Open Seminars - RHOSE 2023

Rhose 25 | 26th september 2023, 11am

Representations of Home Open Seminar

In his early reading of Henry James’s novel The Portrait of a Lady, originally written in English and then translated into Portuguese for publication in A Sereia e o desconfiado (1965), the Brazilian literary critic Roberto Schwarz identified the simultaneous exclusion from, and invitation to participate in, the social word of the narrator as a key aspect of James’s fictional method. Schwarz’s dense and detailed interpretation, in which glimpses of the wit and sophistication that characterize his later work can be glimpsed, albeit in an early and undeveloped form, touches on questions that inform much of his mature critical output: How does the novel as a form register the unequal class structure that undergirds its production? What is the relationship between the first-person narrator as a literary device and the ideological construction of the enlightened bourgeois subject? How is it possible for literary fiction that seems to disavow or actively suppress its grounding in social reality to aesthetically critique that same reality? If the work of fiction is, as James famously claimed, like a house with a million windows, then Schwarz enjoins us to view it as a house from which we are alternately in. Through an intellectual biography of Schwarz’s work, and a critical discussion of James’s fiction, this seminar paper discusses the questions of realism and modernism, the technique of narrative unreliability, and the politics of literary form.

Keywords: realism, modernism, the novel, Henry James, Roberto Schwarz

Dr Thomas Waller is a Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of English, Drama and Film at University College Dublin. His interests include world literature, modernism, Marxism, and Portuguese-speaking cultures. His research has been published in journals such as Modern Fiction Studies, Textual Practice, and Rethinking Marxism. He is currently working on two book projects: a monograph entitled Genres of Transition: Literature and Economy in Portuguese- speaking Southern Africa (forthcoming, Liverpool University Press); and an edited collection entitled Roberto Schwarz and World-Literature: Critical Essays (forthcoming, Palgrave Macmillan). He is also an Associate Editor at CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture.

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