Turn of the Screw

James, Henry (American novelist and critic)

Henry James, 1843–1916, American novelist and critic, b. New York City. A master of the psychological novel, James was an innovator in technique and one of the most distinctive prose stylists in English.

He was the son of Henry James, Sr., a Swedenborgian theologian, and the brother of William James, the philosopher. Educated privately by tutors in Europe and the United States, he entered Harvard law school in 1862. Encouraged by William Dean Howells and other members of the Cambridge literary circle in the 1860s, James wrote critical articles and reviews for the Atlantic Monthly, a periodical in which several of his novels later appeared in serial form. He made several trips to Europe, and while there he became associated with such notable literary figures as Turgenev and Flaubert. In 1876 he settled permanently in London and became a British subject in 1915.

James devoted himself to literature and travel, gradually assuming the role of detached spectator and analyst of life. In his early novels, including Roderick Hudson (1876), The American (1877), Daisy Miller (1879), and The Portrait of a Lady (1881), as well as some of his later work, James contrasts the sophisticated, though somewhat staid, Europeans with the innocent, eager, though often brash, Americans. In the novels of his middle period, The Bostonians (1886), The Princess Casamassima (1886), and The Tragic Muse (1890), he turned his attention from the international theme to reformers, revolutionaries, and political aspirants.

During and after an unsuccessful six-year attempt (1889–95) to win recognition as a playwright, James wrote a series of short, powerful novels, including The Aspern Papers (1888), What Maisie Knew (1897), The Spoils of Poynton (1897), The Turn of the Screw (1898), and The Sacred Fount (1901). In his last and perhaps his greatest novels, The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903), and The Golden Bowl (1904), all marked by a return to the international theme, James reached his highest development in the portrayal of the intricate subtleties of character and in the use of a complex, convoluted style to express delicate nuances of thought.

Perhaps more than any previous writer, James refined the technique of narrating a novel from the point of view of a character, thereby laying the foundations of modern stream of consciousness fiction. The series of critical prefaces he wrote for the reissue of his novels (beginning in 1907) won him a reputation as a superb technician. He is also famous for his finely wrought short stories, including "The Beast in the Jungle" and "The Real Thing," which are masterpieces of the genre. In addition to fiction and literary criticism, James wrote several books on travel and three autobiographical works. He never married.

Bibliography

See his notebooks, ed. by F. O. Matthiessen and K. B. Murdock (1947); his plays, ed. by L. Edel (1949); his travel writings, ed. by R. Howard (2 vol., 1993); his complete letters, ed. by P. A. Walker and G. W. Zacharias (3 vol., 2009–11) and selected letters, ed. by P. Horne (1999); biographies by L. Edel (5 vol., 1953–71, rev. ed. 1985), R. Gard (1987), F. Kaplan (1992), L. Gordon (1999), and S. M. Novick (2 vol., 1996–2007); studies by F. O. Matthiessen (1944), J. W. Beach (rev. ed. 1954), Q. Anderson (1957), S. Sears (1968), P. Buitenhuis (1970), O. Cargill (1961, repr. 1971), P. Brooks (2007), and M. Gorra (2012). See also studies of the James family by F. O. Matthiessen (1947), R. W. B. Lewis (1991), and P. Fisher (2008).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Turn of the Screw: And Other Short Novels
Henry James.
New American Library, 1962
Henry James's Daisy Miller, The Turn of the Screw, and Other Tales
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, 1987
Librarian’s tip: This is a book of literary criticism
"What's Your Title?" - 'The Turn of the Screw.'
Sawyer, Richard.
Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 30, No. 1, Winter 1993
Metaphors, Cognition and Behavior: The Reality of Sexual Puns in the Turn of the Screw
Ludwig, Sami.
Mosaic (Winnipeg), Vol. 27, No. 1, March 1994
A Treatise on the Novel
Robert Liddell.
J. Cape, 1947
Librarian’s tip: "The 'Hallucination' Theory of The Turn of the Screw" begins on p. 138
Toward a Pluralistic Criticism
Oscar Cargill.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1965
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "The Turn of the Screw and Alice James"
The Ordeal of Consciousness in Henry James
Dorothea Krook-Gilead.
Cambridge University Press, 1962
Librarian’s tip: Chap. IV "The Turn of the Screw"
Conflicting Readings: Variety and Validity in Interpretation
Paul B. Armstrong.
University of North Carolina Press, 1990
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "History, Epistemology, and the Example of The Turn of the Screw"
The Confidante in Henry James: Evolution and Moral Value of a Fictive Character
Corona Sharp.
University of Notre Dame Press, 1963
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of The Turn of the Screw begins on p. 40
Film Music as Sister Art: Adaptations of 'The Turn of the Screw.' (Analysis of Musical Soundtracks Used in Various Interpretations of Henry James' Novel)
Brown, Monika.
Mosaic (Winnipeg), Vol. 31, No. 1, March 1998
The Complex Fate: Hawthorne, Henry James and Some Other American Writers
Marius Bewley.
Chatto and Windus, 1952
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of The Turn of the Screw begins on p. 96
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