restricted access Covert Relations: James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Henry James, and: Self & Form in Modern Narrative, and: Afterimages of Modernity: Structure and Indifference in Twentieth-Century Literature (review)
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Reviewed by
Daniel Mark Fogel. Covert Relations: James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Henry James. Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 1990. $26.50.
Vincent P. Pecora. Self & Form in Modern Narrative. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1989. $32.50.
Henry Sussman. Afterimages of Modernity: Structure and Indifference in Twentieth-Century Literature. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1990. $32.50.

All three of these books offer revisionary readings of modernism, each working with a set of authors of fiction, and related criticism and theory. Joyce holds a significant position in each, but beyond that we approach modernism from both ends and through varied theory.

Fogel's Covert Relations is the most traditional and scholarly. It is an author-centered influence study charting the textual impact of Henry James on Joyce and Woolf. Fogel is highly competent archivist and textual scholar and an informed and unabashed Jamesian. The book's theoretical component is modest, an appropriation of Harold Bloom's formulation of "anxiety of influence," tempered by an awareness of Bloom's male bias. Anxiety applies best to Woolf, according to Fogel.

Fogel's main contribution on Joyce is a rigorous presentation of contextual and textual evidence that Philip Beaufoy, author of "Matcham's Masterstroke" [End Page 361] in Ulysses, is an embodiment of James. He also detects Jamesian prose, dissolved in exhaustion, in "Eumaneus." This burlesque is read in flattering terms—Joyce felt James had exhausted the traditional resources of fiction. In dismissing Joycean anxiety over James, and in detecting dismantled traditional prose, it is important to consider James's contemporaries—George Moore, for example. Even if we accept James's presence in Beaufoy and "Eumaneus," I am not convinced that this constitutes Joyce's covert recognition of James as "the father of literary modernism."

Fogel's archival diligence produces fascinating biographical and critical connections between James and Woolf, although again we may not interpret the data as strongly as Fogel. He makes extensive, highly relevant use of unpublished notebooks and alternate versions of published essays. Not only do we have Woolf writing frequently and ambivalently on James, we have James worrying about young Virginia Woolf. Fogel cites feminist theory, unlike the other two authors reviewed here. But he enters very treacherous territory in positing an Oedipus complex for Woolf, particularly where he takes Leonard Woolf s word as gospel. He overstrains my credibility in collecting "evidential threads" of Woolf s anxiety regarding James, using Coleridge and Wells, as well as Leslie Stephen to build her supposed preoccupation with James. I read some of Woolf s statements very differently. There is more self-effacing humor than anxiety in her reaction to a youthful entrapment by the doddering James, whose discourse is reduced to a series of phrases, many of them laboriously repeated, used to make a simple point: "When I am old and famous I shall discourse like Henry James." Fogel attaches to James general tendencies in Woolf's diaries and criticism, like her references to influenza and her presentation of modern belatedness in comparison to earlier writers. Fogel introduces the feminine side of James but does not own up to his considerable anxiety over the women's market in fiction and the woman writer. I found Fogel's work with Woolf's essays more rewarding than his work with her fiction, where typically he identifies Jamesian characters and rhythms. As Woolf goes beyond Jamesian style in The Waves, her experimental accomplishment is reduced to "a formula for literary self-destruction that presages her own death." James was a resource for Woolf, in metaphor, in the criteria of craft and balance, but it was her contemporaries, like Mansfield and Joyce, who aroused anxiety.

Vincent Pecora's Self and Form in Modern Narrative is densely theoretical, its best audience Marxist theoreticians and analysts of critical practices. Pecora studies the evolution of bourgeois consciousness toward dissolution of subjectivity by the social apparatus. The first three chapters set the terms of the study, whereas Chapters Four through Six investigate factors of the diminished self in the narratives of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, James's The Turn of the Screw, and Joyce's "The Dead."

Pecora begins with nineteenth-century backgrounds via Adorno and...


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