Purloined Author

Claude Rawson

  • Writing and Reading in Henry James by Susanne Kappeler
    Macmillan, 242 pp, £15.00, January 1981, ISBN 0 333 29104 2

‘The starting-point for this study is Roland Barthes’s theoretical aphorism that the reader is properly the “writer” or “producer” of his text.’ By the end, it appears that the original author has changed places and become ‘the reader of his text’, while the critics go on writing it for him. And not necessarily a better reader than you or I or Ms Kappeler: ‘there is nothing in [James’s] prefaces apart from some trivial biographical data of little interest, that we as readers should not be able to trace on our own.’

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