Publications and Research

Document Type

Book Chapter or Section

Publication Date



Though “influence” may be too strong a word, the compositional affinities between James and Tintoretto are pervasive and worthy of comparative analysis, especially because both artists capture the moment when wonder gives way to the lonely and final uncertainty of our knowledge—of self, of others, of secular or spiritual truth.

Separated by three centuries, these two artists both stage a forceful assault on the conventions of their medium and engender in the viewer or reader (as well as internal “perceivers”) a kind of vertigo—a visual and psychological dislocation that is the basis of a new kind of insight. In Tintoretto, this dislocation ushers in mannerist and pre-baroque ambiguity—a sense of alienation that is “an indispensable stage on the mind’s journey to itself” (Hauser 96); in James, fluid, inconclusive images of others, reflected through the inner drama of a perceiving consciousness, set the stage for a post-modern interrogation of the subject. Tintoretto’s spiritual encounters, reformulated in James as struggles of competing desires, are what the French philosopher, Alain Badiou, calls “events”: they disrupt our conventional understanding of being and force a new way of seeing.


This is the author's manuscript of a book chapter originally published in Tracing Henry James, edited by Melanie H. Ross and Greg W. Zacharias (Cambridge University Press), 2008, pp. 424-42.


To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.