The Life of Henry James
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The Life of Henry James

A Critical Biography

Peter Collister

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eBook - PDF

The Life of Henry James

A Critical Biography

Peter Collister

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About This Book

Discover anew the life and influence of Henry James, part of the acclaimed Wiley Blackwell Critical Biographies series.

In The Life of Henry James: A Critical Biography, Peter Collister, an established critic and authority on Henry James, offers an original and fully documented account of one of America's finest writers, who was both a creative practitioner and theorist of the novel. In this volume, James's life in all its personal and cultural richness is examined alongside a detailed scrutiny of his fiction, essays, biographies, autobiographies, travel writing, plays and reviews.

James was a dedicated and brilliant letter-writer and his biographer make judicious use of this material, some of it previously unpublished, evoking in the novelist's own words the society within which he moved and worked. His gift for friendship, often resulting in close relationships with both men and women, are sensitively explored. Near the beginning of his long and highly productive life, James left America to immerse himself in European culture and history – a necessity, he felt, for the developing artist. In an ironic symmetry he witnessed in his youth the effects of the American Civil War and in his last days, finally becoming a British citizen, despaired at the unfolding tragedy of the Great War in Europe. Sustained, nevertheless, by his own creative energy, he never ceased to believe in the capacity of the arts to enhance and give significance to life.

  • Provides well-informed accounts of Henry James's youth in New York City, his unconventional education, his extensive travel in Europe, his eventual assimilation into British society, his development as a writer and his personal relationships as a single man.
  • Features discussions of James's major works in a variety of genres from an assured theoretical and historical perspective.
  • Assesses James's developing quest for dramatic form in his fiction – the 'scenic art' – as well as his critical writing which was to have a lasting influence on the literature and aesthetic values of the twentieth century.
  • Discusses his achieved aspiration to be 'just literary', to become what he called that 'queer monster', an artist.
  • Charts James's lifelong interest in art and theatre.

An incisive discussion of the life of an author of major stature, The Life of Henry James: A Critical Biography offers a refreshingly lucid and human account of a novelist and his often challenging, but rewarding, writing.

Peter Collister, a former college Assistant Principal, has published many essays in Europe and America on a range of nineteenth-century British and French authors. He is the author of Writing the Self: Henry James and America and later edited for the university presses of Cambridge and Virginia the award-winning volumes: The Complete Writings of Henry James on Art and Drama, James's autobiographical writings, A Small Boy and Others, Notes of a Son and Brother, and The Middle Years, as well as The American Scene.

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