Date of Degree

2-2023

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Comparative Literature

Advisor

David S. Reynolds

Advisor

John Brenkman

Committee Members

Jerry W. Carlson

Subject Categories

American Literature | Arts and Humanities | Modern Literature | Philosophy

Keywords

Henry James, American Literature, Modernism, Criticism, Ethics

Abstract

A whole industry exists around Henry James’s late fiction. His early stories, however, do not enjoy the same attention. Some critics have dismissed them as jejune and even silly. My contention is that James’s early stories from the period of 1864-1874 should be considered more seriously. They contain the same themes that will show up in James’s mature and late work. The themes of money, integrity, love, self-deception, trust, and deceit already figure in his early stories as much as in his later writing. In fact, they shed light on his later fiction. Secondly, James’s understanding of moral complexity with which his characters deal was already developed in his young mind, when, in his early twenties, he committed himself to writing.

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