Questioning the Master: Gender and Sexuality in Henry James's Writings

Questioning the Master: Gender and Sexuality in Henry James's Writings

Questioning the Master: Gender and Sexuality in Henry James's Writings

Questioning the Master: Gender and Sexuality in Henry James's Writings

Synopsis

"This is the first collection to bring together previously unpublished essays exploring James's depictions of gender and his use of sexual imagery that is balanced, objective, and critically diverse. Nine articles examine James's fiction, films made from his works, his own literary criticism, letters, and travel writing. These essays represent a range of theoretical perspectives - cultural studies, feminist and gender studies, queer theory, Lacanian and deconstructive psychoanalytic studies, and historicism. This volume will be a valuable resource for readers in the fields of James, American literature, the novel, and gender studies." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

The essays in this collection were commissioned for the book and thus appear in print here for the first time. This book is, to my knowledge, the only collection of essays examining representations of gender and sexuality in James's writing that does not have an a priori premise about how James lived and how his life may be read into his works. Our essays read the texts, not his life, and apply a variety of perspectives to his writings. The women and men who contributed to this volume have given it a diversity in terms of the articles' subjects, critical perspectives and judgments. In content, the book considers works (and films made from these texts) from James's early, middle, and major phases, his literary criticism, journal writing, and travel writing. For this breadth and for the excellence of the essays, I am indebted to the contributors, and I am pleased to have been a part of this collection of essays focused upon James's portrayals of gender and sexuality.

In December 1996, in Slate, an electronic magazine, Sheldon M. Novick and Leon Edel—with several fillips from Fred Kaplan—argued about the reliability of Novick's conclusions regarding James's sex life in Novick's recent biography of James. That three James scholars debated the difficulties involved with Novick's inferences about James's sexuality and its expression in his writings through the venue of an on-line magazine was in itself intriguing to me. An argument among three James scholars published in a general news on-line magazine so that any of State's 150,000 readers (Slate's estimate of its readership) could read the discussion struck me as felicitous. No doubt that was in large part due to my work as editor of this volume, but I also think that this on-line debate as well as the vigorous debate about these issues occurring daily on the Henry James List Serv may well indicate that another marker has occurred in the history of James criticism. While there are as many versions of the history of James scholarship as there are James scholars, my own sense of it is that, from the earliest biographies until rela-

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