The Critical Reception of Henry James

The Critical Reception of Henry James

Creating a Master

Linda Simon

Comprehensive survey and analysis of the scholarship and criticism on perhaps the greatest American writer.
Although some of Henry James's contemporary critics deemed him just short of a great writer, history has elevated him to indisputable preeminence in the American canon. Linda Simon chronicles and analyzes James criticism beginning with contemporary newspaper and magazine reviews and ending with current academic criticism. The story begins in the 1870s, when critics saw James's works as mirrors of American identity and sought to establish him in the nation's evolving canon. James himself worked to secure that place with his prefaces to the standard edition of his works; Simon analyzes criticism about those prefaces. She also shows how James's reputation became contested after his death: praised by some critics for psychological insight and stylistic innovation, he was dismissed by others as socially and politically irrelevant. But beginning in the 1940s, such critics as Trilling, Rahv, Leavis, and, most influentially, Leon Edel secured James's place at the forefront of the American canon. More recently, James scholarship has focused on sexuality and gender, race and morality, and the nature of consciousness; critical trends Simon also considers. This book, the only comprehensive overview of James criticism over the past 140 years, helps readers understand the paths that that criticism has taken and how scholars and critics have built upon past work.

Linda Simon is Professor Emerita of English at Skidmore College and Editor-in-Chief of William James Studies. Her books include Genuine Reality: A Life of William James, which was a New York Times Notable Book of 1998.

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Table of Contents

A Mirror for Americans: Contemporary Criticism, 1866-1916
Instructions to the Reader: James's Prefaces to the New York Edition
The Cult of Henry James, 1918-1960
A Life of the Master: Leon Edel's Henry James and its Influence on Criticism
Critical Revisions: James in the Academy
Jamesian Consciousness: Mind, Morality, and the Problem of Truth
Gender, Sexuality, Intimacy
Selected Henry James Bibliography
Works Consulted


This lucid, absorbing study offers thorough coverage of criticism of James's works.... [N]ot only covers all James criticism but also outlines a pattern of changing perspectives in the field of literary criticism itself. CHOICE

The only work that gives an overview of all of James criticism .... It is also completely up to date. It enables readers to "get a handle" on the huge corpus that is James criticism.... Thanks to Simon's book, James scholars and students will be able to see clearly where the uncharted territory lies, and as a result, it represents a significant and lasting contribution. --Pierre A. Walker, Salem State College

One of the achievements of Simon's book is her ability to identify points of continuity among generations of James's readers....Seeing the key critical trends [in the "major scholarly industry" of James studies] is no small feat, and Simon has done well to chart a current road map to this critical archive. NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY

Author Bio

Linda Simon is Professor of English at Skidmore College.

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