The narrative thematics of the late style of Henry James : incorporating an analysis of The wings of the dove

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This paper represents a study of contemporary narrative theory in relation to the late style of Henry James. Using the work of various narrative theorists it examines the concepts of the Narrator, Speech Representation, Focalization and Figural Narration. This is the main emphasis of part I. The work of the different theorists is examined selectively in order to give a concise but comprehensive summary of the chosen narrative concepts. Part II of the dissertation deals with the relationship of Henry James to the ideology of modernism. The modernist notions of 'showing' and 'telling' are discussed in relation to the narrative theory of part I. This section also deals with James's notions of dramatization, foreshortening and impersonal narration. The narrative style of Henry James's later novels is discussed in relation to the concepts of narrative theory examined in part I. Furthermore, part II examines the difficulties James faced m constructing his narratives and how they are manifested as discrepancies in his novelistic project. The specific facets discussed are those of the effacement of the authorial narrator and the representation of consciousness; this discussion also deals with James's approach to these facets of narrative representation. Part III consists of an examination of selected 'Prefaces' to James's novels, and discusses these as a reflection of James's ideas of narrative. It combines parts 1 and II in a discussion of James's notions of narrative, and utilizes the contemporary narrative theory to order to illuminate some of these notions. In order to show how James utilized certain narrative techniques an analysis of extracts from The Wings of the Dove is undertaken. This section examines James's use of the Narrator, Speech Representation, Focalization and Figural Narration. Part III also deals with the extent to which James succeeds in his project and furthermore, shows that certain narrative devices James employed contradict his notions of dramatization and objectivity.

Bibliography: pages 74-77.