This article tracks Henry James’s changing attitude to the material world and materiality between “The Aspern Papers” (1888) and The Ambassadors (1903), arguing that James becomes more interested in embodiment and forms of distributed consciousness in his later work. In this he is influenced more than is usually recognized by his brother William James’s late work on materialism and empiricism. In “The Aspern Papers,” the “material” is a tease and a joke that the story never delivers. But in The Ambassadors, Henry James uses metaphors of materiality, process, and bodily practice to represent complex chains of agency stretching across the Atlantic and back. The final section of the article suggests that The Ambassadors is an oddly “telegraphic” novel and that James uses the insistent materiality of the communications between Woollett and Paris alternately to speed up and slow down the action of the novel and to create a complex disorientation for Strether who is, as his name suggests, both “stretched” and “tethered” by his ambassadorial role.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 139-153
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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.