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Critical Reading: Henry James’s Washington Square


Colm Tóibín, Instructor 

This class will examine Washington Square, Henry James’s short masterpiece in which Catherine Sloper is being raised alone by her aloof and arrogant father. Slowly, as the novel unfolds, Catherine's personality emerges from shadow into light. She is the least self-conscious of protagonists, but her submerged emotions run deep. To her father she seems dull, while to the reader her tenacity, her silence, her ability to love, become almost heroic. In this seminar, we will do a close reading of some passages, will consider James’s use of New York City and the interior of Catherine’s home, and will, most importantly, look at the way the character of Catherine is presented.
Colm Tóibín is a novelist, essayist, short story writer, and playwright. His many works include The Master, a novel based on the life of Henry James, and All a Novelist Needs, a collection of essays about James. The Master won the IMPAC Dublin Prize, the Prix du Meilleur Livre, and the Los Angeles Times Novel of the Year, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. More recently, Tóibín adapted his novel The Testament of Mary into a play that was performed on Broadway in 2013.  


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