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120 The Henry James Review authority that can determine meaning. But Chapman's book tends to cover up the strain of the ensuant writer-reader relationship, to hide James's will to power over readers and the world by evoking a mutuality of purpose. The book too easily highlights an already achieved collaboration, and too readily downplays the painful ambiguities of a world where authority is in question and raw materialism decides the fate of the arts. Chapman's resolution of the central ambiguities of James's stories has the advantage of producing eminently clear prose that would surely be a help to Jamesian neophytes; for better or worse, her prose has none of the densities of much poststructuralist analysis. Chapman's clarity seems to have been purchased, however, at the price of reducing James's work to some unexamined generalizations about the nature of art and power and of reader response, and of reducing James's painful ambiguities to a "convergence through the recognition of shared, mutually reinforcing intellectual and artistic ideals [that] creates the opportunity for human relations that are 'exquisitely personal,' as James describes them in 'The Great Good Place' " (54). Isn't it pretty to think we can have such relations? Donald Wolff Eastern Oregon State College Bell, Millicent. Meaning in Henry James. Harvard U P, 1991.384 pp. $45.00. Millicent Bell's Meaning in Henry James is a welcome addition to James scholarship. A substantial and well-researched book, it provides sensitive and thoughtprovoking interpretations of James's fictions. Meaning in Henry James explores the creation of meaning in James's writings, and employs close textual readings to support its author's attempt "to display how a story or novel of James's arouses expectations in us, stimulates us to hypotheses of its further course, and seems to propose and cancel meanings at successive moments" (10). Bell is a careful reader and her analysis of the varieties of ways in which James's texts achieve meaning is eloquent and persuasive. Bell's focus on the experience of reading James's fiction leads her to examine the ways in which meaning is constructed, re-constructed, and even deconstructed in James's texts. She contends that the process of decoding fiction is "open" (8) and that, ultimately, James's writings "resist summary and closure" (11). Bell's critical approach constitutes a blend of reader-response theory and New Critical technique, which enables her to trace the movement she discerns in James's prose, a movement that is "dictated by the author's language, which—like all language—brings not only immediate meanings to mind but expectations of future, more comprehensive frames of significance' ' (10). This is a laborious project and, in order to support her endeavor, the author examines the ways in which James's writings are "dynamically intertextual," by which she means that "they propose to the reader not one stable antecedent, but a sequence of possible relationships with cultural models of human experience, of character types and paradigmatic life histories, of literary genres and archetypal narratives, and even of specific literary models" (23). Meaning in Henry James supplies historical, biographical, and textual information on its subject. The author frequently draws parallels between James's readers and his characters, for, she contends, the Jamesian reader ' 'is encouraged to constantly renew efforts to integrate and interpret James's narratives, just as the fictional characters themselves B ook Reviews 121 struggle for self-definition" (42). Bell demonstrates how James's characters frequently engage in acts of reading much like the Jamesian reader, and she illustrates how both are engaged in efforts to construct meaning. Meaning in Henry James includes analyses of Daisy Miller, Washington Square, The Portrait of a Lady, The Bostonians, The Princess Casamassima, The Wings of the Dove, and The Ambassadors. While Bell devotes less attention to the early writings, her reading of Daisy Miller is particularly sensitive and allows her to explore the analogies that exist between James's and Winterbourne's attempts to typify Daisy. In so doing, she argues for the tale's topicality, since she believes that James's text manifests a parallel with contemporary readers' tendencies ' 'to place others in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6555
Print ISSN
0273-0340
Pages
pp. 120-121
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-25
Open Access
No
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