The Art of Fiction

by Henry James

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 157

The Art of Fiction presents no ultimate argument; rather, it is a survey of different literary modes that have been taken up by fiction writers throughout time. One of its themes, therefore, is the idea that literature itself is a collaborative project. Though there are "great" writers who are given canonical attributions by scholarly consensus, there will never be a writer who is superior, in the objective sense, to his predecessors. This is because even a masterful writer relies on the invented forms and devices of writers that came before him.

Another theme is the connection of lived experience to literary form. Throughout the novel, the author explicates how certain genres, devices, and forms reflect patterns that an author sees in life. For example, Edgar Allan Poe's use of the literary trope of the "uncanny," or that which is "strangely familiar," stems from the emergence of Sigmund Freud's psychological concept of the same name during his time.

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