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A Classified Subject Index to Henry James's Critical Prefaces to the New York Edition (Collected in The Art of the Novel) by Jean Kimball, Northern Iowa University Perhaps the most useful one-word description of the prefaces that Henry James wrote for the New York Edition of his novels and tales is "unique." There really is nothing else quite like them, particularly when they are considered as a unified, continuous essay. Leon Edel appears to have been the first critic to approach these prefaces as a self-contained body of writing in his doctoral thesis, The Prefaces of Henry James, published in 1931, in which he abstracted and organized those parts of the prefaces that deal directly with the art of fiction. Then, in 1934, R. P. Blackmur published all the prefaces in one volume, The Art of the Novel, quoting James's own characterization of the prefaces as "a sort of comprehensive manual or vademécum for aspirants in our arduous profession" (AN viii). This "manual," an idiosyncratic blend of interpretive criticism, aesthetic theory, and autobiography, is written in James's later, elaborated style, whose difficulties, as Blackmur so justly points out, come not from any intentional obscurity but from "an excessive effort to communicate" (AN xiii). That is, though it is notoriously easy to lose oneself in the mass of James's prose, his intention is to explain, and he has a great deal to say. The problem is to get at it, and Blackmur, in his remarkable introduction, provided the collected prefaces with the "final Preface" (AN viii) that James had seen as necessary for such a volume. Blackmur perceived the nature of his introduction, at least in part, as "a kind of provisional reasoned index" (AN viii) or "provisional glossary," whose purpose was "to make the substance of all eighteen Prefaces more easily available" (AN xiv), and, of course, it did so. But, though Blackmur separated out the themes that run through all the prefaces from those that may surface intermittently, and though he located significant discussions in the individual prefaces and even provided some page numbers , The Art of the Novel was published w ithout any conventional index. Even granting that a conventional index is probably not adequate for The Art of the Novel, anyone who seriously intends to use the material in these prefaces to arrive at new understandings about James and his work must be able to do his own synthesizing , and for that he needs a comprehensive listing of entries with page numbers, which a conventional index provides. In 1966 Rosemary Franklin addressed this need with the publication of An Index to Henry James's Prefaces to the New York Edition, an extensive listing, which provides a comprehensive coverage of names and places, along with an element of classification of subjects. Franklin's index, to a degree, complements Blackmur's descriptive "provisional " index and glossary. Sophisticated computer technology, however, not readily available to Franklin twenty years ago, has opened up a new range of possibilities in indexing, which have been accessible to me in compiling this "Classified Subject Index." My intention has been to combine the descriptive nature of Blackmur's guide to the content of the prefaces with the conventional indexing aids of the alphabet and page numbers , and the computer makes the realization of this intention more feasible than it would be by hand and head. There are four major categories in this index: Allusions, Analogies and Comparisons, Henry James, and Terms and Concepts. These are in turn subdivided on several levels, so that for the great majority of entries there is some further context given for the entry in addition to the broad indication of the category to which it belongs. I have, like any indexer, tried to be consistent, but this is an ideal that is not always perfectly realized. To begin with, I have used James's words whenever practicVolume VI 89 Number 2 The Henry James Review Winter, 1985 able, with his spelling and capitalization, which itself is not always consistent, and some entries may even seem "incorrect." I have, for example, accepted his designation of Tolstoy's great novel as Peace and War without...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6555
Print ISSN
0273-0340
Pages
pp. 89-133
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-25
Open Access
No
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