Henry James's The Spoils of Poynton is, as the author describes it in his preface to the novel, "a story of cabinets and chairs and tables" and, more specifically, of the conflict over their possession. The attitudes of the Brigstocks, Fleda Vetch, and Mrs. Gereth toward the "spoils" manifest different forms of fetishism thath can be interpreted in both Marxian and Freudian terms, as well as in terms of Pierre Bourdieu's more recent theory of "political fetishishm." One of the implications of the struggle for possession of the "spoils" is that value and meaning do not somehow passively and objectively inhere in art but are rather a consequence of power, strategic action, and conflict. Thus, far from transcending the flux, chaos, and contingency of the market or history or "everyday life," as James's own preface might suggest it does, art is embroiled in and shaped by these forces. The struggle for possession also parallels, in its way-and thus bears upon-the critical debate surrounding The Spoils of Poynton and around the question of what role the author's stated or apparent intentions should have in the interpretation of the novel.
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