Henry James and the Suspense of Masculinity

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University of Pennsylvania Press, May 6, 2003 - Literary Criticism - 206 pages
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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 novelsóRoderick Hudson, The American, The Portrait of a Lady, The Bostonians, The Ambassadors, The Golden BowlóJames 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.

  

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Contents

Henry James and the Plural Terms of Masculinity
1
Configuring Male Desire and Identity in Roderick Hudson
39
Nursing the Thunderbolt of Manhood in The American
65
Sheathing the Sword of Gentle Manhood in The Portrait of a Lady
86
Reconstructing Masculinity in The Bostonians
105
Deploying HomoAesthetic Desire in the Tales of Writers
124
The Paradox of Masochistic Manhood in The Golden Bowl
149
Notes
175
Works Cited
193
Acknowledgments
207
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About the author (2003)

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

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