Collecting and Appreciating: Henry James and the Transformation of Aesthetics in the Age of Consumption (Cultural Interactions: Studies in the Relationship between the Arts)

Collecting and Appreciating: Henry James and the Transformation of Aesthetics in the Age of Consumption (Cultural Interactions: Studies in the Relationship between the Arts)

Simone Francescato

Language: English

Pages: 209

ISBN: 3034301634

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This book examines the role and the meaning of collecting in the fiction of Henry James. Emerging as a refined consumerist practice at the end of the nineteenth century, collecting not only set new rules for appreciating art, but also helped to shape the aesthetic tenets of major literary movements such as naturalism and aestheticism. Although he befriended some of the greatest collectors of the age, in his narrative works James maintained a sceptical, if not openly critical, position towards collecting and its effects on appreciation. Likewise, he became increasingly reluctant to follow the fashionable trend of classifying and displaying art objects in the literary text, resorting to more complex forms of representation.
Drawing from classic and contemporary aesthetics, as well as from sociology and material culture, this book fills a gap in Jamesian criticism, explaining how and why James's aversion towards collecting was central to the development of his fiction from the beginning of his career to the so-called major phase.

Contents: Introduction - I. Appreciation in the Age of Consumption - II. Henry James's Early Response To Collecting - III. Between Aestheticism and Naturalism - IV. The Princess Casamassima - V. Henry James's Aesthetics of Desire - VI. The Spoils of Poynton - VII. The Golden Bowl - Bibliography - Index

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the image of a ‘bad Emperor’ like Tiberius ‘near [her] heart’ (367), Adina somehow senses in her puritanical naïveté, an analogy between the triumphant male emperor portrayed on the stone and her controlling suitor. Scrope, however, does not understand Adina’s reluctance to accept the object as a love token, and believes that she is ‘carrying historical antipathies rather far’ (369), beyond the object’s evident technical perfection and documentary value. What particularly disappoints Scrope about

ties between art and life, Theobald ultimately causes a confusion which 15 In the NYE, James replaced the phrase ‘a fantastic, impertinent murmur’ with ‘so impertinent and cynical echo’ (see The Tales of Henry James, ed. Aziz, 524). This is an important revision since it could indicate an increase of James’s antipathy for naturalist aesthetics over the years. The first expression could be the element that has led some scholars to think that the story implicitly sympathizes with the

even sublimating the com­ modification of art of which he himself was a protagonist. Henry James certainly shared with Berenson the idea that appreci­ ation was a highly individualized and private interaction between the perceiver and the object, somehow independent from the contextualiza­ tion provided by external mediation, or by the perceiver’s experience or expertise in fields other than the strictly aesthetic. It remains dif ficult to argue, however, that the writer shared the connoisseur’s

157 – so much so that Fleda becomes the only ‘means’ through which he can express himself (‘Wasn’t it at all events the rule of communication with him to say for him what he couldn’t say?’, my italics, 273). Fleda understands that, similarly to her secret appreciation of the suppressed ‘humanity’ of the spoils, her secret love for Owen cannot be revealed without risking to be exploited by Mrs Gereth (289). Unfortunately the widow soon discovers that Fleda has fallen in love with her son

157 – so much so that Fleda becomes the only ‘means’ through which he can express himself (‘Wasn’t it at all events the rule of communication with him to say for him what he couldn’t say?’, my italics, 273). Fleda understands that, similarly to her secret appreciation of the suppressed ‘humanity’ of the spoils, her secret love for Owen cannot be revealed without risking to be exploited by Mrs Gereth (289). Unfortunately the widow soon discovers that Fleda has fallen in love with her son

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