In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

ELT 38:4 1995 narrators are presented as historians," and the novels embody "the defeat of plot by history." Chapter 3, titled The Old Superstition about Fiction Being Wicked,'" engages in close discussion of three texts: In the Cage, The Turn of the Screw and The Golden Bowl. The distinguishing feature of the two novellas, both published in the same year, is that they "explore the experience of women of low or ambiguous social status, whose class and gender mark them as the traditional subjects of corruption by fiction." The deluded female reader had been an interest of James's as early as Washington Square and as a character-type had been explored earlier in the century in a number of novels from Northanger Abbey to Madame Bovary. These Jamesian texts constitute an important transitional phase in eliminating "the standard of historical accuracy" as "the only criterion of the worth of narrative": they make possible, in James's later fiction, the renegotiation of the fictional contract "on terms other than a fixed opposition between history and the imagination." The remaining three chapters explore this later phase, two of them being devoted to an analysis of individual texts, The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl. This is a persuasive and enlightening study, lucidly and cogently written, and the approach to James through the concept and vocabulary of history turns out to be richly rewarding. Norman Page University of Nottingham Wilde & the Theatre Joel H. Kaplan and Sheila Stowell. Theatre and Fashion: Oscar Wilde to the Suffragettes. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994. xiii + 220 pp. $49.95 ITS NOT EASY to define the subject of this interesting book; the best the authors themselves can do is to say, The five chapters that comprise the present volume explore from a range of complementary viewpoints the shifting relationship between theatre, fashion, and society , in the period that separates Lady Windermere's Fan from the outbreak of the Great War." What we don't have is what used to be the typical form of literary history, a narrative explaining a specific change through establishing the causes of that change. We don't because in that kind of history there has to be a common element running from beginning to end, say, the depiction of working-class women in drama, so that we have a single narrative of change. 528 BOOK REVIEWS The most obvious candidate for such an element here is "fashion," but while the authors are concerned with fashion throughout, they aren't always concerned with it in the same sense. Sometimes they treat it as a semiotic code, a "precise visual language," that dramatists could manipulate to their own ends. At other times, they treat it as an industry that the theater took as its subject in ways ranging from dramatic tracts exposing "the plight of the sweated seamstress" to wider investigations of the industry's role in encouraging the consumption required by capitalism. Or they consider the interaction between fashion houses and the theater: tracing, for instance, how the fashion houses that supplied actresses' costumes used the stage to advertise their wares, then appropriated the stage by putting live models on a walkway—creating what became the modern fashion show—only to have the theater put this innovation on stage as a means of turning a critical eye on fashion again. Or most broadly perhaps, they treat fashion as a social institution, in particular as a site of social struggle for women; thus they examine the Suffragettes' efforts to find a mode of dress that would avoid both the stereotypes of the masculine, failed woman and the feminine, attractive woman more concerned with her bonnet than politics. In this history, then, the three elements that the authors mention, theater, fashion, and society, function like rhetorical topoi: they're "places" in which material can be gathered for discussion and then refilled with other materials. The danger of the method is that the book could lose focus, but that isn't what happens here; rather the flexibility of the method produces a wide ranging and rich discussion. Listing the sources of their evidence, the authors place special emphasis on "some sixty periodicals addressing, for diverse...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 528-531
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.