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The Continuum of Consciousness

Aesthetic Experience and Visual Art in Henry James’s Novels

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Jennifer Eimers

The Continuum of Consciousness: Aesthetic Experience and Visual Art in Henry James’s Novels examines the transformative experience of art in James’s fiction. In a 1915 letter to H. G. Wells, James declares, «It is art that makes life.» This book traces the rich implications of this claim. For James, viewing art transformed the self. Many of his contemporaries, including his famous older brother, William, were deeply interested in the study of perception and individual consciousness. James’s fictional use of art reflects these philosophical discussions. Although much valuable scholarship has been devoted to visual art in James’s fiction, the guiding role it often plays in his characters’ experiences receives fuller exploration in this book. A prolonged look at visual art and consciousness through the lens of nineteenth-century British aestheticism reveals intriguing connections and character responses. By highlighting and analyzing his representations of aesthetic consciousness in four novels at specific moments (such as Basil Ransom’s and Verena Tarrant’s contrasting responses to Harvard’s Memorial Hall in The Bostonians and Milly Theale’s identification with a Bronzino painting in The Wings of the Dove), this book ultimately explores the idea that for James art represents «every conscious human activity», as Wells replied to James.

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Bibliography Allott, Miriam. “The Bronzino Portrait in Henry James’s The Wings of the Dove.” Modern Lan- guage Notes 68 (1953): 23–25. Anesko, Michael. Letters, Fictions, Lives: Henry James and William Dean Howells. New York: Ox- ford University Press, 1997. Beidler, Paul G. Frames in James: The Tragic Muse, The Turn of the Screw, What Maisie Knew, and The Ambassadors. British Columbia: University of Victoria Press, 1993. Bellringer, Alan W. “The Tragic Muse: ‘The Objective Centre.’” Journal of American Studies 4 (1970): 73–89. Blair, Sara. “Realism, Culture, and the Place of the Literary: Henry James and The Bostonians.” The Cambridge Companion to Henry James. Ed. Jonathan Freedman. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998: 151–68. Boston Illustrated. Boston: J.R. Osgood, 1872. Boudreau, Kristin. Henry James’s Narrative Technique: Consciousness, Perception, and Cognition. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. Bowen, Janet Wolf. “Architectural Envy: ‘A Figure is Nothing without a Setting’ in Henry James’s The Bostonians.” The New England Quarterly 65.1 (March 1992): 3–23. Brigham, Ann. “Touring Memorial Hall: The State of the Union in The Bostonians.” Arizona Quarterly 62.3 (2006): 5–29. Cameron, Sharon. Thinking in Henry James. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989. Cuddy-Keane, Melba. “Narration, Navigation, and Non-Conscious Thought: Neuroscientific and Literary Approaches to the Thinking Body.” University of Toronto Quarterly 79.2 (2010): 680–701. Desiderio, Mark. “The Art of Friction: Henry James’s Evasion of the Pictorial.” The Henry James Review 23.3 (2002): 273–82. Donadio, Stephen. Nietzsche, Henry James, and the Artistic Will. New York: Oxford University...

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