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Henry James and Theodora Bosanquet: on the typewriter, 'In the Cage', at the Ouija Board
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-07, 20:13 authored by Pam ThurschwellPam Thurschwell
Through a reading of James' novella about a telegraph office, In the Cage,I show that James externalizes the possibility of intimate knowledgeof another person through the commercially and materially mediatedtransactions of the telegram. The erotics of the story, in which a young,working-class telegraphist constructs a relationship with an upper-classcustomer through her picture-perfect knowledge of his telegraphing habits,depend on a melding of commercial and sexual transactions which coalescearound the new forms of access to knowledge of others provided by newcommunication technologies and the workers who run them. These eroticsof the technological storehouse are also detectable in James' relationshipswith his secretaries to whom he dictated his work at the end of his life.I compare the mediated intimacy of In the Cage to the extensive automaticwritings of James' final secretary Theodora Bosanquet, a dedicatedpsychical researcher, who, after James' death, spent a great deal of timechannelling him as well as other literary figures. Specifically new forms ofcommercialization of intimacy, with precursors that encompass bothprostitution and paying mediums for seances, begin to gather force withthe revolution in communication technology at the end of the nineteenthcentury creating a new figure, the (primarily female) information worker,whose access to others' minds results in anxieties about the permeableboundaries of individual knowledge.
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Department affiliated with
- English Publications
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