THE FURNESS-MITCHELL COTERIE: ITS ROLE IN PHILADELPHIA'S INTELLECTUAL LIFE AT THE TURN OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY (PENNSYLVANIA)

CHRISTINE MOON VAN NESS, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

This thesis is an examination of a Philadelphia elite group, the Furness-Mitchell Coterie, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Most members of the group were known nationally and, in some cases, internationally, as writers of literature and literary criticism; as educators; and as scholars in various disciplines, including especially those related to anthropology. At the center of the Coterie were Silas Weir Mitchell, physician, neurologist, and author of best-selling works of fiction and poetry; Horace Howard Furness, a Shakespearean scholar; and Agnes Repplier, essayist.^ The Coterie members were strong spokesmen for their aristocratic values. This dissertation explores the manifestations of their values in literary criticism, essays, education, and anthropology as well as in fiction and poetry.^ Members of the Coterie were key to the rise of anthropology in Philadelphia. They founded and led a number of clubs with interests germane to anthropology. These provided a climate receptive to anthropology. Coterie members also were leaders in establishing the University Museum and the forerunner to the Department of Anthropology at Penn.^ Finally, although Coterie members' public declarations were intended to maintain traditional values and social exclusivity, the group's clear delineation of its standards ironically created signposts that could be read by outsiders who sought admission. Outsiders who successfully followed the signposts were admitted to full membership in the Coterie, and admission to the Coterie was tantamount to full acceptance by the larger group of Philadelphia's social elite.^ The Furness-Mitchell Coterie was a driving force in Philadelphia for several decades. Its members founded new institutions, reconstituted old institutions in new ways, and--sometimes inadvertently--set new directions. Through their writing and activities, they were active participants in a period of adaptation to sweeping changes on many fronts. ^

Subject Area

American Studies

Recommended Citation

VAN NESS, CHRISTINE MOON, "THE FURNESS-MITCHELL COTERIE: ITS ROLE IN PHILADELPHIA'S INTELLECTUAL LIFE AT THE TURN OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY (PENNSYLVANIA)" (1985). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8523463.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8523463

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