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Henry James’s Awkward Stage

Henry James’s Awkward Stage

(p.105) Three Henry James’s Awkward Stage
Empty Houses
David Kurnick
Princeton University Press

This chapter analyzes Henry James's The Other House, which was conceived as a play but published as a novel in 1896. Almost exclusively reliant on dialogue and dense with the notation of movements that frustrate readerly visualization, the novel constantly alludes to the theatrical status it appears to have abandoned; James reworked the novel back into a play in 1909. Both versions suggest that the domestic tragedy constituting the plot is contained in the space of a theatrical auditorium. Similar invocations of theatrical space haunt 1899's The Awkward Age, a novel whose characters begin to play to an imaginary theatrical audience that James posits just beyond the “footlights” of the diegetic universe. In abandoning James's fabled “center of consciousness” in favor of elaborating a group subject, these dramanovels document James's ambivalence regarding the interiorizing narrative approach of which he would become the acknowledged master.

Keywords:   Henry James, The Other House, The Awkward Age, dramanovels, theater

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