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This project explores the expatriation of James Baldwin, Henry James, and Edith Wharton. Through their fiction and personal journeys abroad, Baldwin, James and Wharton seek to answer the question of what it means to be an American. This trio of writers chose to leave America at some point or another in order to find both literary and personal freedom from the confinement that was brought upon them by the space of America.
Baldwin, James, and Wharton explore the effects of race, class, and gender on an individual in the space of America versus the space of Europe. The novels that explore the effects of being an American abroad are Giovanni’s Room, The Portrait of a Lady, and The Custom of the Country. These novels are also considered to be their most biographical novels. Through their fiction as well as their own personal essays, I was able to draw connections between the experiences of the protagonists and the authors themselves. In Europe, all three authors found that they were first and foremost Americans. This allowed for their class, sexual preference, and gender to take a back seat to their nationality. For these three authors, their experiences at home differed vastly but in Europe, they were all able to discover who they were as people, writers, and Americans.
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Weisman, Emily Monroe, "Nation, Self, and Foreign Space: Exploring the Expatriation of James Baldwin, Henry James, and Edith Wharton" (2018). Senior Projects Spring 2018. 344.