The Language of a Master: Theories of Style and the Late Writing of Henry James

Synopsis

Smit addresses the abstraction and complexity of Henry James' late style through three basic critical approaches: style as identification, as expression, and as imitation.

Those critics who focus on James' style as identification are concerned with the unique or distinctive elements of his prose. Smit argues that the basis for choosing these features is subjective. The features studied are not evenly distributed in James' work, and at the level of most literary analysis the perception of the style varies from one reading to the next.

Style as expression stresses the aesthetic quality or personality of the writer. Smit compares five kinds of writing James produced during the winter of 1899- 1900 and shows that the variety of his writing cannot be correlated with any specific expression of personality.

Smit surveys the Jamesian devices for representing mental activity and concludes that they are independent of his style. The most convincing explanation for James' style is psychological. As a shy man, James developed a way of talking that kept people at a distance, and this carried over into his writing.

Additional information

Contributors:
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Carbondale
Publication year:
  • 1988