Figuring It Out: Metaphor And Agency In Henry James's New York Edition
This dissertation examines how metaphor works in Henry James's fiction to endow his characters, narrators, and readers with a specific kind of creative agency. The prefaces to the novels and stories in the New York Edition of James's works highlight and demonstrate the role of strategically structured and coordinated metaphors in generating this agency. The prefaces also point out how James's ability to use metaphors evolved over the course of his career. While I trace the work of metaphor in a number of James's works, I focus my study on three structurally and thematically related novels. In my first chapter I establish The American as a starting point for developments that span the length of James's career. The preface to this novel suggests that Christopher Newman can't secure a bride because he can't effectively imagine and represent human relations. It also demonstrates that the young James fails to write a realist novel for exactly the same reason. The American introduces a set of thematic and technical challenges directly addressed in The Portrait of a Lady and The Golden Bowl. The second chapter details how the preface to The Portrait of a Lady employs metaphors to re-enter and re-orient the action of the novel. The prefacer structures the story of the novel's creation so that it matches Isabel Archer's story in the novel. He then overlays a set of organic metaphors that envelop both stories, loosen the grip of their mystical and architectural metaphors, and give Isabel and the novel a brighter future. Simultaneously, the prefacer demonstrates that metaphors can cross boundaries between texts and narrative levels. In the third chapter I show that the skills demonstrated by the prefacer have been incorporated into the action and narration of The Golden Bowl. Princess Maggie herself acquires agency by strategically using metaphors to conceptualize and modify her relations with others. The narrator situates the metaphors so that their attribution and extension is ambiguous, ceding agency as he offers them to readers for interpretation.
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