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Joslin book named ALA Outstanding Academic Title

by Deanne Puca

Jan. 26, 2011 | WMU News

KALAMAZOO--"Edith Wharton and the Making of Fashion" by Dr. Katherine Joslin, director of the Western Michigan University Center for the Humanities and professor of English, has been selected as an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice magazine of the American Library Association.

Photo of Katherine Joslin.
Of the nearly 23,000 academic books published annually, 7,000 were reviewed by the editorial staff of Choice last year and fewer than 700 are selected to the Outstanding Academic Title list. "Edith Wharton and the Making of Fashion" is among 688 books and electronic resources selected to the 2010 list, which was published in the January issue of Choice.

The University Press of New England published the book in 2009 and has announced it will reprint Joslin's book in paperback.

"That a book on Wharton and fashion should be as gorgeous as this one is only fitting," the Choice reviewer noted. "Offering intriguing details about turn-of-the-century apparel as well as an entirely new way to understand Wharton--one turning on the symbolic resonance of dress--this book offers up a fascinating approach to Wharton's astute chronicle of culture."

"Edith Wharton and the Making of Fashion" describes the origins of the modern fashion industry as seen through the works of Edith Wharton. The book places the iconic New York figure and her writing in the context of fashion history and shows how dress lies at the very center of her thinking about art and culture.

The study traces American patronage of the Paris couture houses from Worth and Doucet through Poiret and Chanel and places Wharton's characters in these establishments and garments to offer fresh readings of her well-known novels. Less known are Wharton's knowledge of and involvement in the craft of garment making in her tales of seamstresses, milliners, and textile workers, as well as in her creation of workshops in Paris during the World War I to employ Belgian and French seamstresses and promote the value of handmade garments in a world given to machine-driven uniformity of design and labor.

Joslin joined the WMU faculty in 1986 as an assistant professor and became a full professor in 1997. She teaches courses in American fiction and non-fiction at the turn into the 20th century with cross-disciplinary interests in material culture and social and political history. Joslin is also the author of "Jane Addams, A Writer's Life" (Illinois, 2004; paperback 2009) and "Edith Wharton" in the Women Writers Series (Macmillan and St. Martin's, 1991; paperback 1994). She is working on a literary biography of Theodore Roosevelt.

At WMU, she has received the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Achievement Award in Research and Creative Activities in 2009 and the Excellence in Teaching Award in 1997. Under her direction, a WMU team won Fulbright grants in 1999, 2000 and 2001 to conduct Summer Institutes in the Study of the U.S. for International Faculty. In 2008, Joslin was named a Fulbright Senior Specialist and traveled to Cairo as a lecturer and consultant at Menoufiya University in the Delta Region of Egypt.

She received her doctoral and master's degrees from Northwestern University and her bachelor's degree from Oakland University.

For more information, contact Katherine Joslin at or (269) 387-2599.