James’s “Beast in the Jungle” and Sedgwick’s “Beast in the Closet”

I’m including two pieces in our reading for July 5th. One is Henry James’s classic novella The Beast in the Jungle. It’s characteristic of his later style and showing off much more modernist experimentation with image and syntax than you may have seen in his earlier work. It was published in 1903, just before his novels The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904). I’ll refer you to the wikipedia page on James for a more detailed breakdown of how James’s career and style progressed (I’m not a James expert, honestly, and he had a LONG career).

I’ve pared it with Eve Sedgwick’s (also classic) essay “The Beast in the Closet: James and the Writing of Homosexual Panic,” which was published in Sedgwick’s The Epistemology of the Closet (1990). The book as a whole is essential reading for a crash course in queer literary criticism, and this essay offers a particularly useful and portable way into queering up James (already pretty damn queer.

Posted by Andrew in the persona of Liz

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