In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Henry James

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works and Bibliographies
  • Journals, Websites, Scholarly Societies
  • Biographies
  • Correspondence
  • Reception

American Literature Henry James
Daniel Mark Fogel
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 January 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199827251-0172


Henry James (b. 1843–d. 1916) was born in New York City fifteen months after his brother William, the philosopher and psychologist, and five years before his sister, Alice, a brilliant diarist; two other brothers, Garth Wilkinson (Wilky) and Robertson, were born between Henry and Alice. Drawing on inherited wealth, their parents, religious philosopher Henry James Sr. and Mary Walsh James, raised their family in a peripatetic fashion that revolved, by the time James was twenty-one, through New York City, Newport (Rhode Island), and Boston, and three European sojourns in England, France, Switzerland, and Germany (1843–1845, 1855–1858, and 1859–1860). James was educated irregularly at various schools and by private tutors. After a year (1862–1863) studying law at Harvard, he devoted himself to writing, publishing his first story in 1864. His prodigious oeuvre includes twenty novels, 112 short stories and novellas, extensive literary and art criticism, voluminous travel essays, a biography and two volumes of autobiography, sixteen plays, and materials published after his death, including two more unfinished novels; a third, unfinished autobiographical volume; his working notebooks; and much, but not yet all, of a vast correspondence. His first trips on his own to Europe were passionate pilgrimages to England and the Continent (1869–1870, 1872–1874); after an extended stay in Paris (1875–1876), he began his lifelong residence in England in December 1876. Appalled by the failure of the United States to enter World War I on England’s side, he became a British citizen in 1915. James never married but enjoyed a huge network of friendships with American, English, French, and Italian writers, painters, sculptors, actors, actresses, directors and producers, society hostesses, clerics, academics, politicians, statesmen, and military commanders, bespeaking a cosmopolitanism unmatched by any other canonical American writer. His influence as a literary artist extends from contemporaries and personal friends such as Edith Wharton and Joseph Conrad through such successors among the high Modernists as T. S. Eliot, Ford Madox Ford, and Virginia Woolf to our own contemporaries, including Cynthia Ozick, Phillip Roth, Alan Hollinghurst, David Lodge, and Colm Toibin, among many others. A foundational figure in the theory of fiction, “Henry James” as literary and cultural construct has become a rich field of play for critical theories and interpretive approaches of every stripe. Given James’s immense productivity and the ever-expanding scholarship on his life and work, this bibliographical article focuses on essential starting points for students and teachers of Henry James.

General Overviews

Critical biographies by Edel, Kaplan, and Hutchison (see Biographies) provide the best general overviews of James’s life and work. Robert L. Gale’s Henry James Encyclopedia addresses all aspects of James’s life and work (see Reference Works and Bibliographies). Gard 2013 surveys and reprints extensive extracts of critical responses to James from 1866 to 1922; Hayes 2011 reprints more reviews than Gard, but only on the novels, The American Scene and The Two Magics (which included The Turn of the Screw); and Simon 2007 provides an analytic commentary on the history of responses to James from the beginnings to the early 21st century. Beyond Simon, the best overviews of criticism and scholarship of James are the annual Henry James chapters in American Literary Scholarship and a variety of collections of essays by many hands. Fogel 1993 includes twenty essays by as many authors on the history of criticism of James’s work, on James’s own contributions to literary and narrative theory, and on his fiction and nonfiction. Zacharias 2008 offers a rich survey by many hands of critical and scholarly approaches to James in the first decade of the 21st century. Three other recent collections of essays of considerable value as overviews of current approaches to Henry James are a third “companion,” Freedman 1998, Rowe and Haralson 2012, and McWhirter 2010, all of which demonstrate through their contributors’ trenchant essays why James remains a central and increasingly provocative figure from the perspective of an array of contemporary approaches to literary study and theory.

  • Elderberry, B. R., Jr., William T. Stafford, Robert L. Gale, Richard A. Hocks, Greg Zacharias, and Sarah B. Daugherty. “Henry James.” In American Literary Scholarship. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1963–.

    An annual, and invaluable, review-essay on the year’s work in James studies.

  • Fogel, Daniel Mark, ed. A Companion to Henry James Studies. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993.

    Collects twenty original essays addressing James’s critical reception, his importance as a literary critic and theorist, and his fiction, plays, nonfiction, journals, and correspondence. Includes annotated chronological lists of James’s principal publications in book form and of landmarks of James criticism.

  • Freedman, Jonathan, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Henry James. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

    Fascinating and useful collection of a dozen original essays (a few focused on single works) that situates James in his own historical moment and in the context of a modernity he anticipated in his fiction no less than in his powerful forays into literary and cultural theory.

  • Gard, Roger, ed. Henry James: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge, 2013.

    Nearly 600 pages of reprints of critical responses to James’s oeuvre from the beginning of James’s career to 1922, including James’s short stories and novellas as well as the novels. First published 1968.

  • Hayes, Kevin J., ed. Henry James: The Critical Reviews. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    Narrower (restricted largely to James’s novels) but deeper (reprints many more reviews, generally in full) than Gard.

  • McWhirter, David, ed. Henry James in Context. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    Forty-one original essays cover the waterfront, from James’s social, cultural, and political contexts in his own time (e.g., Martha Banta on “The Twentieth-Century World [1901–1916]”) to current hot topics in James studies (e.g., Jessica Berman, Stuart Culver, Kenneth Warren, and Hugh Stevens on, respectively, “Cosmopolitanism,” “Law,” “Race,” and “Sexualities and Sexology”).

  • Rowe, John Carlos and Eric Haralson, eds. A Historical Guide to Henry James. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

    New essays by several hands situate James in relation to social, political, and cultural concerns of the 21st century. Linda Simon’s bibliographical essay provides a précis of her book, Simon 2007.

  • Simon, Linda. The Critical Reception of Henry James: Creating a Master. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2007.

    An intelligent synthesis providing an overview of critical responses to James, including chapters on Leon Edel’s Henry James and its influence, on “Jamesian Consciousness,” and on “Gender, Sexuality, Intimacy.”

  • Zacharias, Greg W., ed. A Companion to Henry James. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.

    Twenty-eight original essays by leading American, British, and European scholars on a range of topics, including James’s fiction and criticism; his relationship to the United States, England, France, and Italy; his letters; the James family; and James and film.

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