A Poetics of Colloquy, Omission and Indirection: How Henry James's Experimentation of the 1890s Helped Shape The Wings of the Dove.
The Wings of the Dove (1902) and the other novels of Henry James's Major Phase are rightly seen as a sharp break from his novels of his 'Experimental Period' of the late 1890s, during which James sought, following his failed stint as a London playwright, to apply his hardleamed lessons from writing drama to his new novels. Most scholars see this period of intense experimentation as reaching its peak with The Sacred Fount (1901), an experiment gone so haywire that James would practically disown it, before the author, the experimental urge out of his system, returned to themes he had abandoned for years and, free of the self-imposed constraints of his experimental impulse, wrote his three most astounding, complex works of the Major Phase - his final, crowning literary achievements. However, upon closer examination one discovers that al! three Major Phase novels were initially conceived before the Experimental Period began, that The Wings of the Dove was in fact intended to be his first experimental work, and that in-depth comparison and contrast of The Wings of the Dove to the novels of the 1890s reveal more of a continuation and expansion of James's experimental impulse than a break from it. Those similarities and elements of continuity are vast and multi-faceted, but ail seem to fall under the umbrella term of a 'poetics of omission and indirection', which dominated both "phases" and clearly ties The Wings of the Dove to the six experimental novels of the 1890s at nearly every possible level: from overall construction, to staging, to focalization, to colloquy and dialogue, down to the elusive language that constitutes both narration and dialogue, the very fabric of Jamesian ambiguity.
Published : 2020-11
Dennis Tredy, « A Poetics of Colloquy, Omission and Indirection: How Henry James's Experimentation of the 1890s Helped Shape The Wings of the Dove. », Cycnos, 2020-11. URL : https://hal.science/hal-03247943