Diminishing Figures: Spectral Simulacra of Authors in Henry James’s and Max Beerbohm’s Decadent Short Stories
This paper analyses two stories by Henry James and two others by Max Beerbohm whose protagonists are, at the same time, writers and ghosts. Such a diegetic scenario is interesting because it seems to point at a disguised metaliterary treatment of current ideas about fin de siècle authoriality and a peculiar metalepsis of the concept of the death of the author, later popularized in post-structuralist France. After a contextualization of Henry James’s and Max Beerbohm’s dissimilar but equally significant contribution to the genre of the ‘Decadent short story’, the discourse turns to the features of their writer-ghosts, in order to retrace not only their conjunctural literary value, but also their fascinating impact on aesthetical matters.
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