In this article, I argue that James’s What Maisie Knew investigates the consequences of a distinctly modern mode of observation that both depends on and subverts literary naturalism’s trope of the sensually vulnerable but inarticulate brute—a mode of observation much like the kind of snapshot photography that was widely practiced at the turn of the century. With her innate and curiously modern perceptual sensibilities, James’s Maisie gestures toward an anxiety about the potential of naturalism’s brutes to tell their own stories—an anxiety that I argue was also evinced by the rise of snapshot photography as a popular and affordable hobby.


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