Silence in Henry James: The Heritage of Symbolism and Decadence

Pennsylvania State Univ Press, 1986

Against a background of Continental literary movements, Auchard explores the structures of silence in the novels and tales of Henry James. He develops their dynamics in terms of plot and action as he draws out their disturbing philosophical implications. The book relates James to the reaction against 19th-century materialism, which was symbolism, to the potency of decadence, to the century's pulses of mysticism, even to its wave of aestheticized Catholicism, and it brings James up to the edge of the modern abyss.In presenting the distinction between the symbolic richness of positive silences and the decadent void of negative silences, the work provides original scholarship of the highest order, both on James and on the extensive literature of silence, symbolism, and decadence. Silence in Henry James may indeed be a source of integrity, vitality, and fertility, but it plays out its subtle dialectic on the edge of nothingness and sometimes on the brink of collapse.