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Killing the MoonlightModernism in Venice$
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Jennifer Scappettone

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231164320

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231164320.001.0001

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Nearer Distances and Clearer Mysteries

Nearer Distances and Clearer Mysteries

Between Patches and Presence in James’s “Visitable Past”

(p.87) 2 Nearer Distances and Clearer Mysteries
Killing the Moonlight

Jennifer Scappettone

Columbia University Press

This chapter explores writer Henry James' travel writings from Venice. He takes a post-Romantic approach to the obstacles he confronts in experiencing Venice, which accepts distance as an inevitable and productive condition of modern encounters with the place. Over the course of various travels, James discovers that Venetian art conveys neither straightforwardly backwards in time, nor to any present that seems “consanguineous” with the city's history. While he struggles with Venice's resistance to representation, James as a novelist exploits the cultural, structural, and atmospheric obstacles this city presents as narrative devices in composing a defamiliarizing realism. The chapter cites James' Italian Hours, a book of travel writing that highlights both the allure and shortcomings of Venice, for an individual seeking access not only to remote history but also to the nearer ghosts of the past seekers of poetry and dispensers of romance.

Keywords:   Henry James, Venice, Venetian art, Italian Hours, travel writing, realism

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