Contextualization (H.J.) Copy

HENRY JAMES (1843-1916)


  • The aftermath of the Civil War  – the violence and the casualties leave deep marks in the collective consciousness;
  • Increased immigration after the Civil War;
  • Segregation between black and white people;
  • Industrial Revolution in the North;
  • The South continues to rely on agriculture.


  • Massive immigration from Europe and China;
  • Businesses expand;
  • A transport network develops to stimulate trade. Roads, railways, and steamboats are built;
  • Technological inventions: mass production of motorcars (Henry Ford); the invention of the telephone (Alexander Graham Bell -1876);
  • By the end of the 19th century, the USA had become a huge, modern, industrialised nation.


Literary trend: REALISM

Principles of Realism:

  • normal situations and ordinary characters are described in familiar settings;
  • attention to detail;
  • description based on experience, not imagination;
  • lower strata of society are emphasized;
  • very little use of metaphors.

Realistic novel traits (the novel is the best form of expression for realism, as it describes the world faithfully and doesn’t idealize it):

  • Major theme: the place of the individual in society;
  • Long, dense, with complicated plots;
  • Physical descriptions of characters are realistic;
  • Lots of characters, most of them belong to the middle and lower classes;
  • A new type of character: the one who transcends social barriers through marriage, hard work, or legacies. Characters are motivated by greed, lust, and confusion.

Literary trend: PRE-MODERNISM

  • Focus on the inner world of the character: literary devices  ̶  memory, perception.
  • The plot is replaced by specific modernist patterns: time, place, character, leitmotifs, symbols, mythic patterns, and cinematic devices (space and time montage).
  • Theme: atemporal, eternal conflicts of the soul, philosophy.


Born in New York;

Was a naturalized English citizen from 1915;

Never married, devoted his life to writing and travelling;

His circles of friends included intellectuals, artists, and philosophers of the time;

Lived in the USA, England, Switzerland, France, and Italy and moved freely between these countries.


  • “The Portrait of a Lady”
  • “What Maisie Knew”
  • “Roderick Hudson”
  • “The Turn of the Screw”
  • “The Wings of the Dove”
  • “The Ambassadors”
  • “The Golden Bowl”