In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

James Studies 1983-1984: An Analytic Bibliographical Monograph by Richard A. Hocks, Karen R. Hamer, and W. Dale Brown, University of Missouri Editor's note: Here is the second part of "James Studies 1983-1984." Part one was published in volume 8, number 3. Readers are asked to refer to page 155 of that issue for an editor's note outlining future plans for this series.—DMF V. General Articles, 1984 Judith Sutherland's fine monograph on The Problematic Fictions of Poe, James, and Hawthorne (U of Missouri P) has a lengthy and most perceptive discussion of The Sacred Fount (38-70), a discussion that could legitimately be classified either with general studies or with studies of the novel itself. Her sophisticated analysis includes a brilliant comparison with Poe's Pym (a very similar "problematic fiction") and a wonderful argument showing how both novels illustrate the dangers of "unchecked perception" in American transcendental aesthetics and how James's work in particular symbolizes "the basic problems raised by American symbolism" itself. The Sacred Fount resists thematic interpretation and is a "direct treatment within the narrative of the conditions of the narrative." Jamesians by now are used to this book being interpreted as a "metanovel," to be sure, but Sutherland's beautiful adaptation of reader-response theory, in which we are put into a situation like Poe's detective Dupin; or her timely use of Theodore Parker's admonitions about transcendentalism; or her exciting use of Howells' discussion of interpreting The Sacred Fount—these diverse ingredients weave together into a superb critical tapestry. Interestingly, Sutherland in one sense illustrates well John Carlos Rowe's point that a reader-based approach is "formalist," but she shows the resources of an elastic formalist critic who can also incorporate comparative and literary historical dimensions into her argument. A successful analysis of The Sacred Fount, this is also about the best Poe/James discussion I have read and deeply satisfying criticism. Another very good piece of work is Daniel J. Schneider's "James and Conrad : The Psychological Premises" (HJR 6: 32-38). Schneider builds on Elsa Nettels' James and Conrad by showing that "the deepest link between" them, "apart from their technical and epistemológica! interest in 'the subjective,' is probably their psychology- -their shared convictions regarding the deep motives of human behavior." From Conrad's view of human psychology stated in Lord Jim—that "above all, man must fight, must exert himself and, with the motions of his arms and legs, keep himself afloat in 'the destructive element' that is his dream"—there issue three basic themes common to both writers: 1) deep need to create even in the face of terrible revelations an ideal image of self; 2) craving 36 The Henry James Review for rest, peace, safety and security; 3) tension between determinism, which arises from materialistic and naturalistic premises of the later nineteenth century, and the existential sense of responsibility and free will. Schneider examines Lord Jim and The Spoils of Poynton in the light of these premises; both Fleda and Jim "lose themselves" and take refuge in dreams. Also discussed are An Outcast of the Islands, The Nigger of the Narcissus, The Portrait of a Lady, and The Golden Bowl. James's characters seek peace, safety, and security, yet those who fail to fight become "cripples . . . that betoken their moral failure." The two writers also share story-telling methods "based on recognition of the limitations of the individual consciousness in an ambiguous world." Although Conrad's Chester, Robinson, and Gentleman Brown succumb to cynicism, James's Strether says that one still has "the illusion of freedom." And Maggie in The Golden Bowl must act, despite seeing Conradian "horror." Ultimately, neither novelist rejects like Sartre "outright determinism." On the contrary, each "conceded that human nobility might be, at bottom, an expression of a base egoism and horrifying will to power." But, like Bernard Shaw, they realized too that one of man's "deepest passions is the moral passion—a passion for perfection and authenticity." A more idiosyncratic study of the same two novelists is Adam Gillon's "Conrad and James: A World of Things beyond the Range of Commonplace Definitions" (Conradiana 15...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6555
Print ISSN
0273-0340
Pages
pp. 35-76
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-25
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.