This essay argues that in Henry James's The Ambassadors (1903) Mrs. Newsome, who appears to be merely a representative of everything un-Jamesian, particularly a lack of moral and aesthetic imagination, should not be so quickly dismissed. Post-structuralist critics do not hesitate to denounce her. They typically identify Mrs. Newsome's "book" of expectations for Strether, her emissary, and for Chad, her successor, with the closed book of logocentric tyranny; both are said to rely on unambiguous reference and to enforce the cold rationality of linear causation. Derridean readers of The Ambassadors unmistakably prefer Madame de Vionnet's Paris, embodying as it apparently does their own essentially skeptical doctrines about representation. James, however, plays a more subtle game of balance and synthesis, suggesting that while Newsome's book is firm against new impressions, expecting experience to submit utterly to preconceived plans and moralistic evaluations, it also successfully asserts against Parisian representational openness and mystery the viability of reasonable explanation. Her book is vindicated insofar as it stands for the persistent relevance of linear causality and for the nonabsolute grounding of speculation in the concrete world of events and consequences. Newsome's extreme rationalism is in fact denied full authority early in the novel, whose true subject is located when extreme skepticism seems to dominate and explanation seems irrelevant. During the course of the story, time's subtle order slowly reemerges, and James the realist steps forward from behind the post-structuralist veil.
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