The French James, or Henry James under the French critical gaze /

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Gavand, Karine
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Middle Tennessee State University
The French James, or Henry James under the French Critical Gaze explores, through the analysis of how French critics approach Henry James, the influence of cultural factors specific to a country, including historical, institutional, and ideological ones, on literary criticism. While arguably counterintuitive in today's global world, this exploration of the French James demonstrates that local contexts significantly determine criticism in its practice and outcomes.
Examining Henry James's view and practice of literary criticism, Chapter I, "James, Criticism, and Culture," foregrounds the influence of cultural factors upon the conduct of criticism. A shrewd cultural analyst, James was sensitive to the differences between the Anglo-American and French literary and critical practices, which he explained by postulating a link between cultures and literary approaches. His own literary criticism testifies to this relationship.
Before discussing the cultural factors that presided over the birth of the French James, "The Making of the French James: The 'Secret' Master Trope and Textuality" and "French Jamesian Scholarship since the Eighties: An Unsuccessful Attempt to Break from Textual Boundaries?" identify the French James's salient traits through a survey of the scholarship produced in France since the 1950s. The author also analyzes the circumstances surrounding the French construction of this writer to reveal the forces that shaped the French James.
Chapters IV and V, "The Textual Anchor of French Jamesian Scholarship" and "Litterarite, Universalism, and French Criticism: The Case of the French Reception of Cultural Studies," explore the combined emphasis on textuality and rejection of contextualist or culturalist readings that characterize French Jamesian scholarship, but also French literary criticism. First focusing on French Jamesian critics' defense of this particular critical perspective, chapter IV then widens its scope to include the larger French critical discourse. The bias for textualist readings results, the author argues, from the specific development of the literary studies field, marked by the competition between history and literature, the Sartrean legacy, and the prevailing conception of the critic's role. In chapter V, the exploration of the forces behind the French James extends beyond the boundaries of the strictly literary field by analyzing the French reception of Cultural Studies. The author provides original translations of many of the French sources in this study.
Adviser: Angela Hague.