James and the Monotone of Reunion

Michael T. Gilmore

in The War on Words

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780226294131
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226294155 | DOI:
James and the Monotone of Reunion

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This chapter reviews the literary work, The Bostonians, written by Henry James, which is considered one of the most astute high culture meditation available on the intellectual and literary costs of national reconciliation. The book contains a degree of historical insight about the aftermath of Reconstruction unmatched by historians until the revisionism of the 1960s and 1970s. The Bostonians is almost an allegory—of reunion, of the suppression of language by a triumphant South, and of the migration of cultural hegemony from the Boston-Cambridge-Concord area to New York City. James is a realist, and his story is a satire. Its targets include Boston reformers, the popular press, and the emergent world of celebrity. Though James cannot be described as a political writer, he had, like any literary figure, a strong interest in imaginative freedom; and The Bostonians, with its harsh portrait of the sectional takeover of speech, has something to tell us about his trajectory as an author.

Keywords: Henry James; The Bostonians; reconciliation; Reconstruction; reunion; Boston reformers

Chapter.  4465 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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