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Totten named Helm Visiting Fellow

Gary Totten, associate professor of English at NDSU, received a Helm Visiting Fellowship from the Lilly Library at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind.

The fellowship will cover travel costs for Totten to conduct research in the Lilly Library’s manuscript collections later this semester.

Totten is interested in the library’s collection of correspondence and manuscripts written by the early 20th century American writer, Edith Wharton. His current research project examines how attitudes toward race, technology and beauty in the early 20th century United States influenced Wharton’s portrayal of white women characters in her 1927 novel, “Twilight Sleep.”

To understand more about Wharton’s own ideas regarding race, Totten will look for discussions about race that might appear in Wharton’s unpublished letters. Totten says that when several hundred Wharton letters were collected and published in 1988, the editors excluded those with racist and anti-Semitic remarks on the advice of their publisher, who suggested that such letters might distort the public view of Wharton.

Last year, Totten encountered some of the neglected letters in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University and hopes to find similar letters at the Lilly Library that will shed light on Wharton’s complicated views on race.


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