Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion

Pref.2 Hudson

James’s concern in drafting Roderick, as he reflects in his 1907 preface, was to show his character as “special, that his great gift makes and keeps him highly exceptional; but that is not for a moment supposed to preclude his appearing typical (of the general type) as well; for the fictive hero successfully appeals to us only as an eminent instance, as eminent as we like, of our own conscious kind." James faults his early novel, “for the time-scheme of the story is quite inadequate," but identifies this failure as a symptom of his desire to show “Roderick’s disintegration” as “a gradual process." James references Shakespeare’s The Tempest,* in which Prospero encourages Miranda to recall her earliest memories, implying that her heritage can affect her fate. What James warns his reader against in his preface is to anticipate that some preeminent force will be the source of Roderick’s demise. Thus, James intends for readers to perceive Roderick’s deterioration as a process affected by a series of encounters between the individual and his environment.

James’s investment in Roderick's “general type” is depicted in the novel as the evolution of young artists seeking to in a modernizing world. One who is compelled to produce as effectively and rhythmically as a machine, yet fails to master the enigma of the interactive and reactive human body as a productive apparatus.


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