The Trial of Curiosity: Henry James, William James, and the Challenge of Modernity / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $20.00
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 78%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (11) from $20.00   
  • New (5) from $51.97   
  • Used (6) from $20.00   


In this important revisionist study, Posnock integrates literary and psychological criticism with social and cultural theory to make a major advance in our understanding of the life and thought of two great American figures, Henry and William James. Challenging canonical images of both brothers, Posnock is the first to place them in a rich web of cultural and intellectual affiliations comprised of a host of American and European theorists of modernity. A startlingly new Henry James emerges from a cross-disciplinary dialogue, which features Veblen, Santayana, Bourne, and Dewey, as well as Weber, Simmel, Benjamin, and Adorno.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An altogether worthwhile, serious, and original approach to the Jameses."—Choice

"An erudite and engaging book....[A] remarkable achievement. Posnock...reminds us that our conceptual experience of modernity owes as much to Henry James as to his brother."—Journal of American History

"A brilliant study—a remarkable synthesis of cultural history, close reading, and theoretical speculation. It will make an important contribution to James studies, and an equally significant contribution to our understanding of American culture, to debates on modernity, and to discussions of the possibilities and problems of cultural criticism itself."—Jonathan Freedman, Yale University

"This is a major work of criticism, a...brilliant reconfiguration of literary culture and of literary modernism at the turn into the 20th century, and it offers some of the best interpretations I have ever read of Henry and William James, and of many attendant figures like Howard Sturgis, Santayana, and Adorno."—Richard Poirier, Rutgers University

"Posnock manages to provide an intellectual as well as an ideological context for the challenge of modernity. The result is a rich mosaic of quotations and commentary, inlaid with diverse elements from psychology, fiction, philosophy, literary history, autobiography, and cultural theory."—American Literature

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195071245
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/28/1991
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 382
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Master and Worm; Anarchist and Idiot 3
Part I The Trial of Curiosity
2. Henry and William James and the Trial of Curiosity 27
3. "On a Certain Blindness": Henry James and the Politics of Cultural Response 54
4. "The Religion of Doing": Breaking the Aura of Henry James 80
5. Abolishing the Logic of Identity: Contexts and Consequences 105
Part II The Challenge of Modernity
6. "Adventures of the Critical Spirit": Rereading The American Scene 141
7. "At the Active Pitch": Mimetic Selfhood in James's Autobiography 167
8. Lifting the Yoke of the Genteel: Henry James, George Santayana, and Howard Sturgis 193
9. Going to Smash: Violence in The Ambassadors 221
10. "The Amazing Hotel-World": The American Scene of 1904 250
Coda: The Politics of Nonidentity 285
Notes 293
Works Cited 337
Index 349
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)