'The American Novel' series provides students of American literature with introductory critical guides to the great works of American fiction. Each volume begins with a substantial introduction by a distinguished authority on the text, giving details of the novel’s composition, publication history, and contemporary reception, as well as a survey of the major critical trends and readings from first publication to the present. This overview is followed by a group of new essays, each commissioned from a leading scholar in the field, which together constitute a forum of interpretive methods and prominent contemporary ideas on the text. There are also helpful guides to further reading. Specifically designed for undergraduates, the series will be a powerful resource for anyone engaged in the critical analysis of major American novels. When 'The Awakening' was first published in 1899 it was an extraordinarily controversial book. One of the first American novels to concern itself with themes of adultery and divorce, it was widely attacked as 'vulgar' and 'unhealthy.' In her introduction to this collection, Wendy Martin discusses the historical background of the novel and analyzes the heroine’s evolution from a role of traditional femininity to one of autonomous individualism. The essays the follow--by Elaine Showalter, Michael Gilmore, Andrew Delbanco, and Cristina Giorcelli--explore other central themes of the novel, as well as locating Chopin in the tradition of American women novelists and discussing her status as a pre-modernist writer.