Of kings and common touch: An answer to the question of James and the educated lay reader
Samples, Ronald Carson
Isle, Walter W.
Doctor of Philosophy
"Of Kings and the Common Touch" asserts that James is accessible and likeable in ways consistent with the fundamental interests of common readers. The American depicts a transcendently American Christopher Newman who models legitimate cultural identity, Europeans and expatriate Americans who are pathologically motivated, and European "legitimists" who are anachronistic and "dead." The Bostonians portrays a deterministic democratic impulse embodied by Miss Birdseye and all else in the novel, with Olive Chancellor too self-contradictory to be a genuine feminist and Basil Ransom an ironically rightful advocate of the fundamentality of male-female relationships despite undeniable shortcomings. Through John Marcher's failures in "The Beast in the Jungle" James condemns the exclusivity of manners and elitist society and endorses the common that May Bartrum represents, while concerns in the "The Real Thing"---with the artist's attempt to maintain rapport with an underappreciative audience while also maintaining fidelity to his craft, the change of eras from the aristocratic to the democratic, and the accusative depiction of boredom as the pathological motive for both characters and readers---parallel the concerns in a work as popular and accessible as Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game." Finally, a la Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," The Sacred Fount amusingly depicts a significantly nameless narrator's self-victimization as he foregoes actual heterosexual penetration to participate in an engaging drama of intellectual penetration that ultimately renders him unmanned, emasculated, and penetrated rather than penetrating.
American studies; American literature; English literature