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A sweeping statement about the Victorian Age as a whole might be that it was marked by change-induced crisis in politics, economics, religion, and social affairs as well as by faith in "progress" as almost a metaphysical imperative. People came to expect that things would continue to change more rapidly than even the most forward-looking person could account for. But it is best to keep such statements in perspective; after all, they cannot ultimately do the age justice, any more than our comments about our own times can make them fully intelligible to ourselves or those who come after us. The Hanoverian Line. Victoria became Queen at the age of 18 in 1837 when her uncle, King William IV, passed away, and she died on January 22nd of 1901 after a reign of 63 years. She was a member of the Hanoverian line, which dates back to George I in 1714. The Hanoverians followed William and Mary (the rulers who established themselves in what has become known as the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, which settled the throne on thoroughly Protestant rulers once and for all, and then Queen Anne. Among the many developments that made Victoria's reign seem markedly different from earlier periods in British history, two are especially deserving of attention. The first is the French Revolution (1789-1815), and the second is the Industrial Revolution that began around 1780 and accelerated all through the Victorian Age. The French Revolution. Victorians lived through momentous times - they had to face the world after a long and bitter struggle with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, which had overthrown an ancient feudal aristocracy in the name of democratic ideals, only to export "liberty, equality, and fraternity" by military violence. In England there was much early enthusiasm on the part of poets and intellectuals for the Revolution's claim that human institutions were improvable, not immutably natural or god-ordained. The revolutionaries toppled an undemocratic and corrupt system and meant to put in place more democratic institutions. But by late 1792, the Terror had begun. The French Jacobins were determined to purge their country and did so by means of the guillotine. By 1793, the French and British were at war - and the situation lasted on and off for 22 years. By the late 1790's Napoleon Bonaparte had become First Consul, and he declared himself Emperor in 1804. It would be wrong to say that the political violence and war completely effaced revolutionary ideals, and in fact Napoleon was not only one of the greatest generals in history but also one of the most momentous reorganizers of government. Still, it would be correct to suppose that a great price in human suffering was paid when democratic ideals were exported at the point of the sword and cannon-Napoleon's means did not do justice to his designs on the human spirit. After Waterloo: the Conservative Reaction. After Napoleon's defeat and final exile in 1815, the British Tories who had conducted the war, wanting no manifestations of French revolutionism in an economically depressed post-war Great Britain, enacted repressive legislation to tamp down dissent by "the lower orders." Freedom of speech and assembly were curtailed, even though George III (insane since 1810) was not as disliked as Shelley's label "an old, mad, blind, despised and lying king" would have us believe. The king remained popular, but serious socio-economic troubles were undeniably at hand. In fact, some historians put the beginnings of what we call "the Victorian Period" right back to 1815, the end of the War. That makes sense because there really was no going back to the stable old aristocratic order; new developments were in process, and not all of them were directly connected to the war. Post-war European governments, along with that of the British war hero turned Tory* Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, tried to suppress these values after defeating Napoleon, but ultimately they failed: there was to be no turning back to the ancient way of living and governance, and the expectation of change that gave birth to the French Revolution itself continued into the new century, becoming a constant of the Victorian Age. The Industrial Revolution. Among the changes taking place and making it impossible to "turn back the clock"-especially in Great Britain-was a second great development: the Industrial Revolution, the beginnings of which we may trace back to the late eighteenth century, around 1780. Commerce had long been important in Europe, and the commercial classes had extracted from monarchs the right to control their own property. Aside from religious strife, that aim was, of course, part of what the
So an increasingly important commercial class. they lost the fight. industrial production was carried on at great risk to the workers (men. Moreover. All in all." but they were also commonsensical Protestants with good business sense. Africa. it became possible to locate large factories conveniently in large urban complexes in the north of England. and the English didn't seem to have the same snobbish attitude about money-making that. and great industrial towns like Manchester begin to transform English life and landscape.Puritan "Roundheads" of the 1640's achieved when they beheaded the pro-Catholic. Dickens' mid-Victorian satires of factory conditions.around 40% of British exports by 1815. during the early and even the middle Victorian Era. Cotton. John Bull was no Don Quixote. That broader market came into being partly through foreign exploration and conquest in India. and. As steam power gradually replaced water as the source for industrial production. even for those above the lowest levels of society. its successive foreign expansions. and James Hargreaves' spinning jenny (1770). So by 1780. Iron and Coal. Cotton textiles were a key British export. and were a substantial portion of England's business class. say. and Samuel Crompton's spinning mule (1779) made it possible to produce vastly more cotton textiles for export . Arkwright's water frame. and children) and with great harm to their quality of life. London was already a great commercial center. which networked commercial centers and greatly increased the speed of production and sale of commodities while at the same time amounting to a new investment and manufacturing opportunity. steam power (James Watt and Matthew Boulton. with its huge naval power. Medical care might be more deadly than the condition for which one sought relief. Other developments made the revolution take off: coal power for iron production. Their descendants (especially the "Dissenters" who were excluded from the semi-Catholic Anglican Establishment* and from the higher reaches of civic life) had nothing against making a living. Before the reformist wave in the 1830's. Population growth in Europe itself also made for an increase in the size of the market as well as more labor for the work force. and the effect is stunning: people's sensibilities and ways of living were changing at an exciting-but also anxiety-provoking-speed. the French or Spanish aristocrats exhibited. too: urbanization meant employment for some. and the same was true of infant mortality. many aspects of life that now seem safe and not worth remarking upon cried out-not often with immediate success-for systemic and sustained attention. and when the machines came into play. The men who had brought down an English King in the 1640's were on the whole landed "gentlemen. England. These people had always struggled to keep body and soul together. Why the Industrial Revolution in England First? The transformation occurred in Britain first since the British economy was strong . and expanded population made the Industrial Revolution possible. and its clear-headed commercial class. and at least some of the people already had a high standard of living compared to those on the Continent. there was little talk of "labor laws" to protect those whose toil made the augmentation of capital possible. bigger markets. above all. was ready to revolutionize its means and modes of production to meet the greater demand for its goods that was to come with expanded markets. life was rather precarious in other ways since the kinds of sanitary knowledge and measures we take for granted in the twenty-first century simply did not exist through much of the Victorian Period. absolutist Stuart monarch Charles I. Outbreaks of typhus and cholera due to unsanitary water were a fact of life. 1769).there was capital to invest. women. as well as the scathing accounts written by Marx and Engels. . Add to all this the coming of the railroads from the 1830's-40's. And one must consider the human cost of urbanization: the early industrial city was no paradise-in its rawest form. Post-War Slump and Industrialization Contribute to Need for Reforms. The food supply was impressive thanks to large-scale farming. unemployment for others-a heart-wrenching instance of this fact would be rural handloom weavers thrown out of work by the new cotton-working devices. Industrial and economic transformation brought with them intensely felt social transformation. These early "businessmen" required a broader market for their goods along with more and more raw materials with which to make them. and the Americas. ring true.
easy to remember by the phrase "30/50/70. were key factors. England had already seen the makings not so much of French-style revolutionism as of the kind of agitation for change that would come to characterize the Victorian "Age of Improvement. as well as the dynamic people who did the discussing and dealing with. are called the Regency Period. the economy had many rough rides. Wheat) Laws in 1846. equality. but with the coming into power of the Whig Party in . along with increasing class consciousness and strife. a transforming society. The Regency Period and Romanticism (1810-20) The years from 1810-20. account for a lot of the interest historians and literary people continue to take in the Victorian Period. the first two of whom held fast to democratic ideals and condemned George III's regime as tyrannical.e." as historian Asa Briggs calls it. poverty simply could not be dealt with by the old-fashioned private application of charity. and his regent son ruled for ten years as George IV. little tied one human being to another except "the Cash Nexus. Industrial development and urbanization.Class Consciousness. which encompass the transition from wartime to post-war Britain. Wordsworth. The First Reform Bill (1832). political. 1819. no say in England's affairs. The very early 1790's had seen the idealism of the first wave British romantic poets Blake. By the mid 1820's the younger romantics had passed away. which in Britain was more a literary movement than a political or historical one. Economic. This is the period we associate most closely with the second wave of romantic poets Byron. and as yet no new literary movement had come into play. to an internalization or privatization of the revolutionary ideals liberty. Carlyle wrote truly when he argued that in early Victorian England. the latter living on to 1850 as poet laureate and conservative "Victorian. a sense of "class consciousness" began to infiltrate British life and discourse -poor people were no longer so inclined as formerly to respect their betters. the poor were seldom satisfied with their condition. Shelley. Dividing the Victorian Period into Manageable Units. The Early Victorian Period (1830-50). Abrams suggests. and new problems to be solved. Politics had long been the province of the landed aristocracy. and fraternity." Before the earliest Victorian date comes the Regency Period. social difficulties became increasingly evident during these two decades. yet intense and appalling." Romanticism. Those who fell behind in the race to survive swelled the ranks of the urban poor-a new concentration whose anonymous. which deserves a brief mention because of its connection to the romantic poets. There were new groups to be represented. had spent its most direct cultural force-though indirectly romantic ideals continued to exercise much influence during the Victorian Age. and it was clear that "the spirit of the age" differed from anything that had gone before. The ways in which these matters got themselves discussed and dealt with (or not dealt with). George III died in 1820.most notably the violent repression of working people at a gathering in London's Saint Peter's Fields. while the new factory owners often saw their employees as little more than chattel or cogs in the profit-engendering machine. perhaps. As a result of concentration and discontent. when William IV became king. requires a transformation in other areas too-most notably in the area of politics or "governance. The two most important political events during this period are the Whig Prime Minister Earl Gray's First Reform Bill of 1832. It is customary to divide the Victorian Period into three manageable sections.H. as M." In post-Napoleonic England. and Keats. There was some violence by and against laborers . and the middle class manufacturers had no real political representation. By 1830. and only a conservative-tending Coleridge and Wordsworth clung to life. and Tory Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel's repeal of the protectionist Corn (i." An urbanizing population. but that idealism gave way to disillusionment and patriotic sentiment. and Coleridge. during which a rather dissolute Prince Regent filled in for his mad father George III. as discussed above. which gave limited representation to the prosperous middle class sections of Britain.
and the manufacturing class still didn't have the control they wanted over the political system. and others. The Whig reformers saw their decision not as a great revolution but as a final. thanks to the "Higher Critics" (textual scholars) and to precursors of Darwin like the geologist Sir Charles Lyell. While this scientific view generally came with an embedded concept of "progress" or "teleology. of course." and as the century wears on. John Henry Newman (later a catholic convert and Cardinal) was primarily concerned with religion-not so much with religious doubt as with what he perceived as an Anglican failure to assume its proper spiritual role in English life. (The People's Charter that gave the movement its name is included in the Tucker-Mermin anthology. In literature. The 1840's were particularly tough times. setting the stage in future decades for further democratization that would keep pace with changing demographics and expectations. for middle-class economic aspirations. some of the most absurd abuses in parliamentary districting were removed. science more and more takes on the role of history. a year of revolution on the Continent. And in more philosophical terms. He and other members of the Tractarian or Oxford Movement (1833-41) railed away at the holdover attitude of Deist rationalism into which the Church of England had fallen during the eighteenth century. moderate settlement. the 1832 Reform Bill and the Corn Law Repeal didn't solve all of the country's problems-economic troubles continued to generate working-class unrest. and they made a decision to adapt the system sufficiently to stave off disaster. David Ricardo. and Birmingham-men responsible for Britain's new and remarkable urban and industrial development and for augmenting its economic power at home and abroad. protectionism offended the manufacturers and men of commerce whose dissent went into the making of the first modern "interest group. Lyell's 1833 volume Principles of Geology asserted the doctrine of uniformitarianism. The Hungry Forties and Chartism. While amounting to a momentous show of good sense on the part of England's rulers. ." the Anti-Corn Law League (founded 1839) under the leadership of Richard Cobden and John Bright. the first Victorian sage-writers made their appearance during the early part of the period: John Stuart Mill and Thomas Carlyle were among those debating the "Condition of England Question" and trying to find a new principle of moral authority and intelligibility for a country undergoing deep political unrest and religious doubt. But the working. then. what they did influenced Britain's future development. the political system passed into the hands of men willing to make concessions if not to the unskilled working people. The removal of the wheat tariff was a triumph. Whig Earl Grey and his cabinet saw that Britain had serious problems.1830. implying that the same forces that shaped the earth had operated consistently over vast periods of time and thereby contradicting the Bible's temporal scheme. The more readerly of the early Victorians began to feel the impact of what historian Robin Gilmour calls "deep time. though this loosely organized movement failed to transform the system. further. or working-class radicalism. and industrial capitalists disliked it because they had to pay those workers higher wages. But other early and mid-Victorians were concerned with the problem of outright doubt.) The 1830's-40's are the era of Chartism. Many people feared a continental-style socialist revolution (Marx's Communist Manifesto was published in 1848. the vote was extended to men of much less wealth than before. Still. it certainly made a deep impact on the consciousness of the well-to-do and the middle classes alike. then at least to the capitalists of Manchester. more humanistic notions of history.) The Sage Writers. railroad-building and investment aside-they are sometimes called the "Hungry Forties" because of famine in Ireland and intense misery in Britain. Repeal of the Corn Laws (1846). The Corn Laws were a protectionist measure from the Napoleonic Period that had served the landed aristocracy well by keeping their wheat sales safe from cheap foreign competition. people disliked such protectionism because it increased food prices. Such men favored the laissez-faire principals of Political Economy as laid out by Adam Smith. Following the prime ministership of the Tory war hero Wellington. Thomas Malthus. When the Reform Bill finally made it past the conservative House of Lords in 1832." that embedded concept could not make up entirely for the promise offered by older. Leeds.
but on the whole the mid-Victorian years were prosperous and generated much hope for better things to come. Mid-Victorian England seemed to have got some sense of itself. they wanted to rearrange human affairs to suit the "greatest happiness for the greatest number. and the necessary thing was progress-continual social. rational manner is responsible for the kinds of "blue-book" studies that inaugurated some of the major Victorian reforms. scientific." but the essence of their philosophy is that the goal of humanity is happiness and that society ought to be so arranged as to allow free people to seek that happiness. Burn calls an "age of equipoise" presided over by the independent-minded Whig Prime Minister Lord Palmerston. On the whole. In particular. but the impulse to reform was widespread. and Governor Eyre's brutal mishandling of an anti-colonial uprising in Jamaica. While Benthamites supported the basic tenets of Political Economy or laissez-faire capitalism-free markets and minimal government interference in people's affairs. These authors were not great lovers of democracy in matters of culture or politics. along with the sage-writers we should place Britain's dissenting Protestants and the more evangelical among the Anglicans: they generally comprised the middle-class commercial and manufacturing element. The Great Exhibition (1851) and the Second Reform Bill (1867). whose leading author was Jeremy Bentham. It is easy to criticize the cruder formulations of the thinkers that Carlyle scornfully labeled "Benthamee radicals. systematic way to Aristotle's ancient questions about what constitutes "the good life" and how each person might best attain it. Still. They tended to emphasize private or individual philanthropy over government action. and Matthew Arnold. These were also the years of the Sepoy Indian mutiny. furthering Britain's move towards greater democracy. The Mid-Victorian Period (1851-70). The Forster Education Act of 1870 (education for children from 5-13) eventually had the same tendency in that it heralded the advent of a relatively educated. Parliamentary attempts to deal with the crisis atmosphere of the 30's and the "Hungry 40's" were to a large extent successful. political. if nothing succeeds like success. it at least accorded the urban middle classes a say in British affairs. 1851 is a good year to choose as the start of this supposed reign of confidence and optimism since during that year the Great Exhibition at the specially built "Crystal Palace" showcased the latest and grandest scientific wonders for an admiring world. education and government are central to the possibility of achieving human happiness. they also believed along with the earlier empiricist philosopher John Locke that humans come into the world as "blank slates" and that. Utilitarian thought-especially in the formulations of John Stuart Mill." as Nietzsche's madman says modern humans had. the Crimean War. There was still much social inequality. informed public that could perpetuate a democratic. all of whom we will study this semester. They still have much of value to say to us. therefore. In fact. but Britain's increasing domestic productivity and foreign power made this period what historian W. Among those who questioned the reigning evangelical and utilitarian self-satisfaction were a matured Carlyle. Arnold's anxiety about a world changing so much and so rapidly as to become "multitudinous" or unintelligible is illuminating. one might say.L. The Second Reform Bill of 1867 (the Tory Derby/Disraeli ministership's doing) extended the vote to still more of the middle class and even to some working-class householders." and their desire to accomplish that goal in a scientific. John Ruskin. provided that we read them in a truly historicist spirit. Another element tending to reform was the influence of the early Utilitarians. and economic progress. The Culture Critics. adaptable. at least insofar as there was no Continental-style radical revolution in Britain.Evangelical Religion. Along with expectation of change and . but at times their critiques hit home and undercut the more sanctimonious attitudes and practices of midVictorian Britain. Benthamites. nothing except abject failure comes in for more concentrated critical fire. At its best. and were very much in favor of social reform: much of the impetus behind the era's great reforms in labor conditions and political process came from evangelical Christians who felt that improvement of the human condition was their moral duty. While the aristocracy continued to hold the reigns of political and social power. marketoriented society. This focus on the persistence of doubt is not to say that the Victorian Age "killed god. responds in a refreshingly democratic-spirited.
frustrated in his attempt to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry her assistant Anne Boleyn. Events in India and Africa (The Boer War lasted from 1899-1902). the U. Notes * Anglican Church or Church of England. Increasingly as the century progressed. financial accountability for banks and corporations. and other areas. these men (some of them merchants) wanted to limit the King's power and . Empire and the State. Martin Luther had split from the Catholic Church in 1517. Much attenuated were the earnest Evangelical moral tone. simple faith in the religion of one's parents and comfort in time-honored social distinctions of rank and birth. its most notable figure being Oscar Wilde. it was clear to just about everyone that her era was over. And this period saw one last Reform Bill (Gladstone. whose witty plays and selfcommodifying celebrity mocked the earnestness and pretensions of the middle-class Victorian audiences who applauded him. women did not get the vote in Britain until after World War I. A more thoroughly "modern" world awaited Great Britain in the twentieth century. 1884) that largely completed the decades-long project of expanding the male franchise. The Tories were those who favored Charles II's new Anglican and royalist strategy after his pro-Catholic maneuvering reminded everyone just how much they had disliked his father Charles I. 1918. The advances came even though some of those who had the most zeal for reform in the mid-Victorian Period began to feel uncomfortable with the increasing role of the State in effecting that reform and administrating the country. The late Victorian Period saw economic uncertainties (agricultural depression) and an ominous lunge towards imperial conquest. and much argument over what exactly ought to be meant by that ambiguous word "progress. which of course means tremendous opportunities but also puts one in mind of Acton's Law about the corruptive effects of power on those who wield it. This "Court Party" unwillingly took its name from a pejorative term for Irish cattle thieves. England's Tudor King Henry VIII. The longstanding troubles between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland continued into the twentieth century. The Whigs." The Late Victorian Period (1871-1901).) Literary Decadence and Modernity. though of course later on its royally backed semi-Catholic theological stances upset more deeply "Protestant" English citizens enough to lead to the Civil War of 1642-48 and the reign of Oliver Cromwell from 1653-58. among other places.progress. not necessarily with the support of the average Briton. By Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897 (briefly captured on film!). broke from the Catholic Church in 1534.S. disliked Charles II's heavy Anglicanism and his insistence on meddling in Parliamentary affairs. Henry's decision had little to do with theology and a lot to do with his dynastic desire for a male heir as well as his wish to exercise political power without interference from the Pope. * Tory and Whig. By and large. apparently. came fear of its effects upon the human psyche. while Liberal Prime Minister Gladstone opposed it as best he could. education. women's rights. "Progress" seemed to many people a much less comforting word than it did during the mid-Victorian period. Victoria was pro-Empire. nailing to a church door in Wittenburg his famous Ninety-Five Theses against Catholic Indulgencepeddling. and Prussia threatened British hegemony-Britain was not alone in seeking to play a large role on the world's stage. The whole period from 1649-1659 is called the Interregnum ("time between the [Stuart] reigns"). long after the establishment by Prime Minister David Lloyd George of the Irish Free State in 1922. His daughter Elizabeth I settled the Anglican Church as a fixture in English life. as was Tory Prime Minister Disraeli. were to show the dangers of imperial glory-seeking. (In spite of suffragette campaigns. democratic participation. who received their appellation just as unwillingly from a term for murderous Scottish highway robbers. Militarist adventurism in foreign affairs contrasted with genuine progress in the areas of health. Harold Schultz points out that the origin of the British political parties is rather colorful. a brilliant period of literary Decadence flourished. the straightforward acceptance of political economy's prescription for social and economic progress. From the late 1880's through the mid-1890's.
' have. Willen correctly notes that "certain works of literature. largely due to the influence of structuralism. however. or journalistic critics. It is possible-although I am not making the claim--that The Turn of the Screw has produced more critical comment than the two aforementioned Joycean works. upon first consideration. This has required discussing these critics in depth. elucidating. popular. . middle-class supporters of laissez-faire) while today we generally call the Tories "Conservatives. as can personal narrative criticism which later flowers under the influence of structuralism. creative authors. like certain inventions. Henry James-The turn of the Screw This dissertation is a history of the criticism of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw from its publication in 1898 to the end of 1979. for example. First rate literary critics are like first rate philosophers--to summarize them is. we see an increasing to consider the work inherently and insolubly ambiguous and to concentrate on explaining how the ambiguity is produced by the structure of the text and the effects of this ambiguity on the reader. been industrialized" (v). I attempt to show a progressively deepening understanding of the novella as the twentieth century proceeds and to relate trends in Turn of the Screw criticism to developments in literary criticism and literary theory--in the process. Authorial--psychoanalytic and otherwise-and reader. This dissertation. The history of the criticism of The Turn of the Screw is dominated by the apparitionist/nonapparitionist controversy--most obviously after publication of Edmund Wilson's famous nonapparitionist essay in 1934. Preface This dissertation is a history of the criticism of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw from its publication in 1898 to the end of 1979.000 words). James's critical remarks can be said to anticipate this reader-response criticism because of James's failure to take sides in the apparitionist/non-apparitionist debate and his emphasis on the psychological effects of insoluble ambiguity. I have attempted. in a sense. linguistics. the best critics--such as Lydenberg and Firebaugh--tended increasingly to synthesize the two approaches rather than exclusively affirm one side of the controversy. Short." The Labour Party now in power under Tony Blair's leadership didn't come along until very early in the twentieth century. The second reason is the in-depth nature of this study. After the publication of Heilman's famous apparitionist argument in 1948. in the sixties. and James's `The Turn of the Screw. sociological. and literary theory which would not be obvious upon casual perusal of many of these critiques of The Turn of the Screw. This led in the sixties and seventies to very rich syntheses--often integrating psychoanalytic. to pinpoint subtle but important distinctions between various psychoanalytic approaches and pinpoint certain influences from philosophy. may seem to be an excessively long comment on an admittedly short literary work (The Turn of the Screw comprises approximately 50. Also.demanded that "Dissenters" from the Church of England be tolerated. for several very good reasons. The first is the almost incredibly vast volume of critical material. In modern literature. I hope. give rise to flourishing industries. Kenton's phenomenological criticism was related to this. although the controversy existed in some form from the very beginning. they were the heirs of the Puritans under Cromwell who had brought down Charles I in the 1640's.response criticism can be better understood if contrasted with Kenton's phenomenological approach. Joyce's Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake. certain patterns in the development of the critical mind. controversial works make especially tempting subjects for writers on literature--whether they be professors. The comment is long. As Schultz says. Early criticism--before the formalists--tended to be impressionistic and subjective. and theological approaches. I attempt to show a progressively deepening understanding of the novella as the twentieth century proceeds and to relate trends in Turn of the Screw criticism to developments in literary criticism and literary theory--thus elucidating certain patterns in the development of the critical mind. The Whigs later got the name "Liberals" (the latter term seems especially appropriate for the mid-century.
to be credible.frequently. The history of the criticism of The Turn of the Screw is dominated by the apparitionist/nonapparitionist controversy--most obviously after publication of Edmund Wilson's famous 1934 essay. the critical history can be seen as a journey to the place where James began. in the sixties--largely due to the influence of structuralism--we see a new trend: an increasing tendency to consider the work inherently and insolubly ambiguous and to concentrate on explaining how the ambiguity is produced by the structure of the text and the effects of this ambiguity on the reader. Then.e. histories. as far as I know. the mere modern 'psychical' case. If. I use the term non-apparitionist to refer to interpretations in which the ghosts are viewed as non-veridical. For example. On the other hand. to distort them in subtle but important ways. we find his statements abundant evidence--particularly in the Prefaces--that his intention was to effect an unresolvable ambiguity--and we have. rather than affirming the exclusive truth of one position or the other.. in the Preface to Volume 12 of the New York Edition of The Novels and Tales of Henry James (the volume in which The Turn of the Screw appears in definitive form). And. finally. Thus. in various ways. washed clean of . Such a claim cannot be made without support. and supporting it requires quite a bit of explanation. although rumblings of the controversy can be heard from the very beginning. the subtle distinctions are important--this is why Thomists are expected to be fluent in Latin and why Aristotelians. The pattern takes a major turn after the publication of Heilman's famous apparitionist argument in 1948. Eliot's prediction: "We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time" ("Little Gidding" V). if we think in depth. in one sense. must be thoroughly conversant with ancient Greek. with the best critics. made a case for placing James in the readerresponse camp. I use the term apparitionist to refer to interpretations in which the ghosts are seen as real--i. the first writer to classify Edna Kenton's famous essay as an example of phenomenological criticism. And.. Indeed. These trends culminate in the seventies in the reader-response structuralist criticism of Felman and the linguistically based criticism of Brooke-Rose and Rimmon. I am.S. James's statements on that score are perhaps as enigmatic as the novella itself. The Ghosts: Hallucinations Or Realities The first point to be made is that James did not come down unequivocally on one side or the other of the central controversy concerning The Turn of the Screw--focused by Edmund Wilson's famous assertion (in his 1934 essay) that "the ghosts are not real ghosts at all but merely the governess's hallucinations" (385). in general. we read Henry James's critical remarks on The Turn of the Screw. synthesizing the two approaches.1James asserts his intention to avoid "the new type. [of ghost story]. I wish to call attention to two important terms so as to avoid confusing readers of this study. we can hardly fail to remember T. For James's statements are not helpful to critics seeking to enlist James on one side or the other of the major controversies which have dominated the criticism of the novella. This is standard terminology in Turn of the Screw criticism. in this study. veridical apparitions or manifestations of some paranormal reality existing independently of the governess's subjective apprehension.. with the above story in mind. tend to be long--for many complex reasons related to the nature of history. merely subjective hallucinations of the governess.
in this instance." Seizing on the latter definition and apparently oblivious of the former. however. and "of or pertaining to extraordinary. assuming the other definition of the word "psychical.. as Mr." The American Heritage Dictionary (2nd College Edition. Edmund Wilson -. Leon Edel..e.perhaps the Freudian non-apparitionist2 par excellence -. especially extrasensory and nonphysical. yet upon further reflection difficulties arise. On the contrary. in the same Preface. "constitute a series of psychological case histories of disturbed and frightened people" (xxx) -. James cites the "straight fairy tale" as the "ideal" type of story for "the creation of alarm and suspense and surprise and relief . says Edel. and equipped with credentials vouching for this" (xv). One problem with this quotation is the meaning of the word "psychical.e. James's ghost stories. The situation is further complicated by the fact that both Henry James and his brother William had a lifelong interest in both mental illness and paranormal phenomena -... or responding to such processes..i. At the other end of the spectrum. but which partake of reality as far as she is concerned (xxix)." He then contends that . then James is guilty of attempting to write the very type of modern `psychical' case he scorned (417).. James specifically discusses scientific investigations of paranormal phenomena. a lifelong interest in the "psychical" in each of the senses given. they cannot terrify because they do so little.in his 1934 essay argues that the ghosts of Quint and Jessel are not "those in cases of psychic research" (389). produced by. Later. Reed. Similarly. in his Introduction to The Ghostly Tales of Henry James interprets this passage in James's Preface as a devaluation of any story "too closely resembling a case history out of psychical research" because such material would be "unusable to a literary artist" (xxvii). who also reads the story psychoanalytically.. 1982) lists two quite different definitions of "psychic.. In the Preface to Volume 17 of the New York Edition of The Novels and Tales of Henry James.all queerness as by exposure to a flowing laboratory tap. Glen A. Also psychical": "of or pertaining to the human mind or psyche".i. for instance simply to renounce all attempts to keep the kind and degree of impression I wished to produce on terms with the today so copious psychical record of cases of apparitions (xix).... mental processes . proceeding from. if we treat the story as a psychological study in sexual frustration.. "A Fairy Tale Pure and Simple" James made several references to fairy tales in his discussions of The Turn of the Screw. This seems clear enough upon a first reading. that blest faculty of wonder.. Wilson suggests. the testimony of a horrified little governess away from home for the first time in her life who has fantasies which may or may not be founded on reality. James's main objection to the ghosts of psychical research seems to be their inactive and innocuous quality -.. I had ." cites the very same passage from James as evidence that the author of The Turn of the Screw would have opposed non-apparitionist readings: if the evils and the ghosts are able to escape as mere hallucinations of the governess .
imps. Finally. if one will: witness at hazard almost any one of the Arabian Nights (xvi). roundness is quite sacrificed--sacrificed to fullness. wooing their victims forth to see them dance under the moon (xx). if not. sacrificed to exuberance. elves. has ever been for me the most possible form of the fairy tale. drops (xvii). In the Preface to Volume 12 James terms The Turn of the Screw "a fairy tale pure and simple" and adds that it belongs to the sub-category of "the short and sharp and single. `Cinderella' and `Blue Beard' and `Hop o' My Thumb' and `Little Red Riding Hood' and many of the gems of the Brothers Grimm directly testify). as we now know the ghost. where." James asserts that. more pleasing. after the discussion of the insufficiencies of "psychical ghosts. demons as loosely constructed as those of the old trials for witchcraft. this honor by being so much the neatest--neat with that neatness without which representation. . the copious. the endless. Peter Quint and Miss Jessel are not `ghosts' at all. It enjoys.' as we for conscience call it. but goblins." rather than to the other subcategory.the ghost story. dramatically speaking. charged more or less with the compactness of anecdote (as to which let the familiar tales of our childhood. the various. and therewith beauty. fairies of the legendary order. the long and loose. to my eyes.
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