Native Well Being: Henry James and the “Cosmopolite”

Daniel Katz

in American Modernism's Expatriate Scene

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print August 2007 | ISBN: 9780748625260
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652006 | DOI:
Native Well Being: Henry James and the “Cosmopolite”

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This chapter explores Henry James's elaboration of the key figure of the ‘cosmopolite’, as defined in The Portrait of a Lady and his travel piece, ‘Occasional Paris’. It also reviews Jamesian schemas of seduction, the uncanny and haunting in relation to questions of translation as psychic phenomenon as discussed by Jean Laplanche. Theodor Adorno's sense of mutilation, grown out of the mutilation wrought by the Second World War, might represent an endpoint of a certain form of expatriate or cosmopolitan self-fashioning. Discussing the ‘technical’ problems of the narrative positioning in What Maisie Knew, Adorno's only novel centered on a child. James suggested that the role he was of necessity obliged to accept was nothing other than that of a kind of translator. James's designation of some sort of ‘patriotism’ as his ‘supreme relation’ may seem somewhat disingenuous, and not only because of his profoundly ‘cosmopolite’ outlook.

Keywords: Henry James; cosmopolite; Portrait of Lady; Occasional Paris; What Maisie Knew; Theodor Adorno; patriotism

Chapter.  10188 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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