Prepossessing Henry James' Fiction  book cover
1st Edition

Prepossessing Henry James' Fiction

  • Available for pre-order on April 27, 2023. Item will ship after May 18, 2023
ISBN 9781032058658
May 18, 2023 Forthcoming by Routledge
320 Pages

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USD $170.00

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Book Description

The novels of Henry James are filled with ghosts, but most of them escape dramatic treatment. These elusive specters are the voices of precursors that haunt his narratives, compromising their constitutive freedom. The Strange Freedom is an examination of the ways James’s fiction is prepossessed by some major voices of the English literary tradition, those of Shakespeare, Richardson, Fielding, Gibbon, Thackeray, and Dickens. This subtextual arrogation sets constrains to the unfolding, in James’s narratives, of liberal and romantic freedom—it places limits both to the absolute exemptions of aesthetic interest and to radical bohemian abandon. But these constrains and limits can be regarded, dialectically, as the enabling conditions of the very liberty they imperil. Drawing on recent research on the spectral dynamics and indirections of literary influence by scholars like Adrian Poole, Philip Horne, Nicola Bradbury, Tamara Follini, and Peter Rawlings, but also on earlier deconstructive work by John Carlos Rowe, Prepossessing Henry James offers a speculative account of the way James is simultaneously resourced and restrained by his sources. Along the way, we discover how Hamlet’s ghost instills in James a fantasy of mental autonomy, or how he adapts Gibbon’s Enlightened narrative to inhibit civic liberty with images of female sacrifice. We see the governess in The Turn of the Screw possessed by the specter of Richardson’s Pamela, exposing social freedoms with liberal brutality. We encounter Gray, in The Ivory Tower, striving to obtain personal freedom by repressing Dickensian "figures, monstruous, fantastic". And, finally, we recognize how much The Ambassadors owes to the ambiguous manner of Thackeray.

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Julián Jiménez Heffernan (Ph.D. Bologna, Italy) is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the Universidad de Córdoba, Spain. He has authored three books on Shakespeare, co-edited the collection Community in Twentieth-Century Fiction (2013), and published many essays on Renaissance philosophy, deconstruction, and modern fiction—from Samuel Richardson to Nadine Gordimer. He is currently working on a book on Karl Marx and William Thackeray.