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Henry James's Europe

Dennis Tredy
Annick Duperray
Adrian Harding

On ‘The European Society of Jamesian Studies’

Adrian Harding

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1That the Society should be housed in the Comparative Literature Department of The American University of Paris is, we hope, an appropriately Jamesian augury for the pursuit of the enterprise. As our department co-chair, Geoff Gilbert, said in opening words for our inaugural conference in April 2009, AUP could be imagined as a quintessential, if protean, protagonist of the international theme, a young(ish) American finding their way in Europe, garnering the unpredictable experience of their own education, to change themselves and those who encounter them. And how nicely the familiar pronominal slippage of that, between the singular subject and the plural possession, suits the indeterminacies common to both James’s writing and to the perspectives motivating a comparatist experience of literature and its relations to the world. We might even say, without pushing the boat out too far, that the Society is reflecting that exploratory experience back upon itself, as a European entity exploring what is also such a carefully American oeuvre with its specific ironies of knowledge, its own ways of troping the world toward meaning. We come quickly to the limits of these grander essentialisms, however, to try and find our place between and among these things, seeing values come into existence as they come into play, in the encounters of reading James, and reading James reading.

2This institutional and cultural identity of the Society will, we hope, reflect in its community of readers and scholars something of the multifarious interests of James’s work, Our mission will be to contribute to the promotion of Jamesian studies in European countries by offering further opportunities for Jamesian scholars and other interested persons who cannot regularly participate in the events organized by the transatlantic ”Henry James Society.” The Society means to contribute to the development of scientific cooperation on an international scale by fostering conference meetings in different European institutions and by promoting publication and doctoral The European Society of Jamesian Scholars xxiii research generated on both sides of the Atlantic. We hope the particular structure of a European Society of Jamesian Studies will enable a field of creative interaction of texts and contexts, foregrounds and backgrounds, a turbine of topoi both atlantic and continental, inner and outer, synchronic and diachronic, intellectual and economic.

3We mean to confront and refine methodologies and practices by developing intertextual approaches, focussing on:

4the theoretical dimension of the ”house of fiction” James built and the interrelations between theory and text.

5the genesis of his work and the writers that influenced him

6the multiple and multiform reverberations of his own work in modern and contemporary fiction and literary criticism.

7As a consequence the Society will be open to the study of other fiction writers and to all nineteenth-and twentieth-century specialists willing to envisage James’s texts, paratexts and critical essays from a comparatist and receptionist angle.

8Because Henry James was also a cultural historian, dreaming of ”a vast intellectual fusion and synthesis of the national tendencies of the world,” the Society will privilege ”the international theme,” encouraging the exchange between new currents and older traditions of Humanities research on both sides of the Atlantic. And because Europe had such an impact on James’s life and work, one of the Society’s particular missions will be to examine the many ways in which the American writer can be considered as part of a European heritage, interconnecting the culturally distinct European identities. In these various senses of ”reception” we hope the literary and cultural will come close enough together to illustrate a particularly Jamesian character of attention, and to determine a strong and distinctive intellectual identity for our activities.

9The Society has already benefited from the administrative and financial help of the American University for its first two conferences, in April 2009 and October 2010, for which we are extremely grateful, especially as we enjoy both our university affiliation and the complete freedom of an academic society. Our founding members, Annick Duperray (with whom the idea of the Society originated), Dennis Tredy and Adrian Harding, have quickly been joined by an international gathering of scholars committed to the study of James’s work and of its world. Three of these members— Nicola Bradbury, Richard Gooder and Georges Hughes—deserve special recognition for their invaluable help as readers for the current volume.

10We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to Alessandra Tosi, the Managing Director of Open Book Publications, and to their editor, Bérénice Guyot-Réchard, for their patience, hard work and dedication in putting together this publication

11Our October meeting in Paris has allowed us to take stock of our first two years of activity, our first conferences and publications with Open Book Publishers in England, in order to consolidate our constitution, develop our core membership and plan ahead. Future conferences and publications may now develop under different institutional auspices and in various editorial hands while we continue to enjoy our affiliation with the Comparative Literature Department at AUP.

12November 2010