Jean-Michel Rabaté, James Joyce Studies [Palgrave Advances Ser.] ( London : Palgrave/Macmillan 2004), 293pp.

CONTENTS: chronology’ [ix]; list of abbreviations’ [xvii]; Jean-Michel Rabaté, Introduction: ‘The Whole of Joyce’ [1]; 1. Ronald Bush, ‘Joyce’s Modernisms’ [10]; 2. Garry Leonard, ‘James Joyce and Popular Culture’ [39]; 3. Eric Bulson, ‘Topics And Geographies’ [52]; 4. Joseph Valente, ‘Joyce’s Politics: Race, Nation, and Transnationalism’ [73]; 5. Marian Eide, ‘Joyce, Genre, and the Authority of Form’ [97]; 6. Vicki Mahaffey, ‘Joyce and Gender’ [121]; 7. Laurent Milesi, ‘Joyce, Language, and Languages’ [144]; 8. Sam Slote, ‘Joyce and Science’ [162]; 9. R. Brandon Kershner, ‘Dialogical and Intertextual Joyce’ [183]; 10. Margot Norris, ‘Joyce, History, and the Philosophy of History’ [203]; 11. ‘Michael Groden, Genetic Joyce: Textual Studies and the Reader’ [227]; 12. Jean-Michel Rabaté, ‘Classics of Joyce Criticism’ [251]; Selected Bibliography’ [275]; Index 287.

‘The Whole of Joyce’: A presupposition shared by all the authors in this collection is that Joyce’s works and life obey an organic logic and that this logic opens up a general problematic hinged around the discover of a new type of writing. There all the recurrent echoes, thematic links and ideological questions find a key to their interrelations and cumulative evolution. […] there is a fundamental unity in Joyce’s entire oeuvre and […] we need to make sense of it. [1]

Joyce has often been described as caught up between an Irish past that he partly embraced and partly repudiated and an internationalist ethos often equated with high modernism. In other words, one may safely assert that Joyce was never an “organic intellectual” in Gramsci’s sense. [2]

Marxist approaches […] critics […] rejected Joyce as the protoypical alienated petit-bourgeois who bought into a deluded view of history as cyclical and reactionary. (Vide Trevor Williams, Reading Joyce Politically , Florida UP 1997; n.p.; here p.2.]

[1904:] a low moment in Irish history, even if it has been memorialised and rendered eternal by Ulysses. For the year 1904 was marked by political disappointment among Irish nationalists at a time when Parnell’s figre loomed large but more like an everlasting hangover, an unredeemable compound of failure, intrigue and division, the paradigm of betrayal and political impotence that Joyce kept in his memory when he went abroad. […] Nevertheless, the Easter Rising of 1916 became a motive in the Wake. [2]

Note: this is probably an echo of the view that Roderick O’Connor, the Republican leader, was the original of the central figure in the First Fragment – a presumptive view which traces from Symbol and Surface to Kenner , W. J. McCormack and onward through US academia.]

[In the Notebooks] Joyce lays down the basis of a genetic theory of artistic development that will constitute the backbone of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man . In Stephen’s initiation into a living poetics, he learns that the making of a work of art implies a complex process of “artistic conception, artistic gestation, and artistic reproduction” (P, 209.) What culminates into personal experience is a production of art and artifacts that follows the logic of living beings’ evolution. [3]

[Summarises Margot Norris:] If Joyce’s aesthetic theories imply an immersion in the neo-Hegelian theory of a Bernard Bosanquet, Joyce’s link with his own Irish past through his name and family remains elusive. Is it only Irish history that can be called a nightmare? How serious was Joyce in his belief in a cyclical history? We have now realised that the idea that high modernism ignored history is based on a misunderstanding both of history and of modernism, and it is therefore crucial to repo[s]e the problematic of the theory of universal history that underpins Joyce’s later writings. [8]

Ronald Bush, ‘Joyce’s Modernisms’, pp.10-38
Joyce’s response to his predecessors [Ibsen, Flaubert, et al.] was cumulative and consistent: e attempted not to find a core problem and then derive the rational principle on which it could be solved, but, as Ibsen had done in When We Dead Awaken, to illuminate the contradictions of modernity by exploring his own implication in them, as individual and (as representative modern artist) as opponent. Neither “The Dead” nor A Portrait [… &c.] nor Ulysses nor Finnegans Wake can be said to resolve any of the problems of modernity, but they encounter them in a progressively more self-conscious fashon, in part by incorporating the histories of his predecessors into accounts of his own life, more tellingly by enlarging upon the way their ironies reflected on their own involvement in the problems they explored. (p.31.)

Garry Leonard, ‘James Joyce and Popular Culture’, pp.39-51
Matthew Arnold makes a rather odd cameo appearance in Ulysses when Stephen is imagining the world of Oxford University: “Shouts from the open window startling evening in the quadrangle. A deaf gardener, aproned, masked with Matthew Arnold’s face, pushes his mower on the somber lawn watching narrowly the dancing motes of grasshalms” (U 1.172-5). “Watching narrowly” may well stand in for the visual equivalent of Joyce’s critique of Arnold: a cultural watchdog patrolling the border protecting those who reserve the right to determine and preserve a self-perpetuating cultural meaning system advantageous to their personal and economic self-interest, from those who feel systematically disenfranchised , and would challenge this same cultural meaning system in an effort to get their own concerns included within the purview of “legitimate.” Arnold presents the gathering and appreciation of “culture” as something as neutral as collecting butterflies. The resulting collection, however, especially after it has been naturalized as no more than “what is the best that has been thought and known,” also serves as the basis for granting legitimacy to a dominant hegemonic discourse and thereby, without having to argue the point, permanently excluding competing forms of discourse as illegitimate. [39] [F]or everything to which Matthew Arnold has grown deaf, Joyce has the ears of a fox and the eyes of a hawk: overheard trivial conversation […], overheard shouts in a public street […], advertisements […], pulp fiction […], popular song […].vulgar music hall songs […], pantomime […], graffiti scratched into a desk […], even pornography […]. (pp.39-20).

T. S. Eliot famously wrote in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, ‘I have measured out my life in coffee spoons’, but Joyce is far more contextual than this. He asks: where did you buy the coffee? What brand? Who was it advertised and how did that affect the choice? What were you thinking when you bought it? […; p.46]. As my reading of moments of consumption suggests, the momentary is momentous because it remains unexplained and unaccounted for by what the Marxist critic Gramsci called “hegemonic discourse.” Discourse [47] more generally can be understood as the various conceptual frameworks that facilitate some modes of thought [by which] various institutions sustain their privileged position. […] (p.48.)

The “escape” afforded by chronicles of disorder […] is not an escape from history but rather an escape from the historicised, to the not yet historicised, where the colonial subject may have access to actual possibilities ousted by the exclusionary “actualities” imposed by historical narratives. (p.49.)

For Joyce the momentary is momentous; the “everyday” is not where we make history, but where we live and “low” art chronicles this disorder. If we seek the full splendor of Joyce’s accomplishment, examples of “low” art are what we must read and read doubly, instead of our Roman history. (p.50.)

[See Bibliography, in Bibliographies, “Bibliographies & Appendices” / Relating to Major Writers / Joyce.]


[ back ]
[ top ]