Emer Nolan, James Joyce and Nationalism (London: Routledge 1995), xv, 219pp.


1. Joyce and the Irish Literary Revival
Preface: Joyce and Yeats
Nationality and Literature: The Case of “The
Portrait of an Aesthete
"The Battle of Two Civilizations": Joyce and

2. Ulysses, Narrative and History
Preface: Stories and Styles
The Nightmare of History
The Living Dead

3. “Talking about Injustice”: Parody, Satire
and Invective in Ulysses

Preface: Language and Community
The Cyclops
Forgiveness and Forgetfulness


4. Joyce’s Representation of Political Violence
Terrorism in Ulysses

“Circe” and 1916

5 “Poor little Brittle Magic Nation”: Finnegans Wakee as a Post-colonial novel

6. Joyce, Women and Nationalism
Preface: “The Flesh that Always Affirms”?
Women and the Nation.


—Available in part at Google Books - online.


The modernity to which Joyce responds, then, is not transnational or universal, and the major trends in Joyce Criticism have occluded the particularity of Irish historical experience as it determines and is reflected in his fiction. His commentators have instead insisted on both reading “Ireland” through Joyce and interpreting Joyce as “Irishman”. [xii] The former procedure grants the artist authority to comment on his native culture, while the latter constructs him as passively typical of it - ironically, a judgement itself based on evidence gathered from his own texts, and from what is presumed to be his own portrayal of national character. Each approach involves critics in stereotyping discourse about Ireland and the Irish [...]. The American liberal tradition in Joyce studies, which now dominates the international James Joyce industry, is founded on a belief in the writer’s pacifism and tolerant pluralism. Recent accounts of the texts influenced by post-structuralism and French feminist theory have argued that Joyce’s writing dismantles those traditional ideologies which render us sexed and civil subjects, among them nationalism. In all of these cases, the latter is considered chiefly in the context of European fascism: such accounts do not acknowledge that nationalisms vary, and are internally divided and disputatious. / Hence this book aims to offer a corrective to the pervasive and systematic misreading of Joyce [illustrating] how these interpretations symptomatise a crucial failure on his critics’ part to attend to the full complexity of nationalism in the political culture of modernity. (pp.xii-xiii.)

The attempt to produce an inaccessible, obscene, anti-Catholic and supposedly anti-nationalist modernist author as the repository of an unique sense of Irishness results in the strange fact that Joyce is in many ways both the Irish Shakespeare and, from the point of view of the simple faithful, our Salmon Rushdie. The persistent Irish unease with Joyce therefore represents more than the embarrassing residue of a pious and philistine past. (p.xiv.)


An image of Joyce as an Irishman unswayed by patriotism, who not merely refused to participate in a popular nationalist movement in his own country but rebuked and challenged it at every opportunity, thus contributes significantly to our current approval of his ideological maturity. The high value accorded to his art is thus closely involved with orthodox perceptions of its “universalism”. [...] And if his texts include anything so parochial as a message specifically for his own people, it surely must be the recommendation that they too embrace this modern world, in all its complexity and potential.’ [2]

... nationalism is not, however, just an unattractive feature of the modern world, which could be transcended in art. [3]

Pound called Joyce ‘the one man calling himself Irish who is in any sense part of the decade’; ‘Joyce has fled to Trieste and into the modern world’ (‘The Non-Existence of Ireland’, in Pound/Joyce, p.32; here p.3.)

‘One is tired of the Irish or “Celtic” imagination ... flopping about. Mr Joyce does not flop about. He defines. He is not an institution for the promotion of Irish peasant industries. He accepts an international standard of prose writing and lives up to it.’ (‘Dubliners and Mr James Joyce’, 1914, in Pound/Joyce, p.28-29; here p.183.)

‘Erase the local names and a few specifically local allusions, and a few historic events of the past, and substitute a few different local names, allusions and events, and these stories could be retold in any town.’ (Ibid., p.29; here p.4.)

‘If more people had read The Portrait and certain stories in Mr Joyce’s Dubliners there might have been less recent trouble in Ireland. A clear diagnosis is never without its value.’ (Ibid., p.90; here p.5.)

T. S. Eliot [on W. B. Yeats]: His remoteness is not an escape from this world, for he is innocent of any world to escape from; his procedure is blameless, but he does not start from where we do ... There is something of this crudity, and much of this egoism, about what we called Irish literature.’ (‘A Foreign Mind’, quoted in Cairns Craig, Yeats, Eliot, Pound and the Politics of Poetry, 1982, p.112; here p. 7.)

Quotes Terry Eagleton: ‘Joyce’s compliment to Ireland, in inscribing it on the cosmopolitan map, is in this sense distinctly back-handed. The novel ... deploy[s] the full battery of cosmopolitan techniques to recreate it while suggesting with its every breath just easily it could have done the same for Bradford or the Bronx.’ (‘Nationalism, Colonialism [... &c.]’, p.15; here p.9.)

Wyndam Lewis: ‘So from the start the answer of Joyce to the militant nationalist was plain enough. And he showed himself in that a very shrewd realist indeed, beset as Irishmen have been for so long with every Romantic temptation, always being invited by this interested party or that, to jump back into “history”. So Joyce is neither of the militant “patriot type”, nor yet a historical romancer. In spite of that he is very “irish” [sic]. He is ready enough, as a literary artist, to stand for Ireland, and has wrapped himself up in a gigantic cocoon of local colour in Ulysses [...]’
  So Englishmen and Frenchmen who are inclined to virulent “nationalism” or disposed to sentiment where local colour is concerned, will admire Joyce for his alleged identity with what he detached himself from and even repudiated, when it took the militant, Sinn Fein form. And Joyce, like a shrewd sensible man, will no doubt encourage them.’ (Time and Western Man, pp.94-95; here, pp.11-12.)

Quotes Wydham Lewis:

‘[Although] steeped in the sadness and the pathetic gentility of the upper shopkeeping classes, slumbering at the bottom of a neglected province [Joyce is] by no means without the personal touch’;
‘Joyce and Yeats are the prose and poetry respectively of the Ireland that culminated in the Rebellion [of 1916]’;
‘There was an artificial, pseudo-historical air about the Rebellion, as there was inevitably about the movement of “celtic” revival; it seemed to have been forced and vamped up long after its poignant occasion had passed.’ (Ibid., p.93, p.94; here p.13.)

‘Let us presume that Ireland is ignorant of Mr Joyce existence and that if any copy of his work reaches that country it will be reviled and put on the index.’ (Pound/Joyce, p.33; here p.13)

Connolly, ‘Labour and the Proposed Partition of Ireland’ (1914) speaks of a ‘carnival of reaction’ if the proposed British recruitment measures are brought into effect in Ireland. (Selected Writings, Pluto 1988, p.275; here p.14.)

T]he outcome of debates concerning tradition and modernity in Ireland is rarely the unqualified surrender to sheer heterogeneity which we associate with metropolitan modernism or postmodernism. “Authenticity”, for example, remains an important theme in the work of Richard Kearney and Declan Kiberd, whereas the theorists to which they are occasionally indebted attack the very idea of a self to which one might be true or false. Irish writers have frequently discussed the difficulty of deciding between “the rival claims” of tradition and modernity, and sought for a perspective (Kearney’s improbably suggestion is that of postmodernism itself) which might allow us to mediate between them: in this, of course, they participate in the dilemma of nationalism itself, which typically offers the nation as a potential site for fruitful interchange between the old and the new. Some Irish commentators have gestured to the ancient notion of an Irish “Fifth Province”, a space outside political division and conflict, which might act as a centre for the artistic exploration of Irish history and identity, and perhaps provide new energies for healing and reconciliation. Again, this is a recognisably nationalist notion of the aesthetic, proposing that culture alone might define and unite the putative nation, regardless of its actual disunity or fragmentation.’ (Nolan, p.17; see ftn. refs. to David Lloyd, Nationalism and Minor Literature, for a critique of nationalism in these terms.)

R. F. Foster: ‘The tradition of writing the “story of Ireland” as a morality tale, invented around the seventeenth century and retained (often with the roles of hero and villain reversed) has been abandoned over the last generation.’ (Modern Ireland, 1988, p.ix; here p.20.)

Theresa O’Connor: ‘Linking nationalism with religion, [Conor Cruise O’Brien] argues that both creeds serve to legitimate war and blood-shed because both are rooted in the perverse notion that renewal comes through blood sacrifice. It is precisely this belief that Joyce sets out to decode in Ulysses.’ (‘Demythologising Nationalism: Joyce’s Dialogised Grail Myth’, in Vincent J. Cheng & Timothy Martin, eds., Joyce in Context, Cambridge UP 1992, p.100; here 21.)

Nolan criticises Manganiello’s view in Joyce’s Politics that since Joyce is opposed to physical force Fenianism he must be in favour of constitutionalism. [21]

Arthur Griffith’s reaction against ‘the liberal-humanitarian ideal of racial equality’ stemmed from ‘his overreaction against the English and American nativist belief in the Irishman as a white nigger’ (Richard Davis, Arthur Griffith and Non-Violent Sinn Féin, Tralee: Anvil Books 1974, pp.106, 107; here p.21.)

Griffith: ‘The right of the Irish to political independence never was, is not and never can be dependent on the right of the admission of equal rights in all other peoples. It is based on no theory of, and is in nowise dependent on theories of government and doctrines of philanthropy or universalism.’ (Preface to Mitchel, Jail Journal, Gill 1913 [n.p.]; here p.22.)

Chapter 1: Joyce and the Irish Literary revival

Joyce’s critique of cultural nationalism and his anticipatory critique of the political revolution which it helped to create were only made possible by the social revolution which had both produced and frustrated his own class.’ [Nolan, p.24.]

Quotes AE [following from Ricorso with adds.: ] ‘[...] We can conceive of the national spirit of Ireland as first manifesting through individual heroes or kings; and, as the history of famous warriors laid hold on the people, extended its influence through the sentiment engendered in the popular mind until it created therein the germs of a kindred nature. / [164] An aristocracy of lordly and chivalrous heroes is bound in time to great a great democracy by the reflection of their character in the mass, and the idea of the divine right of kings is succeeded by the idea of the divine right of the people [...]

Nolan undertakes to discuss the ending of “The Dead” and show how interpretations of it as ‘a rare imaginative surrender on Joyce’s part to the emotional appeal of Connemara’ are antithetical with J. W. Foster’s ‘revisionist’ view of it as ‘an allegory of modern selfhood’. [29]

Nolan: ‘The city of Dubliners should no longer be critically depicted as a provincial backwater [...] Rather, by attending to the lived ideology of nationalism, we can observe how Joyce preserves a linkage between modernisation and regeneration. This is obscured if we view the book solely in the context of European naturalism, and, alternative, symbolic readings of Dublin (as we shall see) merely gesture towards it.’ (p.31.)

Nolan suggests that the significance of Gabriel’s vision of community (‘common humanity’ in Ellmann’s terms) actually attaches to the ‘nation’: ‘critics have looked for it in the wrong places, or in the wrong register. They have not attended to that “community in anonymity” which characterises the modern nation, and the possibility of its fictional representation.’ [35]

Bibl., Robert Young, ed., Untying the text: A Post-structuralist Reader (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1981), incls. Maud Ellmann, ‘Disremembering Dedalus: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’, in which: [A Portrait] presents a Stephen Dedalus who is dismembering, not developing but devolving, not achieving an identity but dissolving into a nameless scar.’ (p.189; here p.38.)

‘The Ireland Joyce knew, it should be emphasised, lacked virtually any tradition of bourgeois, liberal or individualistic dissent. Such calls for a common, disinterested cultural programme as have been issued in [44] Ireland arise consistently from within the Protestant community, which historically has been viewed by the great majority of people as the ally and beneficiary of a repressive colonial administration. [...] Joyce’s apparent taking up of the cause of disinterestedness, along with that of the autonomy of the artist, from within the Catholic community, must be distinguished from both an Anglo-Irish and an English liberalism. It comes, that is to say, from a society in which such questions as whether Jesus was the only man with ever had pure auburn hair [&c.] are serious topics of discussion. [45]

[W. B. Yeats came to realise that he] ‘must renounce the deliberate creation of a kind of Holy City in the imagination and express the individual. The Irish people were not educated enough to accept images more profound, more true to human nature, than the schoolboy thoughts of Young Ireland. You can only create a model of a race to inspire the action of that race as a whole, apart from exceptional individuals, when you and it share the same simple moral understanding of life. Milton and Shakespeare inspire the active life of England , but they do it through exceptional individuals. Having no understanding of life that we can teach to others, we must not seek to create a school.’ (Autobiographies, pp.493-94; here p.49.)

Quotes Shaw: ‘The Clan-na-Gael [...] suddenly struck out the brilliant idea that to satirise the follies of humanity is to insult the Irish nation, because the Irish nation is, in fact, the human race, and has no follies, and stands there pure and beautiful and saintly to be eternally oppressed by England and collected for by the Clan.’ (Quoted in Lyons, Anarchy and Culture, p.69; here p.49.)

Nolan: ‘David Lloyd, indeed, argues that Irish cultural nationalism is primarily concerned with the sublation of diversity and difference. He argues that nationalist ideology invariably tells of an original, unreflective wholeness of the people, which has now fallen into disunity. Nationalism seeks to transcend this condition in the eventual achievement of a restored and self-conscious unity. [The] specific project in Ireland since the nineteenth century has been “the forging of a sense of Irish identity that would transcend historically determined cultural and political differences and form the reconciliatory centre of national unity.”’ Writing in the Shit’, in Anomalous States, 1993, p.35; here p.52.)

D. P. Moran: ‘No one wants to fall out with Davis’s comprehensive idea of the Irish people as a composite race drawn from various sources, and professing any creed they like, nor would an attempt to take up racial prejudices be tolerated by anyone. We are proud of Grattan, Flood, Tone, Emmett [sic], and all the rest who worked for an independent Ireland, even though they had no conception of an Irish nation; but it is necessary that they be put in their place, and that place is not on the top as the only beacon lights to succeeding generations.’ (Philosophy of Irish Ireland, pp.36-37; here p.53.)

Nolan quotes Oliver MacDonagh: ‘Both the radical and more moderate wing of Irish nationalism, each overwhelmingly Catholic in composition from 1800 on, accepted the image of the Irish nation as adumbrated first by the liberal wing of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy, and then developed in an inclusive, supra-sectarian direction by the dissenting and bourgeois “left” among Irish protestants. This meant blind assumptions that Ireland was one and indivisible politically, and that religion was a false divider of Irishmen, used as such by British governments intent on maintaining control of the island.’ (States of Mind, 1983, p.23; here p.53.)

Chapter 2: Ulysses, Narrative and History

‘[..] Joyce’s hatred of violence is consistently read by, for example, Hugh Kenner, Richard Ellmann and Dominic Manganiello as the very cornerstone of his politics: these accounts of his pacifism, at least as it is articulated in Ulysses, need qualification.’ (p.58.)

Nolan examines the ‘category of narrative as it is deployed by Joyce’s poststructuralist commentators’ and takes issue in particular with Colin MacCabe’s seminal account of the Sirens episode, on the basis of which MacCabe maintains ‘that Bloom eschews the “full unified identity offered by nationalism”, that imaginary collectivity in which the drinkers bathe, and effects a deconstruction of origin which “has definite political effects as it demonstrates a contradiction between writing and nationalism”. In short, Bloom disavows the pleasures of drink, song and what MacCabe refers to as “the easy moralism of political commitment”.’ (Nolan, p.62; quoting MacCabe, James Joyce and the Revolution of the Word, p.87, 79, 158.)

Nolan: ‘Emmet’s words are both quoted and put to work in this episode. The concluding word of his speech - “Done” - ends this piece of writing as well. This parallels the way in which Bloom, although deliberately separating himself from the group and their activities, remains dependent on the temporal structures they provide, even in the organisation of the private experiences of his own body.’ (p.63.) Note that she speaks of Emmet’s ‘reputed’ last words, viz., the Dock Speech.

Nolan: ‘[...] Bloom does not simply stand aloof from the desires and gratifications which he observes around him; rather, what the drinkers experience collectively, he experiences alone. He literally goes [63] through the emotions associated with sex, song and story, but does not perform them with others. (pp.63-64.)

Comparing “Sirens” with “Nausicaa”, Nolan writes: ‘If the drinkers are charged with a kind of mental group masturbation, then Bloom is hailed by the critics as a “hero of sexual modernity” for a more furtive version of the real thing’, and continues: ‘Colin MacCabe, of course, ultimately wants to produce Bloom as a better revolutionary subject than the men he leaves behind in the Ormond bar.’ (p.65.)

Quotes MacCabe: ‘Emmet, and nationalism, wish to fix meanings and abolish writing’ (Op. cit., p.88. Nolan disputes this and argues in response that Bloom actually reads Emmet’s words in the caption of the picture that he seems in the window of Lionel Mark’s shop [‘Seabloom greasebloom viewed his last words’] and that his fart, far from being issued ‘in a spirit of carefree vulgar indifference’ is released ‘discreetly’ in a ‘controlled and restrained’ way that corresponds to his defecation of the morning [‘He allowed his bowels .. .&c.]. Hence, ‘Bloom's eye uses the linear organisation of Emmet’s sentence to organise the retention and release of air from his bowels, precisely has he earlier employed the morning newspaper while on the toilet’ (p.p.68). Nolan writes:

Nolan: ‘One is tempted to respond to MacCabe’s comments on “The Speech from the Dock” with an alternative articulation of its message. Emmet’s last speech does not “forbid writing”, but rather it postpones it. His statement asserts that it would not yet be possible to write out the meaning of his death in the cause of the liberation of Ireland. A free Ireland alone could attest to the meaning of that action: the articulation on a material level. It implies that writing about nationalism is by necessity deformed in contemporary conditions. The freedom to write, claimed by, for example, MacCabe for Bloom, is therefore premature. Neither is it achieved at the level of content: Bloom’s letter [...] does not actually get written or sent during the course of “Sirens”.’ (p.68.)

Nolan quotes Eliot’s key remarks in ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ on a sense of history which ‘involves the perception not only of the pastness of the past, but also of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country, has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order.’ (Selected Prose, ed. Kermode, 1975, p.38; here pp.68-69.)

Goes on to argue that Joyce’s project as a writer is best understood as a way of postulating history as ‘a denial of reality’, in the phrase he used in his essay on Mangan: ‘No doubt they are only men of letters who insist on the succession of the ages, and history or the denial of reality, for they are two names for one thing, may be said to be that which deceives the whole world.’ (CW, p.81.)

From this position, she advances to a ‘Ireland, Isle of Saints and Sages’ (in which Joyce speaks of the memory of Cromwell) and Stephen’s response to Mr Deasy (‘Glorious, pious, and immortal memory’), rounding off with a close discussion of Stephen’s theory of Shakespearean creation which ends with his assertion that our memory as our bodies ‘weave and unweave ... from day to day’.

Further consideration of the question of paternity in the chapter, linking with this question of maternity in this speech, lead Nolan to a conclusion in which she argues that: ‘The moment of escape is the same as the moment of surrender to the maternal principle of life and death, and to the father’s demand for death in life. The effort to escape history and abolish narrative in a vision of supra-historical dialogue and interconnection finally succumbs to the recognition of the most final and inarguable narrative closure of all.’ (p.79.) This can be taken as a case made for the narrative of nation (or nationalism) and for Joyce’s endorsement of it in a revision of his earlier position.

Note: A good deal of the central chapters of the book are taken up with contesting Franco Moretti’s view that ‘the status of history in Ulysses is intrinsically rather low’. (p.79.)

‘Although Joyce’s text does significantly register the advent of mechanical reproduction in the modern city, this is largely mediated through the consciousness of a figure (Bloom) who compulsively generalises his own specific condition to a pervasive mechanisation of social experience as such.’ [81]

‘Significant dissonances begin to emerge in the representation of Bloom. He appears in Ulysses both as life-affirming homme moyen sensual, contentedly fleshly and lustful, and as extraordinarily squeamish and reserved in his negotiations with actual human bodies. This contradiction enables us to call into question the picture he paints of the citizens of Dublin, in which they appear as versions of Pound’s “impotent, impetuous dead”, perpetually demanding their libation of blood, but never managing to escape from the monotonous infernal round of life in death.’ [82; the reference to Pound not quoted at this point].

‘To the extent, then, that Bloom’s flawed and homogenising historical memory eradicates from the history of the Jewish people the promise of a better future [viz., ‘into the house of bondage’], it also proves insensitive to the similar messianic hopes of the Irish in the aftermath of Parnell. In this, Joyce is attentive to the loss of aura or charisma in both the modern world in general, and early twentieth-century Ireland in particular; but the fact that this secularisation is largely registered through Bloom highlights its sources in a particular history, and dramatises its links with that uncritical acceptance of the discourse of modernity which he represents.’ (p.84.)

Bibl. J. C. C. Mayes, ‘Some Comments on the Dublin of Ulysses’, in Louis Bonneret, et al., eds., Ulysses: Cinquante ans après (Didier 1974) [cp.84.].
John V. Kelleher, ‘Matthew Arnold and the Celtic Revival,’, in Perspectives in Criticism, ed. Harry Levin [Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature, 20] (Harvard UP 1950).

Nolan Takes issue with Kenner’s view of Dublin as a domain of fossilised remnants of eighteenth-century eloquence (p.86) and advances an interpretation of Aeolus in which Professor McHugh is seen as warning against the obsession with language (p.89); Martin Cunningham’s ‘local inflections and his colloquial vocabulary’ are correspondingly lauded (p.88).

The same revaluation applies to the ‘demotic vulgarity’ of Simon Dedalus: ‘His parodic and comic voice is entirely impatient with elevated public discourse, and scorns its pretensions.’ (p.90.)

In contrast to the kind of language typical of Chapter 7 - a version of a familiar notion of Irish eloquence or “blarney” - the “troglodytic” citizen has generally been read as the embodiment of another equally potent Irish stereotype. This is the image of the Irish person as terrorist rather than as poet. ... different sides of the same coin: the practically incompetent Celt resorts either to mysticism or to random, meaningless violence. [...]’ (p.91.)

Note, ‘they went forth to battle and they always fell’ (O’Shaughnessy, in “Aoelus” is spoken by O’Madden Burke; U110; here p.90.)

Nolan asks: ‘Does Joyce satirise the invective of the citizen, which is a kind of exaggerated version of the community’s compulsive gossip, in order to side with the ungossipy Bloom, or does his implication in the same community’s language make impossible the critical distance which the conventional reading implies?’ (p.93.)

Quotes Richard Ellmann’s preface to the Gabler edition: ‘It is the kind of parody that protects seriousness by immediately going away from intensity. Love cannot be discussed without peril, but Bloom has nobly named it.’ (p.xiii.)

Nolan remarks: ‘[T]raditonal accounts of “Cyclops” are in general rendered incoherent by their refusal to attach any positive qualities to the Citizen or the kind of language that he speaks, in spite of the fact that his voice is one of the most “interesting” in literary terms, and probably the funniest in the book.’ (p.96.)

Nolan undertakes to address the ‘post-structuralist opposition between Bloom and the citizen as one between multivocal dialogism and a monolingual monocular bigot, and suggest[s] the inadequacy of this in the basis of a close reading of the text.’ (p.96.)

Quotes Colin MacCabe: ‘It is within this perspective [viz., a deliberate rejection of violence and especially the violence of nationalist Ireland] that we can read the whole joyous activity of the Cyclops sequence, an activity that generates in turn endlessly different ways of signifying the world but refuses to judge between them ... What is opposed to the violence of the Citizen (based on a fixed representation of the world) and the verbal violence of the Nameless One (also founded in a fixity of meaning) is the joyful entering into the various ways of signifying the world and self.’ (James Joyce and the Revolution of the Word, 1978, pp.93, 101.)

Quotes Ellmann: ‘Bloom fully supports independence but he challenges the citizen on the use of force’, and comments: ‘I can identify ... no expression of support on Bloom’s behalf [i.e., part] for any such project. [T]he entire critical history of reading Bloom’s as the sole rational voice in this [Cyclops] episode, and as a brave advocate of liberalism (or in a more up-to-date idiom, “dialogism”) which is encapsulated by Ellmann’s summary [as above] seems to me deeply flawed.’ (p.96; see supra.)

—Well, says JJ, if they’re any worse than the Belgians in the Congo Free State they must be bad. Did you read that report by a man what’s this is name is?
—Casement, says the citizen. He’s an Irishman.

Nolan notes that Bloom, assisted by J.J. O’Molloy, a Castle functionary, ‘Supports him with a quite specific defence of England’s empire’; further, that Bloom ‘tries to convince the citizen that he cannot accuse the English of savagery unless he is more peace-loving and tolerant’ (p.101.)


Makes use of the instance of the Zulu chief supposedly kow-towing to British authority, and quotes Conor Cruise O’Brien: ‘Hypocrisy is the permanent and universal element in the ideologies of ruling classes [and] seeks to mask the gap between profession and action, to cover the realities of social and political struggle with the illusion of harmony. Irony uses the language of hypocrisy ... with calculated excess, so that, as the realities show through, the pretence comes to seem ghastly.’ (Writers and Politics, Penguin 1965, p.140.)

Nolan takes on a wide number of Anglo-American critiques and liberal-humanist critics, including Hayman, Hodgart, Peake, Benstock, Moretti, and some others. She quotes Seamus Deane, who provides a kind of compass setting for her defence of the anti-colonial substance of the citizen’s discourse:

Quotes Seamus Deane: ‘Races like the French and the Irish, in their resistance to the English idea of liberty, had now become criminalised - inferno-human beings ... the specifically Protestant resistance to the characteristics of these races became more pronounced. In the case of the French, the sin was lasciviousness; in the case of the Irish, it was drunkenness.’ (‘Civilians and Barbarians’, Ireland’s Field Day, Hutchinson, 1985, p.37; here p.104.)

A closer reading of the language of the parodies also throws doubt on, for example, Hugh Kenner’s influential judgement that they are merely slightly exaggerated version of the kind of translated epics which were very popular in Ireland in Joyce’s time. Kenner believes that it was their pseudo-heroism and savagery which inspired the politics of the GAA, the IRB and the Rebellion of 1916. For him, the interpolated parodies resemble versions of Irish mythology ‘tumbled together at an early stage of the Irish revival by someone with no ear, as the total absence of a speakable rhythm indicates ... heroes cobbled in translatorese that Ireland was exhorted to thrill to.’ (Ulysses, 1980, p.95.) However, in Joyce’s day these stories were often presented in rather refined versions.’ (p.108.)

Nolan goes on to cite Lady Gregory’s introduction to Cuchulain of Muirthemne, and remarks, ‘the suspicious modern reader might guess correctly that Gregory has omitted a lot of sex and violence. However, she also edits a lot of material which for the modern reader may have been genuinely boring.’ What ensues is a comparison between her abbreviated version and that by Thomas Kinsella, of uncertain relevance.

Quotes: ‘[...] Jesus, he’d kick the shite out of im.’ (U258), and comments: ‘[this] is presented straightforwardly as a “true” way of speaking, but rather to point out that it is this speech which is continuously used to mock and combat the endlessly levelling discourse of the modern which appears unable to render the reality of conflict.’ (p.107.)

Chapter 4: Joyce’s Representation of Political Violence

Terrorism, I will argue, as itself a kind of symbolic or aestheticised violence, has a particular relevance to Joyce’s writing which is clearly too scandalous for his commentators to contemplate. I will be especially concerned to question their assumption of Joyce’s essentially diagnostic view of Irish terrorists as pathological deviants.’ (p.121.)

SH on Griffith’s movement: ‘The intelligent centres of the movement were so scantily supplied that the analogies they gave out as exact and potent were really analogies built haphazard upon very inexact knowledge.’ (SH, 66-67; here p.122.)

Quotes Joyce’s account of Fenianism’ (1907): ‘This part under different names: “White Boys”, “Men of ‘’98”, “United Irishmen”, “Invincibles”, “Fenians”, has always refused to be connected with either the English parties or the Nationalist parliamentarians. They maintain 9and in this assertion history fully supports them) that any concessions that have been granted to Ireland, England granted unwillingly and, as it is usually put, at the point of the bayonet.’ (CW188)

Now, it is impossible for a bloody and desperate doctrine like Fenianism to continue its existence in an atmosphere like this, and in fact, as agrarian crimes and crimes of violence have become more and more rare, Fenianism too has once more changed its name and appearance. It is still a separatist doctrine but it no longer uses dynamite.’ (CW191).

Further ‘[Fenianism was ] not one of the usual flashes of Celtic temperament that lighten the shadows for a moment and leave behind a darkness blacker than before.’ (Ibid., p.189; Nolan p.124 [emphasis on not].)

‘Now, it is impossible for a bloody and desperate doctrine like Fenianism to continue its existence in an atmosphere like this [Home Rule consensus], and in fact, as agrarian crimes and crimes of violence have become more and more rare, Fenianism too has once more changed its name and appearance. It is still a separatist doctrine but no longer uses dynamite.’ (CW191; here p.123.)

‘After the dispersal of the Fenians, the tradition of the doctrine of physical force shows up at intervals in violent crimes. The Invincibles blow up the prison at Clerkenwell, snatch their friends from the hands of the police at Manchester and kill the escort, stab to death in broad daylight the English Chief Secretary, Lord Frederick Cavendish, and the Under-Secretary, Burke, in Phoenix Park, Dublin.’ (CW190; here 124.)

Identifies Malcolm Brown as the primary example of a critic who sees Joyce’s account of Fenianism - espec. the Clerkenwell explosion - as arising from ‘patriotic compulsion’ and ‘a symptom of voyeurism, cuckoldry, homosexuality and nympholepsy’; Brown quotes Dr. Ernest Jones’s Freudian view of ‘those eccentric people who live on the lesser islands yearn for a motherland rather than a fatherland’.

Notes that Tom Paulin glosses the same passage in a very different way, announcing: ‘Thus Stephen, the artist-hero, is the inheritor of a long tradition of political rebellion.’ (‘The British presence in Ulysses’, in Ireland and the English Crisis, 1984, p.94; here p.125.)

Quotes Engels: ‘But the Fenians themselves are being drawn increasingly to a type of Bakuninism, the assassination of Burke and Cavendish could have pursued the sole aim of thwarting the compromise between the Land League and Gladstone ... In this light the “heroic deed” in Phoenix Park appears as purely Bakuninist, boastful and senseless “propaganda par le fait”, if not as crass foolishness.’ (‘About the Irish Question’ [1888], K. Marx and F. Engels, On Colonialism, Lawrence & Wishart 1968, p.264; here p.126.)

Notes that the ‘narcolepsis’ (&c.) ascribed the Kevin Egan is better exemplified by Leopold in the Circe episode, where J. J. O’Molloy pleads on his behalf, ‘I would deal in especial with atavism ... Mongolian extraction ... not all there, in fact’. (U378). Nolan points out that these speeches are usually cited in arguing for Joyce’s deconstruction of ‘normal’ sexuality and to valorise Bloom as the hero of sexual modernity. (~p.127.)

*Nolan sees all of this as indicative of the ‘symptomatic ambiguity in his [Joyce’s] political thought which has been son misleadingly simplified to an idea of impeccable fair-mindedness.’ (p.129.) Q: ‘ambivalence’?

Quotes Joyce: ‘The century which began with the transaction of buying and selling the Dublin parliament is now closing with a triangular pact between England, Ireland and the United States. It was graced with six Irish revolutionary movements which, by the use of dynamite, rhetoric, the boycott, obstructionism, armed revolt, and political assassination, have succeeded in keeping awake the show and senile conscience of English liberalism.’ (CW224; here p.130.)

Nolan constructs a view of Joyce: ‘[T]he shade of Parnellism - which haunts all of Joyce’s texts - is merely the measure of his inability to move with the political times, his commitment to a lost cause of history [...] Perhaps Parnell, who by 1912 functions for Joyce - however erroneously - as a symbol of the futility of constitutionalism, compromise and pragmatism, can alternatively be read as the image of a real past out of which a better future might have been built.’ (p.131.)

Bloom, asked ‘when will we have our own house and keys’ (i.e., Home Rule), answers: ‘I stand for ... No more patriotism of barspongers and dropsical imposters. Free money, free rent, free love, and a free lay church in a free lay state.’ (U399).

Quotes Seamus Deane: ‘Finnegans Wake is Joyce’s Irish answer to an Irish problem. It is written in a ghost language about phantasmal figures; history is haunted by them and embodies them over and over again in specific people, places and tongues. If Ireland could not be herself, then, by way of compensation, the world would become Ireland. Thus is the problem of identity solved. Irish history is world history in parvo.’ (p.143.)

Nolan: ‘But the assertive, punishing woman is not merely repressed or eliminated in Joyce’s fiction. To begin with, her pursuit of individuality is too embarrassingly close to Dedalus’s own escapist project. She may not be his ideal companion in his question for self-fulfilment, but them he is not much interested in feminine version of himself. Indeed, precisely because she [172] echoes his own facile declarations of autonomy - just as Molly Ivors unnerves Gabriel because he has more in common with her than with anyone else at the party. But in so far as Stephen’s aesthetic ideals remain communal, feminism cannot be ignored.’ (pp.171-72.)

‘a worldly voice would bid him raise up his fathers fallen estate by his labours’ (Port. 86.)

Nolan: ‘The repulsive national mother of “Circe” anticipates similar attacks on the woman-as-nation allegory by later post-colonial writers [...] post-nationalists can be as sexist as nationalists.’ (p.175.)

On ALP: ‘As bearer of the female principle, ALP has not torn down the edifice of “male” culture - indeed, she has protected and conserved it. A good mother knows that her charges are self-destructive little creatures, who need looking after: the infantilisation involved in reducing social to psychic reality does not just diminish the father, but makes him appealingly vulnerable. So while men remain the master-builders, women become salvagers and rescuers; instead of a univocal history of progress, they are the purveyors of an essential and sustaining gossip, and carriers of a tradition of resignation and survival.’ (p.180.)

Nolan sees ALP as ‘partak[ing] of that ideal of national motherhood’ by in a revised form of that involved in the portrait of Molly: ‘She thus effectively reverses the woman-as-nation allegory, in drawing - from the point of view of women - a parallel between their repression, and the repression of the national community. For ALP is no “poor old woman” crying for her four green fields. Rather, her last words undercut any such symbolic deployment of womanhood. But none the less, ALP and Ireland - woman and nation - are both victims.’ (p.181.)

Finnegans Wake is thus a work in which the idea of an emancipatory modernity is ultimately rebuked. [...] it is this element of critique within the work that has been ignored by its feminist commentators.’ (p.181; end.)


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