Edith Wharton’s Morocco
In 1920, Edith Wharton published a book that had an enduring effect on how Americans viewed the world and their role in it.
Most literary scholars and Wharton fans would assume I refer to The Age of Innocence, the Pulitzer-prize winning novel published that very year. Instead, my research focuses on In Morocco, a work often dismissed as a stale recycling of Orientalist clichés. Wharton used Arabian Nights imagery to describe her trip to Morocco, evoking a magical and vaguely medieval kingdom. Wharton’s disparaging comments about Moroccans under French colonial rule fueled contemporary debates about whether the US should support Arab autonomy or European imperialism. A fresh take on this famous author, my research reveals how Wharton shaped and promoted an idea that has since become entrenched in US foreign policy: Western intervention betters the lives of Arab peoples.
Edith Wharton at Bahia Palace in Marrakesh from Centre des Archives Diplomatiques du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, La Courneuve, A023470 and A023471