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Title:The "unabashed memoranda" of the prefaces: Henry James's letter to the world
Author(s):Brown, Margaret Ellen
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, American
Abstract:Through presentation of a close reading of the prefaces and an examination of biographical sources, the thesis contextualizes the prefaces to suggest why James wrote them. Contrary to the usual critical assessment of the prefaces, this dissertation asserts that their primary purpose is not to present James's theory of the novel, nor to introduce specific texts, but to serve as an overall statement of apologia for his entire career. The study illustrates how James relies on metaphoric motifs and his own theory of the central consciousness to unify the prefaces. Moreover, James's personification of his art as progeny establishes the New York Edition as his heritage, outlasting him and speaking for him as one's offspring do.
Furthermore, the subtext of the prefaces as a game signifies that James actually avoids providing the interpretations of individual works that critics have looked for. By maneuvering away from discussions of thematics, he focuses on his process of writing rather than on the audience's process of reading, thus promoting his innovations and his greatness as an author.
The examination of the largely unpublished letters of James to his literary agent, James B. Pinker, and the unpublished working diaries of his last secretary, Theodora Bosanquet, presents new information on the composition of the prefaces and on the royalties from the Edition. With these materials, the study also traces James's decline, both professionally and physically, after the failure of the New York Edition--a reaction that demonstrates how much he had relied on the venture to argue his case for literary immortality.
Issue Date:1987
Description:309 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1987.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8721596
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-15
Date Deposited:1987

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