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H ENRY J AMES ’ S “I MMENSE S ENSIBILITY ” T ALKING ABOUT C ONSCIOUSNESS IN “T HE A RT OF F ICTION ” (1884) AND THE P REFACES (1906-1908) “Techniques of.

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Presentation on theme: "H ENRY J AMES ’ S “I MMENSE S ENSIBILITY ” T ALKING ABOUT C ONSCIOUSNESS IN “T HE A RT OF F ICTION ” (1884) AND THE P REFACES (1906-1908) “Techniques of."— Presentation transcript:

1 H ENRY J AMES ’ S “I MMENSE S ENSIBILITY ” T ALKING ABOUT C ONSCIOUSNESS IN “T HE A RT OF F ICTION ” (1884) AND THE P REFACES (1906-1908) “Techniques of the Observer” ENG 391W March 24, 2011

2 A NTHONY T ROLLOPE ’ S “ BETRAYAL ” A respected and prolific Victorian novelist (1815- 1882) “In a digression…he [Trollope] concedes to the reader that he and this trusting friend are only ‘making believe.’ He admits that the events he narrates have not really happened, and that he can give his narrative any turn the reader may like best. Such a betrayal of a sacred office seems to me, I confess, a terrible crime” (“The Art of Fiction” 378).

3 W HERE DOES CONSCIOUSNESS RESIDE ? 1897: James develops severe writers cramp and has to dictate his novels, stories, reviews, and critiques to an amanuensis (the first was William MacAlpine). At the same time, he begins to pose questions about the “double phenomenon” of consciousness: that it resides “in” people but also “between” them.

4 L ITERARY AND C ULTURAL D ISCUSSIONS OF C ONSCIOUSNESS IN THE L ATE 19 TH C ENTURY 1870s and 1880s: Charcot’s work on hysteria, hypnosis and dual personality 1882: the founding of the Society for Psychical Research 1886: Robert Louis Stevenson publishes Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1890: William James publishes The Principles of Psychology

5 T HE F UNCTION OF THE P REFACES A plea “for Criticism, for Discrimination, for Appreciation” A reference guide to the technical aspects of the art of fiction A place to “psychologize” the idea of consciousness by “imagining it as centered, subjective, internal, and unitary. [The prefaces] stabilize a connection between consciousness and the self by asserting that the self is where consciousness resides. The representations of consciousness in the novels contradict that placement…In the novels… consciousness is not stable, not subjective, not interior, not unitary, as James’s Prefaces claim. But it is also, as a consequence, not dismissed or deconstructed. Rather it is disseminated. In the novels consciousness is not in persons; it is rather between them…” (Cameron 77) Cameron, Sharon. Thinking in Henry James. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 77.

6 A.L. C OBURN ’ S F RONTISPIECES TO J AMES ’ S N EW Y ORK E DITION “The series of frontispieces contribute less to ornament, I recognize, than if Mr. Alvin Langdon Coburn’s beautiful photographs, which they reproduce, had had to suffer less reduction; but of those that have suffered least the beauty, to my sense, remains great…” Alvin Langdon CoburnHenry James (in Rye, NY) Self-Portrait with Copper Press, 1908Photogravure, 1906 Image courtesy George Eastman House,Image courtesy of International Museum of Photography and Film www.photgravure.com

7 J AMES ’ S S TRUGGLE WITH “P ICTURE - B OOKS ”: A C OMPETITIVE P ROCESS “…The essence of any representational work is of course to bristle with immediate images; and I, for one, should have looked much askance at the proposal…to graft or ‘grow’, at whatever point, a picture by another hand on my own picture – this being always, to my sense, a lawless incident” (Preface to The Golden Bowl, 331-332 in the Blakmur edition) See pages 331-333

8 T HE A CT OF R EVISION “To revise is to see, or to look over, again…the act of revision, the act of seeing [the writing] again, caused whatever I looked at on any page to flower before me as into the only terms that honourably expressed it….The ‘taste’ of the poet [i.e. the writer] is […] his active sense of life: in accordance with which truth to keep one’s hand on it is to hold the silver clue to the whole labyrinth of his consciousness” (Preface to The Golden Bowl, 338, 339, 340). In what way does this 1909 preface carry on the conversion James began in “The Art of Fiction” twenty five years earlier?


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