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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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Henry James of the Empire

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Mirosława Buchholtz, Nicolaus Copernicus University

In the second edition of Post-Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts, Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin try to sell (second-hand) the idea of contemporary “Empire” as a preferable alternative to the traditional “Empire” of the past centuries. They quote extensively from Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, who in their study, or in fact their manifesto, entitled Empire (2000) argue that the new “Empire” has no geographical limits, no historical limits, and no class limits. It is “dedicated to peace” and because of its origin in the “multitude,” it is “naturally and inevitably disposed towards liberation” (qtd. in Ashcroft 2009: 71). By contrast, in his 1987 historical novel The Empire, Gore Vidal captures the old-fashioned American imperialism at the moment of its inception. Vidal’s novel need not be seen as a masterpiece, but its ambition is undeniably that of an epic. Henry James has a role to play in Vidal’s novel and in the rising American Empire as conceptualized by Vidal. The novelist appears on the very first page and recurrently throughout Vidal’s book as a gourmet, a conversationalist, and – most importantly – as the maker of the new American lady. He is only occasionally a rather reluctant commentator on political affairs. This essay comments on Vidal’s portrait of Henry James against the double backdrop of two budding empires: Vidal’s American Empire of the past and the present transnational and liberating Empire as envisaged by Neo-Marxists.

Gore Vidal’s lifelong...

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