Henry James's Vocabulary in The Ambassadors

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter


In Henry James's novels every word matters in the steady development of a particular kind of world. James has often been touted as master of the written word. In part this is because he was obsessive when it came to finding the right word. James's late novels are famous for their obliquity and peripatetic movements in language and meaning making. Obsessive when it comes to detail, his vocabulary is extremely measured and meticulous. This chapter examines the importance of vocabulary in his late work 'The Ambassadors', focusing on the main character Lambert Strether, whose life is lived through the sounds, effects, rhythms, and emotions of words. Strether's literary sensibilities have contemporary relevance in that they evoke Woody Allen's protagonist Gil Pender from his film, 'Midnight in Paris'. What both Strether and Pender come to represent is a style of thinking and being that is refracted through a subtle use of language that takes great delight in being alive.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVictorian Vocabularies E-book
EditorsJessica Gildersleeve
Place of PublicationMacquarie University
PublisherMacquarie Lighthouse Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9780987161123
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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