The Historian's Awakening

Reading Kate Chopin's Classic Novel as Social and Cultural History

by Edited by Bernard Koloski


Kate Chopin's classic novel about a modern woman who desires to break free from tradition endures, in part, due to its critical and thought-provoking themes about society.

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Cover image for The Historian's Awakening

November 2018


Pages 176
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics American History/Culture
  The Arts/American Literature

The Historian's Awakening is a full commentary on the text (included) that provides social and cultural history context, discussions of the author and her times as well as valuable insight into historical forces that shaped people's lives.

Kate Chopin's classic novel about a modern woman who desires to break free from tradition endures, in part, due to its critical and thought-provoking themes about society. While many editions of Kate Chopin's classic novel are in print, only The Historian's Awakening deals exclusively with the 19th-century social and cultural environment from which the novel emerged.

In The Awakening, Kate Chopin portrays a modern woman who seeks autonomy, subjected to intense social and cultural conventions that first draw her out of her lifelong solitude but ultimately leave her feeling even more alone. This newly annotated edition focuses on how 19th-century ideas about class, gender, ethnicity, and modernity affect a courageous woman's life. Challenging prevailing scholarship by situating the novel within a rich historical context, it examines the social and cultural realities of the 1890s and explains how, in the novel, these forces combine with an emerging modernity to liberate and unsettle its female protagonist.


  • Introduces the novel with essays on the life and times of the author by a leading Chopin scholar
  • Includes two hundred annotations
  • Illustrates that understanding nineteenth-century women's struggles, like that of Edna Pontellier in The Awakening, demands attention to more than the usual focus on the oppression of women by men
  • Shows that Edna's struggle is defined by the conventions of upper-class people in the 1880s and 1890s, is intensified by obligations imposed upon wealthy women, and results in a severe discontent that haunts people in modern societies, even today
  • Offers readers a deeper and more rewarding reading of The Awakening
Author Info

Bernard Koloski, PhD, is author of Kate Chopin: A Study of the Short Fiction and editor of Approaches to Teaching Chopin's The Awakening as well as editions of Chopin's novel At Fault and her two collections of short stories, Bayou Folk and A Night in Acadie. He is also editor of the website of the Kate Chopin International Society and the Kate Chopin entry in the Oxford Bibliographies. He is emeritus professor of English at Mansfield University and has taught at Warsaw University and the Silesian University in Poland and Mizoram University in India.



"This is a tightly constructed critical edition—concise but robust in its offerings."ARBA

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