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  • 6 Henry James
  • Sarah B. Daugherty

The current trends in James studies present an intriguing paradox. At the beginning of the millennium, James is most frequently viewed as a modernist whose later career overshadows its 19th-century origins. But a turn toward ethical criticism, and away from poststructuralist skepticism, recalls the work of an older generation of scholars. A bellwether is a book by philosopher Robert Pippin, who reads James as a moralist confronting the "historical situation of modernity." Another important study, by Denis Flannery, examines the vital connections between realism and modernism: to appreciate Jamesian innovations, he says, we must surmount the "mimetic pessimism" prevailing in the wake of deconstruction. Debate continues on the topic of James's sexuality and its expression in his writings; thanks to Hugh Stevens, Wendy Graham, and many others such critiques will never again be as they were. But John R. Bradley's new book argues against queer theory pursued at the expense of more traditional methods of historical scholarship and close reading. The construction of James will remain problematic, especially given the ongoing editing of his letters and the reinterpretation of his fiction by filmmakers. Yet notwithstanding the play of language and the will of readers, a growing number of critics acknowledge the power of authorial intention.

i Letters, Manuscripts, Biographical Studies

"Material James," a special issue of HJR (21, iii), includes articles that might have amused the author of "The Aspern Papers." In "Materiality, Reproduction, Lost Meaning, and Henry James's Letters" (pp. 222–33) Greg W. Zacharias notes that manuscripts are more informative than published editions, particularly in view of the budgetary constraints of [End Page 107] publishers. James's letters contain several types of cancellations, a number of devices for emphasis, and drawings expressing his self-deprecating humor. Pierre A. Walker's "Leon Edel and the 'Policing' of the Henry James Letters" (pp. 279–89) documents Edel's efforts to control other scholars' access. Walker refers to the archives of the Paul R. Reynolds literary agency and cites both Edel's admission that he was "sitting on James material" and his characterization of rivals as "would-be pirates." Steven H. Jobe provides a preliminary catalog of "The Leon Edel Papers at McGill University" (pp. 290–97). This collection, occupying 92 containers, is probably one of the last to be "sired by Remington out of Smith-Corona and allowed to multiply in the bright light of Xerox"; but in addition to trivia it includes correspondence with Theodora Bosanquet, Hendrik Andersen, and other important Jamesians. In the age of the Internet, additional forms of insanity have supplemented the "paper madness" deplored by Edel himself. "'We Are Family'? The Immaterial Community of the James Family Discussion List" (pp. 298–304) is a report by Cheryl B. Torsney on the listserver she and Marc Bousquet have organized. While democratization has brought gains, scholars and non-scholars have divered in their expectations, and the Friends of Henry have been offended by more cantankerous Fans of William. Ironically, messages concerning William have been declared "off-topic."

"The Master and the Laureate of the Jews: The Brief Friendship of Henry James and Emma Lazarus" by Alan G. James (HJR 21: 27–42) chronicles exchanges from 1883, when the writers were introduced by Richard Watson Gilder of the Century, until Lazarus's death in 1887. The surviving correspondence shows that James endorsed the poet's fund-raising efforts for the resettlement in Palestine of Eastern European Jews.

The psychosocial dynamics of James's wartime writings are the subject of Pamela Thurschwell's "'That Imperial Stomach Is No Seat for Ladies': Henry James, the First World War, and the Politics of Identification," pp. 167–83 in Modernist Sexualities, ed. Hugh Stevens and Caroline Howlett (Manchester). Both The Sense of the Past and the nonfiction project "the desire for complete immersion in a perceived community," the shame resulting from a fear of exclusion, and the excitement following the negotiation of an eroticized ideal. Thurschwell's title refers to an exchange with Wharton in which James evoked the spectacle of himself, King George, and other heads of state "bumping up against each other on [End Page 108] the exclusive men's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2125
Print ISSN
0065-9142
Pages
pp. 107-121
Launched on MUSE
2000-01-01
Open Access
No
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