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Those who think the ghosts are unreal argue cranfill

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(those who think the ghosts are unreal), argue Cranfill and Clark in An Ana- tomy of "The Turn of the Screw," offers a more subtle, therefore more affective and viable reading of the tale, than does the apparitionist school.10 The argument has a certain appealing Jamesian backwardness to it, but it is a way of prejudic- ing judgment by importing an assumption; so also, on the apparitionist side, is such a comment as E. E. Stoll's that "it is the way of ghosts in general to appear only to one person," a way of importing data by making a necessary assumption of an available convention. These are only two examples of a certain kind of argu- ment that begins by abandoning the story; I cite them because they represent frontal and basic approaches. There are similar lapses by these and other critics who have otherwise subjected themselves carefully (not to say slavishly) yet with creative responsiveness, to the text. To speculate, for instance, whether the governess' defense would stand up in a court of law1" is not just beside the point, it is (by my reading) precisely not the point; the legitimacy of her vision actively depends on her impressionistic, necessarily circumstantial, methods; its evidence only "gleams and glooms" at her as at us. Or to argue that given real fears "a well balanced twenty-year-old .... would ... quit Bly forthwith,"12 is to prejudice the question again by a very straitened concept of sanity. The governess is un- just and unbalanced only by our own normative and prescriptive terms, not by the dynamics of the story. The story will not allow us to legislate, to make our own priorities of public and saving truths those of fiction. Neither will it allow us fully to ratify the govern- ess' own legislation of belief. Are we, then, thrown back on Edmund Wilson's recognition that the story can be read in either of two opposing ways, and that we must choose? 10 Thomas M. Cranfill and Robert E. Clark, An Anatomy of "The Turn of the Screw" (Austin, Tex., 1965), p. 35. llCranfill and Clark, p. 104. 12 Cranfill and Clark, p. 53. 121 This content downloaded from 138.47.151.85 on Wed, 14 Aug 2019 22:05:55 UTC All use subject to
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NOVELJWINTER 1971 The clash between the two possible readings of "The Turn of the Screw" refers us by necessity to a description and investigation of the style of the tale. The tale demands a flexible reading of the kind I have described; it disallows the applica- tion of terminologies deriving from a fixed set of psychological, philosophical, or even realistic premises. Readings of the story forewarned by psychology or philosophy as a study of social alienation or a solipsistic tour de force, do violence to it and injustice to their proper subjects. "The Turn of the Screw" is not primarily a psychoanalytic case history of an authoritarian character, a documentary of the egocentric predicament, nor, on the other hand, a pre-Freudian study of infantile sexuality. It is a brilliantly self-conscious piece of fiction, assigning its own criteria and defining its terms, and incidentally, distinguishing them from those of other disciplines.
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