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Henry James' The Art of Fiction Essay

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Henry James' The Art of Fiction


In an essay written in response to an essay written by Walter Besant, both titled "The Art of Fiction", Henry James provides both a new understanding of fiction and greater understand of his own works. James analyses, however briefly, the process of creation of a work of fiction, readers' responses to it, and the requirements of the work and the author. James' language within this essay may be in need of some levity, but he does occasionally break through the haze to make a very strong and effective point: "[T]he only condition that I can think of attaching to the composition of a novel is…that it be sincere" (161)

There is point in which over-analysis takes away from the intention, the point in which talk of theory wanders away from the actual work of art. This is as true today in the critique of fiction as it was in James' time. In analysis we often place requirements of a piece of work. We state that for something to be this, it must then have that. These restrictions and guidelines can hardly be placed on fiction. We cannot presuppose the c...


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