Dawdling and gaping: James's a Small Boy and Others

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A Small Boy and Others (1913) is rarely discussed for failing to explain the artist Henry James became - indeed, for failing to cohere as narrative at all. This essay attempts to do that. The reason for both of these failures is due in part to James's two-dimensional depiction of himself as a youth, "wondering and dawdling and gaping," and in part to the nature of the narrator who mirrors that earlier self, also lost in wonder. This symbiosis of "small boy" and aged artist subverts an autobiographical logic by lauding both earlier and present selves as passive receptacles. The question is why James deliberately mystifies readers this way, given the care with which he reconstructed his past. The answer is that his personal reasons for revisiting his past coincided with a set of diffierent assumptions about consciousness and psychology than had informed his late novels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Modern Literature
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Literature and Literary Theory


  • Autobiography
  • Formless
  • Henry James


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