Henry James and the Writing of Race and Nation

Henry James and the Writing of Race and Nation

by Sara Blair
     
 

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Henry James and the Writing of Race and Nation describes a new Henry James - a writer who, rather than fashioning himself as an iconic figure of high culture, tests his commitments in contest with emerging popular forms. Countering trends in critical studies that have privileged the popular as a unique site of both cultural resistance and identity formation, Sara… See more details below

Overview

Henry James and the Writing of Race and Nation describes a new Henry James - a writer who, rather than fashioning himself as an iconic figure of high culture, tests his commitments in contest with emerging popular forms. Countering trends in critical studies that have privileged the popular as a unique site of both cultural resistance and identity formation, Sara Blair argues for the importance of literary institutions to those processes in the years spanned by James's career. Beginning with an analysis of the links between racial theory in the 1870s, popular travel narrative, and James's early travel essays and reviews, Blair considers the complexities of his positionings within and against genteel, "Anglo-Saxon," American, and other cultural frames. These gestures become central to James's literary performance, she argues, in his experiments with American realism, as he redirects its nation-building designs. Through detailed analyses of The Princess Casamassima, The Tragic Muse, and The American Scene, Blair evidences James's growing interest in the newly definitive mass forms - including the popular press, photography, and visual culture - through which racial and national identities are being forged. Her book makes a powerful case for reading James and the high culture he shapes with a sense of sustained contradiction, even as she argues for the historical and ongoing importance of literary texts to the study of culture and cultural value.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"There is much to praise in Blair's book: her mastery of the relevant scholarship, her illuminating, often brilliant, analyses of individual texts, her wide-ranging insight into the events, places, institutions, and ideas that engaged James's mind to become the experience he transformed into art." Elsa Nettels, The Henry James Review

"This book is an important contribution to the continuing debates about James's place in literature and about the place of high art in the development of any culture at all." Choice

"...Henry James and the Writing of Race and Nation manifests many of the strengths ofmodern-day criticism...." Jim Barloon, English Literature in Transition 1880-1920

"This excellent study of Henry James marks an important turn in the scholarship of American literature, one that provokes reflection on why it has taken so long to read James through the precarious constitution of racial and national identities. ...Blair candidly describes how competing critical imperatives have enriched her approach.... The reader cannot help but notice how gracefully her writing flows...." The New England Quarterly

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780521107600
Publisher:
Cambridge University Press
Publication date:
12/28/2008
Series:
Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture Series, #99
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"There is much to praise in Blair's book: her mastery of the relevant scholarship, her illuminating, often brilliant, analyses of individual texts, her wide-ranging insight into the events, places, institutions, and ideas that engaged James's mind to become the experience he transformed into art." Elsa Nettels, The Henry James Review

"This book is an important contribution to the continuing debates about James's place in literature and about the place of high art in the development of any culture at all." Choice

"...Henry James and the Writing of Race and Nation manifests many of the strengths ofmodern-day criticism...." Jim Barloon, English Literature in Transition 1880-1920

"This excellent study of Henry James marks an important turn in the scholarship of American literature, one that provokes reflection on why it has taken so long to read James through the precarious constitution of racial and national identities. ...Blair candidly describes how competing critical imperatives have enriched her approach.... The reader cannot help but notice how gracefully her writing flows...." The New England Quarterly

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