Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, ‘Joyce and the Tradition of Anti-Colonial Revolution’ [Working Papers Ser.] (Washington State Univ. 1999)

The following quotations are given in the text:

Seamus Deane: ‘At its most powerful, colonialism is a process of radical dispossession. A colonised people is without a specific history and even, as in Ireland and other cases, without a specific language.’ (Introduction, Nationalism, Colonialism and Literature [Field Day] (Minneapolis UP 1990, pp.10-11; here p.1.)

Deane: ‘seeing its role as the defender of a pious and chaste race in a degenerate and promiscuous world … Irish freedom declined into the freedom to become Irish in predestined ways. [...] ‘[I]t was then, in the midst of this process, that the North began its internecine conflict. This restored to center stage all those issues of communal identity, colonial interference, sectarianism, and racial stereotyping that had apparently been sidlined.’ (p.13-14; Ortiz p.14.).

Deane: ‘The pluralism of styles and languages, the absorbent nature of his controlling myths and systems, finally gives a certain harmony to varied experience. But, it could be argued, it is 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 Styles, 1984, p.16.)

Marx: ‘Strong measures’ are visible in every corner of the country, the government meddles with everything, of so-called self-government there is not a trace. Ireland may be regarded as the first English colony and as one which because of its proximity is still governed exactly in the old way, and here one can already observe that the so-called liberty of English citizens is based on the oppression of the colonies. I have never seen so many gendarmes in any country ... armed with carbines, bayonets and handcuffs ... I never thought that famine could have such tangible reality. Whole villages are devastated, and there among them lie the splendid parks of the lesser landlords, who are almost the only people still living there, mostly lawyers. Famine, emigration and clearances together have accomplished this .. .The country has been completely ruined by the English wars of conquest from 1100 to 1850 (for in reality both the wars and the state of siege lasted as long as that) ... The people itself has got its peculiar character from this, and despite all their Irish nationalist fanaticism the fellows feel that they are no longer at home in their own country. (Letter of 23 May, 1856, Selected Corr., London 1934; cited Nicholas Mansergh, The Irish Question 1840-1921, Allen & Unwin 1965, pp.88-89; Ortiz, p.7.)

‘What the English do not yet know is that since 1846 the economic content and therefore also the political aim of English domination in Ireland have entered into an entirely new phase, and that, precisely because of this, Fenianism is characterized by a socialistic tendency (in a negative sense, directed against the appropriation of the soil) and by the fact that it is a lower orders movement ... The clearing of the estate of Ireland is now the one idea of English rule in Ireland ... the Irish know it.’ (Marx, Nov. 30, 1867; Mansergh, p.90.)

‘In my opinion they [the English workers] must make the repeal of the Union … into an article of their pronunciamento.’ (Marx, 29 Nov. 1869; Mansergh, p94.)

‘Every one of its movements in England itself is crippled by the disunion with the Irish, who form a very important section of the working class in England...quite apart from all phrases about “international” and ‘shumane” justice for Ireland.. .For a long time I believed it would be possible to overthrow the Irish regime by English working-class ascendancy ... Deeper study has now convinced me of the opposite. The English working class will never accomplish anything before it has got rid of Ireland. The lever must be applied in Ireland. That is why the Irish question is so important for the social movement in general.’ (Marx, Idem.)

Engels: ‘Ireland still remains the Holy Isle whose aspirations must on no account be mixed with the profane class-doubt partly honest madness on the part of the people, but it is equally certain that it is also partly a calculation on the side of the leaders to maintain their domination over the peasant [...] the Irish peasant must not on any account know that the Socialist workers are his sole allies in Europe. [7] Dec., 1869; Mansergh, op. cit., p.99.)

Lenin: ‘The policy of Marx and Engels on the Irish Question serves as a splendid example, which is of immense practical importance to this day of the attitude the proletariat of the oppressing nations should adopt towards national movements. It serves as a warning against that ‘servile haste’ with which the philistines of all countries, colours and languages, hurry to declare as ‘utopian’ the idea of changing the frontiers of states that have been established by the violence and privileges of the landlords and bourgeoisie of one nation.’ (Coll. Works, Vol XX, Moscow 1960, p.442; Mansergh107-08; Dunbar-Ortiz, p.8.)

Joyce, “Daniel Defoe”: ‘The true symbol of the British conqeust is Robinson Crusoe, cast away on a desert island, in his pocket a knife and a pipe, becomes an architect, a carpenter, a knife-grinder, an astronomer, a baker, a shipwright, a potter, a saddler, a farmer, a tailor, an umbrella maker, and a clergyman. He is the true prototype of the British colonist, as Friday (the trusty savage who arrives on an unlucky day) is the symbol of the subject races. The whole anglo-Saxon spriti is in Crusoe.’ (Quoted in Dominic Manganiello, Joyce’s Politics, 1980, p.109; Dunbar-Ortiz, pp.9-10.)

Edward Said: ‘Yet for all its success in ridding many countries and territories of colonial overlords, nationalism has remained, in my opinion, a deeply problematic ideological, as well as sociopolitical, enterprise. At some stage in the anti-resistance phase of nationalism there is a sort of dependence between the two sides of the contest, since after all many of the nationalist struggles were led by bourgeoisies that were partly formed and to some degree produced by the colonial power; these are the national bourgeoisies of which Fanon spoke so ominously. These bourgeoisies in effect have often replaced the colonial force with a new classbased and ultimately exploitative force; instead of liberation after decolonization one simply gets the old colonial structures replicated in new national terms.

‘The other problem is that the cultural horizons of nationalism are fatally limited by the common history of colonizer and colonized assumed by the nationalist movement itself. Imperialism after all is a cooperative venture. Both the master and the slave participate in it, and both grew up in it, albeit unequally. One of the salient traits of modern imperialism is that in most places it set out quite consciously to modernize, develop, instruct, and civilize the natives. An entire massive chapter in cultural history across five continents grows up out of it.

The annals of schools, missions, universities, scholarly societies, hospitals in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, and America, fill its pages, and have had the effect over time of establishing the so-called modernizing trends in the colonial regions, as well as muting or humanizing the harsher aspects of imperialist domination—all of them bridging the gap between imperial center and peripheral territories...And out of that lealliing process millions grasped the fundamentals of modern life, yet remained subordinate dependents of an authority based elsewhere than in their lives. Since one of the purposes of colonial education was to promote the history of France or Britain, that same education also demoted the native history. There were always the Englands, Frances, Germanys, Hollands as distant repositories of the Word, for all the contradictions developed during the years of productive collaboration. Stephen Dedalus is a famous example of someone who discovers these facts with unusual force.’ (Said, Nationalism, Colonialism and Literature, Minn. UP, 1990, p.74-75.

‘Before this can be done, however, there is a pressing need for the recovery of the land that, because of the presence of the colonizing outsider, is recoverable at first only through the imagination. Now if there is anything that radically distinguishes the imagination of anti-imperialism it is the primacy of the geographical in it. Imperialism after all is an act of geographical violence through which virtually every space in the world is explored, charted, and finally brought under control. For the native, the history of his or her colonial servitude is inaugurated by the loss to an outsider of the local place, whose concrete geographical identity must thereafter be searched for and somehow restored. From what? Not just from foreigners, but also from a whole other agenda whose purpose and processes are controlled elsewhere.’ (Ibid., p.77; Ortiz p.11.)

’The search for authenticity, for a more congenial national origin than that provided by colonial history, for a new pantheon of heroes, myths, and religions ... along with these nationalist adumbrations of the decolonized identity, there always goes an almost magically inspired, quasi-alchemical redevelopment of the native language. Yeats is especially interesting here. He shares with Caribbean and some African writers the predicament of a common language with the colonial overlord [...]‘ (Ibid., p.49; Ortiz p.11.)

‘One sees the drive backward in such enterprises as Senghor’s negritude, or in Soyinka’s explorations of the African past, or in the Rastafarian movement, or in the Garveyite solution, or all through the Islamic world, the rediscoveries of various unsullied, precolonial Muslim essences.’ (Ibid., p.82; Ortiz p.11.)

‘[Acceptance of nativism is to accept] the very radical, religious, and political divisions imposed on places like Ireland, India, Lebanon, and Palestine by imperialism itself. To leave the historical world for the metaphysics of essences like negritude, Irishness, Islam, and Catholicism is, in a word, to abandon history.” (Ibid., p.82; Ortiz p.11)

Maria Jolas: ‘“Watch out”, he said, not only to England’s ruling classes, but to ruling classes everywhere, “Finnegans (do) wake”.’ (‘Joyce as Revolutionary’, in New Republic, 9, Nov. 1942, p.613; Ortiz p.12.)

Terry Eagleton: ‘[A]re the Irish oppressed as Irish? In one sense, surely not: it was never of much interest to British imperialism whether the Irish were Irish or Eskimo, white or black, whether they worshipped tree gods or the Trinity. It is not their ethnic peculiarity but their territory and labor power that have entranced the British. The Irish are simply denizens of a convenient neighboring island; as long as they are other than the British they do not ... require certain specific innate characteristics to be ruled over ... In another sense, however, it is clearly abstract caviling [sic] to maintain that the Irish people has not been oppressed as Irish. However fundamentally indifferent colonialism may be to the nature of the peoples it does down, the fact remains that a particular people is in effect done down as such. And it is this fact that the truth of nationalism illuminates.’ (Nationalism, &c., 1990, p.29-30).

Frederick Jameson: ‘[..] this “peculiarity” of Joyce’s narrative content now determines a certain number of other formal results. For one thing, encounters in Joyce are already (or perhaps I should say, still) linguistic; they are stories, gossip, they have already been assimilated into speech and storytelling while taking place, so that the demiurgic transformation of the modernist poet or writer - the need to invent a new speech in order to render the freshly revealed, nonlinguistic contingencies of modern life - is in Joyce short-circuited. Meanwhile, this essential linguisticality of Ulysses - a book, as he said himself, about “the last great talkers” - is itself a result of imperialism, which condemns Ireland to an older rhetorical past and to the survivals of oratory (in the absence of action), and which freezes Dublin into an underdeveloped village in which gossip and rumor still reign supreme. Meanwhile, history itself, which must elsewhere be imported and introduced by fiat, is here already part of the urban fabric: the occupying army is present; it is perfectly natural for us to encounter its soldiers, as it is to witness the viceregal procession; the spasmodic efforts at militancy - such as the assassination of the Invincibles - are still vivid in the collective memory, and the appearance of one of the survivors is a Proustian shock, no doubt, but perfectly plausible. It is normal for the British intelligentsia to visit this interesting cultural backwater; normal for the nationalist debates (very specifically including the one around the national language) to sputter on in pubs, bars, and meeting places; while the very fact of the pub itself, or public space in which you meet and talk, is itself a happy survival of an older urban life, which will have no equivalent in metropolitan literature, where meetings between disparate characters must be more artificially arranged, by means of receptions and summer houses. (Ibid., pp.62-63; Ortiz p.13.)

Said calls Joyce’s work ‘a recapitulation of those political and racial separations, exclusions, prohibitions instituted ethnocentrically by the ascendant European culture through the nineteenth century.’ (The World, the Text, the Critic, Cambridge UP 1983, pp.48-49; Ortiz p.14.)

[See Bibliography]

[ back ]
[ top ]