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Durham University

Department of English Studies


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Publication details for Dr Roisin Laing

Laing, Roisín (2018). ‘What Maisie Knew: Nineteenth Century Selfhood in the Mind of the Child’. The Henry James Review 39(1): 96-109.

Author(s) from Durham


Henry James’s What Maisie Knew represents the child Maisie’s mind as a repository for adult selfhood in the post-Darwin era. Literary and scientific studies of childhood alike endeavoured to access the innocent knowledge of the child-mind in the late nineteenth century. This article argues that in both theme and style James explores the methodological challenges encountered in such attempts. What Maisie Knew suggests that the child’s mind is imagined as innocent because it resolves a disjunction between language and self. Therefore, despite the title of James’s novel, the child’s mind is necessarily unknowable.

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