The Poetry of the Soul in Action: Metaphor and Consciousness in The Golden Bowl

  • Hazel Hutchison


The Golden Bowl has acquired a reputation as James’s final work. His last complete novel, it was first published in 1904, more than eleven years before his death. James subsequently produced several volumes of short stories, plays, three volumes of autobiography, travel writing, including The American Scene (1907) and Italian Hours (1909), essays, criticism, and the prefaces to the New York edition. At his death he also left unfinished scripts of The Sense of the Past and The Ivory Tower. Therefore, The Golden Bowl appears in the middle, not at the end, of an intensely busy phase of James’s career. Nevertheless, an air of finality surrounds this long and complex novel. Once described to me by a friend as “the north Eiger face of literary difficulty,” The Golden Bowlsits at the end of the Jamesian canon, much as The Tempest sits at the end of the Shakespearian canon. It is not the author’s last work, but it is in some way his last word. It presents the high point of his style and the culmination of his artistic vision. James reads The Tempest as “the rarest of all examples of literary art” ( Criticism I, 1208). The plot is slight, he asserts, but the genius lies in the virtuosity of Shakespeare’s language.


Sexual Knowledge Spiritual World Moral Transgression Narrative Perspective Literary Difficulty 
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© Hazel Hutchison 2006

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  • Hazel Hutchison

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