R. Brandon Kershner, ed., Joyce and Popular Culture (Univ. of Florida Press 1996), 221pp.

Contribs. incl. Derek Attridge; David Glover; Michael Walsh; Chester G. Anderson; Michael H. Begnal; Stephen Watt; David Hayman; Zack Bowen; Thomas Jackson Rice; Garry M. Leonard; Donald Theall; Helene Meyers; Adrian Peever; Richard Brown; Vincent J. Cheng.

Joyce and popular culture is one of the most dynamic and fruitful areas of modernist study …. A surprisingly rich and various field of investigation [1]

Notes that Eliot in Ulysses, Order, and Myth (1923) employed a conservative slant which ‘led critics to assume that Joyce’s reference to popular culture throughout his work were a mode of ironic documentation, like Flaubert’s citation of Emma Bovary’s reading. [8] ... Despite these factors, it should be noted that Joyce studies themselves from the 1940s to the present to some extent have fostered a non-evaluative approach to popular culture in Joyce. ... Hugh Kenner did not hesitate to publish [his] investigations into the minutiae of Joyce’s world ... the importance of everything in Joyce’s world was simply assumed … [8]

Invokes Bakhtin’s approach which ‘recognises no necessary difference in the ideological positioning of “high” and “popular” texts. … Carnival [is] the fundamental expression of a folk or popular culture for Bakhtin,

Attridge highlights the political implications of our positioning Joyce among élite artists, as well as the political implications of our ways of reading. Joyce’s implicit attack on hierarchies and on mastery, Attridge argues, suggests that the way the “Joyce industry” has traditionally framed his work may be a betrayal of its spirit.’ [15]

It may in fact be impossible to shake ourselves free of the assumption that reading is a process of mastery and totalisation, so closely imbricated is that view with our usual understanding of what meaning itself is, but Joyce’s oeuvre might be seen as one attempt (growing increasingly ambitious with each work) to give us the means to do so to the extent that it is possible. His version of modernism is certainly a far more effective means of achieving some degree of freedom from totalisaing interpretative assumptions than is theorising about the reading process, even though what we learn as we plunge into the Wake may not always carry over to the other texts we encounter. And my further point is that it is open to any reader to undergo the training that Joyce offers in nonmasterful [25] reading; it is not an explicable experience available only to an elite, whether this be construed as an elite of class, of education, or of intelligence. This is not to deny that there is a widespread preference for texts that offer themselves up immediately to consumption and gratification, but this preference is itself a cultural product, a reflex of, among other things, consumer capitalism’s demands for instant profit and the anti-intellectualism that it fosters. There is no intrinsic readson why the pleasurable labor of the “difficult” text should not be open to the majority of the population.’ (Attridge, ‘Theoretical Approaches to Popular Culture’, pp.23-26; p.25-26).

Chester Anderson finds a text in Boys of Empire by one Alan Northman under the caption ‘Should Boys have Sweethearts?’, remarking on the beautiful and the objectionable meanings of the term, and concluding with an emphatic ‘No! No! No!’ and the assertion that ‘sweethearting’ is ‘unmanly’. [Anderson, ‘Should Boys have Sweethearts?; here p.53-54); also finds verbal links between Captain Marryat’s Peter Simple and “An Encounter” in the words ‘pipe-clayed’, ‘queer’ and ‘bottle-green’, noting that Joyce told Stanislaus that Henry James bored him but Marryat’s novel didn’t. Anderson holds that Stephen [sic] Joyce is divesting himself of the ‘green’ idealism of youth and becoming aware of the need to shed the infantile sadism of his gnomonic shadow.’ (p.63).

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