The Riddle of the Riddle: A Study of the Folk Riddle's Figurative Nature

Front Cover
Kegan Paul, 2005 - Literary Criticism - 125 pages

Beginning with The Portrait of a Lady, this book shows how, in developing his unique form of realism, James highlights the tragic consequences of his American heroine's Romantic imagination, in particular, her Emersonian idealism. In order to expose Emerson's blind spot, a lacuna at the very centre of his New England Transcendentalism, James draws on the Gothic effects of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe, thereby producing an intensification of Isabel Archer's psychological state and precipitating her awakening to a fuller, heightened consciousness. Thus Romanticism takes an aesthetic turn, becoming distinctly Paterian and unleashing queer possibilities that are further developed in James's subsequent fiction.

This book follows the Paterian thread, leading to "The Author of Beltraffio" and Théophile Gauthier, and thereby establishing an important connection with French culture. Drawing on James's famous analogy between the art of fiction and the art of the painter, the book explores a possible link to the Impressionist painters associated with the literary circle Émile Zola dominated. It then turns to "A New England Winter," a tale about an American Impressionist painter, and finds traces leading back to James's "initiation prèmiere." The book closes with an exploration of the possible sources of Kate Croy's "unspeakable" father in The Wings of the Dove and proposes a possible intertext, one that provides direct insight into the Victorian closet.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


Methodological Reflections
What is the Folk Riddle from Oral Tradition?

19 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

19th century aimed among analysis ancient anthropologists archaic archetypal Argentinean Aristotle Aristotle's artificial intelligence assonance binary oppositions biomorphic bipartite book of Judges bylina Chomskian circumlocution classes collection compact complex component core cultural defamiliarization defined degenerated forms descriptive metaphor differentiation domain Edmund Leach enigmatics ethnographic ethnologists euphemistic explicit answer expression fairy tales field figure of concealment Finnish Flip flop folklore folklorists Freud full-fledged galosh Gaston Paris genetic code genre Georges & Dundes German folklore grotesque heterogeneity Humpty Dumpty ibid immanent implicit target impossible object incongruity inkwell inner form innocent recorded Jackson Pollock king's horses king's men kinship language Lehmann-Nitsche lexical motifs linguistic literal descriptions logical Maranda marriage meaning Mecklenburg metaphoric object metonymies mode morphological nature notion observation offers ontological oral tradition Othello paradigm Petsch phenomena phenomenology philological poetic presents psychoanalysis quantum mechanics question rationalist recorded answer Rembrandt riddle describes riddle from oral riddle studies riddle's description riddle's functional Rigveda ritual Roman Jakobson Russian folklore Russian literature Russian riddle samovar semantic field semantic gap semantic heterogeneity semantic predilections semiotic sexual content sexual symbolism Shklovsky signifies Sokha something steelyard stratum structural definition structural linguistics structuralist stylistic substitution symbolic structure taboo Taylor Taylor's classification telos texts theory thing Thus Trubetskoi true folk riddle true riddle vagina dentata Venda verbal versions Wolfgang Schultz

About the author (2005)

Savely Senderovich has been Professor of Russian Literature & Medieval Studies at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York since 1977.

Bibliographic information