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Bring the Bodies Up: Excavating Washington Square

Bring the Bodies Up: Excavating Washington Square BARR Y MAINE If cultural anthropologists are correct that our relations with material objects (including the books that we love) are best understood as "entrapping entanglements," as forged dependencies, it follows that our relations with places may be equally entrapping and entangling.1 One such place for Henry James was his birthplace at 21 Washington Place at Washington Square, which entrapped and entangled him in ways that are revealed, indirectly, in the only work of fiction he ever wrote that he named for an actual place. It is not a cheery story. Cruelty and sadism, familial punishment and revenge; dead children, deadened lives, ghostly relics hatching plots, and unwanted figures from the past returning as if from the grave; everyone and everything in the end tasting of ashes and ruin; and the heroine burying herself in her house on Washington Square, "for life, as it were." It is Henry James' American Gothic. Many critics have noted how closely the plot follows an entry in one of his notebooks in which he recorded a dinner table anecdote related by his good friend, the English actress Fanny Kemble, concerning her brother--named Henry--whom she exposed as a cad for attempting, unsuccessfully, to http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png American Literary Realism University of Illinois Press

Bring the Bodies Up: Excavating Washington Square

American Literary Realism , Volume 48 (3) – Apr 20, 2016

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Publisher
University of Illinois Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 American Literary Realism.
ISSN
1940-5103
Publisher site
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Abstract

BARR Y MAINE If cultural anthropologists are correct that our relations with material objects (including the books that we love) are best understood as "entrapping entanglements," as forged dependencies, it follows that our relations with places may be equally entrapping and entangling.1 One such place for Henry James was his birthplace at 21 Washington Place at Washington Square, which entrapped and entangled him in ways that are revealed, indirectly, in the only work of fiction he ever wrote that he named for an actual place. It is not a cheery story. Cruelty and sadism, familial punishment and revenge; dead children, deadened lives, ghostly relics hatching plots, and unwanted figures from the past returning as if from the grave; everyone and everything in the end tasting of ashes and ruin; and the heroine burying herself in her house on Washington Square, "for life, as it were." It is Henry James' American Gothic. Many critics have noted how closely the plot follows an entry in one of his notebooks in which he recorded a dinner table anecdote related by his good friend, the English actress Fanny Kemble, concerning her brother--named Henry--whom she exposed as a cad for attempting, unsuccessfully, to

Journal

American Literary RealismUniversity of Illinois Press

Published: Apr 20, 2016

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