A Roundtable discussion on adaptation and evolution in/of Henry James’s life and fiction

deadline for submissions: 
January 15, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
The Henry James Society
contact email: 

The Henry James Society

Call for Proposals

A Roundtable discussion on adaptation and evolution in/of Henry James’s life and fiction

The word “adaptation” denotes an act or a process of adjustment, or a state of being adjusted. Apart from its meanings in cultural contexts, it is a crucial concept in biology, especially evolutionary biology. Transplanting the biological concept(s) of adaptation and/in evolution, this roundtable would welcome presentations that address the adjustment of James’s fiction and biography to the needs of a variety of audiences, and conversely the processes and acts of adjustment in response to the environment in Henry James’s life and fiction, as evidenced in his works and letters.

The most obvious connotation of “adaptation” in the literary and cultural contexts is that of film adaptation. James’s fiction has often been turned into films by artists from a variety of backgrounds. Such adaptations have been discussed in seminal studies published by Susan M. Griffin. Adaptations for the theater and the opera have also been, increasingly, the subject of studies worldwide (Michael Halliwell, John Bradley). Translation of James’s texts into other languages – a major challenge, as all serious translators testify – may also be viewed as acts of adaptation, involving cultural shifts, and resulting in both gains and losses.

Henry James’s life has been adapted in numerous biograhical novels and recently in an opera by Alberto Caruso, based on Colm Tóibín’s novel The Master. Participants would be welcome to present their views on a whole range of readings of James’s life in biographies and biographical fiction (both angry – by Emma Tennant or Joyce Carol Oates – and sympathetic – by David Lodge or Colm Tóibín).

Two recent massive editorial projects: The Complete Letters of Henry James, edited by Greg Zacharias and Michael Anesko (earlier volumes were co-edited by Pierre A. Walker) and of The Cambridge Edition of the Complete Fiction of Henry James (General Editors: Adrian Poole, Philip Horne, Tamara L. Follini, and Michael Anesko) have opened up new vistas on the processes of adjustment in James’s life and work. Since both of these series are works-in-progress, the results of research and editorial work available so far are particularly well suited to an informal in-depth discussion following short presentations.


Please submit your 300 word abstract and a short bionote by January 15, 2017 to mira_buchholtz@yahoo.de