English and drama

Special Author: Henry James

Module code: Q3139
Level 6
15 credits in autumn teaching
Teaching method: Seminar
Assessment modes: Coursework

Henry James is an author who exists on many borderlines: an American who lived and worked in Europe for much of his adult life, an author who is claimed both as a Victorian and a Modern; a famously reticent and opaque writer whose main topics are sex and money, and who has recently been claimed as an important queer author.

In this module you will read a cross section of James's novels, short stories and essays including The American (1877), The Portrait of a Lady (1881), The Bostonians (1886), The Ambassadors (1903), 'Daisy Miller' (1878), What Maisie Knew (1897) and other works. We will discuss James as an American author and as a documenter of American-European relations, as a stylist, as a psychological writer and as a proto-Modernist. We will think about James in relation to his historical context (as subtle documenter of the American scene and as ex-patriate), and also look at his work in relation to his fascinating family (the philosopher and psychologist William James was Henry's older brother). We will think hard about the difficulty of James's late style. We will consider recent critical work on James in feminist and queer studies, and his influence on 20th and 21st century literary culture through films of his work such as The Wings of a Dove (1997) or The Golden Bowl (2000).

Module learning outcomes

  • Understand the formal and generic developments of a named author's work
  • Understand how the work has been shaped by the social, historical and intellectual contexts in which it was produced.
  • Through critical analysis of a range of the author's writing over his/her career, demonstrate an understanding of how his/her literary reputation was established and has been maintained
  • Organise complex material into an essay that illustrates independent research