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Written by Timothy Sexton
The American Expatriate Experience
Roderick Hudson sets the stage for what will become a character type that James returns to again and again in his fiction: the American abroad. In this particular case, the expatriation is driven by provincial attitudes toward the non-conforming artistic passion and temperament. Once in Europe, however, it is precisely the provincial innocence and attitudes of the expatriate artist that draws into a swirling vortex of difficulties that arrive as a result of the peculiarly American propensity toward naiveté toward European manners.
The Self Destructive Artistic Genius
The artist who pours so much into his art that he fails to learn how to live the rest of life that takes place away from that act of creativity is on full display in the title character. Roderick Hudson’s staggering potential as an sculptor is ultimately undone not by any shortage of talent, but precisely because he has not learned how to tame and control that talent. His lack of discipline outside the sculpting studio inevitably becomes a destructive force inside the studio.
Likely an unintended consequence, a significant amount of academic scholarship on Roderick Hudson has increasingly focused on the subtext of homosexuality between Roderick and Rowland. Although love interests occupy both men—in fact, they both express romantic interest in the same woman—but by the dominant relationship of the novel is the one between Roderick and Rowland. Worth noting is there is nothing anywhere in that novel that criticism pursuing this them have singled out as an explicit indication by the author that such an interpretation was intended, but that is the beauty of modern critical theory: many of the best themes are the product of the writer’s unconscious mind.
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