This article examines James’s important critique, in The American Scene, of the hotel’s pervasive role as a new institution and landmark in the modern urban scene, focusing on the way in which women characters experience the challenges of this transitory space. Through readings of “Daisy Miller,” “The Pension Beaurepas,” The Ambassadors, and The Wings of the Dove, it explores the impact of hotel culture on James’s women, who in their travels experience hotels as insular microcosms of controlled sociability, unstable arenas of emancipation, or stages of duplicitous performance. Confronting issues of precarious national identity and rootlessness, James’s heroines demonstrate a mobile and even transnational individuality, one that is derived from the transient spaces they roam in. Although the writer sometimes presents his heroines trapped in the hotels’ generic gilded fixtures, he identifies them with the modernizing thrust of the big metropolises and the incessant international mobility that the hotels epitomized.


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pp. 501-522
Launched on MUSE
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