In Desire and Repression: The Dialectic of Self and Other in the Late. Works of Henry James, Donna Przybylowicz brings a mixture of psychoanalysis, deconstructionism, and Marxism to bear upon some of the works of the major phase: The Sacred Fount, "The Beast in the Jungle" (and some other tales), The Ivory Tower, The Sense of the Past, and James's autobiographical writings. Her intent is to show that James was "deluded and mystified, trapped within his own artistic coils." Of course Przybylowicz is equal to demystifying the Master.
Marx, Lukács, Benjamin, Althusser, Bakhtin, Brecht, Macherey, Merleau-Ponty, Fredric Jameson, Vološinov, Raymond Williams, Simmel, Uspensky, Deleuze, and Guattari—all are invoked to rehearse the "crisis of capitalism," in consequence of which, as James's conservative world began to crumble, he turned from social concerns toward the representation of consciousness. Then Freud, Lacan, Laing, Girard, and other exponents of psychoanalysis are invoked to explain James's experimental depictions of consciousness as really a repression of the desire for objective reality, historicality, and engagement with society, thereby prefiguring a cultural "schizophrenia" said to be fully elaborated in modernist expressionism. Finally, Derrida, Barthes, Kristeva, and Adorno are appropriated in order to show that James's late turn toward consciousness was folly to begin with. For the self, according to Przybylowicz—whether viewed as the Cartesian cogito, the Leibnizian monad, or the Husserlian Transcendental Ego—doesn't exist. "Presence" is an illusion of burgeois ideology. Przybylowicz takes all of this as an article of faith, feeling no need to provide any credible evidence. This is perhaps just as well, in view of the way the Self persists as a philosophical and psychological entity and in view of the way capitalism will flourish. (Certainly the Mellon Foundation, in giving its fellowship support to this tendentious study, appears to have no fears about the health of capitalism.)
Art lives upon discussion, as James was fond of remarking; and nothing might have been more agreeable than to reconsider James in terms of the ideas Przyblowicz has brought to the fore. But there is nothing agreeable, I am sorry to say, in the style of this book—of which the following passage, dealing with the "decentered self in the late James, is an instance, chosen at random: "The representation of such tension and contradiction on the semantic plane that is shown in the explosion of bizarre libidinal fantasies and in the dialogism of reactionary and progressive voices is also manifested on the syntactic level in the production of revolutionary and innovative techniques and in the generic discontinuities resulting from the clash of emergent, dominant, and residual literary forms." Page after page of such abstract, polysyllabic jargon, swollen into elephantine sentences, [End Page 597] numbs, finally, the mind. It is an unhappy instance, I am sorry to say, of the dubious influence of Fredric Jameson's style on those ephebi who keep trying—ah, paradox!—to fuse Marxism and psychoanalysis.
In Silence in Henry James, John Auchard undertakes to articulate the meaning of silence in key scenes of James's fiction. This focus has promise, for there are fascinating episodes where the absence of talk among the characters is pregnant with meaning, where gesture expresses the sense, and where the twaddle of chatter masks the unsaid meaning. No one, for example, can grasp the little telegrapher's fantasy life, in "In the Cage," without perceiving how she turns Captain Everard's mere smile into a verbal confession of his love for her. In The Golden Bowl, does the Assinghams' nonstop gossip illustrate Wittgenstein's observation that "It is idle to think that, by means of words, any real communication can pass from one man to another"? Certainly in The Wings of...