Desolate Theatricality: Staging Feeling And Consciousness In The Late Novels Of Henry James

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This dissertation argues that Henry James's late novels produce the textual effects of subjectivity (feeling, a sense of psychological depth) while dissolving the subject who ostensibly experiences them. James's incorporation of dramatic point of view into the novel is widely recognized as a foundational moment for narrative theory, but it has rarely been analyzed in conjunction with the theatrical structure of consciousness that emerges in late Jamesian characterization. James presents character through various theatrical means-for instance, by transferring the work of characterization from narration to dialogue or objectifying a character's consciousness as a building with which she interacts. In the same gesture, however, he dematerializes the subject who is thereby being made available; the proliferating dialogue only more insistently announces a character's disappearance from the diegetic space of the novel, and the building that ostensibly figures consciousness threatens to collapse amid a dizzying involution of alternative referents. Processes of theatrical objectification and dematerialization are therefore inextricably linked in late James. In economics, dematerialization refers to a reduction in the amount of material required to serve a given function; in James, that material is most often human, whether it be a consciousness whose perspective is never actually inhabited by the narrator who seems to be dwelling in it, or a character who literally disappears from the pages of a novel in order for her "development" to be narratively expedited. Despite James's famed prolixity in the service of elaborating consciousness, much of his late prose is dedicated to registering the effects of material that has pointedly disappeared or never existed. My dissertation approaches James's late novels as sites of persistence of feelings and textual effects that, by rights, should not have survived their unauthoring. In fact, a more intense pathos may emerge to register the affective austerity seen in James's late works.

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Henry James; Theatricality; Feeling


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Hanson, Ellis

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Hite, Molly Patricia
Salvato, Nicholas G
Cohen, Walter Isaac

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English Language and Literature

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Ph. D., English Language and Literature

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Doctor of Philosophy

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dissertation or thesis

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