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American Literature's Aesthetic Dimensions$
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Cindy Weinstein and Christopher Looby

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231156172

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231156172.001.0001

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Henry James, Constance Fenimore Woolson, and the Figure in the Carpet

Henry James, Constance Fenimore Woolson, and the Figure in the Carpet

(p.137) [6] Henry James, Constance Fenimore Woolson, and the Figure in the Carpet
American Literature's Aesthetic Dimensions

Dorri Beam

Columbia University Press

This chapter presents a reading of Henry James' “A Figure in the Carpet” and Constance Fenimore Woolson's “Miss Grief.” It is about intimacy; but the intimacy generated takes place less within the pages of each individual story and more across the texts, through characters, and in form. It establishes the centrality of gender performance in “Miss Grief” and the parodic confusions those performances entail, which “breed more capacious forms of social and sexual intercourse and more capacious forms of reading.” The aesthetic dimension permits Woolson the freedom to write and to parody the conventional sexual and textual relations expected of “the master” toward a potential disciple (the plot of Woolson's story). The two writers are able to forge an intertextual relation with each other that eventuates in an acknowledgment of Woolson's literary value, a recognition that “brings one into relation with the possibilities that unfold”.

Keywords:   Henry James, A Figure in the Carpet, Constance Fenimore Woolson, Miss Grief, intimacy, aesthetics

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