Failure is built-in into literature. There are no interesting jungles without beasts

James with the beast in the jungle written in 1903 is chronicling an obsession.

Twists and turns through knowledge and confusion. Seeking to involve rather than explain

Getting lost together, with no way out.

 Queer theory emerged in the early 1990’s. Originally meaning “strange” or “peculiar”, queer came to be used pejoratively against those with same-sex desires or relationships in the late 19th century, and this is the time of Henry James’s “Beast”. Jack and Judith Halberstam were not around in 1903, there was no Queer Art of Failure yet.

It is tantalizing to me to look at the characters in the novella, John Marcher and May Bartram, in the same sense as Jack and Judith, as two manifestations of one same entity both energized by one same beast. James anticipates Halberstam.

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle is any of a variety of mathematical inequalities asserting a fundamental limit to the precision with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, known as complementary variables, such as position x and momentum p, can be known. This characteristic is what determines the difficulty in understanding Marcher and May simultaneously. The more we understand the one the least we understand the other. The interaction is constantly mediated by the Beast. This is a limitation but in no way a failure.

Particle-wave duality is the concept that every elementary particle or quantic entity may be partly described in terms not only of particles, but also of waves. An observer changes the outcome; what we see depends on how we set up the measuring experiment. This is why each reader interprets something different when approaching James’s text. It is James’s genius that he set up the novella as he did. Bear in Mind that Heisenberg and Quantum Mechanics were all developed after James wrote the novella.

Failure is built-in into literature. There are no interesting jungles without beasts. Halberstam is beastly, Helmers is competent, James is magnificent.


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