Chapter

The Story of a Kiss: Isabel's Decisions in <i>The Portrait of A Lady</i>

J. Hillis Miller

in Literature as Conduct

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print September 2005 | ISBN: 9780823225378
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235391 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fso/9780823225378.003.0003
The Story of a Kiss: Isabel's             Decisions in The Portrait of A Lady

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This chapter analyzes the story of a kiss in Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady using the speech act theory. The kisses in this novel involve the characters of Caspar Goodwood and Isabel and others between women. This chapter suggests that all the kisses were used by James as efficacious speech or mute gestures that stand in the place of speech acts. They also functioned as effective performatives in lieu of speech because a kiss is a way of doing things not with words but with signs.

Keywords: The Portrait of a Lady; Henry James; speech act theory; literary analysis; kisses

Chapter.  25263 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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