In the opening preface to the New York Edition of his fiction, James famously wrote: “Really, universally, relations stop nowhere, and the exquisite problem of the artist is eternally but to draw, by a geometry of his own, the circle in which they shall happily appear to do so. . . . The prime effect of so sustained a system, so prepared a surface, is to lead on and on; while the fascination of following resides, by the same token, in the presumability somewhere of a convenient, of a visibly-appointed stopping-place.”
James’s problem of the artist is also the problem of scholarship: Finding a “convenient . . . stopping-place” that also leads readers “on and on” in their own work and thinking too.