Aesthetic Experience and Visual Art in Henry James’s Novels
CONCLUSION: Art, Consciousness, Life 105
Conclusion Art, Consciousness, Life “I glory in the piling up of complications of every sort.” Henry James, Henry James Letters 4: xxxi Though Henry James made this statement to his niece Peggy in regards to American simplicity, his fiction bears proof of his delight in complication, a delight that raises more questions than it answers. And to draw tidy conclu- sions about his use of visual art in his fiction would be to contradict his cen- tral belief about aesthetic experience—it is infinite and does not allow for tidy summary. In the closing year of his life, the epistolary debate he had with H.G. Wells reiterated a position James had been developing for decades. He be- lieved that Wells’s narrow view of art as “technical and special” limited one’s experience of the world. Like his brother William, Henry resisted finite expe- rience. Kristin Boudreau cites Linda Simon’s observation that for William James, “A world without the possibility of the new, a world that is consistent and predictable: such a world would be nothing less than catastrophic” (Simon 39), a view Henry also held. In this context it is easy to understand why James and Wells ended their friendship over a debate about the “use” of art. For James the philosophy that “It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance, for our considera- tion and application” was the central tenet of his own art and one that could not be divorced from his core approach to life. In...
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