Desire and Repression: The Dialectic of Self and Other in the Late Works of Henry James

Desire and Repression: The Dialectic of Self and Other in the Late Works of Henry James

Desire and Repression: The Dialectic of Self and Other in the Late Works of Henry James

Desire and Repression: The Dialectic of Self and Other in the Late Works of Henry James

Excerpt

A lthough one finds in Henry James's late fiction and "autobiographical" works the international theme, the social and cross-cultural conflicts, and the moral questions that dominate the earlier writings, these issues become subordinated to the temporal/perceptual concerns and the complex psychological problems centering on the fiction of self-identity, on the past as the repository of utopian plenitude, on the sense of personal power derived from the act of writing, and on the possibility of an alternate and more fully "lived" existence, all of which are represented through the aggressive confrontation between self and other. These obsessions become progressively more important in the transitional and "major phase" fiction ( The Sacred Fount , The Great Good Place, The Ambassadors , The Beast in the Jungle ), the late short stories ( The Jolly Corner, Crapy Cornelia, A Round of Visits ), the two unfinished novels ( The Ivory Tower , The Sense of the Past ), the works recording James's personal experiences and artistic beliefs ( Autobiography , The American Scene , the Prefaces to the New York Edition, William Wetmore Story and His Friends ), and the essays on World War I ( "Within the Rim," "Refugees in Chelsea," "The American Volunteer Motor-Ambulance Corps in France," "The Long Wards," "France," England at War: Question of the Mind ).

Following Matthiessen's notion of the "major phase" as the culminating point in James's oeuvre, most critics have cursorily dismissed many of these works as incoherent, as "a postscript, an epilogue," "something to marvel at and ponder over in sheer incredulity." Yet others perceive this final period as a manifestation of James's "vitality in the face of adversity . . . his ability to respond to new forms of perception and to embody these in changing forms and styles" and as suggesting "the . . .

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