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Journal Article

"WHAT MAISIE KNEW": THE MYTH OF THE ARTIST

WILLIAM L. NANCE
Studies in the Novel
Vol. 8, No. 1 (spring 1976), pp. 88-102
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/29531770
Page Count: 15

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Topics: Morality, Literary characters, Novels, Art objects, Fear, Evil, Love, Children, Ambiguity, Statues
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"WHAT MAISIE KNEW": THE MYTH OF THE ARTIST
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Abstract

Maisie is a preeminent example of James's habitual linking of passivity with artistic power. His collaborator in the creation of the novel (1897), she has powers of knowledge, vision, and unification which make her a Jamesian artist. These powers are refined and purified by her reenactment, in the French episode, of the monomythic plot of departure, initiation, and return. The persons closest to Maisie take on mythic largeness and ambivalence. Mrs. Wix, though repellant in some ways, is the maternal power that sustains her. Sir Claude and France guide, test, and enrich her but must finally be renounced. Mrs. Beale, though beautiful, is the witch-mother whom she rejects. Although to some extent she creates and controls her own myth, it nevertheless inflicts upon her that awareness of limitation and death which is necessary to personal and artistic maturity. (WLN)

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