Five Ways to Read Henry James
This Week on the History of Literature Podcast
with Jacke Wilson
For tens of thousands of years, human beings have been using fictional devices to shape their worlds and communicate with one another. Four thousand years ago they began writing down these stories, and a great flourishing of human achievement began. We know it today as literature, a term broad enough to encompass everything from ancient epic poetry to contemporary novels. How did literature develop? What forms has it taken? And what can we learn from engaging with these works today? Hosted by Jacke Wilson, an amateur scholar with a lifelong passion for literature, The History of Literature takes a fresh look at some of the most compelling examples of creative genius the world has ever known.
Jacke Wilson: Let me let you in on a bit of a secret, my friends. I have started and restarted this episode many times. Many times. Maybe this is the one that will stick. There was a three-part episode I had planned at one point, and then I just thought, why? I kept recording and talking about James and thinking why, why, why, why? I know there are Henry James fans out there who are saying, what do you mean, why? Why only three? There should be ten episodes! Okay, this isn’t for you. You will need to get your James fix elsewhere.
You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to give you five ways to read Henry James. Five different people you can be when you open up that James book—or maybe even before that, maybe even when you go to the library or go to the bookstore. Five different approaches to take to Henry James. Really, you might be five different people. They overlap, of course, because people are complex. And here we go, we already have some parallels with our subject, Henry James, because he was complex himself. And he definitely believed that human beings were complex creatures. The human personality, the human collection of wants and fears, the backgrounds, the ancestry, the desires, the decision making. All that goes into the psychology, and the way the psychology feeds into all of that. Complex. If there was one person in the entire history of literature who stands for the notion that people are complicated creatures, human beings are complex animals, it’s probably Henry James.
Previous ArticleHow Björk Helped Iceland Weather the Global