Subverting the Traditional Elements of Drama in Henry James’s Fiction: Upturning the Spectacle and Boosting the Female Acting

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Author: Nodhar Hammami Ben Fradj, University of Kairouan, Tunisia
Email: nodharhammami@yahoo.com
Published: December 24, 2019
https://doi.org/10.22492/ijl.8.1.05

Citation: Fradj, N. H. B. (2019). Subverting the Traditional Elements of Drama in Henry James’s Fiction: Upturning the Spectacle and Boosting the Female Acting. IAFOR Journal of Literature & Librarianship, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijl.8.1.05


Abstract

The present paper attempts to reveal Henry James’s subversion of the traditional order of the dramatic elements as defined in the main male literary canon, not in his plays but more interestingly in his fictional works which deal with the world of theater and acting. In his fiction, James questions the norms and reacts against the literary and cultural absolutes set by the same male authority symbols through his elevation of the status of the spectacle from which women should not be excluded. Aristotle seems to be replaced by a modern feminist counterpart who destabilizes the classical theory of drama by jumbling the order of its components in favor of the nineteenth-century emerging figure of the actress as a basic constituent of the spectacle. His new drama theory reserves a space for female performers and fosters woman’s talent and artistic competency. James provides a positive image of actresses and shows that acting for women translates their commitment to a political quest for selfhood rather than an engagement with exhibitionism.

Keywords

Henry James, drama, theatre, performance, spectacle, actress