restricted access Henry James and Revision: The New York Edition, and: American Designs: The Late Novels of James and Faulkner (review)
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Reviewed by
Philip Horne. Henry James and Revision: The New York Edition. New York: Oxford UP, 1990. 385 pp. $89.00.
Jeanne Campbell Reesman. American Designs: The Late Novels of James and Faulkner. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1991. 249 pp. $26.95.

In his preface Philip Horne describes his project clearly. Henry James and Revision has ten chapters: the first three are introductory; the second three are examinations of the novels Roderick Hudson, The American, and The Portrait of a Lady; the next three are studies of the novellas Daisy Miller, The Aspern Papers, and The Lesson of the Master; the last chapter looks at James's final years. A chronology of James's correspondence (1890-1912) pertinent to the creation of the New York Edition and a bibliography follow the ten chapters. But the role of revision in Horne's work is less clear. Revision is a theme in and a tool for his interpretations of James's work, but Horne offers no coherent theory of the revision process in general or Jamesian revision in particular.

Horne's Henry James is an English Romantic. So, in Chapter Two, when Horne attempts to define the meaning of revision for James, Horne places James's words in the context of the words of Keats, Wordsworth, and Tennyson. This context produces an idea that, for James, revision is an organic process unconscious as well as conscious. This process is, above all, of the imagination and even of instinct. Home quickly dismisses any Freudian interpretation of the unconscious, and, although he repeatedly approaches ideas of consciousness that theories of phenomenology could make coherent, he never refers to this or any theory of thought or language production. Similarly, he speaks of James's connection between rereading and revising without reference to any theory of reading. (Roland Barthes's ideas on rereading could be, for example, a relevant and useful commentary on James's ideas.)

Horne's extensive knowledge of James's public work, correspondence, and manuscripts informs his interpretations of individual works. But here again the role of revisions in these interpretations is not as salient or coherent as one might expect. The chapter on Portrait of a Lady posits as its thesis that the novel has transitional status looking both backward and forward to James's other books and techniques. In support of this contention Horne includes James's revision of Portrait for the NYE among a wealth of other biographical and textual evidence equally weighted. At the close of this chapter, Horne does, however, provide a nicely honed close reading of a passage from the NYE revision that speaks directly to his thesis.

The study's most coherent argument is that about The Aspern Papers. It refutes Wayne Booth's contention that the narrator is unreliable, asserting instead that the narrator's moral conduct in the telling of the tale is a different matter from his conduct during the past action of the tale. With the use of revisions in the NYE, Horne makes a convincing case for this thesis. Booth is, however, one of the few secondary critics of James that Horne uses, and he is typical of those in that he is a New Critic. Many of the books and journal articles in Horne's bibliography, even those pointedly about James's revising, play no visible part in his interpretations. [End Page 733]

On his first page, Horne quotes James's response upon learning from Macmillans that he must pay for two of his own books: "'It all adds up to my sense of literature being for me, somehow, ever only an expensive job.'" That sentence resonates in a critical book with a list price of $89.00. Although Philip Horne is probably not responsible for this price, the sum does hover over the book affecting its valuation. As a reference tool or practical criticism, Henry James and Revision is not extraordinary.

Jeanne Campbell Reesman's Henry James is, along with William Faulkner, an American Modernist whose late novels are examples of the genre as it is described by Mikhail Bakhtin. Linked by their participation in a decidedly American philosophy of knowledge, James and Faulkner are well...