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SUSAN M. GRIFFIN Scar Texts: Tracing the Marks ofJamesian Masculinity Let youtself go and live, even as a lacerated, mutilated lover, with your grief, your loss, your sore, unforgettable consciousness. Possess them and let them possess you, and life, so, will still hold you in her arms, and press you to her breast, and keep you, like the great merciless but still most enfolding and never disowning mighty Mother, on and on for things to come. Henry James to Hendrik Andersen, February 28, 1902; Henry James Letters The jamesian wound has been much probed by critics.1 What caused it? What was it? Physical or psychic? Inherited? Selfinflicted ? Castrating? Enabling? Rather than attempt to answer questions about the origins and nature of the wounds Henry James suffered (himself) and inflicted (on his characters), I want to focus on their traces, the scars that mark—and cover over—the space of the wound, that represent both injury and healing, loss as well as recovery. What opportunities did the figure of the wounded man, to which James returned again and again, offer him as a narrative artist? The image of a torn, marked, scarred body is traceable throughout James's letters, fictions, autobiographical and biographical writings. Describing any sort of hurt (mental, emotional, physical), James regularly uses "lacerated" and "mutilated," words that image a body whose integrity has been broken, whose interior has been penetrated. In employing such language, James draws on the long Judeo-Christian tradition ofrepresenting intense spiritual and emotional experience as a physical piercing, as in the trope of circumcision or, conversely, the uncircum- ?????a Quarterly Volume 53, Number 4, Winter 1997 Copyright © 1997 by Arizona Board of Regents ISSN 0004-1610 62Susan M. Griffin cised heart. Nineteenth-century exponents of the Christian sentimental feminine, like Harriet Beecher Stowe, figure spiritual feeling physically as tears, lactation, "softening." While James, too, employs the bodily language of the sentimental in his work, he writes masculinity more often through wounds and scars.2 A lacerated, mutilated figure bears the marks of trauma and experience . In the literary tradition that begins with the scar on Odysseus' thigh, scars allow authors the chance to extend narratives back into the past (Homer pauses to tell the story ofwhat happened long ago to make this mark), serve as means ofidentification (Odysseus' nurse knows him by his scar), and mark the connections between past experience and present identity (Odysseus returns home to prove, by hunting suitors, that he was once the young boy who left home to prove himself hunting boar).3 Film studies' analysis of "suture" can also help us recognize that a scar is the site of something missing as well as something added; in psychoanalytic terms, a scar marks the space of castration and, therefore , of representation, of writing. James uses scars, the traces of past pain, to explore the constructed and changing character of maleness.4 In what follows I sketch out a reading of these Jamesian bodily texts by looking at the ways in which the wounded soldier appears in James's latest writings and his neglected earliest short stories and at how scarred men figure in two of his best-known turn-of-the-century fictions . In examining the shifting positions ofJames's protagonists, narrative voices, and autobiographical selves—wounded, watchet, visitor, victim—I try to suggest the changing ways in which wounds and scats serve to represent, and sometimes substitute for, masculine interiority. Although my focus is on maleness, I also show how James's women contribute to its construction and that marks of masculinity play a role in the making of the Jamesian feminine. The mutilated male body was not merely a figure of James's imagination , of course. Peter Gay begins his history of nineteenth-century bourgeois aggression, The Cultivation of Hatred, with an analysis of the Mensur, the German student duel, and of the "cherished" scars that were its object and sign. Though dueling was outlawed in Britain by mid-century and uncommon in the United States after the Civil War, Gay demonstrates Victorian Anglo-Americans' ambivalent attraction to the duel as a ritual during which masculinity was written on the Tracing the Marks ofJamesian Masculinity63 body...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9595
Print ISSN
0004-1610
Pages
pp. 61-82
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-02
Open Access
No
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