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The narrator of the prologue tells us that when

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treatment of the issue of authorship. The narrator of the prologue tells us that when Douglas reads aloud the governess's narrative it is "with a fineness that was like a rendering to the ear of the beauty of his author's hand" (9). As Lustig points out, the governess is positioned as a kind of ghost, a voice from beyond the grave: one of the many ways in which she is aligned with the abjected figures of Quint and Miss Jessel."' On the other hand, the prologue may also be read as "emphasi[zing] the authorial prowess of the protagonist."^" The medi- umistic channeling of the governess's voice by Douglas seems to affirm her status as textual authority; there is even an echo here in the reference to her as "his author" of the etymological associations of the term "author" with origin and ownership. At one moment, then, the text hints that the governess shares the abject status of the ghosts; at another, it implies her authority; at still another, it pulls that authority away from her through the technique of unreliable narration. Thus the treatment of authorship epito- mizes the lack in the novella, as James puts it in the preface, of an "eligible absolute" that ties down certain meaning (176). The governess's uncertain authority in relation to her text resembles James's account of his own authorial relation to The Turn, which he char- acterizes as an oscillation between control and loss of control. According to his notebooks, James was provided with the suggestion for the novella (the "germ" in his terminology) by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward Benson, who had heard from an unnamed "lady" a "mere vague, unde-
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The Turn of the Screw, Modernism, and Commodity Culture 469 tailed faint sketch" of a story involving children being threatened by the ghosts of servants who had corrupted them." In the preface, James repre- sents himself as a shrewd entrepreneur, who, aware of "the marked and sad drop in the general supply, and still more in the general quality," of ghost-story "commodities," sees the opportunity presented by the "frag- ment" of a tale related by Benson. When asked by "the promoters of a periodical dealing in the time-honoured Christmas-tide toy" of the ghost story, James exploits his opportunity, "wonder[ing]... why so fine a germ, gleaming there in the wayside dust of life, had never been deftly picked up." James's account is replete with the idiom of commerce, including a double-edged reference to the germ's "value": the term overtly refers to the "disquieting" affect generated by the haunted-children scenario but also suggests the economic value generated by James's exploitation of the germ (the "germ" "gleaming" as it does "in the w^ayside dust" also sug- gests its orthographic near-relation, a gem) (170). James's account of his deft management of creative and commercial possibilities seemingly attests to the controlling power of the liberal self.
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