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Henry James and the Visual


  • Page extent: 264 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.56 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 813/.4
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: PS2124 .J64 2007
  • LC Subject headings:
    • James, Henry,--1843-1916--Criticism and interpretation
    • Visual perception in literature
    • Self-perception in literature
    • National characteristics, American, in literature
    • Stereotypes (Social psychology) in literature

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521880664)

In the decades after the Civil War, how did Americans see the world and their place in it? In this text, Kendall Johnson argues that Henry James appealed to his readers' sense of vision to dramatise the ambiguity of American citizenship in scenes of tense encounter with Europeans. By reviving the eighteenth-century debates over beauty, sublimity, and the picturesque, James weaves into his narratives the national politics of emancipation, immigration, and Indian Removal. For James, visual experience is crucial to the American communal identity, a position that challenged prominent anthropologists as they defined concepts of race and culture in ways that continue to shape how we see the world today. To demonstrate the cultural stereotypes that James reworked, the book includes twenty illustrations from periodicals of the nineteenth century. This study reaches startling conclusions not just about James, but about the way America defined itself through the arts in the nineteenth century.

• A truly interdisciplinary study bringing insights from anthropology, sociology and history of art to bear on literary analysis of James's work • Includes over 20 images from nineteenth-century periodicals in which James was published • Was the first to analyse James in relation to nineteenth-century policies on Native Americans


Introduction: the cultural varieties of visual experience; 1. Classifying Donatello: the visual aesthetics of American exceptionalism; 2. A 'dark spot' in the picturesque: the aesthetics of polygenesis in Henry James's 'A Landscape-Painter'; 3. Rules of engagement: the arch-romance of visual culture in The American; 4. The scarlet feather: racial phantasmagoria in What Maisie Knew; 5. Pullman's progress: the politics of the picturesque in The American Scene; Epilogue: America seen; Bibliography.

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