"The Art of Fiction" and Other Critical Writings
A Comparison of the Treatment of Reading and Writing in The Turn of the Screw and The Art of Fiction College
Henry James’s novella The Turn of the Screw and his literary essay The Art of Fiction are entirely unalike in form, but contain thoroughly alike themes. Overall, a fascination with the acts of reading and writing is presented; these things are treated as “most beautiful” and are given the greatest of respect by James. However, in this elevation of art and exploration of literature, James sometimes falls back on classist stereotyping and ideology, and suggests that the joy of reading and writing is for a select, privileged few. James presents a high regard for writing in both his essay and his novella.
Throughout The Art of Fiction, James makes lexical choices which significantly elevate the practice. He discusses the novelist Anthony Trollope’s suggestion that fiction is merely “make-believe”; James describes this as a “betrayal”, the legal connotations of which are reinforced by his following assertion that it is “a terrible crime”. The tone of outrage is furthered by the plosive sounds within the metaphor; this indicates a great respect for writing, as James is clearly dismayed at Trollope’s simplification of the art. Additionally, James depicts fiction as “a sacred office”. The religious connotations of the...
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