Sean Latham, ed., James Joyce [Visions & Revisions Ser.] (Dublin & Portland: IAP 2010)

CONTENTS: List of Contributors [ix]; List of Abbreviations [xi]; Sean Latham, ‘Introduction: Joyce’s Modernities’ [1]; Bruce Stewart, ‘A Short Literary Life of James Joyce’ [19]; 3. David G. Wright, ‘The Curious Language of Dubliners’ [45]; 4. Kevin J. H. Dettmar, ‘The Materiality and Historicity of Language in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ [67]; 5. Miranda Hickman, ‘“Not love verses at all, I perceive”: Joyce’s Minor Works’ [83]; 6. Michael Groden, ‘The Complex Simplicity of Ulysses’ [105]; 7. Tim Conley, ‘Finnegans Wake: Some Assembly Required’ [132]; 8. Christine van Boheemen-Saaf, ‘Joyce in Theory/Theory in Joyce’ [153]; 9. Katherine Mullin, ‘Joyce’s Bodies’ [170] ; 10. Aaron Jaffe, ‘Joyce’s Afterlives: Why Didn’t He Win the Nobel Prize?’ [189]; Select Bibliography [215]; Index [220].

Sean Latham, Introduction: Joyce’s Modernities, pp.1-18.
[...] We may, in fact, have become too comfortable with Joyce as a modernist writer, comfortably attributing the complex challenges his texts present to the deliberate difficulty of their form. Rich analytical insights have unquestionably been produced by linking Joyce to other formally innovative writers of the early twentieth century, ranging from Wyndham Lewis and T. S. Eliot to Marcel Proust and Virginia Woolf. As a card-carrying member of what Hugh Kenner famously calls ‘a supranational movement called International Modernism’’ Joyce has become familiar to us as an experimental writer engaged in an attempt to challenge the prevailing codes of realism by inventing new modes of literary and linguistic representation. The problem with treating Joyce simply as a modernist, however, is that such a moniker now provides a convenient way of bypassing the very real challenges his work presents to us, allowing us lazily to chalk them up to the contingent concerns of a now rapidly receding place and time. Indeed, the fact that we now depend so heavily on lengthy annotations and even critical introductions (like this very book) suggests that Joyce’s modernism no longer has much connection to our own modern moment. That is, we can attribute those places where the texts become particularly opaque to the widening gap between Joyce’s poverty-stricken, ‘semi-colonial’ Dublin and the wealthy, cosmopolitan capital of today’s Irish Republic. Joyce’s modernism thus becomes increasingly isolated from the very concept of [3] modernity itself, his work preserved in the mummifying amber of literary canonization.

Salvaging Joyce’s works from mere aesthetic difficulty requires us to position them instead at the intersection of discordant, competing and often contradictory modernities - including our own. (pp.3-4.)

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1: Bruce Stewart, ‘A Short Literary Life of James Joyce, pp.19-44.
‘[...] At the beginning of 1904 he was desultorily attending classes in law and medicine along with others in Irish taught by Patrick Pearse, whose nationalist hostility to the English language repelled him. He also paid for singing lessons and narrowly missed first prize at the Feis Ceol, giving way to John McCormack. Though, like Stephen in Ulysses, he may have thought himself a ‘(s)eabedabbled, fallen, weltering’ after his Icarian flight to Paris, in reality he was about to embark on his true career. On 7 January he composed an autobiographical essay of two and a half thousand words entitled, “A Portrait of the Artist”, using a ruled exercise-book belonging to his sister Mabel. This he submitted to the short-lived journal Dana, only to have it rejected by John Eglinton and Fred Ryan on the grounds that – as Eglinton wrote afterwards – they would not publish what they could not understand. (Ironically, the essay was partly modelled on Eglinton’s Two Essays on the Remnant.) In narrative terms, the 1904 “Portrait” essay sketches a young man’s passage from religious thralldom to intellectual independence. According to the irreverent trope that Joyce develops in it, that journey is made through ‘the gates of Assisi’– meaning the love of nature associated with St Francis – into the ‘fair courts of life’. The climactic moment occurs when the anonymous protagonist encounters ‘the wonder of mortal beauty’ in the shape of a wading girl, or girls, on Dollymount Strand. Through this encounter and another set among ‘yellow gaslamps’, the budding artist advances from loss of sexual innocence to aesthetic self-determination along a route essentially akin to Stephen’s quest for full artistic selfhood in the finished novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. On the way, he experiences moods of an expressly literary nature suggestive [27] of the fin de siicle excesses W.B. Yeats had described in “The Tables of the Law” - a story Joyce knew by heart.

Although numerous sentences from the essay were later transcribed verbatim into both Stephen Hero and A Portrait, it is the literary procedure rather than the content that gives the clue to Joyce’s future development. In the opening paragraph he describes the proper modality of a portrait as’the curve of an emotion’ rather than an ‘identificative paper’ and linked it to the process of growth and change that marks the development of any person in Aristotle’s system. The ‘individualising rhythm!’ identified here with ‘the first or formal relation of their parts’ echoes what he had already written in the ‘Paris Notebook’ where he defined rhythm as ‘the first or formal relation of part to part in any whole or of any whole to its part or parts’. Joyce attempts here to determine how a living being who changes in time can be represented in successive prose sentences other than by exterior description: hence the account of the autobiographical subject as ‘a fluid succession of presents’ and the denial that a portrait can be based on the ‘iron memorial aspect’ of ‘beard and inches’. Accordingly the 1904 ‘Portrait’ seeks to trace the curve or rhythm of the artist as he emerges through the workings of his own immanent development — an attempt which Joyce would not bring to successful execution until he had completed the five chapters of A Portrait using the method of multiple styles that would characterize all his later work. What is strange, in this context, is how wholly absent such a method of composition is from Stephen Hero, the ‘first draft version’ of A Portrait. Clearly, that was a’false start’, as Forrest Read has called it - or, otherwise, a stylistic cul-de-sac out of which Joyce had to reverse before he could proceed beyond Dubliners to Ulysses. Something was promised in the 1904 ‘Portrait’ that was not fulfilled in Stephen Hero. (pp.27-28.)


‘In A Portrait Joyce traced the development of his autobiographical hero by means of the ontogenic conception of style he had forecast – at least in theory – in the 1904 ‘Portrait’ essay. In finishing A Portrait, Joyce had in a sense finished with Stephen. In 1916 he told Frank Budgen that Stephen had assumed ‘a shape that can’t be changed’. The shift in values that brought Leopold Bloom on stage as a counterbalance to Stephen in that novel plunged Joyce into an epistemological maelström. Both the plot and the technique of Ulysses – though primarily the latter – make it clear that the world can be actualized in different ways by different people. In A Portrait, Joyce had recorded Stephen’s perception that every ‘fellow had a different way of walking’. It is but a step to appreciate that everyone has a different way of seeing. In Ulysses that perception is raised to the power of a stylistic principle, and then reduced to order by means of the broad polarity between the vision of the artist and that of the citizen respectively embodied by Stephen and by Bloom. In each episode of Ulysses Joyce racked up the pace of literary experimentalism a little further. Not everyone was pleased with the result and accordingly his correspondence is littered with attempts to [34] explain and exonerate such innovations. In June 1924 he wrote to his patron, Miss Weaver: ‘The task I set myself technically in writing a book from eighteen different points of view and in as many styles, all apparently unknown or undiscovered by my fellow tradesmen, that and the nature of the legend chosen would be enough to upset anyone’s mental balance’. A crucial test-case proved to be the so-called mythic parallel that the novel establishes between events in Dublin 1904 and those of Homer’s Odyssey. For T. S. Eliot, the object of the ‘mythic method’ was to give shape to ‘the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history’. Similarly he thought that the lesson of “Oxen of the Sun” was the ‘futility of all styles’, as he told Virginia Woolf. It is now clear that Joyce had little share in the elitist viewpoint that informs this interpretation, with its anxiety about the ‘dissociation of sensibility’ that was supposed to have degraded Western culture after the Renaissance. In summarizing recent Irish readings of Ulysses, Aaron Kelly has suggested that Eliot’s view is ‘exactly the opposite’ of what Joyce intended – that is, ‘using the everyday, ordinary present to indict myth and the violence of the past’. However, it is equally a mistake to suppose that he was privileging the Irish present over the classical past.’ (pp.34-35.)

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2: David G. Wright, ‘The Curious Language of Dubliners’ pp.45-66.
[...] To take another example of Joyce’s curious language: since the first volume of his correspondence as edited by Stuart Gilbert appeared in 1957, Joyce’s readers have understood that in the same 1904 letter to Curran where ‘hemiplegia or paralysis’ was specified, he imagined his future stories forming ‘a series of epicleti’. In a footnote to Joyce’s letter, Gilbert explains the puzzling term ‘epicleti’ as ‘derived from epiclesis (invocation)’ (Letters, I, p.55). The same letter to Curran reappears in Joyce’s Selected Letters, edited by Richard Ellmann, published in 1975, and still bearing exactly the same footnote (SL, p.22). Innumerable critics have made assumptions about Joyce’s implications in using the term ‘epicleti’. Many have taken it as a more precise and refined designation of his intentions than the better-known term ‘epiphany’, which Joyce glossed at length, as for example in the manuscript novel Stephen Hero which he was drafting at the same time as his early Dubliners stories. The word ‘epicleti’ is so unusual that it would appear to be a unique coinage. But the presence of this apparent Greek neologism might seem unsurprising in a letter by Joyce, who would use the rare term ‘hemiplegia’ just two sentences later in the same letter to Curran. If we plan to analyze hemiplegia, we may well want to shape our texts on the topic into epicleti.

Yet it seems equally possible that Joyce never, in fact, envisaged calling his stories ‘epicleti’ at all. Even as early as 1904, his handwriting could be unclear. Recent inspection of his manuscript letter to Curran [48] suggests that he may actually have written ‘epiclets’. Gabler recapitulates and endorses this discovery,’ and Wolfhard Steppe provides a further extended analysis. [Gabler & Hettche, ed., Dubliners, p.3, n.5; Steppe, ‘The Merry Greeks (with a Farewell to epicleti)’, in James Joyce Quarterly, 41, 1995, pp.597-617]. Since Joyce glosses ‘hemiplegia’ as ‘paralysis’ elsewhere in the letter, we could expect him to gloss the even stranger term ‘epicleti’ as ‘invocations’, if ‘epicleti’ is what he actually meant to write. He includes no such gloss, which might imply that he thought his meaning was clear, a conclusion which supports the ‘epiclets’ reading. Thus it might seem that all the cherished theories about Joyce’s epicleti must be abandoned.

However, it is doubtful whether Joyce’s use of the term ‘epiclets’, if that is what he intended, would help his readers greatly, as those who made this apparent discovery understandably began by supposing. The term might encourage readers seeking affinities between Dubliners and the expansively epic Ulysses, or pondering Stephen Dedalus’s claim that literature develops from lyrical forms (forms which Joyce had already deployed in his early poems, known to George Russell) to epic and then dramatic ones (P, pp.214-15). But as a description of the Dubliners stories, the term appears hardly apt or useful. Presumably, epiclets are little epics. Yet while Gabler cheerfully describes the word as constituting in its form ‘an ordinary English diminutive’, in semantic terms it seems to begin deconstructing itself immediately, or to become a kind of quirky oxymoron at best. Epics are large and grand objects: typical dictionary definitions will emphasize features such as textual length, elevated diction and heroic content. Could all these qualities be removed, reversed or even drastically scaled down, as would obviously be necessary in the course of producing an epiclet, and still leave behind them any kind of epic at all? Even a mock-epic would presumably require more vestiges of grandeur than a typical Dubliners story displays.

On the other hand, Joyce’s 1904 notes to Curran tend to be arch or facetious in their overt tone, even while remaining intensely serious about the imaginative writing itself So the term ‘epiclets’ might suggest a degree of defensive self-mockery, and perhaps an attempt to offset the seriousness, even pomposity, occasionally visible elsewhere in the correspondence. Besides, at the time he wrote the crucial letter, Joyce had drafted only one of the stories, though he claims already to project a ‘series’ of ten such tales. Even if he had meant to convey something [49] specific by the term ‘epiclets’, the concept which this word evoked for him at such an early stage was almost certain to change later as he worked on the construction of further stories. Such a caveat, of course, would remain equally applicable if the term he used had, in fact, been ‘epicleti’. Later stories might well become less epic-like, or less like invocations, for that matter. (pp.48-50.)


The rhetorical value of Dubliners would be greatly enhanced, at least in Joyce’s own eyes, if he had comleted it despite an obstructive publisher - even if, in some cases, that publisher had to be coaxed into suitable degrees and kinds of obstructiveness. Joyce seemingly wanted to control the manner in which Richards accepted and regarded the stories, not merely to have them appear in print. He hoped to goad the publisher, as an embodiment of conservative social opinion, into thinking out and clarifying his own standards of judgement, which do seem, as Joyce implies, to have been sometimes muddled. As a particular example, he wanted to ensure that the story “An Encounter” was as troubling as he doubtless meant it to be. If the publisher had initially missed the sexual ambiguity of this story and found it entirely innocuous, might not Joyce’s readers do likewise? Yet this seems a dangerous strategy, and the risk that Richards might decide to reject the story altogether was one which Joyce perhaps took too blithely.

In the course of these letters, Joyce carefully cultivated an ability to mimic and parody Richards’s typical manner of expression, to write to him in publisher-speak. In fact, the 1906 correspondence gradually shapes itself into a text related to Dubliners and serving several analogous purposes. In a letter to Richards on 23 June, Joyce declares: ‘I seriously believe that you will retard the course of civilisation in Ireland by preventing the Irish people from having one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking-glass’. This ‘looking-glass’ is obviously the text of Dubliners, but by this stage Joyce was using much the same strategy in his letters to the publisher: prompting him to have a good look at himself, in a looking-glass of Joyce’s own fabrication. Joyce was aware that the Dubliners typescript and the Richards correspondence had become parallel texts, each operating as a reflection or parody of the other. In these letters he may also have explored specific modes of address which could then be transferred to the stories – notably, and aptly, the story “Counterparts”, whose fussy office language closely echoes the tone of the letters, a further suggestion that Joyce may have seen the text of the stories and the Richards correspondence as ‘counterparts’ of one another. (p.53.)


In the letter [viz., Letters, Vol. II, 134] Joyce also asserts that in his stories he depicts accurately ‘whatever he has seen and heard’. Here he designates specifically two primary targets of his attention and his parodic impulses in the stories: the written and the spoken language of his fellow Dubliners [...] In story after story, the narrators exhibit great restraint in judging characters and situations, offering no single vantage point from which the material can be assessed [e.g., Mrs. Kearney in “A Mother”]. Yet for the reader, simply switching sides here should seem to simple a strategy. Rather, the revisionist readings of this story serve as a reminder that readers need to withhold judgements requiring people ot take sides, especially in the kind of dispute which the story depicts. To label Mrs Kearney right or wrong in the dispute may be to adopt the very stance which the story carefully warns its readers to avoid.

How then to reconcile Joyce’s insistence on the nicely polished looking-glass, the course of civilization in Ireland and similar weighty [55] concerns, with the quiet reticence of these stories, their repeated reluctance to give advice on how to read them? As one obvious response to the puzzle, readers could choose to claim that Joyce’s explicit statements of intent became not merely strategic but disingenuous. Yet the stories do incorporate materials which, reassembled and more explicitly labelled, could form an expressly satirical and didactic depiction of Dublin life, even though readers may feel that, in the stories as published, Joyce and his narrators have largely refrained from undertaking this construction themselves. And this, in turn, could be the real point of the looking-glass metaphor: what Joyce’s audience may need to confront is a willingness to see the inadequacies of their society without taking action to correct them. A didactic text instructing them to pursue certain courses might not produce the necessary degree of self-recognition. It could always seem to be a case of Joyce’s word against theirs. (pp.54-56.)

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3: Kevin J. H. Dettmar, ‘The Materiality and Historicity of Language in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’, pp.67-82.
[...] As a young writer Joyce first thought of himself as a poet, though had his reputation depended on his poems, his name would now be forgotten: a perusal of Joyce’s own first volume of poems, Chamber Music, quickly confirms that his prose was as avant-garde as his poetry was derrière-garde. Thus the move from poet to prose writer was one that Joyce knew something about, for it was a move he himself had already made by the time he wrote the Portrait. As the example of Stephen’s first poem [“The Vilanelle”] makes clear, Portrait supports a very complicated narrative structure: it is an autobiographical novel about a former self - a self about whom the author now has some misgivings, even feels some embarrassment. But in strict accordance with what [74] critic Maud Ellmann has called modernism’s ‘poetics of impersonality’ [viz., The Poetics of Impersonality, T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, Harvard UP 1988], Joyce forbids himself anything like explicit, third-person commentary on Stephen’s beliefs, positions and actions. The novel contains only dramatic ‘showing’, no authorial ‘telling’, and the aesthetically calculated Stephen’s juxtaposition (the prose and poetic versions of Stephen’s tram ride, for instance) is the most explicit commentary Joyce will allow himself. This stealthy mode of criticizing his protagonist, providing a kind of ironic coounterpoint, differentiates Portrait from the abortive draft Stephen Hero, in which Joyce did indulge, in small doses at least, in commentary on the callowness of his protagonist. In Stephen Hero, when Stephen flies a bit too high, for instance, the narrative calls him a ‘fantastic idealist’; in Portrait, this kind of criticism must remain always unspoken, merely implied, so that, for example, Stephen believes the most sublime and transcendent moment of The Count of Monte Cristo to be Dantes’ ‘sadly proud gesture of refusal’: ‘- Madam, I never eat muscatel grapes’.

Hence the overarching structural irony of Portrait, which has made the tone of the book so very hard for so very many readers over the years to discern. It’s a novel about a devotee of an anachronistic literary cult, written by a writer who has himself outgrown his infatuation with that same cult but who writes with a conviction that the only legitimate form of critique is precisely the patient and detached description found in Stephen’s epiphanies. [...] This, finally, is what makes Joyce’s writing in Dubliners and Portrait so powerful for so many readers: we’re never allowed simply to sit in judgement of their characters, but must instead recognize that their follies are own own. We are drawn, propulsively, into an imaginative identification with these characters and their plights. The reader whose heart doesn’t respond to Stephen Dedalus’s high-flown aspirations (‘I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience’.) hasn’t truly engaged these texts in the spirit with which they were written. (pp.74-75.)

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5: Miranda Hickman, ‘‘Not love verses at all, I perceive”: Joyce’s Minor Works’, pp. 83-104.
All three of these minor works [Chamber Music, Giacomo Joyce, and Exiles] often occasion disquiet and even dismay. Richard Brown invokes the notion of the ‘ugly duckling’ to capture the reputation of Exiles and Giacomo Joyce,’ and Louis Armand figures the latter through a trope appropriate to the text’s transgressive eroticism: that of the bastard child. As Henrietta Power notes of Giacomo Joyce in particular, it prevents critics from feeling ‘comfortable or intimate’ with it, and ‘can complicate ... attempts to produce a unified reading’ of Joyce’s corpus.’ Indeed both the poems and Exiles might be said to provoke critical anxiety, creating troubling anomalies within the Joyce canon. Power even asks whether Giacomo Joyce should be considered part of the Joycean corpus at all; and Herbert Howarth argues that the place of Chamber Music ‘is at once first, last, and nowhere. Chronologically it is first. It is last for most critics. It is nowhere for most readers, who ignore it or read it too rapidly to gather what it can give.’ [Cites Richard Brown, ‘Eros and Apparition: Giacomo Joyce’, Joyce Studies Annual, 1, 1990; L[ouis] Armand, ‘Introduction, in Giacomo Joyce: Envoys of the Other’, ed. Armand & C[lare] Wallace, Academica Press 2002; H. Power, ‘Incorporating James Joyce’, in JJQ, 28, 3, 1991; H[erbert] Howarth, ‘Chamber Music and Its Place in the Joyce Canon’, in James Joyce Today: Essays on the Major Works, ed. Thomas Staley, Indiana UP 1966.)

That these works tend to be placed together in accounts of Joyce’s oeuvre as his ‘minor’ or ‘shorter’ works, collapsed into one category, indicates that for most readers it s the marginalized status they share that overrides their considerable differences [...] And this, in turn, is because they are widely regarded as suffering from a lack of the aesthetic, philosophical and attitudinal sophistication associated with Joyce’s most celebrated works - as well as an absence of humour - which makes us miss the wit as we do when reading Wilde’s Salomé and lamenting the absence of Wilde’s incisive dandies.


Even when these minor works are appreciated, their worth is often regarded as deriving from the light they can shed on the major works. At their most beneficent, critics try, as Robert Spoo puts it, ‘to redeem’ these works ‘from the margins’ by suggesting that, if not successful in their own right, they are nonetheless valuable for their ability to illuminate the sources of many of Joyce’s later, most widely circulating ideas and formulations.’ [Cites Spoo, ‘Rival Confessors in Chamber Music: Meaning and Narrative in Joyce’s Lyric Mode’, in JJQ, 26, 4, 1989.]

[...] As Louis Armand suggests of Giacomo Joyce, insofar as these minor works haunt the Joycean canon as supplementary, we can enlist them to deconstruct the assumptions on which our dominant notions of Joyce rely. [Cites Armand, ‘Introduction’, in op. cit., 2002, p.2; here p.86.]


It is above all the passion for Joycean irony that has shunted these works to the margins. The earnestness of Chamber Music and Exiles, the unredeemed self-involvement ofthe voyeur figure in Giacomo Joyce: these leave minor works out in most discussions of Joyce’s chief contributions. And Joyce himself had much to do with how we valorize that irony, as he often indicated progress toward maturity in his work by an increase in irony, accomplished through a characteristic narrative strategy that lifts a textual element evocative of a certain perspecive or sensibility, initially treated with seriousness in one context, and transfers it to another context, where it is newly embedded in such a way as to receive satirical mockery that shows up its foibles and limitations. [...] The force field of the Joycean canon, along with the pressures of the mostmodern climate, have convinced us that irony is the road to maturity, and that texts devoid of the ironic wink lack sophistication.


At this moment, however, it would be well to resist the tendency to regret the lack of signature irony in these so-called minor texts and attempt, as Armond suggests in respect of Giacomo Joyce, to accept these texts on their own terms, as worthy of critical treatment in their own right. Their palcement in the framework of Joyce criticism has often distorted them, pulled them ellipsoid in efforts to make them in some way seve or match the terms of other works. In general, evaluation of [87] these texts according to the criteria of judgement derived from the ‘major’ works has occluded other dimensions of them that deserve consideration. [...] (p.88.)


Several commentators have suggested the possibility of an ‘other’ Joyce - the term is Armand’s - as distinct from the cool, ironic modernist. These ‘two Joyces’ are visible in texts that feature different temperamental inclinations in conflict. [...; 100] This ‘other Joyce’ is similar to the ‘other Wilde’ that becomes apparent in Wilde’s corpus if one takes into account not only the famous wit of the plays and essays, but also the meditations of Salomé, De Profundis and even The Picture of Dorian Gray - all of which Joyce was reading, as his letters and a 1909 lecture attest. As we do Wilde, perhaps we owe Joyce a serious look at the ‘other side’ of ‘the garden’, in an atempt to assess the dimension of his work that shows more earnestness and shadow, and that resorts less to the armour of irony. [...]

If we do decide that the minor works map out an ‘other Joyce’, we need to be careful, too, of how we classify and judge this ‘other’. It is easy to use Pounds’s terms, to read Chamber Music, Giacomo Joyce and Exiles as the products of the ‘real man’, the raw, the unburnished, when the sparkling wit and agility of the ‘genius’ was not yet full in play. Through the minor works, then, we might even re-evaluate not only what we mean by ‘Joyce’, not only the standards of ‘Joycean’ success, not only how how we value modernist irony and the criteria that have often governed judgements of success in modern literture, but perhaps even what we understand by modern ‘genius’. (p.101; end.)


6: Michael Groden, ‘The Complex Simplicity of Ulysses’, pp. 105-31.
[Mary] Colum’s remarks point to one reason why Ulysses seems so difficult: the prevalence in it of detailed knowledge that many readers do not share. This includes The Odyssey: Joyce based the episodes of Ulysses on incidents from Homer’s poem, even giving each episode a Homeric name (although he did not include these names in the book itself). Ulysses also introduces an unfamiliar technique - presenting the thoughts of its main characters as if a tape-recorder has preserved them without editing them for either significance or taste - and then, when the technique begins to seem familiar, replaces it with a wild series of experiments in telling a story. And Joyce plunges his readers into the action, such as it is, with no accompanying details as to who the characters are, what their backgrounds might be, or what kind of story he is about to tell - without, that is, those bits of information that a traditional novel might be expected to offer its reader at the start. These details do exist in Ulysses: some of them occur piecemeal along the way, but many appear only in the last two episodes. [...]

Joyce also creates a very close connection between his third-person narrator and the main character whose story is being told. The tradition terms for third person narrtors - omniscient (knows everything), [108] limited (knows only a few things) – do not really apply to Joyce’s narrators, since they reveal only what is necessary to place the characters, even if they may seem to know more than they say, as in ‘Mr Bloom entered and sat in the vacant place. He pulled the door to after him and slammed it twice till it shut tight. He passed an arm through the armstrap and looked seriously from the open carriagewindow at the lowered blinds of the avenue’ (6.9-12). The narrators often mimic the kind of language the characters use. In Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, this means that the narrators’ vocabulary and sentence structure mirrors the character’s age, education level or social class, and in Ulysses it can also indicate the character’s mood at the particular time of day. For example, as Bloom, newly awake and fresh in the morning, looks at his cat, he ‘watched curiously, kindly the lithe black form’ (4.21), but later in the day when he is depressed from hunger, ‘His smile faded as he walked, a heavy cloud hiding the sun slowly, shadowing Trinity’s surly front’ (8.475-6). And as Bloom sits in a church, apparently unaware of the word ‘ciborum’, the narrator says that ‘The priest went along by them, murmuring, holding the thing in his hands’ (5.344-5), allowing Bloom’s word ‘thing’ to replace the correct name. Through this method Joyce provides a detailed depiction of what the characters do and think without giving the reader much guidance as to how to interpret the character and the events. Such an absence of direction is one of the hallmarks of Joyce’s writing, and it causes one of Ulysses’ primary difficulties: even if you know enough about Homer, Latin, Catholicism, Aristotle or Aquinas to follow Joyce’s allusions in the text, you still receive no guidance as to what to do with the information. If you don’t know the details, you can feel stupid and ignorant, and if you do know them, you can still feel lost and dangling. [...]

Given these daunting complexities, Random House’s claim that Ulysses is ‘essentially a story’ might seem like a mere marketing ploy. But Joyce made a similar remark to his friend Frank Budgen. Contrasting himself with an unnamed European writer, Joyce said that ‘In my case the thought is always simple’. He didn’t elaborate on what he meant by simple thought, although there are various possibilities. He might [109] have been referring to the plot. Joyce didn’t feel that he was a good inventor of stories, and so he used existing ones, whether from his own experiences, from stories that people he knew told him or events that happened to them, or form earlier written texts. [Cites in detail Homer’s Odyssey in Charles Lamb’s prose translation of 1808.] The story he constructed using The Odyssey as a grid is a surprisingly simple one, covering one day in the lives of three Dubliners [...; 110] Joyce’s use of The Odyssey sets up a tension between what Arnold Goldman calls ‘form’ and ‘freedom’ as it sets limits on the characters freedom to act. They are completely ignorant of it, but in certain important ways their stories follow and echo their models in The Odyssey. (p.111.)


Starting with “Cyclops”, each episode seems to be written as if it is the start of a new novel; in “Ulysses” in Progress I argue that Joyce did not start working on Ulysses with a plan to use a new technique in each episode in the last half of the book, but rather eventually felt that he had exhausted the possibilities of his original method and began experimenting with other ways of telling his story. (p.119.)

[...] While the Little Review was serializing Ulysses, Joyce worked quite consistently and submitted the new episodes with impressive regularity [...] Significantly, as I wrote in “Ulysses” in Progress, once Joyce was freed from Little Review deadlines, the episodes started taking more and more time to writer, and they grew increasingly elaborate. More recently, scholars have argued that Joyce reacted to the declaration of obscenity by emphasizing the schematic elements as a way of evading the censor and by encouraging critics such as Valery Larbaud and Stuart Gilbert to interpret Ulysses through the schema rather than through the possibly obscene thoughts and actions of its characters [vide Paul Vanderham, James Joyce and Censorship: the Trials of Ulysses, Macmillan 1998] and that Joyce added the courtroom scenes and legal terminology and even the ‘legal interrogation technique of “Ithaca” [vide David Weir, ‘What Did He Know, and When Did He Know It’, in JJQ, 37, 2000) in response to the Little Review trial. (p.124.)

[Quotes FW: ‘Wipe your glosses with what you know’ 403 n.3 - which he equates with ‘wipe your asses (... &c.)’] and remarks ‘Joyce’s note points to the notorious lack of guide posts in Ulysses, since if you have to produce your glosses you are to a large extent on your own both in terms of what you undestand and how you respond. For many readers, this is a major part of Ulysses’ ultimate triumph.’ (p.135.)

7. Tim Conley, ‘Finnegans Wake: Some Assembly Required’, pp.132-52.
Joyce posits a 'world mind' capable of sustaining total contradictions and containing multitudes of meaning. This is a sleeping mind and Finnegans Wake can be read as a dream, its disorienting language a dream-language. The unconscious is a 'hothel' or 'boardelhouse' (586.18; 186.31; a blend of 'hotel' or 'boarding house' with 'brothel' or 'bordello') with both history (the things we have done) and desire (the things we wish we had done and would yet like to do) as restless tenants and regular customers. Insofar as it can be said to be a story about anything – and it is, as I'll explain, a story about anything and nothing, too, but also not a story at all – Finnegans Wake is a never-ending story about such a hotel. At least, according to some people.

This poor sort of description likely seems frustratingly nebulous or evasive to readers who like, and perhaps even depend upon, identifiable and distinct settings and characters, well-delineated plots, with a beginning, middle and end, and, of course, a recognizable language for its expression. Finnegans Wake has none of these, or if it does, they have – as Joyce's father said upon seeing Constantin Brancusi's highly abstract portrait of the artist – changed a great deal. The book begins and ends, if those verbs may be used, in mid-sentence, so the end of its reading is I never reached (523.14). It has 'characters' in the sense that, as Jed Rasula has observed, there is, besides the 'psychological and calligraphic' definitions of the term, 'a corresponding parallelism of "letter" as both epistolary and alphabetical' [Rasula, 'Finnegans Wake and Other Characters of the Letter', in James Joyce Quarterly, 34, 4, 1997, p.523]: the typographical forms that signify morphemes and phonemes as well as entire words and phrases are themselves the Wake's heroes. These 'characters', however, have no fixed addresses and their locations in space and time lack immoveable deictic markers. When did or will they do this or that? 'They always did: ask the ages. What bird has done yesterday man may do next year, be it fly, be it moult, be it hatch, be it agreement in the nest' (112.9-11). Narrative's constituent variables stay variable or, more precisely, are treated as variations on a theme.

Complicating things further, the Wake's polyvocality is as near to omnivocality as makes no difference. In Ulysses a distinctive narrative framework is used for each chapter – a scheme whose constancy affords [134] readers some comfort. Once it is understood or even just faintly supposed, for example, that the stylistic eccentricities or aberrations found in a given chapter are peculiar to it, the reader may assume that he or she need not worry that a given perspective and technique will radically change until the next chapter begins. The reader's situation turns out to be stickier than that, of course (Joyce nearly always seems to sabotage his own structures). For instance, in the "Nausicaa" episode the reader first encounters a parody of the kind of prose one finds in adolescent romances, but the perspective does in fact shift suddenly (to that of a spent Bloom) and questions linger about who devises the initial parody (is the purple prose Joyce's rendering of Gerty's purple thoughts, or is Bloom projecting a fantasy narrative on to his fantasy image?). Yet these incongruities and displacements pale in comparison to the Wake, where a phenomenal 'Everybody' ('one sum and the same person' [FW, 606.28]) is speaking and the tone and manner of narration can change from paragraph to paragraph, if not sentence to sentence. Now we hear a droning, patronizing, professorial voice, and then a gossipy, superstitious, proverb-mangling one; here a soapbox oration, there a whispered rosary. (pp.134-35.)

[Quotes Margot Norris, The Decentered Universe of Finnegans Wake: 'The singularity of individual experience – its uniqueness – is undermined by the replication of events ... [&c.]'.] Joyce may have been deeply ambivalent about the clinical practice of psychoanalysis ('I can psoakoonaloose myself any time I want' [FW, 522.34-5]), but he was never uninterested in the evolving discourse itself. The Wake is sometimes shocking, flush as it is with incest, adultery, kidnapping, rape, patricide, voyeurism and urolagnia. In fact, sexual, murderous and scatological innuendoes enjoy a polymorphous perversity Freud could only dream about. (Yet despite the sheer density of naughty stuff in its pages, Finnegans Wake never attracted the censors' breathy attentions the way Ulysses did. Maybe they were unsure, when they peeked into it, that what they thought they saw and heard there really was there.) The Wake treats readers as its dreamers, thereby allowing itself to disown and even fling back any recriminations [135] at patently dirty-minded interpreters: 'a baser meaning as been read into these characters the literal sense of which decency can safely scarcely hint' (FW, 33.14-15.)

Because the Wake attempts to emulatea collective unconscious, so its 'ideal reader' is necessarily a collective capable of dreaming its dream. Such a collective ought not to be imagined as a chorus, singing a single note in unison - quite the the contrary. Response to the Wake are discordant and sometimes cacophonous. [...] (pp.134-35.)


The idea of reading as a solitary activity, dependent on the attentiveness and imagination of the individual reader, prompted Marshall McLuhan to outline the differences between print and other media, including radio, film and television. The so-called 'hot' media of books and newspapers have different effects on their consumers than the 'cool' electronic mass media, effects which in McLuhan's view were not merely cultural but psychological and even physiological. [The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Tyopgraphic Man, Toronto: Signet 1962, pp.34-38.] Textual [144] people tend towards schizophrenia (the result of entertaining multiple voices and perspectives within one mind), while oral/aural societies are tribal. Finnegans Wake particularly excited McLuhan – his habit of quoting from it grew with and in each book he wrote – because it stands as a direct challenge to these differences. The Wake mimics the mass media (radio broadcasts, quiz shows, telephone calls, vaudeville acts, classified ads in newspapers) and demands to be both seen and heard. A good example of this conflation of media can be found in III.3, where an exchange of dialogue suggests an auction ('Sold! I am sold!' [500.21]), a stage play ('Act drop ... Curtain up' [501.07]), a radio transmission ('Tune in and pick up the forain counties' [500.35-6]), and a telephone conversation ('Hellohello! ... Am I thru' Iss? Miss? True?' [501.04]). Finnegans Wake is an 'allnights newseryreel' (489.35) and 'radiooscillating epiepistle' (108.24) at the same time that it is a book. It is a broadcast to the world, made in a distorted jumble of the world's languages, crying out: 'Calling all downs. Calling all downs to dayne. Array! Surrection!' (593.02). The lack of apostrophe in Joyce's title marks it as an imperative, that we are the Finnegans being called to the wake (or to awake, even to resurrect, ourselves). Wake readers form a remarkable, paradoxical-seeming hybrid: a tribe of individuated listeners.

Where [Walter] Benjamin argues [in “The Author as Producer”, trans. Edmund Jephcott, in Michael W. Jennings, et al., Selected Writings, Vol. 2: 1927-1934, Harvard UP 1999, p.777] that writers should, in their work, comprehend the production of - that writing, Finnegans Wake compels readers to see reading as production, and investigate the phenomena of 'making sense' of language and text. Whereas A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man ends with the suggestion of its own conception – Stephen Dedalus is off to write the book that has just ended - the Wake truly does represent a chronicle of its own production, including references to its own publication history and mixed reception. [...] (pp.144-45.)

8. Christine van Boheemen-Saaf, ‘Joyce in Theory/Theory in Joyce’, pp.153-69.
[Departs from an account of the advent of Poststructuralism in Joyce studies at a sympoisum hosted by Johns Hopkins Humanities Centre in Oct. 1966, attended by Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida.]

[...] Joyce's modernity was linked to an undecipherable realm where creation can scarcely be distinguished from destruction, where form and formlessness are well-nigh inseparable, where the anture of the word (literature, writing, the letter) is centrally at issue. (p.155.)


The earliest criticism of Joyce (1907-41), as collected in Deming's two volumes in the Critical Heritage Series, mainly consisted of appreciation and attempts to elucidate the texts, at a time when literary criticism had not yet become the prerogative of the universities. As the New Criticism became the dominant mode of address in the American universities and Leavisite approaches flourished in Great Britain, Joyce was not central to their projects. His narratives were too unwieldy to serve as illustrations of the intricacy of artistic form. Leavis excluded Joyce from his Great Tradition, finding the writing style pernicious and inorganic. Although the New Criticism appears to have contributed to the linguistic turn ('nothing but the text'), in classroom practice literary criticism remained a humanist pursuit, based on a mimetic understanding of the text and the notion of authorial consciousness (the implied author) as origin. The summary of current approaches to Ulysses, which S.L. Goldberg offered in The Classical Temper of 1969, suggests that what most baffled the New Critics was the absence of the familiar feature of authorial presence on which to base their interpretation. The responses range from the view of Ulysses as 'a naturalistic Irish comedy, the apotheosis of the bar-room joke'; the exemplification of 'indifference to all moral values ... by its implicit nihilism'; the expression of a 'mystical, esoteric or metaphysical belief; the 'pessimistic rejection of modern life'; to the'optimistic acceptance of life as it is'.' Each view, including that of Goldberg himself, approaches Joyce's work from the assumption that, however imperfectly, it mirrors an objective world. New Critical and Leavisite readings understood narrative fiction as a mirroring re-presentation of an outside, anterior and foundational world and tended to evaluate it aesthetically, in terms of its accuracy and moral perspective.

Although there were critics like Hugh Kenner whose Dublin's Joyce (1955) listens to the discursive nature of Joyce's language, the first [156] major scholarly approach to Joyce's work, which was neither philological nor stylistic but structuralist, was not published until 1974. Margot Norris's The Decentered Universe of 'Finnegan Wake': A Structuralist Analysis locates Joyce in relation to the linguistic turn. She studies the text through Claude Levi-Strauss's structural model of myth, Freud's psychoanalysis, René Girard's notion of mimetic envy, and points to repetitive aspects of narrative form, informative themes, deconstructive technique, etc. in a radically non-mimetic reading of the work. Although Norris used the term 'structuralist' in her subtitle, her anti-essentialist, non-linear approach unweaves even Levi-Strauss's concept of structure and veers toward Derrida and Lacan. In the mid-1970s the current distinction between 'structuralism' and 'post-structuralism' had not yet arisen. It is not surprising that Norris's innovation of Joyce studies should have been inspired by Finnegan Wake, a text which, as Tim Conley notes earlier in this collection, challenges any mimetic understanding.

Meanwhile, narratology, the structuralist theory of narrative, had encountered the limits of its theoretical presuppositions in confrontation with Joyce's Ulysses. Originally formulated in France by Gerard Genette, and popularized internationally by Seymour Chatman, narratology starts from the assumption that a narrative text is to be analyzed through different layers and categories, each of which are dearly distinguishable. When Ulysses was scrutinized through the lens of Genette's theory, however, it proved impossible to point to a distinct or unifying consciousness to which the narrative might be attributed. In 1978, Kenner had spoken of 'Joyce's Voices', pointing out that Joyce bends the third-person discourse of the narrator to accommodate the mind, education or personality of the person who is the object of description. In Joyce studies, his term, 'the Uncle Charles principle', came to replace the linguistic denomination of 'free-indirect speech'. Kenner noted the perspectival abyss which Joyce's strategy of disappearing behind his handiwork sets up; but his concluding chapter, 'Beyond Objectivity', could not resolve the phenomenon, nor did he draw the conclusion that Joyce specializes in undecidability. Instead, Kenner fell back on the mythic notion of an 'eternal Ausonian Muse' to make sense of Joyce. Thus Kenner, who saw the problem, remained locked in a humanist model. The struggle to locate a unified agency to which the phenomena [157] of the text might be attributed continued to occupy American critics like David Hayman (who coined the term 'the arranger' to replace 'the narrator') and John P. Riquelme. In France, meanwhile, Roland Barthes, in an analysis of Balzac's novella Sarrasine had concluded that it is 'language which speaks, not the author'. The author, the text and the reader alike are made up of the totality of quotaitons available in a culture which is without beginning or end. Celebrating 'the death of the author', Barthes freed the reader from the constraints of origin, identity, mimesis, and initiated a whole new manner of reading which generated its own terminology. Instead of the 'work' of literature, we speak of 'textuality;, on the assumption that the work of literature is constructed from language which has no motivated connection to the world. This view of the rhetoricity of language leads ot the notion that all texts derive from the archive of earlier texts. The 'origin' of the text is thus its intertextuality, and not the genius of the writer. (pp.157-58.)

[The Advent of Theory:] Lacan's text [given at the James Joyce International Symposium on 16th June 1975, Sorbonne, Paris] addresses the issue of communication through Roman Jakobson, but not without a touch of Heidegger. His first claim is that in speaking of Joyce the Symptom, he is giving Joyce his proper name 'in the dimension of naming'. The name signifies the opening up of the space which makes it possible to name things with words. The name is also the link which ties the individual to culture and language. The peculiarity of Joyce, for Lacan, is that, through writing, Joyce succeeded in making his own name immortal while this very writing also displays the symptomaticity of his insertion in language. This view of Joyce, based on A Portrait of the Artist and Finnegan Wake, allowed Lacan, throughout his career, to evolve a theory about the topology of subjectivity which would keep changing over the decades. In 1975, highlighting the playfulness of the Wake, Lacan noticed that the work lacks meaning and is unreadable in a conventional sense, but radiates with the sheer ecstatic enjoyment (jouissance) of its writer. The text of Finnegan Wake is also not analyzable in a psychoanalytic sense, nor do we read it because it captures our unconscious. Lacan does not even find Joyce sympathetic; he is fascinated by Joyce's peculiar practice of writing which shatters and litters the letter while conveying jouissance. Lacan's central example is, 'Who ails tongue coddeau, aspace of dumbillsilly' (FW, 15.18) which should be articulated as French: 'Où es ton cadeau, espèce d'imbécile' ['where is your present, you idiot']. When we get the point, we laugh. Unheard of (and unheard) here, Lacan points out, is the fact that the translinguistic homophony rests upon writing conforming to English spelling. The letter is not language itself, and someone who uses the letter in this manner interrogates the Sgounds of our relationship to language. (p.160.)


[The Ethical Turn:] What unites Lacan and Derrida in their view of Joyce is the focus on the reader and on the effect of the text. The difference between them is that they hold different notions of the materiality of the letter and the nature of its effect. Each views the community of Joycean experts with bemused envy. The heritage of theory, then, is a view of Joyce as a textual machine which forces the reader to (re-)produce it and to generate more and more commentary, in the awareness that the text is also a web in which one will be trapped, because it precludes any possibility of certainty. Indeed - and this is among the objections raised against French theory - it appears to turn literary criticism into a playful and value-free activity which may be intellectually stimulating and deeply sophisticated, but which also fails to relate to the very pressing social and political concerns of our world. Is theory not an elitist and ultimately trivial pursuit? The fact is that from the very first, a number of Joyce scholars tried to preserve the political and ethical relevance of the text in the face of the difficulties thrown up by theory. As we noted, [Colin] MacCabe's aim [in James Joyce and the Revolution of the Word, Macmillan 1978] had been to unleash Joyce's revolutionary potential; Patrick McGee's Paperspace: Style as [164] Ideology in Joyce's Ulysses (1988) managed to explore the socio-ideological significance of Joyce's styles from a post-structuralist perspective; and my own 'Joyce, Derrida, and the Discourse of "the other"' [in Benstock, ed., The Augmented Ninth, Syracuse UP 1988, pp.88-103], delivered after Derrida's reading at the Frankfurt conference, pointed to the deconstructive effect of gender in both Joyce and Derrida.

[...; cites Lyotard's The Differend (1983) - 'which preceded the backlash'.] This notion of the differend articulates a discursive deadlock found in situations of hegemonic domination: 'In the differend, something "asks" to be put into phrases and suffers from the wrong of not being able to be put into phrases right away.' Discourse maybe haunted by another, unspoken and unspeakable voice which remains silent. 'What is at stake in literature, in a philosophy, in a politics perhaps, is to bear witness to differends by finding idioms for them." (Jacques Derrida, The Differend: Phrases in Dispute, trans. G. van den Abbeele, Minnesota UP 1988.) Lyotard had casually mentioned Joyce in contrast to Proust as the modernist writer who represented the unrepresentable in fiction, but his real contribution to Joyce studies is 'Going Back to the Return', delivered at the 1988 Joyce Symposium in Venice. In contrast to Derrida (who is silent on the subject) and Lacan (who appears to have avoided it deliberately), Lyotard points to the problem of sexual difference as the central question posed by Joyce's text. The unspeakable situation of the differend surfaces in Ulysses as the fact of sexual difference. 'If there is so much sex in Ulysses, it is not because Joyce is unduly obsessed by it ... It is there because the text of the Homeric homecoming, even if it returns via the Biblical exodus, cannot avoid coming up against that difference, that most ancient, internal obstacle which hinders the return, prevents it and [165] [165] ceaselessly returns to it. Although he is pointing to a moment of undecidability in Joyce's text, Lyotard is not doing theory; he is practising philosophy. The aporia around whch Joyce's text revolves, according to Lyotard, is not the mere (and politically meaningless) effect of language or textuality, but a point at which language and consciousness touch upon justice. (p.165-66.)

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