Media & Paramedia in the Tales of Henry James (Undergraduate Thesis)
Examining the works of Henry James through the lens of media studies – particularly by looking at technologies as extensions of the body and/or mind – allows us, as readers, to decode the syntactical intricacies and ambiguities that mark the style of James's late period, referred to as his "major phase". This period coincided with a surge of interest in supernatural phenomena within Victorian society, and the seemingly uncanny powers of technologies like the telegraph feed this fascination, giving rise to telling turns of phrase – like the dubbing of the medium, the clairvoyant or the conductor of seances a "spiritual telegraph" – and conflations between the technological and the spiritual. In examining mediums from primarily a technological viewpoint, I wish to hold on to this notable intersection of terminology, and attempt to parse what might seem merely an etymological curiosity by asking the following: What precisely is the difference between mediator and medium? Perhaps the answer lies in some difference in the relationship of each to her media, implied by the construction of the words themselves: the mediator is understood in relation to the media he or she transcribes language upon, but remains separate from it. The medium, on the other hand, is the media – the declension of the word reveals this, for medium might simply mean media, singular. The self or identity of the medium is encompassed by his or her role as communicative connection – the individual becomes a vessel.