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Title: Women, realism, and Henry James
Author: Coulson, V. C.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2002
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The thesis explores the textually-mediated relationships between Henry James and three of his most important female friends: novelists Constance Fenimore Woolson and Edith Wharton, and Henry's sister Alice, author of a significant Diary. These seemingly disparate writers draw together in their affinity for a certain form of realist representation. I argue that what I call 'Jamesian realism' is a mode of representation characterised by the productive ambivalence of its distinctive semiotic structures; it is especially hospitable to the expression and negotiation of ambivalence towards authority. In particular, this is the ambivalence towards gendered and sexualised authority experienced by the women writers whose otherwise inarticulable resistance to the social and psychological imperatives of femininity engaged with James's own gender discomforts and imaginative affiliation with women. With the exception of Alice's interest in Irish politics, Woolson, Wharton, and Alice James were social conservatives who never identified themselves with any form of avowed feminist thought; they were the last generation of intellectually ambitious women for whom a socially acceptable engagement with gender politics was unthinkable. For each, there was a disjunction between her conscious commitment to conservative values, and her lived experience of the social and psychological disentitlements that nevertheless ensued. Alice, Edith, and Constance found in Jamesian realism a mode of representation through which they could express the restiveness and self-division that each has experienced within herself, as well as in relation to her female critics and rivals. Jamesian realism is a representational form through which each woman negotiates her ambivalent sense of exclusion and reprieve, her conflicting impulses towards complying with, and resisting, authority.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available