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Henry James Goes to War

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Edited By Miroslawa Buchholtz, Dorota Guttfeld and Grzegorz Koneczniak

Within the past decades, Henry James has been seen going to the movies and to Paris, both far more likely destinations for him than battlefields of the modern world. Sending him off to war seems to be a preposterous idea, but the exaggeration inscribed in the title of the present volume is meant to stress the historicity of wars and battles underlying James’s life and work, quite apart from conflict on which literature thrives at all times. The book consists of five parts devoted to various forms and aspects of conflict. It deals with both literal and metaphorical battles of which the author was aware or in which he was involved. Apart from addressing James’s attitude to two major conflicts, the Civil War and World War One, the articles range from critical discussions of James’s biography, criticism, and fiction, to studies of the intertextual connections between his œuvre and works of both past and present authors.
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Haunted by James: Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty and the Politics of the Secret

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Katarzyna Więckowska, Nicolaus Copernicus University

Introduction: a ghost

In Specters of Marx, Jacques Derrida proposes to view the movement of history as animated by the comings and goings of ghosts, whose presence inevitably and repeatedly disrupts human desire for linearity and coherence. The bearer of a certain legacy, the ghost appears as a secret “which says ‘read me, will you ever be able to do so?’” (Derrida 1994: 21); it seduces by posing a challenge, and invites its decipherers to move forward, but only through returning to the past from which it originates. The secret, as Derrida stresses, is intricately implicated in the question of inheritance, whose “radical and necessary heterogeneity” (1994: 16) is best encapsulated and violated by it. “If the readability of a legacy were given, natural, transparent, univocal, if it did not call for and at the same time defy interpretation,” Derrida writes, “we would never have anything to inherit from it” (1994: 16). A legacy appears in the figure of the secret and, reaching back to an infinitude of possibilities, it forces us to close it, and to thereby stabilize, at least temporarily, the writing of history and the movement of the desire to know.

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