Abstract

ABSTRACT:

This article examines the high degree of parallelism and repetition that characterizes dialogue in Henry James's late fiction and considers both the function of such "consensual talk" in the context of James's novels and its implications for understandings of speech in the novel, more generally. Taking The Ambassadors (1903) as its primary case study, the article argues that dialogue's consensual structure is used to express a fantasy of reciprocity that is at once broadly attributable to the novel's speakers and to James himself, stung by the failure of his theatrical work and the lack of commercial uptake of The New York Edition. In particular, it draws on his 1905 lecture, "The Question of Our Speech," in which James conveys his aspirations that "conscious, imitative speech" could serve a unifying function in the social realm. Yet closer analysis of The Ambassadors reveals the extent to which James's theoretical ideals are at once dramatized and ultimately discredited in his fictional work. In the process, the article models a rhetorical approach to interpreting character dialogue, which treats it as an expressive affordance of the author as well as the character. In this way, it frames novelistic speech as less an instance of mimesis than poiesis and Jamesian dialogue as just one example of the ways fictional conversations get "made."

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-974X
Print ISSN
1063-3685
Pages
pp. 221-235
Launched on MUSE
2019-04-25
Open Access
No
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