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English professor edits celebrated novel

July 1, 2011

Barbara C. Ewell, Ph.D., the Dorothy Harrell Brown Distinguished Professor of English at Loyola University New Orleans, recently co-edited “The Awakening and Other Writings” by Kate Chopin. Chopin’s “The Awakening” is a classic American novel that addresses women’s issues in the American south during the turn of the 20th century.

It is widely regarded as a landmark work of early feminism and has assumed a place in the American literary canon. Ewell’s newly edited version of the book is intended to provide an understanding of the history that shaped the novel and its impact on society.

"This edition of Chopin's masterpiece contextualizes her work in a way that creates endless possibilities for teachers and students,” said T. R. Johnson, associate professor of English at Tulane University. “From Chopin's other stories and personal writings to her poetry and non fiction; from contemporary responses to her work in the popular press to the intellectual legacy she was drawing upon in her writing; from the etiquette guides of the era to accounts of its great hurricane to period sketches of New Orleans social history, all of this together combines to situate ‘The Awakening’ in a kaleidoscopic set of intellectual and cultural frameworks. For the classroom, a treasure—I can’t imagine using any other edition."

Ewell said the novel is a unique collaboration of four co-editors and noted that she is extremely pleased to finally see the book in print.

“About ten years ago, my collaborator, Dr. Pamela Glenn Menke and I were completing another project when we got the idea that we should put together a new contextualized edition of Chopin's 1899 novel,The Awakening,’ Ewell said. “While there are many available editions ofThe Awakening,’ few texts provide the contextual material that can help 21st century readers better appreciate the times and attitudes that shaped the writing of this daring novel--and its negative reception by American audiences, which were unprepared to approve of a young woman choosing personal integrity over her socially prescribed roles as a wife and mother.”

Ewell is an accomplished author and editor. Her works include “Kate Chopin,” a bio-critical study, and numerous articles examining topics ranging from Renaissance poetry to feminist pedagogy. She has also co-edited two other critical collections, “Louisiana Women Writers: Critical Essays and Bibliography” and “Southern Local Color: Stories of Region, Race and Gender.”

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