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Representation and the Novel

From: The Henry James Review
Volume 34, Number 3, Fall 2013
pp. 220-231 | 10.1353/hjr.2013.0024



This essay uses The American to stage a discussion of the vexed notion of novelistic representation. What does it mean to say that a novel represents the real, and under what conditions must we say, as James did of The American, that it fails to do so? This essay suggests that, contrary to a popular myth, the notion of representation has little to do with mimesis and the question of whether a novel “copies” reality and much to do with how a novel can come to achieve a special kind of status within a culture.