According to Tanner, James's criticism is the "reverse of schematic.
Author: Tony Tanner
Category: Literary Criticism
"In Henry James and the Art of Nonfiction, Tony Tanner shows how James radically transformed the nonfiction genres of travel writing, literary criticism, and autobiography, just as he transformed the novel." "Exploring the developments and characteristics of James's travel writing, Tanner observes that "absence rather than presence; shadow rather than substance; broken eloquence esteemed more than confidently replete utterance" are its central features. By deliberately withholding information, writes Tanner, James gives the reader "something rare and incomparable. Not only a sense of a place or of the past. But as one reads him, a sense of that sense. It can take one's breath away."" "Tanner then examines the kind of theory James offers for literary criticism - if indeed it does not amount to an antitheory - and looks closely at James's criticism of four writers whom the author admired: George Eliot, Ivan Turgenev, Honore de Balzac, and Gustave Flaubert, Tanner begins by discussing "The Art of Fiction," the closest James ever came to making a theoretical statement. According to Tanner, James's criticism is the "reverse of schematic." James wants to challenge prescriptive categorizations and fixed taxonomies with regard to such matters as narration, description, dialogue, character, and incident. For James, criticism is not, and cannot be, a theory. It is an art." "Finally, Tanner celebrates James as a writer of autobiography that will have nothing to do with chronology or conventional sequence. Tanner warns readers not to approach James's autobiography expecting fully scripted enactments of historically significant events. Rather they should be prepared to encounter, for example, an odd chin, an amazing eyeglass, or the words of a cross aunt. James "allows memory to browse and graze as it may, as it will," says Tanner. "The result, and effectively the last (and unfinished) piece of writing from this supreme artist, was an incomparable work of, apparently, supreme artlessness. There had never been anything quite like it.""--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved