Henry James and the Suspense of Masculinity

Henry James and the Suspense of Masculinity

by Leland S. Person
Henry James and the Suspense of Masculinity

Henry James and the Suspense of Masculinity

by Leland S. Person


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Using insights from feminist studies, men's studies, and gay and queer studies, Leland Person examines Henry James's subversion of male identity and the challenges he poses to conventional constructs of heterosexual masculinity. Sexual and gender categories proliferated in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and Person argues that James exploited the taxonomic confusion of the times to experiment with alternative sexual and gender identities. In contrast to scholars who have tried to give a single label to James's sexuality, Person argues that establishing James's gender and sexual identity is less important than examining the novelist's shaping of male characters and his richly metaphorical language as an experiment in gender and sexual theorizing.

Just as an author's creations can be animated by his or her own sexuality, Person contends, James's sexuality may be most usefully understood as something primarily aesthetic and textual. As Person shows in chapters devoted to some of this author's best-known novels—Roderick Hudson, The American, The Portrait of a Lady, The Bostonians, The Ambassadors, The Golden Bowl—James conducts a series of experiments in gender/sexual construction and deconstruction. He delights in positioning his male characters so that their gender and sexual orientations are reversed, ambiguous, and even multiple. Ultimately, he keeps male identity in suspense by pluralizing male subjectivity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812237252
Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
Publication date: 06/03/2003
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Leland S. Person is Professor of English at the University of Cincinnati.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Henry James and the Plural Terms of Masculinity1
1.Configuring Male Desire and Identity in Roderick Hudson39
2.Nursing the Thunderbolt of Manhood in The American65
3.Sheathing the Sword of Gentle Manhood in The Portrait of a Lady86
4.Reconstructing Masculinity in The Bostonians105
5.Deploying Homo-Aesthetic Desire in the Tales of Writers and Artists124
6.The Paradox of Masochistic Manhood in The Golden Bowl149
Works Cited193
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