout literary history.

It is, therefore, the purpose of this study to investigate the lives and works of Edith Wharton, Ellen Glasgow, and Willa Cather in order to demonstrate the different forces tending each towards vastly different tradition-influenced work, specifically novels. In such treatment, each author can be presented individually in a brief biographical study, and then her novels can be discussed with her own psychological framework and the whole field of traditionalism kept in mind as a balance. The emphasis here will be upon the diverse influences in their lives and the extremely varied work these differences motivated.

Traditionalism will not be exactly defined because this paper has been undertaken with the hope of broadening rather than limiting the concept of "traditionalism." It is the intention here to investigate and evaluate both the intent and extent of the various degrees and elements of traditionalism as they appear in the bulk of these authors' novels.





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