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The Continuum of Consciousness

Aesthetic Experience and Visual Art in Henry Jamess Novels · American University Studies

by Jennifer Eimers


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The Continuum of Consciousness: Aesthetic Experience and Visual Art in Henry James's Novels examines the transformative experience of art in James's fiction. In a 1915 letter to H. G. Wells, James declares, «It is art that makes life.» This book traces the rich implications of this claim. For James, viewing art transformed the self. Many of his contemporaries, including his famous older brother, William, were deeply interested in the study of perception and individual consciousness. James's fictional use of art reflects these philosophical discussions. Although much valuable scholarship has been devoted to visual art in James's fiction, the guiding role it often plays in his characters' experiences receives fuller exploration in this book. A prolonged look at visual art and consciousness through the lens of nineteenth-century British aestheticism reveals intriguing connections and character responses. By highlighting and analyzing his representations of aesthetic consciousness in four novels at specific moments (such as Basil Ransom's and Verena Tarrant's contrasting responses to Harvard's Memorial Hall in The Bostonians and Milly Theale's identification with a Bronzino painting in The Wings of the Dove), this book ultimately explores the idea that for James art represents «every conscious human activity», as Wells replied to James.

Publication Details

Peter Lang
Peter Lang Inc., International Academic Publishers
Publication Date:
American University Studies


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Jennifer Eimers (Author)

Jennifer Eimers earned her PhD in English from the University of Georgia, where she specialized in nineteenth-century American literature. She received her MA in English from Creighton University and her BA in English from Grand View University. S...

More about Jennifer Eimers
The Continuum of Consciousness
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