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Henry James and the Art of Auto/biography

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Mirosława Buchholtz

Henry James (1843–1916) has been widely acclaimed for the elegance of his prose, the incisiveness of his social comment, and the subtlety of his psychological analyses. Whereas James’s tales and novels have been carefully studied over the past decades, his non-fiction, including literary criticism, travel writing, biographies, and autobiographies, still remains at the margins of critical activities. This study seeks to explore some of these neglected aspects of James’s work, while at the same time interrogating the traditional formula of literary auto/biography. It also attempts to piece together an image of James as a subject and object of biographical and autobiographical endeavors, including portraiture.
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Introduction

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In English-speaking countries, Henry James (1843–1916) has been widely acclaimed for the elegance of his prose, the incisiveness of his social comment, and the subtlety of his psychological analyses. Along with James Joyce and Marcel Proust, he has been credited with the renewal of the novel as a genre. Acknowledged as one of the main proponents and practitioners of psychological realism, James stood (and sought to negotiate) between America (where he was born) and Europe (where he settled down), between the nineteenth-century cultural traditions (which he inherited) and the challenge of the twentieth century (of which he was intensely aware), as well as between popular fiction and the novel as an art form.

Whereas James’s tales and novels have been carefully studied over the past decades, his non-fiction still remains at the margins of critical activities. Researchers tend to forget that James was not only a fiction writer, but also a literary critic, travel writer, biographer, and autobiographer. The present study seeks to explore some of these neglected aspects of James’s work, while at the same time interrogating the traditional formula of literary biography. For James, living and writing were closely intertwined, mutually dependent activities. This study addresses both his life and work in a way that neither simplifies nor closes the debate about him as a man and a writer. It also attempts to piece together an image of James as a subject and object of biographical and autobiographical endeavors.

Chapter I:...

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