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Henry James's "Various America": The Novel, Freedom, and Modernity

Hayes, Jonathan (2013) Henry James's "Various America": The Novel, Freedom, and Modernity. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines the modern, worldly dimensions of Henry James’s literary practice evident across his criticism, nonfiction, and novelistic fiction, which James described to be his “various,” comparative response to U.S. culture and society. Drawing upon contemporary critical turns to ethical and affective-oriented aesthetic modes of interpretation, I show that James’s “various” literary practice expresses worldly and comparative thinking that opposes the private, Protestant-informed “business enterprise” society developing in the United States around the turn of the twentieth-century. In describing James to be an oppositional critic to American business enterprise, my dissertation contributes to ongoing interventions in Henry James studies that have re-constructed James to be a more historically-minded and politically-engaged thinker than asserted in canonical, twentieth-century formalist and New Critical approaches to James’s literary work.

My dissertation proceeds through readings of his late criticism in the Prefaces to the New York Edition, his three-volume autobiography, his mid-career essay “The Art of Fiction (1884), and finally, to his first novelistic masterpiece at the outset of his career, The Portrait of a Lady (1881/1908). My dissertation’s formal construction forefronts James’s contributions as a literary critic, and I describe an oppositional, critical reading practice in his thought based upon ethical, aesthetic, and political modes of reading. James’s practice as a critic, I argue, not only enables critics today to confront and challenge the ongoing contentious politics of interpretation in Henry James studies, but it allows readers to discern the critical and oppositional dimensions of his novelistic literary fiction, which I show to be particularly evident in The Portrait of a Lady.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Hayes, Jonathanjmh69@pitt.eduJMH69
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairArac,
Committee MemberScott, Williamwdscott@pitt.eduWDSCOTT
Committee MemberAndrade , Susansza@pitt.eduSZA
Committee MemberMecchia, Giuseppinamecchia@pitt.eduMECCHIA
Date: 30 June 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 12 April 2013
Approval Date: 30 June 2013
Submission Date: 14 May 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 272
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Henry James, the novel, American literature
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2013 19:56
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:12


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