Narrative strategies in selected novels of Henry James

Doctoral Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

In the course of Henry James's novelistic career, his works reveal an increasing emphasis on the representation of consciousness. This is reflected in a modulation from the authorial to the figural mode of narration as the novels are more consistently focalized through the consciousness of one or more central reflectors. This thesis attempts to explore the narrative strategies through which the shift is implemented. It will be seen that aspects such as ambiguity, imagistic representation and the deployment of analeptic excursions through the consciousness of the reflector as opposed to the narrator assume new significance. Although James formulated his own conception of his narrative strategies in his Prefaces, discrepancies can often be found between his theoretical perspective and his novelistic practice. Such disparities are indicated where relevant. In the dissertation I endeavour to explore these and other aspects of James's narrative technique in the light of Dorrit Cohn's model as set out in Transparent Minds: Narrative Modes for Presenting Consciousness in Fiction (1978). The study also moves beyond Cohn's theoretical framework, demonstrating that certain adjustments or further refinements of terminology are necessary in applying Cohn's paradigm to the novels of Henry James.