Psychical phenomena and the body in the late novels of Henry James

Horn, Paul Matthew Austin (2013). Psychical phenomena and the body in the late novels of Henry James. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis focuses on the connections between fin de siècle accounts of psychical phenomena and the extraordinary bodily capabilities of the characters in Henry James’s late novels. In reaction to the scholarly commonplace that these characters are simply refined out of corporeal existence, I posit the alternative that their bodies are unconventionally constituted: hyperaesthetic like the Society for Psychical Research’s ‘sensitives’, or materially reconfigured like the ‘etheric bodies’ of the dead envisioned by Sir Oliver Lodge, and thus perfectly adapted for life in the phantasmagorical world of James’s ‘major-phase’ and beyond. Against the backdrop of recent scholarly work on the material world of James’s novels by Thomas Otten, Victoria Coulson and others, and theories of embodiment such as those of Didier Anzieu, I assert the importance of fin de siècle psychical research narratives of the hyperextension of human bodily capabilities and their historical collocates in art, literature, and occult philosophy to fully excavate the cultural work with which Henry James’s late novels are involved.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PS American literature


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