Vincent Cheng, Joyce, Race and Empire (Cambridge UP 1995), 329pp.

Foreword by Derek Attridge

[…] In recent years, however, a great deal of attention has been given to the particular, cultural practices that arise in the varied context that can be labelled ‘colonial’ and ‘postcolonial’. However reductive these labels, the work of scholars such as Homi Bhabha, David Lloyd, Lisa Lowe, Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, and Robert Young has been richly productive in questioning the tendency to give an automatic privilege to the metropolitan view of the world, in developing theoretical tools to make possible alternative understandings of the relation between the metropolitan and the peripheral, in exploring the role of art within the struggle against national and racial oppression. [xii]

[…] Professor Cheng shows how Joyce’s writing both acknowledges the current potency and the miserable legacy of binary thinking in the politics of race and empire and seeks continually for ways f breaching the oppositional logic upon which such thinking relies. [.... A]s this book demonstrates, every deployment of a representation of otherness has a bearing on the Irish predicament that remained at the heart of Joyce’s concerns, since the Irish have for centuries suffered as objects of just this kind of stereotyping prejudice. [xiii]

Introduction sketches chapters and offers account of indebtedness to the guiding lights of philosophers Jacques Derrida, M. M. Bakhtin, Edward Said; race theorists, Michael Banton and L P Curtis Jr.; political models, Antonio Gramschi and Benedict Anderson; colonial theorists, Franz Fanon, Said, Home Bhabha, Gayatri Spivak; Irish scholars Seamus Deane, Luke Gibbons, David Lloyd; race theorists: James Clifford, Mary Pratt Lisa Lowe, Spivak, Robert Young. Ends with discussion of effectiveness of Joyce’s ‘interventions and articulations on race and empire’.


Several generations of readers and scholars have now (in large measure) focused their investigations onto Joyce’s styles and way from the ideological discussions contained in the Joycean texts, secure in their assumptions that these works were apolitical and essentially non-ideological in nature. The effect is to neutralise the ideological potency of Joyce’s texts, to defang the bite of Joyce’s politics. [2]

To assume that Joyce is an apolitical (or even regressive) aestheticising, privileged white male writer in the Great Anglocentric Tradition, then, is willingly to buy into what the High Modernist academic canonising processes would have us believe. ... In canonising the radically experimental and avant-garde Joyce, there is danger of failing to contextualise his polyglot linguistic talents in the light of his historical dispossession from a native national language that allowed him neither to retrieve Gaelic as an Irish native tongue, nor to feel at home in English inflected by Empire and domination. [3]

After all, Ireland at the turn of the century - devastated by centuries of famine, poverty and rule by English landlords - was virtually a Third World country under British domination. [3]

Many of the revolutionary qualities of Joyce’s stylistic, linguistic, and literary innovations can thus be persuasively traced to, and grounded in, his sense of ideological, ethnic, and colonial dispossession. [4]

Joyce [chose] to reject the Celticism within Irish Nationalism, founded as it was on this binary trap. As I have suggested, his argument that the Irish should look beyond their narrow provincialism and their affairs with England and develop a more international consciousness was an attempt to break out of such constricting dynamism and terms, in which an Irish essence could be defined only on the conqueror’s terms (such as [55] those posited by Arnold) and in reaction/response to English claims. For Joyce rejected wholesale the Celticist argument for racial purity and national characteristics, which he found to be as specious as the English stereotyping of the Irish character as the “baboon-faced figures” (SH 64) and “the unbalanced helpless idiots we read about” (CW 171) in the English papers and magazines. [...; here quotes ‘Our civilisation is a vast fabric ... the race now living in Ireland’; CW 165-66); also cited at paragraph length at p.217.].

In rejecting the argument that the “race now living in Ireland” has somehow remained “pure and virgin”, Joyce is rejecting the ideological foundation behind the Citizen’s, the Gaelic League’s and the Literary Revival’s motivations. In arguing that in Irish civilisation “the most diverse elements are kindled”, Joyce is acknowledging the hybridity and collaboration of discursive influences and cultural formations. his works, as we shall see, become increasingly informed by his sensitivity towards the nature of hybridity, ambivalences, and interpenetrations involved in hegemonic and discursive formations. This is, of course, the understanding of discourses that Foucault advanced in The Order of Things when he suggested that the histories of the Same (Self) and the Other were [56] inextricably implicated and interpenetrated ... as Shem/Mercius would say to Shaun/Justius in Finnegans Wake, “the days of youyouth are evermixed minine” [FW194.04] (pp.55-57.)

Cheng quotes Harry Stone on Caroline Norton, author of “The Arab’s Farewell to his Steed”: ‘That an Irish woman as beautiful as Caroline Norton should have been sold by her husband for English preferments; that she should have been sold to the man who, in effect, was the English ruler of Ireland; that she, in turn, should have been party to such a sale; that this very woman, writing desperately for money, should compose a sentimental poem celebrating the traitorous sale of a beautiful and supposedly loved creature and that this poem should later be cherished by the Irish (the uncle’s recitation is in character, the poem was a popular recitation piece, it appears in almost every anthology of Irish poetry) - all this is patently and ironically appropriate to what Joyce is saying. (Harry Stone, “”Araby” and the Writings of James Joyce’, in Robert Scholes & A. Walton Litz, eds., Dubliners: Text, Criticism and Notes, pp.344-67, p.358; here p.100.)

Note that Cheng narrates how Caroline Norton was ‘sold’ to Lord Melbourne in circumstances that came out when her husband sued for divorce, and concludes that she, like her ‘steed’ and Mangan’s sister in Joyce’s story “Araby” are types of Dark Rosaleen, i.e., Ireland. Cheng concludes: ‘In Joyce’s vision of a debased and colonised Ireland, Dark Rosaleen is not a Gaelic Madonna but a cheap flirt selling her wares and her self for the coins of strangers.’ (p.100; end chap.)

Stephen’s resentment at the English occupation of the tower for which he pays the rent is suggested, not only in his opening question to Mulligan [”... How long is Haines going to stay in this tour?”] but again in his response to Mulligan’s Wildean witticism about Stephen’s face in the mirror being “the rage of Caliban at not seeing his face in the mirror” [U 1.143]. While Buck may be willing to condone the English racialisation and simianisation of the Irish as native “Caliban”, the Irish response ... was often the rage of the Irishman precisely at seeing his face represented in the English mirror as Caliban, and the parallel rage of not seeing in one’s reflection oneself as one’s one master. For Stephen’s response to Buck is that the mirror is “a symbol of Irish art. The cracked lookingglass of a servant” [U 1.146], a comment which voices and reasserts the [152] resentment of the Irish at being forced (and racialised) into the servitude of Caliban. [...; quotes -Cracked lookingglass .. Tell that to the oxy chap downstairs and touch him for a guinea ...”]. this is the delighted response of the native informant who has discovered something else he can peddle to the ethnographer ... a touch of local colour, a native witticism. (pp.152-53.)

Ulysses presents a detailed and symptomatic portrayal of how cultural hegemony shapes the discourse and fabric (and fashions) of everyday life ... the European construction of Orientalism is another case in point ... Joyce repeatedly demonstrates how much the Orientalised constructions of Other peoples are a hegemonic discourse created by colonialism but propagated by popular culture, and those a pervasive and unavoidable discursive mind-set absorbed (and recycled) by the members of the culture. (p.170.)

It is ... perhaps unavoidable, in a novel of interior monologues, that the very fabric of Dubliners’ thoughts about cultural otherness and difference are constructions of the Orientalised and essentialist discourse of the culture. [Quotes Edward Said: “every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric”: Orientalism, p.204.] Thus, Bloom’s images of the orient (mostly the Near East) can be discursively traced to popular sources such as the images of the Caliph of Baghdad (Haroun al Raschid) in the Arabian Nights, or to Sinbad the Sailor and Turko the Terrible of popular pantos ... or to the sentimentalised images of the East in Thomas Moore’s popular epic Lalla Rookh, an Oriental Romance ... . Moore could only continue to recycle previously constructed stereotypes - since he wrote it without any direct, personal experience of the Orient. (p.171.)

The hegemonic power of a dominant ideology is such that it imbues the entire culture with, in this case, an Orientalising discourse of otherness - so that, inevitably, the very terms by which an individual in the culture thinks are inescapably tainted by such constructions: again (in Said’s words), “every European [as supra:]”. This is inevitably true of Leopold Bloom as of every Irish person of the time (including, of course, James Joyce). What is interesting and distinctive about Bloom, however, (and thus also about Joyce in choosing to depict Bloom thus), is his self-conscious and unceasing scepticism and questioning of such constructed images, repeatedly both absorbing and problematising the propagated discourse.’ (p.175.)

[…] It is inevitable that Bloom is both a consumer and a product/propagator of the dominant (and racist) cultural discourse about otherness; but - perhaps because he is himself repeatedly being typed by his fellow Irish as just such a reified Other - he is repeatedly sceptical of such images and sensitive to the cultural processes by which they are erected.

Bloom, we discover, has an intense fascination with and awareness of the viewpoint of the other, of cultural difference - as evidenced in his interest in the customs of other peoples. [... 176].

[…] Not only does Bloom repeatedly show an interest in foreign customs and cultural difference, be he seems always to accept them without having to label or type them as barbaric, perverse, or unacceptable - in stark contrast to the way we repeatedly see his xenophobic fellow Irishmen, fearing foreignness, label him with the stigmatised marks of an absolute difference. Bloom is able to hold simultaneous perspectives, to imagine being other and thus to transcend the monologic narrowness of a single, cycloptic perspective ... This is a multivalent perspective (and imaginative courage) in which many of his fellow Irishmen (such as those he will encounter later in the “Cyclops” episode) are lacking.’ (pp.176-77.)

Quotes Benedict Anderson extensively (192-96).

By labelling particular games as “racy of the soil” and “Irish”, and by “banning” particular others as un-Irish or shoneen or English, this “banning” practice of the Gaelic revival was again falling into the binary trap, not only by being unable to break free of an Irish-English dialectic, but also by maintaining a static hierarchy of labels and valuations, even about sports - much as arguments for Celtic racial purity still maintained a vertical hierarchy of pejorative labels (degrees of racial impurity, such as Chinese or Hottentot) which still mirrored the imposed and inherited system of the Anglo-Saxonist racist oppression. Bloom refuses to value individual sports along polarised lines of national politics, but rather is able to break out of the Irish-English binary structures by arguing for particular sports according to their individual and humanitarian use-value: for example, “if a fellow had a rower’s heart violent exercise was bad” [U 12.892-93.]

In invoking Irish racial purity by invoking Celtic, Gaelic, or Milesian roots, racial purists necessarily occlude the fact that in internecine tribal warfare, none holding a cohesive sovereignty over the island - and certainly none of them thought of themselves as “Irish”! The terms “Irish” and “Ireland” as national signifiers are purely retrospective constructs imposed upon an earlier (and unsuspecting) history by “imagining” for the island a historically-continuous community with a homogenous national character, whereas such a sovereign community has never existed in history. But history rewrites itself as one long “Irish” tradition (with mists of inevitability) - in which the differences between Milesians, [216] Gaels, Celts and even Danes and Spaniards get written out; in which the Anglo-Irish get bracketed; in which Jews get written out altogether (in spite of their material presence in one’s midst); and in which the purity of an Irish “race” is proclaimed in spite of the fact that there never was such a thing as an Irish “nation” and in spite of the many racial/ethnic interminglings of the extended, pluralistic contact zone known as Ireland. (pp.216-17.)

We may wish to believe, with logocentric confidence in nominalist linguistic powers, that if we can name - and define, circumscribe, classify - something “objectively” we can understand it and thus capture its essence (or at least put it in a museum). But since all those essences and words are themselves social constructions based on the collective desire of the culture and on the particular needs of the interpreting individual, those names can never accurately pin down the actual difference/ différance of the particular. It is through collective versions of such linguistic slippage that people(s) get stereotyped, without careful accounting for actual and specific differences. (p.239.)

What I would posit as “Eumaeus”’s larger argument about naming, unrepresentability, and the essentialising of specific difference - is precisely what Bloom is getting at here [U 16.1131-38; 1581-1601]: while he laments the result of martial violence ... he particularly resents the Citizen’s attack precisely because Bloom was being judged on the basis of a name/word - “Jew” - which endows him with a “so-called” or “soi-disant” character (the stage Jew) of absolute Otherness -which has nothing to do with Bloom’s actual (“considerably misunderstood”) self, revealed here rather as containing a politics (and a history) of radical and activist Irish Nationalism (“those same ultra ideas”), including Land League activism. Bloom is clearly much more patriotic and much better an Irishman, patriot, and “citizen” than the bloodthirsty Citizen himself could have imagined. “At the same time he inwardly chuckled over his gentle repartee to the blood and ouns champion about is god being a jew. People could put up with being bitten by a wolf but what properly riled them was a bite from a sheep.” [U 16.1637-40.]

'With the unmasking of Bloom’s true identity come the objective details of his patriotic activism ... [243]; And now, in the “mathematical catechism” of “Ithaca”, we have a finally “objective” recognition scene, in which Bloom (despite all the false identities posited upon him) is at last unmasked as a political animal. [245]

dialogic re-presentation of the conscience of a race as a pluralistic contact zone. (p.247.)

Quotes Lloyd and Abdul JanMohamed: ‘Minority discourse ... contests genealogies of “origin” that lead to claims for cultural supremacy and historical priority. Minority discourse acknowledges the status of national culture - and the people - as a contentious, performative space of the perplexity of the living in the midst of the pedagogical representations of the fullness of life.’ ( DissemiNations, 307.)

Repeatedly quotes Seamus Deane: ‘a mirror held up to Culture’ (‘Joyce the Irishman’, in Cambridge Companion, ed. Attridge, 1990’, p.41.)

Ulysses, through the images revealed in its “nicely polished looking-glass” of the cultural contact zone that was Dublin in 1904, advocates an acceptance simultaneously of heterogeneity and difference, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, of a potential sameness and solidarity of shared similar-in-difference - between Irish, Jewish, black, Oriental, Indian, English, Boer, paleface, redskin, jewgreek and greekjew - within a multivalent, inter-nationalist perspective, rather than within a binary polarisation that freezes essences into poles of absolute and unbridgeable difference. (p.248.)

For any notion of essentialist whatness, of symbolic horseness, is show in Finnegans Wake to be by nature unstable, multiplicitous, heterogeneous, full of plurabilities, anti-essentialist in nature, a horse of an-Other colour(s). (p.261.)

Marquess [sic] of Wellesley, older br. of Duke of Wellington, served as diplomat and later Lord Lieutenant in Ireland, where he advocated Catholic Emancipation, and angered George IV, but also attracted the antagonism of the Orange Order whose members threw bottles at him in 1822; resigned Viceregal office when his br. Arthur became Prime Minister in 1828. (p.272.)

Colin MacCabe: “Finnegans Wake, with its sustained dismemberment of the English linguistic and literary heritage, is perhaps best understood in relation to the struggle against imperialism.’ (“Finnegans Wake at Fifty”, in Critical Quarterly, 31, 4, pp.3-5; here p.278.)

Port. of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence (at Wellington College, Berkshire); also equestrian statue by Wyatt.

Conclusion [Chap. 11:] “[…] presenting Joyce’s texts as a strikingly sustained and systematic commentary on the ideologies of social and imperial politics in Joyce’s Ireland, written by a highly self-conscious Irish writer who was hardly apolitical but who was, rather, deeply steeped, like the dyer’s hand, in the very hues and textures of the complex political fabrics of a racialised and colonised Irish state. ... The degree and complexity of the ideological presence and details in Joyce’s text underscore his complicated awareness of such issues; they also reveal a writer with very strong Nationalist sympathies ... but who nevertheless undertook a systematic critique of the repressiveness of both English imperialism and certain forms of Irish Nationalist consciousness. (p.289.)

[…] the Joyce corpus can thus be collectively read as a dialogic representation of the disparate historically based voices and social discourses within the various hegemonic and social blocs of turn-of-century Ireland.

Furthermore, Joyce’s works, as a whole, constitute an insistent and consistent critique of such ideological discourses and of the resulting, systemic colonial dynamics - dynamics that can be usefully understood by our own contemporary culture through the social theories of, among others, Frantz fanon, Antonio Gramsci, and Edward Said. As part of these critiques, Joyce also elaborates some of the complex psychological, linguistic, and philosophical implications embedded in a racialised discourse of an imperial Self and a colonised Other. Finally, within the fictional (and often parodic or fantastic) representations in which these ideological commentaries are couched, Joyce consistently articulates a number of alternatives - some practical, some utopian - to the complex system of racial/colonial pathology that he depicts repeatedly in his writings, from the early essays to Finnegans Wake . (p.290.)

Quotes Deane: ‘it could be argued that the pluralism of [Joyce’s] styles and languages [provide’ the harmony of indifference, one in which everything is a version of something else, where sameness rules over diversity, where contradiction is finally and disquietingly written out’ ( Heroic Idea, p.15.)


Footnotes [quotations from sundry critics]

Seamus Deane: ‘Subversion is part of the Irish enterprise […] There is nothing of political or social significance which Joyce does not undermine and restructure.’ (‘Joyce the Irishman’, in Cambridge Companion, ed. Attridge, p.44.)

Colin MacCabe: ‘Finnegans Wake is perhaps best understood in relation to the struggle against imperialism.’ (“Finnegans Wake at Fifty”, in Critical Quarterly, 31, 4, pp.3-5, p.4; here p.297.)

Seamus Deane: ‘Nationalism, as preached by Yeats or by Pearse [and by Hyde], was a crusade for decontamination. The Irish essence was to be freed of the infecting Anglicising virus and thus restored to its primal purity and vigour’ ( Celtic Revivals, p.94; here p.299).

L. P. Curtis: “So persistent has been this theme of English cultural and racial superiority over the Irish that one begins to suspect the existence among those who tried to subdue and rule the Irish of a deep-seated need to justify their confiscatory and homicidal habits in that country” ( Anglo-Saxons & Celts: A Study of Anti-Irish Prejudice in Victorian England, Bridgeport UP 1968, p.18).

L. P. Curtis: “[The English were] trying to discharge their own anxieties about feelings of violence, indolence, emotional incontinence, and even femininity onto another people who seemed to bear these stigma. Paddy served as a convenient scapegoat for the frustrations which arose out of a code of civilized and gentlemanly conduct that regulated the public 1ives of countless Englishmen . .. thus really the Irish Question is an English Question, that is to say, a by-product of the social and emotional pressure under which many middle and upper class Victorians lived and suffered.’ (Ibid., p.65.)

'Having little or no awareness of the unsettling effects which the forceful and armed English presence had upon Irish society, English observers jumped to the conclusion that the Irish people were a turbulent semi-nomadic treacherous, idle, dirty, and belligerent lot who reminded them of the ‘savages’ or Indians of North America.’ (Ibid., p.18.)

'The stereotype of the primitive, melancholic, and prognathous Irish Celt was documented by anthropologists and ethnologists who constructed impressive typologies of the physiognomies of the British and Irish peoples” (Curtis, Apes, p.94; all cited in Cheng, Joyce, Race and Empire, 1995, Notes, p.298).

On The Commitments: Cheng writes of the ‘engaging Alan Parker film (based on a novel by Roddy Doyle), [in which] a young man named Jimmy Rabbitte organizes a rock-and roll band in Dublin which he trains to perform black “soul music.” When one of the skeptical band members asks, “D’ya think maybe we’re a little white for that kind of thing?” - Jimmy points out: “You don’t get it, lads. The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland.” The poor Dublin youngsters in the band then take on as their motto, “I’m black and I’m proud.” At another point, standing in a dole queue and finding another band member also on the dole, Jimmy notes that, “We’re a Third World country, what can you do?” Finally, in a comment suggestive of the racialised discourse of the Irish as apes, Jimmy describes his band thus: “We’re the guerrillas of soul. That’s guerrilla with a ‘u,’ not an ‘o.’”’ (Cheng, p.298.)

Luke Gibbons, “Race against Time: Racial Discourse and Irish History’, in Robert Young, ed., Oxford Literary Review, 12, 1-2, 1991), p.95-117: “Many of the conceptions requisitioned by nationalist propagandists in defence of Irish culture are, in fact, an extension of colonialism, rather than a repudiation of it. The racial concept of an Irish national character is a case in point. The racial mode is, moreover, the version of Irish nationalism which has passed into general academic circulation in recent years through the ‘revisionist’ writings of Conor Cruise O’Brien and F. S. L. Lyons (among others) - largely, one suspects, because it redefines even resistance within the colonial frame and thus neutralizes the very idea of anti-colonial discourse.’ (Gibbons, op. cit., 1991, p.104; quotes here at p.49 and continued in ftn. at 298.).

Frederic Jameson: ‘When the other speaks, he or she becomes another subject, which must be consciously registered as a problem by the imperial or metropolitan subject.’ (‘Modernism’, p.49; here p.305.)

Terry Eagleton: ‘This bankrupt Irish Arnoldianism is particularly ironic when one considers that the title of Arnold’s own major work, Culture and Anarchy, might well have been rewritten as Britain and Ireland. The liberal humanist notion of Culture was constituted, among other things, to marginalize such peoples as the Irish, so that it is particularly intriguing to find this sectarian gesture being rehearsed by a few of the Irish themselves.’ (Nationalism, [FDA pamph.], p.33; here p.306.)

Margot Norris: ‘In this superb staging of the aestheticising act, Joyce displays his acute awareness that in their genderised form, in the male artist’s representation of the female, the politics of representation are expressed in doubly brutal gestures of occlusion, oppression, and exploitation: doubly brutal, because these acts are masked as love. The very form of Gabriel’s gesture towards woman - the rhetorical question (“He asked himself what is a woman a symbol of’) that proclaims its disinterest in what woman is in favour of parading its own profundity - masks artistic conceit as gyneolatry. The generality of the question implies an answer of indeterminacy and over-determination, that woman is a symbol of anything and everything man wants her to represent - except her own sense of who or what she is.’ (‘Stifled’, p.482.)

Ruth Bauerle: ‘Joyce would have felt little trouble calling the Lass of Aughrim’s situation what feminists today call it: date rape . It seems very likely that [Gretta] now identifies with the Lass of Aughrim, a victim of date rape, and sees herself as having been, too often, a victim of unwanted and perhaps forced sexual attention - that is, of mate rape by her hypereducated, though shallow, husband.’ (‘Date Rape’, p.115, 118; here p.307.)

Notes that Joyce uses the term ‘hegemony’ twice - viz., Bloom of the sea’s ‘undisputed hegemony [in] square leagues over all the region’ and Finnegans Wake: ‘Has he hegemony over her and will she submit? (573.32.)

Robert Kee: ‘Why was it Robert Emmet’s portrait above all others that was to go up along with the crucifix in countless small homes in Ireland for over a century and may even be seen there still? . The proximity of the crucifix may provide a clue. The success of the Emmet myth lay in the very need to ennoble failure. For tragic failure was to become part of Ireland’s identity, something almost indistinguishable from “the cause” itself.’ (Gifford, Ulysses Annotated, p.124; here p.310.)

Seamus Deane: ‘In revealing the essentially fictive nature of political imagining, Joyce did not repudiate Irish nationalism. Instead he understood it as a potent example of a rhetoric which imagined as true structures that did not and were never to exist outside language.’ (Ibid., p.107; here p.312.)

David Lloyd: ‘Simultaneously, the emergence of an increasingly politically conscious middle class coincides with the critical decline of the Irish language as the medium of daily life for the people, a decline that had already passed the 50 percent mark by the mid-1840s. Irish nationalism thus emerges at the moment of virtual eclipse of what would have been its “natural” language and primarily among a class that was, already, necessarily, estranged from that language” (“Writing in the Shit: Beckett, Nationalism and the Colonial Subject’, in [guest ed., Timothy Brennan,] Modern Fiction Studies, 35, 1, Spring 1989, pp.71-86; p.74).

David Lloyd: “Paradoxically, in adopting such a model of cultural identification . .. Irish nationalists reproduce in their very opposition to the Empire a narrative of universal development that is fundamental to the legitimation of imperialism” (“Writing,” 76; here ftn. p.311).

David Lloyd: ‘Even in its oppositional stance, nationalism repeats the master narrative of imperialism, the narrative of development that is always applied with extreme rigor and priority to colonised peoples ... The nationalist desire to develop the race into authenticity, borrowed already from a universalist ideology, produces the hegemonic conditions for the ultimate perpetuation of imperial domination even after independence is achieved.’ (“Writing,” 83-84; here 311.)

Terry Eagleton: ‘If colonialism tends to deprive those it subjugates not only of their land, language, and culture but of their very history ... then it is arguable that the mythological image of Ireland ... is itself a markedly historical phenomenon. A people robbed of their sense of agency and autonomy, unable to decipher the social institutions around them as expressions of their own life-practice, may tend quite reasonably to read their collective experience through the deterministic optic of mythology, with its sense of human life as shaped by the mighty forces of some process quite hidden to consciousness. Myth is in this sense less some regrettable, primitive irrationalism than a kind of historical truth.’ (‘Joyce and Mythology’, p.310; here pp.311-12.)

G. J. Watson: “[It was] perhaps inevitable that the tides of nationalism which swept all of Europe in the nineteenth century should have led, in Ireland, to the construction of a set of compensatory myths which would appropriate, shape, and glamorise the dismal story. This version of Irish history is powerfully teleological, even apocalyptic.’ (‘Politics’, p.51). Further, “[Ulysses] presents a powerful critique of this unholy alliance of romanticism, nationalism, and aestheticised history.’ (Ibid., p.52; here p.311).

Richard Ellmann: ‘The central action of Ulysses is to bring together Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom by displaying their underlying agreement on political views which the author thereby underwrites” ( Consciousness of James Joyce, p.90; here p.312).

David Lloyd: ‘Ulysses’s most radical movement is in its refusal to fulfil either of these demands [i.e., individual and stylistic totalisations] and its corresponding refusal to subordinate itself to the socialising functions of identity formation. It insists instead on a deliberate stylisation of dependence and inauthenticity, a stylisation of the hybrid status of the colonised subject as of the colonised culture, their internal adulteration and the strictly parodic modes that they produce in every sphere.’ (Anomalous States, p.110; here p.312.)

Terry Eagleton: ‘Ironically, then, a politics of difference or specificity is in the first place in the cause of sameness and universal identity - the right of a group victimised in its particularity to be on equal terms with others as far as their self-determination is concerned. ... In a further dialectical twist, however, this truth itself must be left behind as soon as seized; for the only point of enjoying such universal abstract equality is to discover and live one’s own particular difference. The telos of the entire process is not, as the Enlightenment believed, universal truth, right and identity, but concrete particularity.’ (‘Nationalism: Irony and Commitment’, in Deane, intro., Nationalism, Colonialism and Literature, Minnesota UP 1990, pp.23-39; p.30; here p.315.)

David Pierce: ‘Put differently, could the time needed to understand Finnegans Wake be better spent changing the world? Is there not a tyranny on Joyce’s part in requiring so much time and attention from the reader? Have all the words written by the professors in interpreting the text contributed anything significant beyond the Joyce confederacy? Has Finnegans Wake, in Brecht’s words, shortened the “age of exploitation?’ (‘The Politics of Finnegans Wake’, p.252; here p.316.) See also a further quotation attached to Cheng’s remark: ‘It is an unfortunate paradox for a writer like Joyce […] whose socialistically democratic ideas and ideological subversiveness can seldom directly reach the readers he is trying to empower […].’ (p.294.)

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