Millicent Bell, however, maintains that ”The echo of the romantic novel, principally, has become enmeshed with the reader’s reception of ’The Turn of the Screw.’ James induces the reader to look backwards by pushing the time of his story back to the 1840s when was published.
Moreover, he relies on a well-known formula— namely, the isolated heroine confronted by a secret from which she is excluded—and this updates the reader’s sense of recognition and sets in motion a search for a definable intention, which is never acknowledged as James keeps aloof from any concrete feedback.
Edel’s contention is that James’s attempt was to enshrine that tradition in his story: ”The Brontë’s rather than the modern psychological movement nascent in Vienna” (Edel 433, quoted by Perry 62).
James would then rank among the practitioners of the tropes familiar among his forerunners in the novel of sentiment and its stereotypes: ”the perceiving female subject, the Gothic structures […] and the explained supernatural” (Milbank 159).
Writing here harks back to the epistolary mode of Richardson’s novel of sentiment and beyond that to the predicaments of the gothic heroine probing the ’secret’ of patriarchy.
The first-person woman narrator stages her self-interrogation as a desiring subject negotiating the move from ”a symbolics of blood to an analysis of sexuality,” to take up Hoeveler’s words in her study of feminine Gothicism; and she does that notably ”through the power of language to dissemble” (James indeed kept in mind the old sentimental theme of ”virtue in distress.” Robert Brissenden, a specialist of the genre, asserts that ”if Richardson can be called a sentimental novelist so can Henry James” (Brissenden 117).
From the start the mysticism of a Romantic past is being hollowed out for a modern subject to assert itself within a mysterious halo. was itself a story told retrospectively, given as autobiography: a romantic story already displacing gothic tropes and deflating them.
then can be a signpost—not only in the heroine pitted against a background of a corrupt society of deceit, but in the parodic reenactment of older materials—possibly feminine romance revamped in the guise of a near psychic case. James makes his novella an alleged manuscript, lost and retrieved—according to the romantic archetype.
Self-sufficiency had already made of Jane Eyre the solitary and withdrawn ”eccentric,” as Virginia Woolf has it (155-61), connecting to her fancied mother as the moon, when she calls upon her to flee temptation. Fairfax, unable as she finds herself ”to draw her out” (Brontë 100). More profoundly Jane links to death from the Red Room episode onwards, by identifying with death from Lowood to Moor House. John, who will long for his own death in chapter 38.
In the same way, James’s governess utters her doomsday-like discourse of exorcism, sitting on ”a low table-like tomb” (Now the concept of the lost form expands within that of the phasing out of the plot of intricate and piled up family narratives.