View Poll Results: The Turn of the Screw: Final Verdict

Voters
12. You may not vote on this poll
  • * Waste of time. Wouldn't recommend it.

    0 0%
  • ** Didn't like it much.

    1 8.33%
  • *** Average.

    2 16.67%
  • **** It is a good book.

    3 25.00%
  • ***** Liked it very much. Would strongly recommend it.

    6 50.00%
Page 1 of 10 123456 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 149

Thread: Christmas Reading '09: The Turn of the Screw

  1. #1
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Tweet @ScherLitNet
    Posts
    23,903

    Christmas Reading '09: The Turn of the Screw

    During Christmas holidays, we will be reading The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.

    Please post your comments and questions in this thread.

    Online text
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  2. #2
    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Within the winds
    Posts
    8,858
    Blog Entries
    957
    One of the things that I find interesting about this book, is considering the nature of the story which is being told within, it is passed down in a sort of urban legend sort of way.

    You know how urban legends are always told by a friend who heard it from their cousin, who got it from their cousins friend's brother, and it just keeps going on like that.

    Within The Turn of the Screw the reader is reading a manuscript written by the narrator transcribing a story that Douglass told from a manuscript written by his sister's governess.

    It is this chain of indirect hearsay that is passed down primarily through word of mouth from person to person.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

  3. #3
    biting writer
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    when it is not pc, philly
    Posts
    2,184
    I will start by posting that I will have some things to post, and will make the time to post them because Jamesians have responsibilities to future generations who will be introduced to James.

    At the same time, I do not want to put anybody off, so if I wax too loquacious unplug my battery charger in warning and I will attempt to moderate my enthusiasm.

    Let me make note of three things:

    1. In his mid-career, James saw himself as the dialectic rival of Dickens, and wrote some novels to attack the sentimentality of the more popular Victorian. I cannot say for certain that TOS competes with A Christmas Carol in the same direct way as some other texts, but knowing what I know I think a strong case can be made for it.

    2. This is one of the few stories by James of any length where he uses the technique of multi-narration, or a narrator boxed in by another narration, something Joseph Conrad would later excel at (and James tried to help Conrad as the more established author of their day).

    3. And this is my last opening point--as a seasoned reader of this text, I newly made note of two things in the opening paragraphs--the summary of the first ghost story involves the disruption of maternal solicitude, which I find a nice foreshadowing of the "dread" to follow, to use Douglas's descriptive term, and I am going to do a search to see if Griffin's ghost means anything, as James was very careful in his language.

  4. #4
    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Within the winds
    Posts
    8,858
    Blog Entries
    957
    Quote Originally Posted by Jozanny View Post
    1. In his mid-career, James saw himself as the dialectic rival of Dickens, and wrote some novels to attack the sentimentality of the more popular Victorian. I cannot say for certain that TOS competes with A Christmas Carol in the same direct way as some other texts, but knowing what I know I think a strong case can be made for it..
    That is interesting, as I have just finished reading A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Dickens' and Dickens uses a ghostly theme in several of his Christmas stories.

    The Turn of the Screw actually makes me think of A Christmas Tree by Dickens' as there is a scene within the story in which a group of people are sitting around telling ghost stories and than Dickens' gives a brief account of a variety of different types of ghost stories, as a sort of preview of the stories that were being told among the party.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

  5. #5
    biting writer
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    when it is not pc, philly
    Posts
    2,184
    Dark,

    Your use of the term urban legend somehow resonates with me. James' masterpieces seem to have that quality, plausible real world situations that yet evolve into a sort of transfiguration. In this instance, the framing of the narrative within an outer narrative may have something to do with it.

    Google offered me nothing on the nomenclature of the ghost in the opening, except a link to my own post here, but I think the Griffin is a mythological creature of some sort.

    I have not advanced much beyond the dread of Douglas, but I know the story very well and no one has to worry about spoiler posts for me. I worry more about the opposite, since it took me years to realize certain keynotes about this story--keynotes I will not mention yet--but I should advance more over the weekend.

  6. #6
    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Within the winds
    Posts
    8,858
    Blog Entries
    957
    Quote Originally Posted by Jozanny View Post
    Google offered me nothing on the nomenclature of the ghost in the opening, except a link to my own post here, but I think the Griffin is a mythological creature of some sort.
    Yes the Griffin sometimes spelled Gryphon is a creature with the talons, head, and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion, sometimes said to have a snake for a tail. They originated in India and than merged into Greek and Roman mythology.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jozanny View Post
    I have not advanced much beyond the dread of Douglas, but I know the story very well and no one has to worry about spoiler posts for me. I worry more about the opposite, since it took me years to realize certain keynotes about this story--keynotes I will not mention yet--but I should advance more over the weekend.
    This being my second reading of the story, though it has a been a while, it is interesting to see, now that I know the outcome, the way in which the wording and language of certain things has a particular significance now, than the first time I read the story. Some things just jump out at me more and seem to be reflections or foreshadow of what is yet to come, and offer clues to the mystery, as to it being truly a genuine paranormal experience, or physiological.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

  7. #7
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    1,380
    I took 'Griffin' to be the name of the person who told the first story, though I did hesitate for a moment and read back, thinking 'What Gryphon?', so maybe the name did have a sort of deeper resonance. If nothing else, it sets the scene for the appearance of unnatural or mythical beings.

    I find the idea that this is a sort of 'anti-ghost story' interesting. I could not see the relevance of the Christmas Eve setting, but with this background information, it makes the altogether nastier nature of this ghost story fall into perspective. (This is apropos of nothing at all, so forgive me for meandering off the point, but I am reminded of a post in the current Crime Book Club reading, in which the poster quoted Chandler as saying he wanted to put Crime back on the streets where it belonged, in a dirty place rather than the genteel setting of the English Country House. It seems to me James was doing the same with ghost stories, making them almost tragedies with their evocation of Pity and Terror, rather than cosy fireside tales.)

    Thanks too for pointing out the nature of the narrative, Jozanny - it's a sort of initial disclaimer: don't blame me if you find this incredible, I'm just passing on what I was told.

    Can Douglas' attachment to the 'governess', which he claims to be totally innocent, be seen as a kind of foreshadowing of things to come? (Oh dear, isn't it difficult, discussing this sort of thing without 'spoiling' ?)

  8. #8
    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    In a lurid pink building...
    Posts
    2,769
    Blog Entries
    5
    I'm glad we're doing the James - gives me an excuse to re-read it.

    BTW, I notice that the BBC has done a new adaptation of it - I think it airs sometime between Christmas and New Year. It could be interesting to see what they do with the story!
    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

  9. #9
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    20,355
    Blog Entries
    248
    I'm trying to get through those first ten pages of the frame section, prior to the tale. But i have to keep re-reading it. It doesn't want to sink in.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    I'm trying to get through those first ten pages of the frame section, prior to the tale. But i have to keep re-reading it. It doesn't want to sink in.
    Yes, that is James though, but it is worth sticking with. I have said before about this that it is one of the longest short stories I've ever read!

    I first read this the year before last to go with psychoanalysis of which this story is surely a solid set text? I think it highly likely that James was even feeding directly from the work of Freud, he probably was, either way it doesn't matter of course.

    I also think that it is highly significant that we start at the fireplace, but don't end there (I won't go into details of the end though of course). This sort of technique has been done before and since no doubt, and seeks to trap you into the narrative without giving you the freedom of realising that it is "only a story" at the end.

  11. #11
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    20,355
    Blog Entries
    248
    Oh I finally got it, the frame narrative. For some reason I thought Douglas was actually two separate people. I can see it's Douglas and the frame narrartor talking, with an occaisional woman chiming in. I'm now four chapters into the Governess's tale, and yes I'm definitely enjoying this.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  12. #12
    biting writer
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    when it is not pc, philly
    Posts
    2,184
    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    Yes, that is James though, but it is worth sticking with. I have said before about this that it is one of the longest short stories I've ever read!

    I first read this the year before last to go with psychoanalysis of which this story is surely a solid set text? I think it highly likely that James was even feeding directly from the work of Freud, he probably was, either way it doesn't matter of course.

    I also think that it is highly significant that we start at the fireplace, but don't end there (I won't go into details of the end though of course). This sort of technique has been done before and since no doubt, and seeks to trap you into the narrative without giving you the freedom of realising that it is "only a story" at the end.
    Neely: Freud has written about his professional relationship with William James, the equally famous younger brother who was the father of modern American psychology, so that Henry was channeling psychoanalytic theory was not unlikely. I am uncertain, however, in relation to dates, as I know Freud's reference to be about 1910 or so. I will ask on the Jamesian listserv, and am debating wading in further over dinner, as I am snowbound, and I cannot drive my power chair outside for quite some time. (Thankfully I can meet all of my needs online for awhile.)

    Virgil--James is "like that" so you aren't alone. It has taken me over 20 years to understand how he *says* things without saying them. Dr. Hathaway suggests just letting it flow. You'll be fine.

    ***
    Additions:

    kasie, you are correct about the possessive of "Griffin's ghost" as Mrs. Griffin is one of the minor supporting characters in the opening, but I am preoccupied with James use of the proper name, simply due to the fact that I am looking for deeper clues, if they are to be had, and I do not think Griffin is arbitrary. It is the famous creature, with your alternate spelling too, and I find this on Wiki:

    A 9th-century Irish writer by the name of Stephen Scotus[citation needed] asserted that griffins were strictly monogamous. They not only mated for life, but also, if either partner died, then the other would continue throughout the rest of its life alone, never to search for a new mate. The griffin was thus made an emblem of the Church's views on remarriage.
    Douglas also met the governess at Trinity College, and gives the manuscript to his narrator on the third day, as is mentioned, so, just like Dickens, James is playing with some of the most powerful symbolism within Christianity. Dickens has three ghosts, James has Trinity, etc.

    I am also curious as to Douglas's credibility, as James was the master, in his maturity, on making the careful reader question the reliability of the teller's authority. Douglas loved this woman, who apparently suffered no adverse consequences over her conduct or her subsequent course of action.

    James is at best, diffident about intimacy, and while Douglas vouches for the governess, I am not sure the "I" of the story, the outside narrator, vouches for the veracity of either.

    The ancient crones on the list are sniping with each other about a layman's attack on Dickens and their own personal reputations, things I have been weary of for a long time, but I hope tomorrow some of those whom I respect will assist me with some questions. I know it is not kosher to talk about internal fractures within other communities, but trust me, you can take comfort in the fact that we are all flawed, vain, petty mortals at times .

    My insufferable list-antagonist writes me thus: "You might say The Turn of the Screw is the flip side of A Christmas Carol, "sinister romance" vs. "a good cry...[combined] with uplift." Whether James consciously had Dickens' story in mind is a matter of conjecture."

    He would know, much more than even I'd care to (sigh).
    Last edited by Jozanny; 12-19-2009 at 09:10 PM. Reason: additional comments

  13. #13
    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Within the winds
    Posts
    8,858
    Blog Entries
    957
    It is funny, I remember the first time I read the story, while I enjoyed it, I was not really over-awed with it to say the least, but than at the time I was reading it for school and taking multiple different English classes, so I did not have leisure in my reading of it, and had other things to think about, as well was not reading it just for the sake of personal enjoyment.

    Now reading it for the second time, when I can read it at my leisure and now that I already know what to expect, I have more of a luxury to focus upon the prose of the story, and I am beginning to like it a lot more the second time around than I did the first.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

  14. #14
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    1,380
    Jozanny - further to William James - my edition of Oxford Companion to Eng Lit (6th ed, pub 2000) has James' Priciples of Psychology published in 1890, some eight years before TotS, so Henry would surely have known of his brother's opinions. OCtEL says this book shows James' psychology has 'a tendency to subordinate logical proof to intuitive conviction' - might be something to bear in mind as the story in TotS develops?

    Also re: griffin/gryphon - Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable gives further info that the creature 'was sacred to the sun and kept guard over hidden treasures'. (You see how, when in doubt, I have recourse to the book-shelf rather than the Net - must be my age...) I haven't heard of the symbol used with regard to marriage/fidelity but perhaps it foreshadows the relationship between the two former employees at Bly?

    Dark Muse - I am finding the same thing - the date in my copy is forty-one years ago: I was deep into Finals at the time and I think I must have acquired TotS as background reading as Portrait of a Lady was the James title on the set reading list.

  15. #15
    biting writer
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    when it is not pc, philly
    Posts
    2,184
    kasie, I am wary of being too hemeneutical, of course, but still, I have the feeling I may have stumbled onto a fresh insight, and that is exciting, but I shall hold it in reserve.

    By the time Douglas is in the actual recital, however, we know a few things. The governess is the daughter of a parson, she is nervous, impressionable, was taken with the uncle, thinks the situation grim, but accepts it, even with his somewhat hideous *condition* imposed, and we also have this foreshadowing about Miles, from the uncle himself, which in this reading I more readily picked up on:

    She would also have, in holidays, to look after the small boy, who had been for a term at school -- young as he was to be sent, but what else could be done? --
    If the actual evil of the story is to be sourced, I think it stems from the uncle's desire to abnegate his responsibility to his brother's children, a responsibility that involves more than throwing money and shelter at them, and the primacy of his own interests, which the poor young woman accepts, but evidently not without becoming conflicted by it.

    James may be indicating some interesting things about desire which exists, but ferments, unrealized. We are also made aware of the death of the lady before her, at this point.

Page 1 of 10 123456 ... LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Christmas spirit
    By Biggus in forum Personal Poetry
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 12-09-2009, 07:08 AM
  2. Christmas Linda
    By Biggus in forum Personal Poetry
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 12-15-2008, 10:00 AM
  3. Christmas Reading: Twelfth Night
    By Scheherazade in forum Forum Book Club
    Replies: 12
    Last Post: 01-12-2007, 08:50 AM
  4. The Turn Of The Screw
    By Chad in forum The Turn of the Screw
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 05-24-2005, 06:07 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •