american literature

Topics: Henry James, William James, New York Edition Pages: 7 (2360 words) Published: September 22, 2013
The Portrait of a Lady is a novel by Henry James, first published as a serial in The Atlantic Monthly and Macmillan's Magazine in 1880–81 and then as a book in 1881. It is one of James's most popular long novels, and is regarded by critics as one of his finest. The Portrait of a Lady is the story of a spirited young American woman, Isabel Archer, who "affronts her destiny" and finds it overwhelming. She inherits a large amount of money and subsequently becomes the victim of Machiavellian scheming by two American expatriates. Like many of James's novels, it is set in Europe, mostly England and Italy. Generally regarded as the masterpiece of James's early period, this novel reflects James's continuing interest in the differences between the New World and the Old, often to the detriment of the former. It also treats in a profound way the themes of personal freedom, responsibility, and betrayal. 摘要:亨利詹姆斯的小说贵夫人画像在1880-81年以连载方式发表于大西洋月刊和麦克米兰杂志,然后在1881年以书的形式出版。这本小说被誉为詹姆斯最受欢迎的长篇小说,也是他写得最好的小说。贵夫人画像的故事是关于一个名叫伊莎贝尔·阿切尔的美国女人,她勇于面对她的命运,并战胜宿命。她继承了一大笔财产,不过却被两个美国侨民所算计,成为了权谋政治的牺牲品。就像詹姆斯其他的小说一样,故事发生在欧洲,尤其是英格兰和意大利。这本小说被认为是詹姆斯早期的代表著作,它反映了詹姆斯对新旧世界区别的极大兴趣,最后往往是新世界受到了伤害。这本小说倡导人身自由,责任和不背叛的主旨也深深地烙印在人们心中。 Key words: style and themes Americans and Europeans literary criticism freedom

The Portrait of a Lady is often discussed as a novel of manners, a sociological study of the contrasts in mores and styles of Americans and Europeans. It's also described as a psychological novel, charting the complex interplay between the minds of its major characters and exploring relentlessly and finely the consciousness of its heroine, Isabel. But these characterizations, while not entirely mistaken, obscure a central characteristic of the novel: The Portrait of a Lady is a fairy tale, or as James put it in the 1906 preface, a "fable". With whatever authority he presents the psyches and social milieus of his Europeans and Americans and Europeanized Americans, and however carefully observed the locales—and the authority and care are absolute—the project of The Portrait of a Lady is about as close to a work of social science as it is to a conventional potboiler. Americans and Europeans, in the novel, are types: As Leon Edel, James's great biographer and critic, has it, "In James' fiction, Americans are often presented as if they still possess the innocence of Eden;" and furthermore, "it is striking how often the adjective 'corrupt' precedes the word 'Europe'" (article in Scribner's American Writers, Vol. 2, pp. 320-323). As they appear in The Portrait of a Lady, these representatives of the old and new worlds are rendered vividly, and they may feel to the reader momentarily real, but in the end they are figures in a novelist's dreams and meditations; they are as conceptual as they are concrete. Similarly, "American girl" is not a category of mind or state of consciousness; it is a kind of representational ideal. In the author's terms, the phrase "American girl" is almost redundant. Both the words conjure innocence and (in their way) beauty. If, as Edel argues, America is an Eden, then a fall will come, as surely as a girl will become a woman or die. The phrase "American girl" also carries with it a hint of contradiction, a fight between the two words: While an American is liberated, a girl is subject to all kinds of boundaries and limits. "American girl," then, is a phrase that conjures a story, a cheerful two words that together gather storm clouds. American girls are doubly doomed among the limits of European society; an American girl going to Europe is a pure white lamb bound to be ruined.

About the author
A brief introduction of Henry James
Henry James, OM (15 April 1843 – 28 February 1916) was an American-born writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr. and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James. James alternated between...

Bibliography: 1 Alfred Habegger (2004) Henry James and the 'Woman Business, Cambridge University Press
2 Paul M
3 The Novels of Henry James by Oscar Cargill (New York: Macmillan Co. 1961)
4 The Novels of Henry James by Edward Wagenknecht (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co
5 Modern Critical Views: Henry James edited by Harold Bloom (New York: Chelsea House Publishers 1987) ISBN 0-87754-696-7
6 The Portrait of a Lady: Maiden, Woman and Heroine by Lyall Powers (Boston: Twayne Publishers 1991) ISBN 0-8057-8066-1
7 Meaning in Henry James by Millicent Bell (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1991) ISBN 0-674-55763-8
8 A Companion to Henry James Studies edited by Daniel Fogel (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press 1993) ISBN 0-313-25792-2
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