4 Sessions via Zoom
Out of stock
Once a week Thursdays, 6:00 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT October 8 to October 29, 2020
When The Sacred Fount appeared in print in 1901, Henry James had been writing for a quarter of a century; the Master was entering his “late-phase.” Met by critics with weary bafflement, the novel still divides critics: was James “intent on making nothing out of nothing” or was the novelist “leering” at his critics, having produced “one of the most stupendous parodies ever concocted”? Is The Sacred Fount an instance of “Henry James deliberately turning a searchlight on Henry James”? There’s no doubt the novel is mystifying, yet it revisits in different form a frequent Jamesian theme: appearance and reality.
An unnamed narrator takes a train from Paddington Station to a grand estate, Newmarch, where he is to join a house-party for the weekend. He shares a compartment with two acquaintances, a man and a woman, also bound for Newmarch. He begins to notice strange reversals—the woman he always considered plain, is growing younger and more beautiful. The man once dull and banal, now appears intelligent and amiable. More seeming reversals are encountered after his arrival, or so it appears to our narrator. What is going on? Not much, but a chronicle of relentless observations; the obsessive speculations of a curious individual who tries (for many pages) to get to the bottom of the “true” nature of the relationships he so mercilessly studies. The Sacred Fount is a “strange and baffling book” indeed.
For the first session, please read chapters 1-6 in any edition.
This group will take place online via Zoom. Participants will receive instructions for access prior to the first session.
Sheridan Hay holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her first novel, The Secret of Lost Things (Doubleday/Anchor), which features a lost novel by Herman Melville, was a Booksense Pick, a Barnes and Noble Discover selection, shortlisted for the Border’s Original Voices Fiction Prize, and nominated for the International Impac Award. A San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and a New York Times Editor’s Choice, foreign rights have been sold in fourteen countries. Sheridan has led the Center’s Moby Dick reading group many times, as well as leading a popular Henry James group which will meet again in October.
The Sacred Fount
By Henry James
Published by New Directions
One of Henry James’s most mesmerizing and unusual novels, The Sacred Fount has for its scene a weekend party at the great English country house Newmarch. Here James leads the reader down a bizarre garden path. The Sacred Fount—his only novel to employ a first-person narrator—places us in the hands of an obsessive novelist (never named and never described, but perhaps familiar), who detects alarming changes in his acquaintances. A woman known for her élan has lost her poise, a dull man is charming; a friend is suddenly aged, a plain woman sparkles. Where one improves, another seems to suffer. With “plunges of insight,” “as noiseless and guarded as if I were trapping a bird,” the narrator stalks his fellow guests through the weekend, avidly trying to make sense of what he comes to believe are actual exchanges of life force. “The sacred fount,” as R.P. Blackmur noted, “is the mystery of the power that passes among us, depleting or restoring us, in friendship, in love, even in more public relations …. [Here] is the beautiful, the critical job of making that mystery manifest.”
About this series
Whether you’re looking to catch up on great novels or you’re interested in exploring a new writer or literary period, our reading groups offer high-level literary discussion led by experts in the field.
Members Only: The LiterariansFree
Wednesday, 12:30 pm EDT - 2:00 pm EDT May 19, 2021
Experimental Writing for Non-Experimental Writers with Porochista Khakpour$150
Saturday & Sunday 2:00 pm EDT - 5:15 pm EDT May 22 to May 23, 2021
Lining Up the Bones of a YA Story with Emily X.R. Pan$125
Saturday & Sunday 2:00 pm EDT - 4:15 pm EDT June 5 to June 6, 2021
The Spoken Role with Charles Bock$125
Friday & Saturday 6:00 pm EDT - 8:15 pm EDT June 11 to June 12, 2021
NEA Big Read: From the Desk of Zoe Washington Middle Grade Reading Group
Saturday, 1:00 pm EDT - 2:30 pm EDT June 12, 2021
Beyond the Tropes II: African American Voices in Speculative Short Story Form with Marc Abbott
3 Monthly Sessions Sundays, 12:00 pm EDT - 1:30 pm EDT June 13 to August 8, 2021
Writers on Writers with Sheila Kohler
4 Monthly Sessions Wednesdays, 6:00 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT June 16 to September 15, 2021
Rachel Cusk’s Outline Trilogy with Miriam Tuliao
3 Monthly Sessions Thursdays, 6:30 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT June 17 to August 19, 2021
On Writing Grief with Diane Zinna$495
Once a week Mondays, 7:00 pm EDT - 9:00 pm EDT June 21 to August 9, 2021
Book Adaptations and Hollywood with Phil Cohen$150
Friday & Saturday 5:00 pm EDT - 8:00 pm EDT June 25 to June 26, 2021
How to Get In: Applying to Fellowships, Residencies, Conferences, and Creative Writing Programs with Jonathan Escoffery$150
Friday - Sunday 2:00 pm EDT - 4:00 pm EDT June 25 to June 27, 2021
The Stories and Secrets of Women of Color with Regina A. Bernard
4 Monthly Sessions Wednesdays, 6:00 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT June 30 to September 29, 2021
Rethinking Race in Fantasy Literature with Joy Sanchez-Taylor
Every Other Week Thursdays, 6:00 pm EDT - 7:30 pm EDT July 1 to August 12, 2021
Truth and Lies: Autobiographical Fiction and Fictional Autobiography with Lisa Zeidner
Friday - Sunday 11:00 am EDT - 1:00 pm EDT July 9 to July 11, 2021
Introduction to Writing the Short Story with Elizabeth Wetmore (Sold Out)$600
Monday - Thursday 1:00 pm EDT - 3:00 pm EDT July 12 to July 22, 2021