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An Archetypal Exploration of the Potrrait of a Lady by Henry James

Author ZhangYing
Tutor FanGeXin
School Shenyang Normal
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Henry James The Portrait of a Lady archetype character
CLC I712.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2014
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Henry James is universally regarded as one of the prominent writers of thepsychological realistic novels in the history of American literature. As the pioneerwriter of steam of consciousness, James makes great and significant contributionto American novel and the world literature as well. The Portrait of a Lady is widelyacknowledged as one of his masterpieces. It has also aroused a great academic interestin the world of literary criticism since it was published in1881. The Portrait of a Ladyis known for its delicate psychological exploration and characterization.The core of the theoretical basis of this thesis is archetype, which is thereflection of human repeated embodied experiences accumulated over millions ofyears. Archetype is characterized by three features: binary, transformational andstructural. According to Carl Jung, archetype should be studied from the biologicaland psychological perspectives. He considers archetype as the content of thecollective unconscious, which is shared by all human beings. The concept ofarchetype is first mentioned as “eidos” by Plato in his The Republic and is thenstudied and developed further by Carl Jung as a psychologist and Northrop Frye as aliterary critic, who is regarded as the father of archetypal criticism. Archetypalcriticism is an approach to studying literary archetypes with an aim to help us have agood understanding of man, literature through exploring the shared human embodiedexperiences of the primordial past conveyed in literature.Based on the archetypal theories by Jung and Frye, this thesis attempts to explore underlying meanings of various archetypes in The Portrait of a Lady and theirroots and aims to reveal Henry James’ concerns about the humanity as well as hisattitude towards life, death, and rebirth under the influence of archetypes. Throughinterpreting literary archetypes in this novel, the thesis will reveal how he establishesthe intensity and thematic depth through archetypes in the novel, and why the novel istimeless. Through identifying various archetypes embodied in this novel, the thesisalso tries to figure out the universal experiences of man in Henry James’ works.The thesis is composed of four chapters. The first chapter is a brief introductionto Henry James’ life and his works, and then discusses the definitions, features ofarchetypes and is followed by the explanation of Carl Jung’s and Northrop Frye’sarchetypal ideas. The second chapter is an exploration of the archetypal charactersemployed in The Portrait of a Lady. The third chapter mainly focuses on the study ofarchetypal events embodied in this novel and the last chapter is mainly to summarizethe whole thesis.

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