Discovery of a Genius: William Dean Howells and Henry James

Discovery of a Genius: William Dean Howells and Henry James

Discovery of a Genius: William Dean Howells and Henry James

Discovery of a Genius: William Dean Howells and Henry James

Excerpt

The last two decades witnessed a revival of Henry James's fiction which established him as the aesthetic novelist of the writer and the intellectual; as the foremost American novelist; and as a critic whose prefaces to the New York Edition exerted a tremendous influence upon the criticism and the techniques of the novel. In our decade we are in the midst of a resurgence of interest in and of analytical re-interpretations of the fiction of William Dean Howells, who was one of the first critics to recognize the genius of James, his possible influence upon novelists, and his fight both for realism and for the right of the artist to select what he pleased and to portray it as he chose.

The resurrection from obscurity, if not from ignominy, of the reputation of Howells as a novelist and a critic first began perhaps with the centenary publication of Newton Arvin's The Usableness of Howells, with Henry Steele Commager's Selected Writings of William Dean Howells (1950), and with Clara M. and Rudolf Kirk's William Dean Howells: Representative Selections (1950). Since these publications, the following contributions have appeared: Edwin Cady's The Road to Realism: The Early Years, 1837-1885 (1956) and The Realist at War: The Mature Years, 1885-1920 (1959); Everett Carter's Howells and the Age of Realism (1954); George N. Bennett's William Dean Howells: The Development of a Novelist (1959); James Woodress' Howells and Italy (1952); Olov W. Fryckstedt's In Quest of America: A Study of Howells' Early Development as a Novelist (1958); and Van Wyck Brooks . . .

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