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MARC BOUSQUET Intersubjective Epistemologies: Private Theater and Henry James Everything in a picture, it must be added, depends on the composition; if it be the subject that makes the interest, it is the composition that makes, or at any rate expresses, the subject. By that law, accordingly, our boxful of ghosts "compose," hang together, consent to mutual relation, confess, in fact, to a mutual dependence. If it is a question of living again, they can live but by being each other's help, so that they close in, join hands, press together for warmth and contact. Henry James, William Wetmore Story From birth to mourning after death, law takes hold of bodies in order to make them its text. Through all sorts of initiations (in rituals, at school, etc.) it transforms them into tables of the law, into living tableaux of rules and customs, into actors in the drama organized by a social order. Michel de Certeau, The Practice ofEveryday Life EADiNG henry james and the theatricality that so often structures his scenes challenges the reader to shed expectations generated by today's moribund high-culture theater (that quaint, creaky thing springing from a proscenium stage to expensive seats acquired at a discount by savvy consumers). The most successful readings, such as Peter Brooks' The Melodramatic Imagination, take that structuring theatricality generically and historically, with reference to the practices, conventions, and conditions of the nineteenth-century melodrama.1 Generic readings pursuing the melodramatic strain have taken us quite far and provide a location for phenomenological and Foucauldian standpoints in the James conversation. Yet alongside the melodrama another , competing strain is discernible, grounded in the vogue for private Arizona Quarterly Volume 53, Number 4, Winter 1997 Copyright © 1997 by Arizona Board of Regents issN 0004-1610 84Marc Bousquet theatricals which began in James's boyhood and continued nearly unabated until the turn of the century. Structures of this private theatricality operate on a distinctly countersurveillant trajectory in the late career and support a non-Cartesian epistemology based on intersubjectivity (rather than monadic subjectivity), helping to get past that nowfamiliar image ofJames as inevitably the (re)producer of techniques of mastery and control.2 Broadly speaking, the present effort associates a melodramatic theatricality in James's oeuvre with the scenes of knowing that feature a traditional Cartesian epistemology, of isolated knowing subject, and object universally knowable and situated within a general body of knowledge. The solo "discoveries" of the Cartesian epistemological adventurer are takable exactly as the "discovery scenes" of the public stage; the cry ofEureka! that attends E= MC2 also accompanies the exposure of Miranda and Ferdinand playing at chess. Considered as an epistemological structure, the melodrama enforces the chasm between the subject and object ofknowledge—the fourth wall perpetually separating the spectator as subject-only-subject, the actor as object-onlyobject . Private theater, by contrast, complicates the relationship between spectation and performance. As in the masque, the spectator belongs to the scene, no longer gazes unseen, becomes knowable by the performer. The performers become equally spectators, the spectators equally performers. By imbricating in a field of shared experience the subject-also-object and object-also-subject of knowledge, private theater has at least the potential to establish an alternative, intersubjective scene of knowing. Not so much a scene of "knowing the other" as a scene of knowing with others, this epistemology which proceeds between subjects is predicated on the understanding that knowledge is produced and not "discovered," that this production is neither individual nor impersonal (neither objective nor wholly determined by society , culture, or dominant ethnos), but rather collectively agented in a scene of shared, overlapping subjectivity. This second scene is not a market. Not a scene of transaction but of manufacture, it enables mutually constitutive and interpellated subjects to renegotiate the borders of tabulated knowledge-space. Privacy in this sense does not, of course, mean the individual or the personal. It is a limit-condition ofpublicity and implies a network ofrelations .3 The many other-than-public theater genres (masque, procès- Private Theater and Henry James85 sion, cavalcade, court function, parlor theatrical, benefit production) structuring James's alternate scenes of knowing can be understood together as "private theater...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9595
Print ISSN
0004-1610
Pages
pp. 83-114
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-02
Open Access
No
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