With painful consistency, Henry James denied his characters the experience of fulfilled love. Not surprisingly, many critics have concluded that he simply could not accept the idea of people loving. Yet in the final pages of The Golden Bowl, James affirms and celebrates the renewal of Maggie Verver's marriage and the consummation of her passion. How did he arrive at this belated embrace of love? David McWhirter argues that James' last three novels - usually seen as a homogenous phase in his career - in fact embody a radical refashioning of his vision. The Ambassadors culminates James' lifelong commitment to desire, a solipsistic 'imagination of loving' that deliberately flees fulfilment. But through his acceptance of life's tragic finitude in The Wings of the Dove, James attains a new capacity - realised in The Golden Bowl - to will the death of desire's infinite but illusory imaginings in the limited reality of enacted love. Combining formalist, ethical and psychobiographical perspectives, McWhirter provides an important rereading of James' late novels, challenging prevailing views of the 'major phase' as life-denying retreat into a refined but sterile art.
Preface and acknowledgements; List of abbreviations; 1. Introduction: desire, love, and the question of Henry James; 2. The Ambassadors (I): Strether, James, and the figuration of desire; 3. The Ambassadors (II): the point where the death comes in; 4. The Wings of the Dove (I): the contracted cage; 5. The Wings of the Dove (II): choosing, acting, and the chance for love; 6. The Golden Bowl (I): the resumption of authority; 7. The Golden Bowl (II): for the sake of this end; Notes; List of works cited; Index.
With painful consistency, Henry James denied his characters the experience of fulfilled love. Yet in the final pages of The Golden Bowl, James affirms and celebrates the renewal of Maggie Verver's marriage and the consummation of her passion. McWhirter argues that James' last three novels in fact embody a radical refashioning of his vision.
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