Radical Henry James
Writing nearly four decades ago in the Henry James Review, Darshan Singh Maini, in an essay on, “The Politics of Henry James,” observed that “it is difficult to imagine Henry James in relation to any kind of politics, feudal, parliamentary, radical, charismatic, or messianic” (158). Perhaps unsurprisingly, James’s two most explicitly political novels–The Bostonians (1886) and The Princess Casamassima (1886)--have most often been treated as anomalous parts of his oeuvre, and together are often read as signs of James’s deep skepticism about (or lack of real interest in) radical movements and ultimately, in Alex Beringer’s words, “[his] final rejection of political and social radicalism” (37). Following Mark Seltzer suggestion in Art and Power that “both the content and the techniques of representation in James’s works express a complicity with the larger social regimes…that traverse these works,” much Jamesian scholarship has illuminated how his works (like his style) do not just turn away from politics but instead work to reinforce regimes of power. And yet over the past decade, scholars have begun to reconsider not only the ways radical readers have embraced James but also what untapped (under-recognized?) radical energies might be found in his writings, with recent work by Michaela Bronstein turning our attention to the way that The Princess Casamassima unexpectedly came to “hum with political significance” in the 1950s and 1960s as African American writers such as Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin began to describe it as a must-read novel for black radicals (28), and John Funchion excavating the never-totally-foreclosed-upon radical futures that Verena brings to life in her speeches in The Bostonians. Building on these conversations, this special forum of the Henry James Review invites essays between 1,000 and 12,000 words on any aspect of James and radicalism. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
- James’s own engagements with radical reformers and activists in his letters and notebooks
- James and post-Haymarket Howells
- What it might mean to read James “radically”
- James’s role in the canon of radical literature
- Radical contexts for understanding James’s canon/engaging the radical beyond his political novels
- Radical authors or radical political writers who drew on James’s work
Contributions should be produced according to current MLA style. Please identify your manuscript as a “Radical Henry James” forum submission. Send submissions to guest editors J. Michelle Coghlan (email@example.com) and John Funchion (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 1 March 2023.
For more information, visit https://www.press.jhu.edu/journals/henry-james-review.