The Ordeal of Consciousness in Henry James

The Ordeal of Consciousness in Henry James

The Ordeal of Consciousness in Henry James

The Ordeal of Consciousness in Henry James

Excerpt

This book was originally planned as a supplementary volume to my book Three Traditions of Moral Thought. Under the title The Figure in the Carpet: A Study of Henry James it was to have included an introductory chapter and two concluding chapters setting out all hypothesis about James's development, particularly in his last or 'late' period, towards a view of life which I proposed to call 'religious-humanist' in the sense defined in my earlier book; and I had hoped to be able to show, on the basis of certain external evidences as well as the internal evidences provided by some of the most important novels and stories of the late period, that Henry James might be counted as one of the greatest representatives of the modern Humanist tradition.

This part of the original plan, however, had to be abandoned, chiefly for reasons of space, and the material of the discarded chapters has been reserved for a shorter work, to be published separately. This leaves the present book as a collection of purely elucidatory studies of a selected number of James's works, connected by the theme of 'being and seeing'--the exploration and definition of consciousness in James's particular meaning of the term. I have also attempted from time to time to trace broad connexions between the individual works discussed, in an effort to show the continuity of James's principal preoccupations through the various periods of his creative life.

The choice of my texts has been determined by two main considerations' first, their representativeness; second, their comparative difficulty and consequent need of detailed elucidation. The Portrait of a Lady and The Tragic Muse were accordingly chosen as representative and sufficiently complex examples of James's early and middle periods; The Turn of the Screw, The Awkward Age and The Sacred Fount were chosen to represent the 'transition' between the . . .

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