The Theoretical Dimensions of Henry James by John Carlos Rowe

By John Carlos Rowe

Rowe examines James from the views of the psychology of literary impact, feminism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, literary phenomenology and impressionism, and reader-response feedback, reworking a literary monument into the telling element of intersection for contemporary severe theories.

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Indeed, Bloom's anxiety of influence is one that depends upon the master/servant relations inherent in the "family romance" analyzed by Freud. Yet the relation of ephebe to precursor plays upon sexual differences that assume the forms of gender roles in the patriarchal culture in which such "literary" relations have had the greatest significance. Bloom's anxiety of influence Some Versions of Literary Mastery 25 remains "literary" to the extent that it avoids the larger sociopolitical issues of gender roles.

31 Kermode reads Wuthering Heights not just in terms of its multi- Some Versions 0/ Literary Mastery I9 generic and polythematic elements, but also against Q. D. " Kermode respectfully demonstrates Mrs. Leavis's repressive formalism - politely, I think, indicting Mr. Leavis by way of Mrs. Leavis - only as a sort of prologue to Roland Barthes's more tolerant notion of modernity: The gap between text and meaning, in which the reader operates, is always present and always different in extent. It is true that authors try or used to try, to close it; curiously enough, Barthes reserves the term "classic" for texts in which they more or less succeed, thus limiting plurality and offering the reader, save as accident prevents him, merely a product, a consumable.

These very claims in the name of theory may well be means by which we continue to deny or avoid the vagrancies of history and the functional discontinuities and struggles for power that govern social experience. Some of these questions are exemplified by Frank Kermode's The Classic, a work that in many ways might be said to have provoked the argument of this book. Based on his T. S. Eliot Memorial Lectures at the University of Kent in 1973, Kermode's book is an interesting example of how the contemporary effort to deconstruct the established literary canon not only reconstructs another canon but does so along lines that threaten to retrace those of the flawed, mystified canon it attempts to overturn.

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