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The Turn of the Screw: A Case Study in Contemporary Criticism

The Turn of the Screw (Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism) (Paperback) by Henry James (Author), Peter G. Beidler (Editor)

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This volume presents the text of the New York Edition of James's classic 1898 short novel along with critical essays that read The Turn of the Screw from contemporary reader-response, psychoanalytic, gender, and Marxist perspectives. An additional essay demonstrates how several critical perspectives can be combined. As in the first edition, the text and essays are complemented by biographical and critical introductions, bibliographies, and a glossary of critical and theoretical terms. Two of the six essays are new to the second edition, as is a selection of cultural documents and illustrations.Reviews

5 out of 5 stars Still haunting after all these years., May 17, 2005

By Mary Whipple (New England) (TOP 50 REVIEWER) (COMMUNITY FORUM 04)    

One of the most seductive of all ghost stories, Turn of the Screw is a sophisticated and subtle literary exercise in which the author creates a dense, suggestive, and highly ambiguous story, its suspense and horror generated primarily by what the author does NOT say and does not describe. Compelled to fill in the blanks from his/her own store of personal fears, the reader ultimately conjures up a more horrifying set of images and circumstances than anything an author could impose from without.

Written in 1898, this is superficially the tale of a governess who accepts the job of teaching two beautiful, young children whose uncle-guardian wants nothing to do with them. On a symbolic level, however, it is a study of the mores and prejudices of the times and, ultimately, of the nature of Evil. The governess fears that ghosts of the former governess Miss Jessel and her lover, valet Peter Quint, have corrupted the souls of little Flora and Miles and have won them to the side of Evil. The children deny any knowledge of ghosts, and, in fact, only the governess actually sees them. Were it not for the fact that the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, can identify them from the governess's descriptions, one might be tempted to think that the governess is hallucinating.

Though the governess is certainly neurotic and repressed, this novel was published ten years before Freud, suggesting that the story should be taken at face value, as a suspenseful but enigmatic Victorian version of a Faustian struggle for the souls of these children, yet numerous other interpretations find their ardent supporters as well. Assembling an assortment of scholarly, critical essays on this ambiguous novel, editor Peter Beidler provides a variety of other interpretations, ranging from psychosexual to feminist and materialist. The authors of each of these interpretations find ample material in James's ambiguities to support their own interpretations, since James himself never provided any explanations. The editor's fascinating collection of interpretations of James's most elusive novel make this is a fine resource for serious students. Mary Whipple

4 out of 5 stars Nice companion material., March 20, 2006

By Matthew Bernard Paul (West Deptford, NJ, USA) (REAL NAME)    

I have to admit that this story really confused me upon first reading but all the critical and historical sources in the text enhance my understanding and raise some very interesting points.

5 out of 5 stars Great story...riveting read, May 18, 2007

By A. Walker "Cameron Crazie" (Northern VA) (REAL NAME)    

This book is absolutely awesome. It gives you the complete story plus a number of very insightful essays about the story. I've learned more from this one publication about The Turn of the Screw than I have from the cumulation of all my other sources combined.


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