The turn of the ear: Reading for speech in Henry James
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This dissertation presents ways of reading for speech in Henry James's writing. At the foreground of this study are a key group of texts in which James either explicitly theorizes speech (as in his 1905 lecture and essay on speech) or where speech and attendant acts of listening are the conceptual or metaphorical frameworks by which he develops his ideas on several topics, including authorship, publicity, acts of identification (national and individual), interpersonal power relations, and knowledge exchange. Whereas the critical tradition has read James's fiction quite thoroughly against theories of vision, such an emphasis has not been given to the oral or aural. This dissertation proposes that orality is a central mode--and node--in James's thought and writing of the late phase. Between 1904 and 1907, James's attention to speech, and sound more generally, seems both particularly heightened and particularly linked to his conception of America. During that time, he writes about American speech (addressing these remarks in large part to and about women), saying that the speaker who "takes thought" does so by honing her aural self-consciousness, which is akin to practicing criticism. The auditory imagination is as integral to the work of the observer of culture as James makes it be for the female speaker--a phenomenon that becomes clear in The American Scene, where he increasingly turns to sonic and aural imagery in developing his thesis that American culture is a void. This dissertation also analyzes James's representation of speech in his fiction, focusing on dialogue in The Golden Bowl. There, pronominal abstractions in his characters' conversations exemplify a poetic approach to language in dialogue that affords the reader an experience of "learning" the multiple logics for certain recurring words. Additionally, this study looks at James's decades-long association of speech with publicity and writing with privacy, tracing a shift in the parameters of public and private from the political and feminist investments of The Bostonians to representing experiences of selfhood by the time of "The Private Life." In conclusion, I propose that speech undergoes a transformation in the late major work where it acquires writing's interstitial power when it appears as nonvocalized utterances that nonetheless communicate between characters.