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Henry James and the Queerness of Style

Kevin Ohi

Publication Year: 2011

Kevin Ohi begins this energetic book with the proposition that to read Henry James—particularly the late texts—is to confront the queer potential of style and the traces it leaves on the literary life. In contrast to other recent critics, Ohi asserts that James’s queerness is to be found neither in the homoerotic thematics of the texts, however startlingly explicit, nor in the suggestions of same-sex desire in the author’s biography, however undeniable, but in his style.

For Ohi, there are many elements in the style that make James’s writing queer. But if there is a thematic marker, Ohi shows through his careful engagements with these texts, it is belatedness. The recurrent concern with belatedness, Ohi explains, should be understood not psychologically but stylistically, not as confessing the sad predicament of being out of sync with one’s life but as revealing the consequences of style’s refashioning of experience. Belatedness marks life’s encounter with style, and it describes an experience not of deprivation but of the rich potentiality of the literary work that James calls “freedom.” In Ohi’s reading, belatedness is the indicator not of sublimation or repression, nor of authorial self-sacrifice, but of the potentiality of the literary—and hence of the queerness of style.

Presenting original readings of a series of late Jamesian texts, the book also represents an exciting possibility for queer theory and literary studies in the future: a renewed attention to literary form and a new sounding—energized by literary questions of style and form—of the theoretical implications of queerness.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Cover

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pp. 1-7

Contents

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p. vii-vii

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Introduction: On the Erotics of Literary Style

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pp. 1-32

Henry James and the Queerness of Style seeks to trace such a “nonpreexistent foreign language” in the writings of Henry James and thereby to find in James’s style a queerness that, not circumscribed by whatever sexualities or identities might be represented by the texts, makes for what is most challenging about recent queer accounts of culture: a radical ...

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1. Writing Queerness: Zeugma and Syllepsis in The Golden Bowl

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pp. 33-58

Henry James’s style is perhaps nowhere more importunate than in his 1905 novel The Golden Bowl. The novel’s redoubtable linguistic texture—especially the densely metaphorical language of narrator and characters alike—and the formalism of its structure can cause one momentarily to forget its startlingly lurid premise: its plot has a billionaire ...

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2. The Burden of Residuary Comment: Syntactical Idiosyncrasies in The Wings of the Dove

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pp. 59-107

For D. A. Miller’s Jane Austen, or The Secret of Style, free indirect style is of interest in large part because of its power to catalyze effects of shame; the virtuoso shadings of a narration’s proximity to and distance from its characters excite a fantasy of imperturbable remove—a total depersonalization that threatens, from the very start, to collapse into ...

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3. Hover, Torment, Waste: Late Writings and the Great War

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pp. 109-147

Why does poetry matter to us? The ways in which answers to this question are offered testify to its absolute importance. For the field of possible respondents is clearly divided between those who affirm the significance of poetry only on the condition of altogether confusing it with life and those for whom the significance of poetry is instead ...

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4. Lambert Strether’s Belatedness: The Ambassadors and the Queer Afterlife of Style

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pp. 149-70

Critics of James’s work have been less circumspect about the search for “the Man” in “the Poet”—less attentive to the search’s paradoxes and perils—than is the author himself in the late essays. And thus the tale of belatedness and equivocal aesthetic recompense offered by The Ambassadors has often served to reinforce a current in James studies ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 171-173

To attempt to acknowledge the debts occasioned by the writing of this book has been inescapably to register the many rich affordances of the intellectual world that has sustained it and me; if the book falls short of the promise of that richness, it can only be that my own capacities have proven inadequate to friends who lead one to ...

Notes

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pp. 175-212

Index

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pp. 213-228


E-ISBN-13: 9780816676651
E-ISBN-10: 0816676658
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816665112

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2011