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
American Literary Realism – University of Illinois Press
Published: Apr 20, 2016
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