'A Fury of Intention': The Scandal of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw

Don Anderson

Abstract


From its publication in twelve serial instalments in Collier's Weekly (27 January 1898 to 16 April 1898), Henry James' novella The Turn of the Screw has constituted nothing less than a scandal, thouh the site of that scandal has shifted with the history of the criticism whose name is legion - of the tale.

His [James'] manners are perfect, even in his late studies of the putrescence of human existence. (The Bookman, November 1898)

Human imagination can go no further into infamy, literary art could not be used with more refined subtlety of spiritual defilement. (The Independent, 5 January 1899)1

The early scandal, then, is a moral one. James' characters are scandalous (The Bookman), or James - by way of his imagination - is scandalous (The Independent). Thus we have a scandalous text refracted through a scandalous (authorial, not yet narratorial - that will come later) imagination and containing scandalous characters (the ghosts, so far).

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