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Title: Pleasure and propriety in Henry James
Author: Hadley, Tessa Jane
Awarding Body: University of the West of England, Bristol
Current Institution: Bath Spa University
Date of Award: 1999
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In this thesis I offer a critical re-reading of James's fictions focused around two themes. First, dissenting from readings of James's attitude to his material which have him squeamish and evasive when it comes to his treatment of sex, I argue that an essential part of the evolution into the late work is James's growing reconciliation with the sensual, and with the energies and pleasures of the transgressive sexual passions he writes about. Second, I read that development in the fictions as entangled with the issue James returns to so often in his critical writings: the radically contrasting conventions of propriety governing the English language and European novel traditions in the nineteenth century. Although by implication the thesis addresses itself to James's whole oeuvre, I have chosen to focus on particular texts. The reading arose in the beginning from detailed responses to the close-knit texture of these complex fictions, and I have tried to reproduce in my writing that movement of criticism from the micro-reading to the macro-context, giving the individual works which are discussed extended treatment. After an introduction which outlines my themes, the following two chapters address writings from the 1880s (his 'middle 1 period), two chapters are given to the transitional work of the late 1890s, and the final three chapters discuss the three 'late' novels written in the first years of the century. Rather than addressing the critical material on James as a separate issue, I have incorporated my responses to it into the flow of my argument, either using it to support and expand my own ideas, or as a focus for dissent. The critical work that has been most suggestive has often been the work I have most wanted to take issue with: Alfred Habegger's indictments of James's conservatism have stimulated a great deal of what follows. On the other hand, my discussion of the disjunction between the English language and European novel traditions would have been impossible if I had not been able to build upon Tony Tanner's ideas in Adultery and the Novel and Ruth Bernard Yeazell's in Fictions of Modesty. Two articles based on this material have already been published (copies are bound in): the article on 'The Aspern Papers' in The Cambridge Quarterly is more or less the same as chapter 3, but the article on What Maisie Knew in English was substantially rewritten before becoming chapter 4. The themes I have chosen to emphasise in my reading of James seem to me new ones, and important: I feel confident therefore that this thesis represents an original contribution to knowledge of the subject.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: American writing; Novels