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James, Henry. (1846 - 1916).

L i f e

- born in a rich and prominent family: his father Henry was a philosopher, his brother William a psychologist

- considered US too fast-paced and lacking the proper setting for his fictional needs (the right characters available anywhere) >> left for England

- became a British citizen (1915) as the result of the shock of the WWI

W o r k

- the counterpart of his contemporary Mark Twain (low South culture, oral story-telling, and spoken slang), disliked his work, and vice versa

- initiated the psychological realism, introduced the 20th century fiction as a drama of consciousness x the 19th century novel based on external plots

- pioneered the international theme of Americans coming to Europe and finding there old and strange customs

A m e r i c a n - E u r o p e a n  S u b j e c t s :  

Roderick Hudson (1875):

- first published in instalments in The Atlantic Monthly

The American (1877):

- the clash of the New x Old World in the Italian setting

Daisy Miller (1879)

- style: formal, literary, and sophisticated; avoids action in favour of description and dialogue revealing the nature of a character

- concern: an innocent American in the decadent Europe, expatriate characters, and the clash of social classes

Washington Square (1880):

- an ironic treatment of the New York of his youth

The Portrait of a Lady (1881):

- the first masterpiece on the international theme, the first portrayal of complex inner life

- concern: the clash of the Emersonian idealism of a young American gaining experience in Europe x the materialism of her expatriate countrymen

N a t u r a l i s m : 

The Bostonians (1886):

- set in Boston, once a Transcendentalist centre x now a centre of a crisis in sexual relationships caused by the feminist movement

The Princess Casamassima (1886):

- set in the anarchistic London

What Maisie Knew (1897):

- an impressionistic psychology of a little girl’s consciousness trying to comprehend the adult world

P s y c h o l o g i c a l  R e a l i s m : 

- style: carefully chronological, subtle, symbolic, and metaphoric

- language: complicated, complex syntax, ambiguous verbal meanings

- characters: leisure class protagonists lingering with their consciousness > enables him to get closer to the essential and universal social and psychological concerns

- restricted point of view: employs the method of showing rather than telling, gives the narrative over to one particularly alert character, and this point of view forms the story’s drama > intensifies emotions, and offers the opportunity for ambiguity

The Sacred Fount (1901)
The Wings of the Dove (1902)
The Ambassadors (1903)
The Golden Bowl (1904)


(Painting: John Singer Sargent. 1913. Source: Wikimedia Commons).

  • Author

    Henry James. (1846 - 1916). American. British citizen since 1915.
  • Work

    Novelist. Short story writer. Critic. Author of The Portrait of a Lady (1881).
  • Genres

    Realism. Psychological realism. Naturalism. Modernism.


Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.

Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. The Cambridge History of American  Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Cunliffe, Marcus. The Literature of the United States. London: Penguin, 1991.

Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Lexington: D. C. Heath, 1994.

McQuade, Donald, gen.ed. The Harper American Literature. New York: Harper & Collins, 1996.

Ruland, Richard, Malcolm Bradbury. Od  puritanismu k postmodernismu. Praha: Mladá fronta, 1997.

Vančura, Zdeněk, ed. Slovník spisovatelů: Spojené státy americké. Praha: Odeon, 1979.

His Short Stories

“The Real Thing” (1892)

“The Turn of the Screw” (1898)

“The Story of It” (1902)

“The Beast in the Jungle” (1903)

“The Jolly Corner” (1908)


"What is character but the determination of incident? What is incident but the illustration of character"?

From "The Art of Fiction" (1884).


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