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The Prefaces of Henry James: Framing the Modern Reader cover
  • ISBN: 9780271016597
  • ISBN10: 0271016590

The Prefaces of Henry James: Framing the Modern Reader

by Pearson, John H. A

  • List Price: $44.95
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press
  • Publish date: 06/01/1997
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Toward the end of his career, Henry James published his collected works in a single edition, which has come to be known as the New York Edition. Rather than simply reprint his fictional work, James entered into a massive work of self-monumentalization, revising the texts extensively, and writing prefaces that have become classic texts on prose aesthetics and the novelist's art. John Pearson argues here for a reading of the prefaces within the context of the New York Edition as James's attempt to construct an ideal reader, one attentive to his art and authorial performance.

Throughout his discussion of the eighteen prefaces, Pearson examines the strategies that James implements for preparing the reader for the prefaced texts. He argues that James sought to create the modern reader, one who would learn to appreciate and discriminate his literary art through reading the prefaces. By demonstrating that the prefaces frame the novels and tales in aesthetic histories that are authorized and authenticated by the author-historian's personal memory, Pearson accomplishes his analysis of James's use of the frame and how it systematically instructed the reader in the Jamesian aesthetic of fiction. Through close readings of several of the novels and tales including The Awkward Age, What Maisie Knew, The Portrait of a Lady, The Aspern Papers, and The Wings of the Dove, Pearson's comprehensive study examines the various framing strategies at work and considers the broader theoretical implications of reading through the prefaces. Pearson's eclectic theoretical approach, similar to the recent poststructural work of John Carlos Rowe, makes a complex argument accessible to an educated reader untutored inrecent poststructural literary theory.

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