The Other Henry James

The Other Henry James

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: Published: December 1998

American Studies, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

In The Other Henry James, John Carlos Rowe offers a new vision of Henry James as a social critic whose later works can now be read as rich with homoerotic suggestiveness. Drawing from recent work in queer and feminist theory, Rowe argues that the most fruitful approach to James today is one that ignores the elitist portrait of the formalist master in favor of the writer as a vulnerable critic of his own confused and repressive historical moment.
Rowe traces a particular development in James’s work, showing how in his early writings James criticized women’s rights, same-sex relations, and other social and political trends now identified with modern culture; how he ambivalently explored these aspects of modernity in his writings of the 1880s; and, later, how he increasingly identified with such modernity in his heretofore largely ignored or marginally treated fiction of the 1890s. Building on recent scholarship that has shown James to be more anxious about gender roles, more conflicted, and more marginal a figure than previously thought, Rowe argues that James—through his treatment of women, children, and gays—indicts the values and conventions of the bourgeoisie. He shows how James confronts social changes in gender roles, sexual preferences, national affiliations, and racial and ethnic identifications in such important novels as The American, The Tragic Muse, What Maisie Knew, and In the Cage, and in such neglected short fiction as “The Last of the Valerii,” “The Death of the Lion,” and “The Middle Years.”
Positioning James’s work within an interpretive context that pits the social and political anxieties of his day against the imperatives of an aesthetic ideology, The Other Henry James will engage scholars, students, and teachers of American literature and culture, gay literature, and queer theory.


“[I]ntellectually challenging, rousing stuff indeed. . . . Few Jamesians have a knowledge of James’s writing and of critical writing on James to match that of John Carlos Rowe. . .” — Hugh Stevens , Henry James Review

“[T]hese sage and stimulating essays depict James as ‘a conflicted writer’ who in his own time ‘struggled with changing attitudes toward gender, sexuality, class, and ethnicity.’ ” — , Choice

“Drawing on James’ later fiction, especially The American, What Maisie Knew, and short fiction like ‘The Last of the Valerii,’ Rowe proposes that James moved from the earlier formalism that marked his work and his critique of women’s rights and same sex relations, to a later indictment of gender roles, race relations, national affiliations, and sexual orientation that moves him into the modernist school.” — , Lambda Book Report

“In The Other Henry James, James Carlos Rowe uses the discussion of the writer’s sexuality as a starting point to explore the mysteries and the dark side of his later works (including What Maisie Knew and The Tragic Muse). But while Rowe uses James’s homosexuality as a very insightful and provocative lens through which to view this work, he never allows it to become overly defining or intrusive. While the early James was critical of feminism, ‘foreigners,’ and nontraditional gender performance (think of the scheming lesbian Olive Chancellor in The Bostonians), Rowe argues that in his later career he used these subjects to critique mainstream conventions and beliefs. He writes that this change came about, in part, because of James’s changing feelings about his own sexuality—and makes a terrific case for a rereading of the writer’s work along these lines.” — Michael Bronski,

“Not merely an exercise in deconstructing traditional views of James, Rowe has brought nuanced and rich readings to his study on later works of James that are often overlooked: The Tragic Muse, In the Cage, and A Small Boy and Others. In turn, many of James’s canonical works take on different shades of meaning when placed in the context of Rowe’s argument. What Rowe has accomplished is a thoughtful and useful new way to look at James that brings his work into a richer dialogue with many of the concerns of contemporary readers.” — Seminary Co-op

“Rowe confirms the vitality and viability of the ‘revivalist’ work that marks the past decade of James studies. . . . Rowe’s synthesis of previous scholarship and the sometimes segregated issues of race, gender, class, and sexual identity and his exploration of these convergent questions in less critically popular texts make The Other Henry James more than just another critical study.” — Leland S. Person , College Literature

“Rowe underscores the crucial need to constitute subordinated collectivities defined in terms not confined to those of the cash nexus. And the turn to aesthetics, even to realism, as a way of thinking through this need is important, timely, and very much in accord with teh work that writers such as Wilde (and, now one likes to think, James) were doing in the Victorian fin de siècle.” — Richard Dellamora , English Literature in Transition

“Rowe’s strength is the equal ease with which he navigates the waters of critical theory and James’s oeuvre. . . .” — Madeleine Minson , American Studies

“While Rowe’s book would be valuable simply because of its excellent readings of James’s fiction, it also contributes a valuable overall theory of the evolution, from the early 1870s to 1898, of James’s complex, conflicted responses to ‘the dramatic changes occurring in English and American society in regard to gender and sexual identity.’. . . Rowe proposes to transform James studies as much as Shakespeare studies have been transformed in the last two decades: by replacing an aesthetically informed pedagogy with an ideologically informed one. . . . Given Rowe’s stature in academic American literary criticism, The Other Henry James could have a powerful influence on consolidating the position of the newer, ‘other,’ postmodern Henry James.” — Pierre A. Walker , Modern Philology

“With none of the tendentiousness of a Lionel Trilling or an Edmund Wilson, [Rowe] has brought the same intellectual seriousness and reforming passion to bear on the James of our time, with impressive results.” — Wendy Graham , American Literature

“Daring and dazzling in scope, John Carlos Rowe’s brilliant readings create the makings of an alternative canon for James’s career, one more suitable to our time.” — Daniel T. O’Hara, Temple University


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