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Homosociality and the Aesthetic in Henry James's Roderick Hudson

Michèle Mendelssohn
Nineteenth-Century Literature
Vol. 57, No. 4 (March 2003), pp. 512-541
DOI: 10.1525/ncl.2003.57.4.512
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/ncl.2003.57.4.512
Page Count: 30
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Homosociality and the Aesthetic in Henry James's Roderick Hudson
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Abstract

In Henry James's Roderick Hudson (1875), the connection between art and life is made manifest by the relationship between the sculptor Roderick Hudson and his repressed, psychically split patron, Rowland Mallet. In this essay I explore the heretofore unnoticed connections between the dynamics of same-sex desire and the aesthetic concerns of James's novel. I argue that the novel's aesthetic is mirrored in its representation of homosocial bonds and Catholicism. For Rowland Mallet aestheticized Catholicism and the homoeroticized patron-artist relationship are means of palliating his psychological and sexual fragmentation. Patronage allows the idle Rowland to become a creator at a remove and to consummate his aesthetic desires. Moreover, patronage confers a socially and contractually sanctioned "right to sight," whereby Rowland can satisfy his scopophilic tendencies by watching his ward and his works. The patron-artist relationship in the novel can therefore be read as a same-sex enactment of the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, a motif that James had rehearsed in stories preceding Roderick Hudson.

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