Henry James Review
American literature, 19th century, Henry James Jr. The Tragic Muse, novel, fidelity, family relations, photography, painting
Photographs can approach the elegance of paintings, but reproductions can show the distortion of photographs - so The Tragic Muse (1890) suggests, complicating critical understandings of James and visual art. Dramatizing artists' fidelity, James resists assuming that families, races, and genders provide similar options. Fidelity in art can mean 'infidelity' in life, lead to 'adulterated' reproductions, and impugn understandings of inherited and performed identities - concerns which resurface in The American Scene (1907) when James contemplates immigrant populations and in A Small Boy and Others (1913) when a family daguerreotype becomes evidence of his own fidelity.
Sonstegard, Adam, "Painting, Photography and Fidelity in The Tragic Muse" (2003). English Faculty Publications. 27.
Copyright © 2005 The Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in Henry James Review, Volume 24, Issue 1, Winter 2003, 27-44.