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Modernism and Affect$
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Julie Taylor

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780748693252

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748693252.001.0001

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Mind, Body and Embarrassment in Henry James’s The Awkward Age

Mind, Body and Embarrassment in Henry James’s The Awkward Age

(p.20) Chapter 1 Mind, Body and Embarrassment in Henry James’s The Awkward Age
Modernism and Affect

John Attridge

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter considers James’s The Awkward Age (1899) in the context of fin de siècle mental science and its preoccupation, most evident in theories of emotion, with the materiality of the mind. Contributing to recent accounts that challenge the commonplace equation between psychological depth and James’s transition to modernist novel, the chapter argues that The Awkward Age represents mental life – and in particular awkwardness – as public behavior rather than introspection, self-presence and interiority. In a similar fashion to late-Victorian mental scientists (including his brother, William), James was concerned with finding a vocabulary for representing mental life in physical terms, demonstrating the interrelation of mind and body. James’s use of a behavioural rather than expressive vocabulary for embarrassment determines the shape of the novel’s plot and forms part of its critique of a Victorian prudery that presupposes a mind-matter separation.

Keywords:   Henry James, The Awkward Age, mental science, embarrassment, materiality, William James, interiority, psychology, the modernist novel

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