Henry James and the Imagination of Pleasure by Tessa Hadley

By Tessa Hadley

Tessa Hadley examines how Henry James steadily disentangles himself from the moralizing body in which English-language novels within the 19th century had visualized sexual ardour. Hadley argues that his courting with the ecu novel culture used to be the most important, aiding to depart at the back of the idea that in simple terms undesirable ladies might be sexual. She explores the emphasis James put on the ability of enjoyment and play--themes important to his formidable aim to symbolize the privileges and the trials of turn-of-the-century rest type society.

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Henry James and the Imagination of Pleasure What Strether and James imagine, finally, is not the morality but the happiness of the lovers’ embraces. James has not simply substituted a French male sexual cynicism for his old English propriety. The pleasures at the novel’s heart are unmistakably ephemeral and vulnerable, and James is especially interested in how defenceless his women are once they step outside the shelter of the conventional propriety which the women writers had worked so determinedly to consecrate in the English tradition.

Introduction  The late novels do not represent any kind of polemical argument against the fin-de-si`ecle leisure class they represent. But they are explorations deep within the imagination of that class – its imagination of itself – of the dynamics of privilege, its real pleasures, its real pains. Privilege is not passive, it is a perpetual performance and contest; exhilarating, exhausting. In The Wings of the Dove the girls and the men alike find themselves cast in social roles – the charmer, the ironist, the dove – that pinch and chafe and suffocate; roles lightly entered upon overgrow the individuals until sustaining them becomes a matter of social life and social death.

He cried. She clasped her hands; her eyes were streaming with tears. ’ ( M ) Isabel cannot speak what Caspar can, that ‘the world is very big’; even though that is, for a moment, her actual experience. She is in pain ‘as though he were pressing something that hurt her’, she can only answer that ‘the world is very small’, as if the utterance came from an infinitely lesser space of possibility. ’, although at that moment it is she who is experiencing sensations like madness, a confusion of sound and noise of waters in her own head.

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