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Katan, M. (1962). A Causerie on Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw". Psychoanal. St. Child, 17:473-493.

(1962). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 17:473-493

Applied Psychoanalysis

A Causerie on Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw"

M. Katan, M.D.

I was asked by the editors to add a short preface to my "Causerie." To attempt to give a summary of James's story will neither do homage to the little masterpiece nor be of assistance to those readers who are not acquainted with it. This preface, of course, does not do away with the advice to read the story for oneself.

On Christmas Eve in an old house, a strange tale is told of an apparition "of a dreadful kind, to a little boy sleeping in the room with his mother and waking her up in the terror of it; waking her not to dissipate his dread and soothe him to sleep again, but to encounter also, herself, before she had succeeded in doing so, the same sight that had shaken him."

This "strange tale" causes Douglas, one of the people present, to promise an even more gruesome story, in which two children are involved. Douglas had acquired the written account of this story from the woman to whom it happened.

This woman, the daughter of a vicar in the province, as a girl of twenty, had been newly employed by a bachelor to bring up two orphans, his nephew and his niece, for whom he was the guardian. He had stipulated that she should never in any way bother him with problems arising from this task. The children lived at his country place, Bly, where the governess found a staff of servants under the direction of a motherly woman, Mrs. Grose. The little girl, Flora, aged eight, immediately captivated the governess with her lovely appearance. The boy, Miles, was still away at school.

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