“Too Long in Foreign Parts”?: An Asian Reception to Cosmopolitanism in Henry James’s The American and The Portrait of a Lady

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Author: Patricia Haseltine, Providence University, Taiwan
Published: April 2012
https://doi.org/10.22492/ijl.1.1.03

Citation: Haseltine, P. (2012). “Too Long in Foreign Parts”?: An Asian Reception to Cosmopolitanism in Henry James’s The American and The Portrait of a Lady. IAFOR Journal of Literature & Librarianship, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijl.1.1.03


Abstract

The works of Henry James with their attention to cosmopolitanism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries provide valuable insight into contemporary expectations of cultural hybridity and globalism. This paper assesses the ways students studying English as a foreign language in Taiwan read the cultural exchanges between Americans and Europeans in James’s The American (1877) and The Portrait of a Lady (1881). It places the main attention upon how students evaluate James’s characters based upon their own attitudes toward cosmopolitanism, work and leisure, and women’s independence. Informed by the travel theory of Mary Louise Pratt (2008) and Homi Bhabha’s (1994) concept of the third space, it studies the negotiation and subversion of meaning in postcolonial and reverse-colonial contexts. The analysis of student responses reveals that in this culturally hybrid reading site, the limited consciousness technique of James generates judgments of characters’ potentialities based upon the students’ own values. Reconciling the cultural oppositions in the self to become a citizen of the world remains an ideal they do not see fully realized in James’s highly conflicted characters, and, as their own partial views attest, not realizable in their own lives.

Keywords

Henry James, cosmopolitanism, Taiwan, reception studies, travel theory