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Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece

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Description

A revelatory biography of the American master as told through the lens of his greatest novel.
Henry James (1843–1916) has had many biographers, but Michael Gorra has taken an original approach to this great American progenitor of the modern novel, combining elements of biography, criticism, and travelogue in re-creating the dramatic backstory of James’s masterpiece, Portrait of a Lady (1881). Gorra, an eminent literary critic, shows how this novel—the scandalous story of the expatriate American heiress Isabel Archer—came to be written in the first place. Traveling to Florence, Rome, Paris, and England, Gorra sheds new light on James’s family, the European literary circles—George Eliot, Flaubert, Turgenev—in which James made his name, and the psychological forces that enabled him to create this most memorable of female protagonists. Appealing to readers of Menand’s The Metaphysical Club and McCullough’s The Greater Journey, Portrait of a Novel provides a brilliant account of the greatest American novel of expatriate life ever written. It becomes a piercing detective story on its own.

From Publishers Weekly

May 07, 2012 – In this innovative biography, written with flair and unostentatious erudition, Smith College English professor Gorra (The Bells in Their Silence) tells the life of Henry James through the story of the composition of his novel, The Portrait of a Lady. First published in 1881, the novel was a landmark work: James s scrupulous devotion to craft led him to dramatize the interior life of his heroine, Isabel Archer, in unprecedented fashion. Instead of transparent plots and clear moral conflicts, James opted for subtle clashes of personality and morally ambiguous stories in which action was character and character action. Analyzing James s letters, journals, stories, and travelogues, Gorra traces the author s life and literary milieu, alternating a reconstruction of his travels with extensive attention to the novel s composition and reception. The book reads like an exciting voyage of discovery, beginning with James revising his novel 20 years after it was written, and later depicting his blooming consciousness as an author torn between an American and a European identity. Gorra s highly engaging introduction to James will be most attractive to lovers of literature who want to learn more about the craft of novel writing and will likely send readers back to the shelves to discover James all over again.
Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece
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  • $14.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary Criticism
  • Published: Aug 27, 2012
  • Publisher: Liveright
  • Seller: W. W. Norton
  • Print Length: 416 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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