; Literary Encyclopedia

Recommended reading for The Aspern Papers

Cornwell, Neil. The Literary Fantastic: From Gothic to Postmodernism. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990. Print.

Recommended by Neil Cornwell

This study of 'The Literary Fantastic' includes a central chapter on 'Pushkin and Henry James' (pp. 113-139), in which approaches to the fantastic in the two authors are discussed. In particular, an article by A.D.P. Briggs (which appeared in 'Forum for Modern Language Studies', 8,1, 1972) is developed to demonstrate links observed between Pushkin's 'The Queen of Spades' and James's 'The Aspern Papers'. The analysis here includes a listing of 15 basic plot actions, seen as common to the two works (pp. 134-135). For a follow-up, and further critical references, see Neil Cornwell's essay in 'Two Hundred Years of Pushkin: Volume 3. Pushkin's Legacy' Rodopi, 2004), entitled 'Pushkin and Henry James: Secrets, Papers and Figures' (pp. 193-208), treating 'Aspern' and 'The Figure in the Carpet'.

Tennant, Emma. Felony: The Private History of the Aspern Papers. London: Vintage, 2003. Print.

Recommended by Neil Cornwell

As an introduction (or a follow-up) to the James novella, readers could usefully absorb Emma Tennant's novel (subtitled 'The Private History of the Aspern Papers'). This fascinating work offers a fictional reconstruction of events and relationships surrounding James's composition of 'The Aspern Papers', featuring Claire Clairmont, the doings of Silsbee (sea-captain turned Shelley-fanatic), and the friendship between Henry James and Constance Fenimore Woolson.

Mengham, Rod.“Wall to Wall: Figuring ’The Aspern Papers’.” Henry James: The Shorter Fiction: Reassessments. Ed. N. H. Reeve. London: Macmillan, 1997. 41-59. Print.

Recommended by Neil Cornwell

Rod Mengham's essay argues that the text of 'The Aspern Papers' incorporates and encrypts a sexual desire affecting the narrative's dispositions at all levels, deploying a sustained 'vocabulary of overpowering and domination'. Attack and defence, and 'the sublimation of repeated tenders of violence and betrayal' are seen to be strongly articulated in this 'project of flawed cosmopolitanism'.

Miller, J. Hillis.“History, Narrative and Responsibility.” Textual Practice 9 (1995): n. pag. Print.

Recommended by Neil Cornwell

Subtitled 'Speech Acts in Henry James's "The Aspern papers"', this article by Hillis Miller provides a valuable close reading of the James novella.

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