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Expulsion from school under interrogation by the

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expulsion from school (under interrogation by the governess, he says it was because he "said things" to "those [he] liked," though the nature of those things remains unspecified [119,120]). Most centrally and famously, the text equivocates on the reality of the ghosts. It is for its ambiguity—or, as a later critical idiom would have it, its indeterminacy—that The Turn of the Screw has come to be most well known to James scholars. Many of the twentieth-century commentaries on the novella constituted sorties in a battle between so-called apparitionist and anti-apparitionist critics to settle the text's uncertainties. The apparition- ists maintained that the novella's ghosts are real and that the governess is engaged in selflessly heroic protection of her orphaned charges. The anti-apparitionists argued that the ghosts are imagined by the governess, probably as the result of her sexual repression, and that her "protection" of the children is in fact the destructive obsession of a madwoman, which culminates in her murder of little Miles. The terms of the apparitionist/anti-apparitionist debate were in- creasingly called into question from the late 1960s, with several critics arguing that the question of the ghosts' reality is irresolvable.' In a ger- minal essay from 1977 Shoshana Felman argues that critics or readers who seek to master The Turn by locating in it any determinate meaning fall into a trap laid by the masterly James. Paradoxically, "James's very mastery consists in the denial and deconstruction of his own mastery."* As is so often the case, James can be seen to have anticipated a sophisti- cated critical account of his own practice. In the New York edition preface, James declares that the novella is "a piece of ingenuity pure and simple, of cold artistic calculation, an amusette to catch those not easily caught (the 'fun' of the capture of the merely witless being ever but small)."'' He also concurs with Felman and other critics by claiming that the tale's ef- fectiveness lies in its lack of specification. Disavowing any responsibility for the particular meanings attributed to it by readers, he states, "[M]y
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458 Guy Davidson values are positively all blanks save so far as an excited horror, a pro- moted pity, a created expertness... proceed to read into them more or less fantastic figures" (177). Felman draws a parallel between James, known to his acolytes as "the Master" in his late career, and the uncle, referred to in the novella as "the master." Both of these masters exercise power by apparently withdrawing it: "Like the Master in Jiis story with respect to the children and to Bly, James assumes the role of Master only through claiming, with respect to his literary 'property,' the 'license,' as he puts it, 'of disconnexion and disavowal.'"* Commenting on Felman's deconstructive reading, Allan Lloyd Smith points out, however, that while The Turn of the Screw is "set up to ... baf- fle, like an Esher [sic] print, it is nevertheless contained within a certain frame and pushes interpretation in a particular direction."' That direction,
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