Harry Levin, James Joyce: A Critical Introduction [1944] (London: Faber & Faber 1960).

For some earlier material in this text, see under James Joyce, Commentary, supra.

I: The Uncreated Conscience - 2. The City
The term “fiction”, ever since the novelists of the nineteenth [36] century discovered that truth was stranger, has been misleading. A conscientious pupil of the naturalistic school, Joyce would not invent his material. He would continue to utilize his own experience, though his imagination was to carry him much farther than the naturalism in interpreting and arranging it. The precincts of his observation were restricted, but his perceptions were abnormally acute. He was the sort of person that Henry James advises the novelist to be, “one of those people on whom nothing is lost”. The friends of his student days were quick to sense that he went among them taking notes. “So he recorded under Epiphany”, says, Dr. Gogarty, “any showing forth of the mind by which he considered one gave oneself away.” Here, from the squirming model for Back Mulligan, we have a clinical definition of what was to Joycean essentially mystical concept. The writer, no longer hoping to comprehend modem life in its chaotic fullness, was searching for external clues to its inner meaning.

An epiphany is a spiritual manifestation, more especially the original manifestation of Christ to the Magi. There are such moments in store for all of us, Joyce believed, if we but discern them. Sometimes, amid the most encumbered circumstances, it suddenly happens that the veil is lifted, the burthen of the mystery laid bare, and the ultimate secret of things made manifest. Such a sudden intimation was experienced by Marcel Proust, when he had dipped a bit of madeleine into a cap of linden tea. Such a momentary vision, perhaps too intimate to be included in the final version of the Portrait of the Artist, had once come to Stephen Dedalus, passing through Eccles Street, before “one of those brown brick houses which seem the very incarnation of Irish paralysis”. It now seemed in him that the task of the man of letters was to record these delicate and evanescent states of mind, to become a collector of epiphanies. Walking along the beach, in Ulysses, he muses upon his own and his youthful resolve to leave copies to all the libraries of the world, including Alexandria.

Such a collection has come down to us by way of Dubliners. This doctrine, however, informs all of Joyce’s work - the muffled climax of the Portrait of the Artist, the alcoholic apparitions of [37] Ulysses, and the protracted nightmare of Finnegan Wake. Listen for the single word that tells the whole story. Look for the simple gesture that reveals a complex set of relationships. It follows that the writer, like the mystic, must be peculiarly aware of these manifestations. What seem trivial details to others may be portentous symbols to him. In this light, Joyce’s later works are artificial reconstructions of a transcendental view of experience. His dizzying shifts between mystification and exhibitionism, between linguistic experiment and pornographic confession, between myth and autobiography, between symbolism and naturalism, attempts to create a literary substitute for the revelations of religion.

The reader of Joyce is continually reminded of the analogy between the role of the artist and the priestly office. The focal situation of Dubliners is that described in “Araby”, where we walk through the streets of the city, glimpsing places “hostile to romance” through the eyes of a child: “These noises converged in a single sensation of life for me: I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes.” The same symbol is given a darker purport in the first story of the book, “The Sisters”, when it is recalled that the dying priest had disgraced himself by breaking a chalice. The broken chalice is an emblem, not only of Joyce’s interrupted communion, but of the parched life of the metropolitan Waste Land. This early story is also glimpsed from the point of view of a small boy. The very first sentence consists entirely of monosyllables, and the paragraph proceeds toward a childish fascination with the word “paralysis”.

Joyce’s intention, he told his publisher, “was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the centre of paralysis”. In every one of these fifteen case histories, we seem to be reading in the annals of frustration - a boy is disappointed, a priest suffers disgrace, the elopement of “Eveline” fails to materialize. Things almost happen. The characters are arrested in mid-air; the author deliberately avoids anything like an event. In “The Boarding House” - when there is some hope of a wedding - the aggressive landlady, the compromised daughter, and the abashed young man [38] are presented in turn, and an actual interview becomes unnecessary. Joyce’s slow-motion narrative is time to his paralysed subject. Both are synchronized with his strangely apocalyptic doctrine, which assigns to both author and characters a passive. part. The author merely watches, the character are merely revealed, and the emphasis is on the technique of exposure.

Realism had already established the artist as an observer; naturalism, made him an outsider. In contrast to the promiscuous documentation of earlier novelists, the tranche de vie was sliced thin. A writer like Balzac, claiming to be only the secretary of society, could take a rather officious view of his position. The modern writer stands apart, waiting fora chance encounter or a snatch of conversation to give his story away. Strictly speaking, he has no story, but an oblique insight into a broader subject. Things happen just as they always do - the things you read about in the papers. There is business as usual, but it is none of his business. He is not concerned with romantic adventure or dramatic incident. He is concerned with the routines of everyday life, the mechanisms of human behaviour, and he is anxious to discover the most economical way of exposing the most considerable amount of that material.

This is simply an attempt to define what is so often referred to as the nuance. The epiphany, in effect, is the same device. Though grounded in theology, it has now become a matter of literary technique. It has become Joyce’s contribution to that series of developments which convert narrative into short-story, supplant plot with style, and turn the raconteur into a candid-camera expert. The measure of success, in so attenuated a form, is naturally the degree of concentration. The achievements of Chekhov and Katherine Mansfield, or Hemingway and Katherine Anne Porter, can almost be computed in terms of specific gravity. And Joyce, with “Two Gallants”, can say as much in fifteen pages as James T. Farrell has been able to tell us in volume after volume. It is hard to appreciate the originality of Joyce’s technique, twenty-five years after the appearance of Dubliners, because it has been standardized into an industry. This industry is particularly well equipped to deal with [39] the incongruities and derelictions of metropolitan life. [...]


II: The Personal Epic - 2. Montage
The imitation of life through the medium of language has never been undertaken more literally. Ulysses ignores the customary formalities of narration and invites us to share a flux of undifferentiated experience. We are not told how the characters behave; we are confronted with the stimuli that affect their behaviour, and expected to respond sympathetically. The act of communication. The bond of sympathy which identifies the reader with the book, comes almost too close for comfort. The point of view. The principle of form which has served to integrate many amorphous novels, is intimate and pervasive. Joyce’s efforts to achieve immediacy lead him to equate form and content, to ignore the distinction between the things he is describing and the words he is using to describe them. In this equation, time is of the essence. Events are reported when and as they occur; the tense is a continuous present. Joyce did not begin his Portrait of the Artist, as other autobiographers would, by summoning up a retrospective account of his earliest remembrances. Instead, the opening pages of the book are presented as an exact verbal equivalent of the opening impressions of his life.

The story of Ulysses takes no longer to happen than to read; acting time, as it were, is simultaneous with reading time. [...] Bloom, on the whole, is our sensorium, and it is [81] his experience that becomes ours. To record this experience, however, has not been a simple process of photography. Bloom’s mind is neither a tabula rasa nor a photographic plate, but a motion picture, which has been ingeniously cut and carefully edited to emphasize the close-ups and fade-outs of flickering emotion, the angles of observation and the flashbacks of reminiscence. In its intimacy and in its continuity, Ulysses has more in common with the cinema than with other fiction. The movement of Joyce’s style, the thought of his characters, is like unreeling film; his method of construction, the arrangement of this raw material, involves the crucial operation of montage.

Joyce’s unrewarded attempt to establish the first motion-picture theatre in Ireland is only another chapter in the history of his misunderstanding with his country, but he fully understood the technical possibilities of the new medium. He keenly perceived - in spite of his defective vision - that the cinema is both a science and an art, and therefore the most characteristic expression of our time. His own technique shows the confluence of many modern developments in the arts and sciences. The impressionistic painters, by defining their object through the eyes of the beholder, gave Joyce an example which his physical handicap may have encouraged him to follow. The “ineluctable modality of the visible” was narrowed down for him, so that blurred sight looked for compensation in augmented sound. The Wagnerian school, with its thematic blend of music and ideas, had its obvious lesson for a novelist who had wanted to be a lyric poet or a professional singer.

The international psychoanalytic movement, under the direction of Jung, had its headquarters in Zürich during the war years while Joyce was writing Ulysses, and he could scarcely have, resisted its influence. And, although philosophy could not have offered him much in the way of immediate data, it is suggestive to note that Bergson, Whitehead, and others - by reducing things-in-themselves to a series of organic relations - were thinking in same direction. Thus the very form of Joyce’s book is an elusive and eclectic Summa of its age: the montage of the cinema, impressionism in painting, leitmotif in music, the free associatiion [82] of psychoanalysis, and vitalism in philosophy. Take of these elements all that is fusible, and perhaps more, and you have the style of Ulysses. To characterize this style, we must borrow a term from either German metaphysics or French rhetoric; we may conceive of it as Strom des Bewusstseins or again as monologue intérieur. We shall find, however, that Joyce obtains his metaphysical effects by rhetorical devices, that the internal monologue lends itself more readily to critical analysis than the more illusory stream of consciousness. (pp.82-83.)


There is nothing to prevent the internal monologue from applying to things as well as to people. Stranger voices are to be heard, [88] and the larger cadences of city life to be rendered. Joyce feels less and less committed to the point of view of either Stephen or Bloom. Having established their respective rhythms in the morning, and brought them together at noon, he feels free to break through their soliloquies and embark on an independent series of self-conscious stylistic adventures The episode at the office of the Irish Freeman, the cave of winds, where both heroes put in their midday appearance, is punctuated by increasingly animated headlines. Each succeeding chapter becomes more involved in style, more distorted in shape, and more permeated by what Yvor Winters considers “the fallacy of imitative form”. Joyce meets no serious obstacles in verbalising the atmosphere of a newspaper office, or even in finding half-chewed syllables for the sound of Bloom’s lunch […] But Joyce’s premise, that any given physical effect can be exactly duplicated by means of language, lures him into a confusing mélange des genres.

In the Siren scene, words and music are not simply associated; they are identified. Two pages, distracting and cryptic enough to have aroused the suspicions of the censorship during the last war, contain an initial statement of themes. It is easy to decode them, and to fit the fragments back into their narrative context; it is not easy to determine what song the sirens sang, or to pursue its musical pattern through the episode. When the programme notes of Joyce’s commentators classify the form as fuga per canonem, they do not make clear whether it is the language or the situation that is being treated fugally. Should we then accept each syllable as an interval in a melodic phrase? Or should we assume that the characters work out their own counterpoint, with Bloom as subject and Boylan as counter-subject? In either case, the strict treatment of canon is unsatisfied, for there is an unlimited amount of variation. Polyphonic prose, short of the ambiguous harmonies of Finnegans Wake, is rarely more than a loose metaphor.

The Siren episode should not be expected to stand on its form alone, any more than any chapter in any novel. The whole passage is not a contrapuntal development of the opening phrases; the [89] phrases are an impressionistic condensation of the passage. The introductory pages should be read as a thematic index to the following pages, but without the sequel they are meaningless. (pp.88-90.)


More and more, as the book proceeds, we are thrown back upon Joyce’s talents for auditory observation. His ubiquitous car is everywhere, and his mimicry is everybody. He is a hard-bitten hanger-on at Barney Kiernan’s, gossiping of Bloom’s discomfiture. He is a sentimental lady novelist, gushing over Gerty MacDowell. He is, in sudden succession, each of the principal stylists in the history of English literature. By this time, he has abandoned an pretence of adhering to the coign of vantage of certain characters. The narrative becomes clotted with Shandyan digression and inflated with sheer linguistic exuberance. The clinical small-talk of Stephen’s friends, while Bloom awaits the birth of Mrs. Purefoy’s child, is reported in language that recapitulates the evolution of English prose, from a primitive ritual to an American revival meeting, and that obliterates the point of the story - when Stephen gives up his key. These parodies, we are admonished, illustrate the principle of embryonic growth. We cannot take this admonition very seriously. To call in so many irrelevant authors as a middle term between the concepts of biology and the needs of the present narrative is to reduce Joyce’s cult of imitative form to a final absurdity. For what organic reason, if any, must Lyly represent the foetus in the third month, and Goldsmith in the sixth? And what’s Bunyan to Mrs. Purefoy, or Mrs. Purefoy to Junius?

If the pastiche of the hospital episode is to be justified at all, it must be considered an intrinsic part of Ulysses. It does offer Joyce a fair field for his technical virtuosity and allow him gain to contrast the commonplaces of today with the splendours of the past. He does embrace with gusto the opportunities for further word-play. Yet he refuses to play the truly sedulous ape. Having subverted Homer and Shakespeare to his purposes, he is not anxious to submit to the limitations of lesser writers, but rather to extend his own. When a self-effacing parodist - a Max Beerbohm - takes off a writer, the result is acute criticism. When Joyce is dealing with others, he lacks this insight and precision. His parodies reveal himself - Joyce the Jacobean divine, Joyce the Restoration diarist, Joyce the Augustan essayist, Joyce the Gothic novelist. [95]


The continual effort of fiction to attain an impersonal reality seems, at first glance, to be reaching its fulfilment in Ulysses. Yet the more we read and reread the book, the larger it looms as a monument to personal artifice. its scientific pretensions are sustained by the trompe-l’ooil of literary technique. Its intellectual subtelities culminate in tried theatrical effects. This is no disparagement of Joyce, for all art is a synthesis, myth and cinema alike. If art contrives to give the illusion of reality, it is done - as they say - with mirrors, and we are concerned with how it is done. Perhaps it is because Joyce was so aware of the distinction between art and life on the social plane, that he sought to merge them in the esthetic sphere. Perhaps he was insufficiently aware [99] that, no matter how conscientiously experience is mirrored in literature, there will always remain something “which into words no virtue can digest”. Bergson himself, the philosophy who held the fullest realization of the fuild nature of time and experience, also held that the intellect “spatializes”. Consequently our imitations of life, no matter how complete and complicated we try to make them, are bound to be one-sided and over-simple. (pp.99-100; end chap.)

II: The Personal Epic - 3. Stasis

When we view life collectively, Joyce would suggest, we see how men are related to things. Nothing is irrelevant. Everything moves in its appointed orbit. The most ill-assorted phenomena are equally parts of an all-encompassing whole.

When we view life individually, we see how men are related to men, usually - in Joyce - through the indirect means of things. What, within that vast and complex organism, is the relation between two given human beings? What, in other words, can Stephen and Bloom have to say to each other? Stephen, having no place to go, is glad to accompany Bloom. Bloom, on the walk home, enjoys giving Stephen a word of fatherly warning against his friends, particularly Mulligan. He likes to believe, as he does the honours of 7 Eccles Street, that the scientific and artistic temperaments are facing each other across his kitchen table. The dialogue between popular science and tired Thomism is unrelievedly painful and banal. Their musical tastes differ drastically: Bloom prefers the grand opera of the Jewish composer Meyerbeer, Stephen the Elizabethan airs of John Dowland, who dwelt in the suburb of Dalkley [sic for Dalkey] where Joyce’s family lived. Bloom repeats a few faltering phrases in Hebrew, Stephen in Gaelic. With every futile question and perfunctory reply, they become more aware of the barriers that separate them-name and age, race and creed. Granted two men living in Dublin, dissatisfied and disinherited, they share a pitiful minimum of common ground.

[...; quotes Ulysses, p.627: “Did Bloom discover common factors of similarity (... &c.)” ]

There is no leeway for nostalgia in the description of Bloom’s homecoming. By suddenly shifting from the subjective to the objective, by pursuing the form of a catechism to its logical conclusion, Joyce reaches the dead end of naturalistic detachment. Instead of emotions, he records statistics about the Dublin watersupply; instead of sensations, data about the conductivity of heat along a spoon; instead of communication, a mathematical computation of respective ages. Bloom is thirty-eight, Stephen twentytwo. Their lives are related only by the widest generalities or the most extraneous details. A third isolated existence has casually touched their own: Mrs. Riordan, who took care of Stephen when he was a child, lived in the same hotel with Bloom, shortly after he was married and shortly before she died. Neither is conscious of an even more casual connection: Simon Dedalus-interloper in the household of Odysseus-may have been one of the lovers of Molly Bloom. Bloom’s daughter, Milly, who is taking after her mother, tums out to be the friend of a medical friend of Stephen’s, Alec Bannon. The world is smaller than either Stephen or Bloom is willing to concede at this point.

At this point, as Stephen declines Bloom’s further hospitality and shakes his hand in farewell, the world becomes infinitesimally small. One-thirty is sounded by the bells of the nearby Saint George’s church, with the same weary Heigho that Bloom heard at eight-forty-five in the morning, and that has been tolling the death of Dignam in his thoughts through the interim. For Stephen the same bells sound another echo, the last echo of his internal monologue, the last we hear of him: “Liliata rutilantium. Turma circumdet.” It was in Eccles Street, we remember, that he experienced his first epiphany, before a house which seemed ‘the very incarnation of Irish paralysis’. We turn back to take our leave of Bloom, reduced to the most abject dimensions by a glance into [107] the future, “the aged impotent disfranchised rate-supported moribund lunatic pauper”. We comprehend at last the word that has been puzzling him for so long, “parallax”, the allowance which astronomers make for a displaced angle of observation.

Surely Mr. Gorman, when he states that the mood of the Penelope episode was influenced by an astronomical film, must be thinking of this chapter, the Ithaca episode. Here, if anywhere, Joyce contemplates his characters sub specie aeternitatis, from the scope of planetary distances. The echoes for the moment have died away, and we shudder, like Pascal, before the eternal silence of infinite spaces. We have come all the way with Stephen Dedalus, from the Class of Elements to the Universe. The receding view of snow over Ireland that we took at the end of Dubliners is now our bleak perspective for the world itself. [...]

The cosmic background and the domestic foreground, in spite of incongruities of scale, exist on the same plane. They form a meticulously amplified stage setting, m the manner of Ibsen pushed to microscopic and telescopic extremes. The most explicit documentation of the book is brought to bear upon Bloom’s shabby house and petty-bourgeois chattels: the nondescript library that catalogues his mind, the matter-of-fact budget that itemizes his day, the miscellaneous contents of his desk, including the suicide note of Rudolf Virag. The dense material element with which Joyce surrounds his “Favourite Hero” is all too familiar, mutatis mutandis, to American readers. Bloom and his many devices - his Sandow exerciser, his patent wonder-worker, the gadgets he is always inventing, his schemes to get rich quick, his ambition to own a model home in a garden suburb, his vision of a vaguely socialistic régime of universal brotherhood-might be the subject of a Walt Whitman panegyric in an unprecedentedly minor key, or a Sinclair Lewis satire of unaccustomed insight and warmth. [108]

Bloom is neither, or rather both, for Joyce treats the subject of the common man with his dual formula of irony and pathos. Ironic pathos attains its climax in the maudlin apparition of Rudy. Bloom’s emotion is clothed in sentimentality, but this very sentimentality provokes our emotion. The more we understand the forces which frustrate them, the more we sympathize with his frustrated impulses. Pathetic irony, on the other hand, can scarcely be carried beyond the point at which we leave him. By a typographical oddity, inadvertently left out of English and American editions of Ulysses, Bloom’s internal monologue comes to a full stop with a large dot. With this exact locus in time and space, with the latitude and longitude of himself and his wife in their profaned bed, consciousness darkens. Bloom’s final page harks back to Stephen’s awakening page, at the beginning of the Portrait of the Artist, and looks forward to the drowsy pages of Finnegans Wake. Simultaneously, he is the fabulous hero, home from his wanderings, and the “childman weary, the manchild in the womb”. (pp.106-09.)


Molly Bloom, at thirty-three, is in the ripe possession of physical charms inherited from her mother, a Spanish Jewess. The name of her father, an Irish officer stationed at Gibraltar, Major Tweedy, is all that is left of Penelope’s weaving. With animal placidity, she can refer to the corselet which she knitted for Rudy’s burial, and which has figured so tenderly in her husband’s thoughts as “that woollen thing” During the ten year’s since their child’s death, they have become physically and mentally estranged. Their conjugal relationship is the merest cohabitation. The cold statistics of the previous chapter imply that twenty-five others might have shared her favours with Bloom. From her latest lover, Boylan, she is undergoing a revulsion, as the afternoon passes through her mind in remorseless review. Toward Stephen, piqued by her husband’s narrative, her thoughts now stray. Her attitude toward him, toward Bloom, toward all men is largely maternal - the attitude of a woman who has lost an only son. To Ulysses she is faithful in her fashion - the fashion of Chaucer’s Wife of Bath or Defoe’s Moll Flanders, though she disapproves of the latter.

Her internal monologue is no closer to life, and no less literary than the prologue of the former. “It didn’t make me blush,” Molly confesses of a bawdy song, “why should it either its only nature.” Yet she protests altogether too much. All of Joyce’s characters have something of his own preoccupation with language. Molly [110] uses certain elementary monosyllables without inhibition, but with a self-conscious realization that they have never been printed in a work of serious fiction before. They rarely sound natural and never look natural, for few readers are likely to have seen them outside of the graffiti of public lavatories. They could not, as a matter of literary convention, be simply and spontaneously introduced, and the feelings which they denote would never need to be verbalized so deliberately. Joyce has faced the difficulties of putting such things into words, and of putting such words into books, but it cannot be said that he has surmounted them. It can only be said that he has come a long way from the second chapter of the Portrait of the Artist, where he substituted a purple passage for an obscene scrawl. (pp.110-11.)

[Vide Levin’s remarks on the episode with the prostitute in A Portrait (“... a cry which was but the echo of an obscene scrawl which he had read on the oozing wall of a urinal”: ‘The unromantic reader is prone to feel that a scrawl would have been more adequate to the occasion.’ Levin, op. cit., 1960, p.58.]


Ulysses is totally lacking in the epic virtues of love, friendship, and magnanimity. Ulysses and Telemachus have broken bread and washed together, and Ulysses and Penelope have gone to bed together; but there is no communication between father and son, no intercourse between husband and wife. “From the description of the meeting between Ulysses and Telemachus it is plain that Homer considered it quite as dreadful for relations who had long been separated to come together again as for them to separate in the first instance. And that is about true,” asserted an unorthodox Homeric scholar and inveterate father-hater, Samuel Butler. Some of Joyce’s commentators. it is true, discern a subtle change in the lives of his characters, and applaud a subdued drama in the events of June 16th. Joyce in his determination to stick to the schedule, gives them no grounds to hope for any reunion. His consistent aim would be thwarted if there were real motion in his final picture. Bloom and Stephen would lose half their poignance if they had any reprieve from the soul’s incurable loneliness.


In ten years Joyce is going to complete the Portrait of the Artist and undertake Ulysses. The rest of his life, whatever the place of exile, is a ceaseless endeavour to recapture his own past. With the cunning of the artificer, the patience of the archaeologist, and the mixed emotions of the expatriate, he constructs a replica of Dublin on the day when time stood still. He exalts the labours of artifice into an act of creation, and thus he comes to regard the artist as a demiurge. Only by playing god can he settle his own predicament -the predicament of the son dispossessed by his environment, and of the artist who can never possess his subject. But he cannot penetrate, any more than Yeats or any other, “the labyrinth of another’s being”. He can mediate between himself and a fellow citizen, but he cannot assume the duties of citizenship. His fellow citizen, Mr. Bloom, is the sorrier exile. A mute inglorious Shakespeare, a rejected Messiah, he has nothing to offer Stephen but a pathetic object-lesson. Something is lacking from the lives of both, and all of Bloom’s advertising enterprise will not supply the deficiency.

[Quotes “... Plumtree’s Potted Meat ...”]

Both are at sea, helpless among the cross-currents of contemporary [115] life, the common man drifting from shabby ambition to dismal frustration, the artist obsessed with the intricacies of his own personality and his special craft. Joyce’s art commemorates the long-standing quareel between the borgeois and the bohemian. [...]

The burning intensity of Joyce’s own creative effor animates the statuesque coldness of his creations. It beats them down, like an aroused volcano upon an ancient city, overtaking the doomed inhabitants in forum or temple, at home or at brothel, and petrifying them in the insensate agonies of paralysis. (pp.115-17; end of chap.)

III: The Fabulous Artificer - 2. The Language of the Outlaw

Joyce demands the same degree of absorption that Yeats and Donne receive. We are bound to be disappointed, if we approach him with the notion of extracting a quintessential content from the encumbrances of form. The two, in Ulysses, were intended to coalesce. Where they fail to do so, it is because he has imposed a formal requirement that is too rigid to be satisfied without hindering the advance of the plot. The Siren episode is too cluttered up with verbiage to be an effective scene, and too broken up with [154] comment to be an authentic fugue. The drastic solution of this dilemma, in Finnegans Wake, is to subordinate content to form: to forgo the normal suspenses and sympathies that bind the reader to the book, reduce the plot to a few platitudes that can be readily stylized, and confer complete autonomy upon words. They are now matter, not manner. Nothing could be farther from the fallacy of imitative form than Joyce’s latter tendency toward abstract content. We are borne from one page to the next, not by the expository current of the prose, but by the harmonic relations of the language - phonetic, syntactic, or referential, as theme case may be. The mythological themes, recurring, varying, modulating into a new context, have a consistency of their own. When we have an index to them, we shall comprehend the book.

The relation between chapters is abrupt and arbitrary, as with the movements of a symphony. As with music, as with any composition in time, the structure seems to dissolve into the texture, when we examine it closely. At close range, Finnegans Wake seems to realize the aspiration of the other arts toward the condition of music. The obvious musical analogies are misleading, for they imply a limitation, rather than an enlargement, of our means of expression. They encourage a doctrine of pure poetry, or prose that exists solely for the sake of euphony. Joyce is a consummate master of the music of words, but he is also a master of “the music of ideas”, the complex orchestration of associated images which symbolist poets have taught us to appreciate. His innovation is to harmonize the two modes. (...; pp.154-55.)


By virtue of his very isolation, as a Parisian Irishman and a heretical Catholic, he has become a type, expatriate and excommunicate, the man without a country and without a belief. We have scarcely been able to examine a single aspect of his writing without spying the shadow of his religious background. Catholicism endowed him with a personal relation to the Mediterranean past. His exclusion from the Catholic communion-and here, surely, we may play upon words-fostered his unwillingness to communicate. The effect of his blindness on his incomparable ear, or on his poetic gifts, we cannot estimate; but we may be sure that it deepened the soul’s incurable loneliness, and made him feel the same calling which had prompted Milton, in darkness, danger. and solitude, to write of chaos and night. Limitations become virtues in the performance of this function: his characterization is static because his characters are paralysed. The mechanical ingenuity of [178] his technique is a fit vehicle for the literature of a scientific age. The encrustation of literary learning, with which he covers up his emotional evasions, is an appropriately Alexandrian touch. When we condemn Joyce, we are condemning ourselves.


Joyce’s case history, subtly and painstakingly analysed by himself, is the exception to prove the rule that literature cannot exist without an audience. His feeling for an audience is that of the hero of Exiles for his wife, when he tells her that she must know him, though he can never know her. [...; p.181]


When Joyce first set out to write, he defined the double responsibility of the imaginative writer as a task of mediation between the world of reality and the world of dreams. The dissonance between these two worlds, between the imminent realities of the present and the buried dreams of the past, made this task all but impossible. With his other gifts, he brought to it - as Yeats told unresponsive members of the Seanad - “an heroic mind”, and completed it by his unexampled devotion. He had, to an unexampled degree, that pride of the creator which is so characteristic of the modern artist, and he likened “the mystery of esthetic” to the mystery of material creation. Yet it is not within the range of human possibility to create ex nihilo. The best writing of our contemporaries is not an act of creation, but an act of evocation, peculiarly saturated with reminiscences. Joyce’s imagination evokes the rich stores of memory, which have been the one element of permanence among the many changes of civilization. He reduces past and present to the ageless incantation of the story-teller, the opening words of the Portrait of the Artist, “Once upon a time ...” Like the hero of the poem of Yeats, “He Remembers Forgotten Beauty”, [182] he presses in his arms the loveliness which has long ago faded from the world. But Stephen Dedalus, aspiring beyond Michael Robartes, desired to press in his arms “the loveliness which has not yet come into the world”. When the world has tired of our ugliness and hatred, Ulysses will be their monument, and Yeats’s lines from “The Tower” will serve for Joyce’s epitaph:

I have prepared my peace
All those things whereof
Man makes a superhuman
Mirror-resembling dream.
(pp.178-83; end of chap.)


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