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Henry James and the art of impressions

Scholar, J. (2020) Henry James and the art of impressions. Oxford University Press, Oxford. (In Press)

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Henry James and the Art of the Impression examines the concept of the ‘impression’ in the essays and late novels of Henry James. Although Henry James criticized the impressionism which was revolutionizing French painting and French fiction, and satirized the British aesthetic movement which championed impressionist criticism, he placed the impression at the heart of his own aesthetic project, as well as his narrative representation of consciousness. This book tries to understand the anomaly that James represents in the wider history of the impression. To do this it charts an intellectual and cultural history of the ‘impression’ from the seventeenth century to the twentieth, drawing in painting, philosophy (Locke, Hume, J.S. Mill), psychology (William James, Ernst Mach, Franz Brentano), literature (Wordsworth, Coleridge, Pater, Wilde), and modern critical theory (Derrida, de Man, Butler, Hillis Miller). It then offers close readings of James’s non-fictional and fictional treatments of the impression in his early criticism and travel writing (1872-88), his prefaces to the New York edition (1907-09), and the three novels of his major phase, The Ambassadors (1903), The Wings of the Dove (1902), and The Golden Bowl (1904). It concludes that the term ‘impression’ crystallizes James’s main theme of the struggle between life and art. Coherent philosophical meanings of the Jamesian impression emerge when it is comprehended as a family of related ideas about perception, imagination, and aesthetics – bound together by James’s attempt to reconcile the novel’s value as a mimetic form and its value as a transformative creative activity.

Item Type:Book
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
ID Code:83400
Publisher:Oxford University Press

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