Studies in the Novel
University of North Texas
As attested to by its very name, The Whole Family was a project concerned with coherence. Published serially in Harper's Bazar from 1907-1908, this collaborative novel was a remarkable instance of narrative structure assembled by editor Elizabeth Jordan. Featuring chapters by William Dean Howells, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Henry James, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Mary Stuart Cutting, John Kendrick Bangs, Henry van Dyke, Alice Brown, Mary Heaton Vorse, Edith Wyatt, Mary Shipman Andrews, and Elizabeth Jordan herself, the novel garnered considerable attention when it first appeared, with the acclaim usually citing The Whole Family's surprisingly coherent qualities as key to its success. ("The uniformity of style is remarkable" remarked one wondrous reader.)1 And, despite Jordan's own recollection of it as "a mess," The Whole Family engaged the very idea of coherence as criterion for artistic success in a manner which marked a particular historical moment.2 The appearance of The Whole Family during a period characterized by the rapid professionalization of authorship brought together an assessment of coherency with a troubled assessment of artistry. The idea of artistic coherence as necessarily made up by representations of shifting subjectivities offered a provocative alternative to a fixed understanding of coherence as seamless. With the idea of the autonomously inspired Romantic author under siege, the production of The Whole Family provided a forum for demonstrating how authorial integrity might be asserted and singularity re-invigorated in a collective enterprise.
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