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Literature as ConductSpeech Acts in Henry James$
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J. Hillis Miller

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780823225378

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823225378.001.0001

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The Story of a Kiss: Isabel's Decisions in The Portrait of A Lady

The Story of a Kiss: Isabel's Decisions in The Portrait of A Lady

(p.30) Chapter 2 The Story of a Kiss: Isabel's Decisions in The Portrait of A Lady
Literature as Conduct

J. Hillis Miller

Fordham University Press

This chapter analyzes the story of a kiss in Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady using the speech act theory. The kisses in this novel involve the characters of Caspar Goodwood and Isabel and others between women. This chapter suggests that all the kisses were used by James as efficacious speech or mute gestures that stand in the place of speech acts. They also functioned as effective performatives in lieu of speech because a kiss is a way of doing things not with words but with signs.

Keywords:   The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James, speech act theory, literary analysis, kisses

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