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James Studies 1978-1979: An Analytic Bibliographical Essay by Richard A. Hocks and John S. Hardt, University of Missouri-Columbia I. Introduction To devoted Jamesians who recall the evolution of his criticism over the past several decades, the years of 1978 and 1979 may not appear to have been ones of great achievement or advancement. The quantity of work in 1978 was sizable, that of 1979 considerably less, particularly with respect to booklength studies. There were, to be sure, certain emerging patterns of interpretation and focus. For instance, we note a tendency toward examining James in relation to his Intellectual contemporaries, Flaubert, Chekhov, Nietzsche, or else, what often amounts to a similar Interest, as the prototype of long-range developments In modern fiction. Doubtless this kind of critical examination, together with the sort that continues to locate James solidly In his cultural milieu (Adeline TIntner's voluminous work alone represents this trend quite well), is all part of that general recognition, begun years ago, of James as entirely someone other than a monastic, deracinated, autonomous master of the "pure art of fiction." The realization that his work extends outward Into the Important intellectual and spiritual no less than cultural forces of his era has been crucial, but perhaps it was also inevitable. In some ways the criticism and scholarship of 1978-1979, particularly the articles, manage to fortify and consolidate these earlier advancements In the Interpretation of James. James's middle period, especially If defined as extending "to 1900, received far more attention than early or late James. The best group of articles on single novels was on What Ma i sie Knew and The SpoiIs of Poynton; the poorest, in the sense of most merely rehashed, on The Turn of the Screw, with a distant second on still another middle novel, The Bostonlans, which drew a mixture of good and not-so-good essays. Still another pattern is that a number of articles and at least one fairly Important book attempt to develop a read er-protagonist parallelism In regard "to the process of discovery. There Is, In other words, still a concern with James's eplstemology in that a protagonist's coming to knowledge is replicated in the reader. Still another tendency is for commentators to read the late non-fictional writings, whether Scrlbner's preface, autobiographical volume, or travel book, as specialized works of art and dramatic narrative. The older critics of the Matthiessen/BI ackmur era understood that such non-fIctlonat writings were of the same "sensibility" as the works of fiction; critics now, perhaps under the influence of contemporary critical theory, want "to extend the category of "narrât i ν ity" to include the later non-flctlon with the fiction. Generally speaking, however, a number of the articles of these two years are somewhat disappointing in their being preoccupied with a narrow point while failing, despite such solidity of specification, to connect with the larger cumulative wisdom about James's work or even at times failing to reveal a sense of the novelist's larger canon. Such explication is at best clever. Still, a larger number of these "fortifying" or "consolidating" essays mentioned above are most competently argued. Best of al I , 1979 did witness the beginning of that most propitious of projects, The Henry James Review. Were it not bad form here to do so, we would enumerate some of the obvious strengths of the Review and the high quality of its content, though Its earliest numbers really fall predominantly within 1980 rather than '78 or '79 and should more properly be considered in a future review. I I. Books Unquestionably there were two studies, both In 1978, that stand out for their Intellectual ambltiousness and creativity. These are Sergio Perosa's Henry James and the Experimental Novel (Virginia) and Stephen Donadio's Nietzsche, Henry James, and the Artistic Will (Oxford). Perosa's 132 Experimental Novel is surely the best book on James In the two-year span. He makes impressive connections between the late-middle fiction up through The Sacred Fount, as well as the unfinished Sense of the Past and Ivory Tower, and later developments In the twentieth-century novel and anti...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6555
Print ISSN
0273-0340
Pages
pp. 132-152
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-25
Open Access
No
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