Henry James, the Art of Fiction and the Turn on the Screw

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1. Henry James’s theory of the novel, introduced in his critical essay The Art of Fiction, has been considered as “playing an important part in the definition of the new conventions of the modernist novel” (Dobrinescu, 203). The theory’s central point or main concern has to do with, as Hopkins considers, “taking the novel (and, consequently, theoretical discussion of the novel) seriously”. For James, the novel corresponds to the ultimate art form and it should have a position the community as such. The theory presented by Henry James contains a number of principles the author introduced in his own stories. In the following paragraphs we will revise some of the main ideas presented by James in The Art of Fiction, and how these reflect on…show more content…
Although it is true that James ignored his audience for the most part of his essay, it is also true that the novel, as a work of art, generates a certain effect on the reader on whom the ultimate interpretation of the story lies. This idea of the active reader that shapes the meaning of the novel according to his or her own understanding is crucial in The Turn of the Screw, where ambiguity is thoroughly present. It is us as readers who decide whether the ghosts in the governess’s story are real or whether they only exist as a projection of her inner thoughts and desires.

In conclusion, it could be argued that Henry James aim was not only to theorize about fiction, but also devise his creations according to the ideas he discussed. The Art of Fiction contained guidelines and commentary on how we should approach novels, moving away from the old beliefs coined by Protestants that a novel must have a moral and educational purpose, and also by the common Englishmen who thought the novel as “an overflow of story-telling gift, on the part of the writer, or as entertainment, on the part of the reader” (Dobrinescu, 203).

2. One of the most characteristic features of Henry James The Turn of the Screw is its ambiguous quality. According to Álvarez:

La naturaleza ambigua de The Turn of the Screw ha cristalizado en dos tendencias interpretativas excluyentes que han adquirido una amplísima difusión, pudiéndose afirmar que prácticamente

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