The Mother's Tongue: Seduction, Authenticity, and Interference in <i>The Ambassadors</i>

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:
The Mother's Tongue: Seduction, Authenticity, and Interference in The Ambassadors

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This chapter explores two related, fundamental questions, as made evident in The Ambassadors: that of exoticism, or the elevation of a foreign ‘culture’ as such to the status of affective object; and that of multilingualism, translation and ‘interference’, in both specifically linguistic and more generally cultural terms, as the novel's explorations of cultural ‘authenticity’ as a fantasmatic object privilege in particular investments in the ‘native’ language as opposed to multilingualism. It also shows how Henry James re-examines Nathaniel Hawthorne's positing of the ‘mother tongue’. The Ambassadors rewrites many of Hawthorne's concerns regarding the maternal and the mother tongue, but within a space of generalised interference. The book, which plays at distributing three mothers and two sons among each other, places Marie in a double role, as she at once doubles and opposes both Mrs Newsome and Maria Gostrey.

Keywords: Ambassadors; mother tongue; exoticism; authenticity; Nathaniel Hawthorne; Henry James; seduction

Chapter.  8416 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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