'Delightfully dense': The Art of Stupidity in Late James

Rachel Murray

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In its sheer obviousness and inability to conceal itself, stupidity functions as a vital foil to the unscrupulous workings of the intellect in The Spoils of Poynton and The Golden Bowl. This essay examines the cultural and historical context of James’s appropriation of stupidity as a positive force capable of restoring ethical clarity to situations that have become mired in complexity. By tracing the pairing of stupid and intelligent characters, I argue that in contrast to the failed union of Fleda Vetch and Owen Gereth, Bob and Fanny Assingham represent the sublimation of a marriage of opposites into a dialectical union.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-203
Number of pages13
JournalThe Henry James Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Henry James
  • Intelligence
  • Density
  • Stupidity

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