The Double-Vision of Imagination : An Appraisal of Surface and Substance in the Fiction of Henry James
Custer, James P.
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This study is concerned, primarily, with the faculty of the imagination, incidentally as a general concept, but chiefly in its application to the fictional and critical works of Henry James. A number of these works have been consulted with the intention of deriving, and subsequently illustrating, a coherent inquiry into "the creative intelligence" as it fulfills its roles as a source of inspiration and a learning aid for the author, and as an ingredient of theme through which James urges his characters toward self-discovery and a wide consciousness of the palpable and spiritual worlds outside themselves. Commensurate with this effort is the recognition (the implications of which are also shown) that the imagination, for James, was a double-chambered affair--one room containing the aesthetic "sense" and the other the capacity for a fine moral awareness--and that the "lucid reflector," the character most susceptible to enlightenment, must live simultaneously in both compartments. The first chapter introduces and begins to trace the development of this dipolar imagination within one novel in particular, The Portrait of a Lady. This initial segment, by enlisting a few philosophical assertions of Immanuel Kant, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and the psychologist, Carl G. Jung, also attempts to suggest the depth and breadth of the Jamesian purview of human nature and its potential for emotional and intellectual growth. The second chapter concentrates upon the aesthetic stem of the imagination and, with evidence gathered from five novels and one long story--The American, The Tragic Muse, Roderick Hudson, The Princess Casamassima, The Europeans and "The Aspern Papers"--examines the possible uses and limitations of an appreciation of beauty and a strong sense of form and order among external appearances. The third and final chapter incorporates analyses of six additional novels--The Sacred Fount, The Wings of the Dove, What Maisie Knew, The Spoils of Poynton, The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl--with the purpose of determining what constructive and/or destructive elements reside within the Jamesian characters who evince an operative familiarity with :"the moral sense." In conjunction with this investigation of the imagination's second chamber, an attempt is made to describe, through example and proposition, the causes and effects of the creative synthesis whereby Henry James, through his characters and through the painstaking exercise of his craft, unites the love of external beauty and formal harmony with a compassionate affirmation of inner meaning and human responsibility.
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