Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece

Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece

by Michael Gorra


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Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece by Michael Gorra

Henry James (1843–1916) has had many biographers, but Michael Gorra has taken an original approach to this great American progenitor of the modern novel, combining elements of biography,
criticism, and travelogue in re-creating the dramatic backstory of James’s masterpiece, Portrait of a Lady (1881). Gorra, an eminent literary critic, shows how this novel—the scandalous story of the expatriate American heiress Isabel Archer—came to be written in the first place. Traveling to Florence, Rome, Paris, and England, Gorra sheds new light on James’s family, the European literary circles—George Eliot, Flaubert,
Turgenev—in which James made his name, and the psychological forces that enabled him to create this most memorable of female protagonists. Appealing to readers of Menand’s The Metaphysical Club and McCullough’s The Greater Journey, Portrait of a Novel provides a brilliant account of the greatest American novel of expatriate life ever written. It becomes a piercing detective story on its own.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780871404084
Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 08/27/2012
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 757,327
Product dimensions: 9.30(w) x 6.40(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Michael Gorra teaches English at Smith College. His books include After Empire, The Bells in Their Silence, and, as editor, the Norton Critical Edition of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Prologue: An Old Man in Rye xiii

Part 1 A Preparation for Culture

1 The Girl in the Doorway 3

2 A Native of No Country 12

3 A Superstitious Valuation 31

4 Along the Thames 45

Part 2 The Marriage Plot

5 Her Empty Chair 57

6 Proposals 68

7 An Unmarried Man 77

8 A London Life 95

9 The Envelope of Circumstances 105

Part 3 Italian Journeys

10 Bellosguardo Hours 121

11 Mr. Osmond 133

12 Stranieri 141

13 An Uncertain Terrain 155

14 A Venetian Interlude 165

15 Fenimore 174

Part 4 Sex and Serials, the Continent and the Critics

16 Maupassant and the Monkey 191

17 The Magazines 208

18 The Roccanera 222

19 The Art of Fiction 239

Part 5 Putting Out the Lights

20 The Altar of the Dead 257

21 "I Was Perfectly Free" 268

22 Working in the Dark 280

23 The Second Chance 293

24 Endgame 309

Acknowledgments 335

Sources and Notes 337

Index 365

What People are Saying About This

Cynthia Ozick

In his resplendent Portrait of A Novel, Michael Gorra breaks through the remoteness of the Master—that majestic but privately enigmatic figure—so that Henry James now comes to us with the sensuous immediacy of his quotidian reality: the rooms he lived in, the streets he trod, and the very texture of his inmost sensibility. Remarkably, Gorra achieves this living nearness through a deep literary mining of the heroine of a single novel: Isabel Archer of The Portrait of A Lady. In Gorra's ingenious and capacious reading, James stands before us with a clarity of seeing and feeling given to no previous biographer.

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Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
blahsfemi More than 1 year ago
James Woods review in the New Yorker - " Michael Gorra has written the best single-volume life of Henry James that we now have."  I agree. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago