James Joyce: Commentary (7)

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General Index

Richard Kain (1962) to Michael Hollington (1976)
Richard M. Kain
Francis Harvey
Edna O’Brien
C. P. Curran
Thomas Connolly
Stan Gébler Davies
Frank Tuohy
Matthew Hodgart
Malcolm Brown
C. H. Peake
J. Mitchell Morse
Michael Hollington
Jacques Aubert Maurice Beja Roland McHugh

Richard Kain, Fabulous Voyager: James Joyce’s Ulysses (Chicago UP 1947): ‘The indebtedness of the present study to the work of [Harry] Levin will be apparent, as will the modification of his conclusions, particularily his charges that Joyce is deficient in human sympathy and philosophical outlook. [...] Stuart Gilbert’s elaborate commentary is more likelly to terrify the general reader than to enlighten him, not to speak of paroviding a somewhat misleading perspective. His work suffers from two shortcomings: first, and less importatn, that the publication of the study before the novel was generally available necessitated extensive paraphrase (and expurgation) of the text. Of greater consequence was his exclusive preoccupation [4] with esoteric symbolism, leading him to overlook many basis artistic and philosophical values.’ (pp.4-5.)

Richard Kain (Fabulous Voyager: James Joyce’s Ulysses, 1947): ‘Let us turn for a moment to a brief survey of the conditions of modern society. The entire world is today witnessing the convulsive death throes of the political and economic beliefs of the last century. The future of capitalism and of liberal democracy seems now to be at stake; and again the student of cultural history is amazed by the uncanny prescience of writers who long ago sensed the imminence of the present catastrophic changes in society. Ignoring the revolutionary spokesmen of the nineteenth century, as early as 1900 Thomas Mann had examined with diligence [8] the decline of bourgeois standards of value in Buddenbrooks. In 1912 an obscure German scholar. Oswald Spengler, penned the title of his philosophical masterpiece, The Decline of the West, published in the momentous month of July, 1918. From 1912 to 1924 Thomas Mann probed with increased powers of poetic sensitivity the problems of a young man of the prewar generation, Hans Castorp of The Magic Mountain. During these years a similar task was undertaken on a colossal scale by Marcel Proust in France; and during these years Joyce wrote his panoramic Ulysses, depicting the disintegration of moral and philosophical values. [...] Of the three major writers of the twentieth century - Marcel Proust in French, Thomas Mann in German, and James Joyce in English literature - Joyce appears to be the one who faced most unflinchingly the decadence of bourgeois society. Marcel Proust retired to the nostalgic, dreams of a social pattern from which he had been exiled by ill-health - a society which was itself rapidly passing away - and labored to render the aesthetic impressions left upon his memory. Thomas Mann grappled courageously with the data of science and society, hoping to retrieve from destruction some of the values of a world that was passing, and closed his masterpiece with a pious hope that his faith in the brotherhood of man might somehow be realized. James Joyce alone felt the searing brilliance of ‘time’s livid final flame’, on which Stephen reflected throughout Ulysses. With microscopic exactitude Joyce revealed the inherent contradictions and shortcomings of modern civilization. It is my purpose to [10] analyze and explain in detail his findings and the skill with which they are rendered. (pp.8-9.) [For longer extracts, see Richard Kain, op. cit., in RICORSO, “Library” / Critics, infra.]

Richard Kain, Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce (Oklahoma UP 1962; Newton Abbot: David Charles 1972): ‘James Joyce once taunted Yeats for talking like a man of letters rather than a poet. Yeats never forgot the insult, but in fact he did succeed in becoming both. Since the time of Goethe, few writers have shown such amazing vitality in so wide a range of activities. [...]’ (p.21.) Further, ‘Controversy affected Ireland most drastically in the alienation of her superior minds. Each of the major writers reached a breaking point in relation to his homeland. James Joyce was defiant, although he admitted to being “self-exiled upon his own ego.” Before him, George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde had followed the long tradition.’ (p.23.) ‘As an impudent college graduate Joyce ridiculed the Gaelic aspect of the revival. In a review of Lady Gregory’s Poets and Dreamers, printed in the Dublin Daily Express, March 26, 1903, “J.J.” finds native folklore hopelessly senile. Irish life reverses the normal process of maturing; children, sent to work at an early age, have some sense, but adults seem muddleheaded. If this tendency continues, “little boys with long beards will stand aside and applaud, while old men in short trousers play handball against the side of a house.” However right, this was scarcely tactful, especially since Lady Gregory apparently got Joyce the job as occasional reviewer. Buck Mulligan refers to the incident in Ulysses, noting that Longworth, the editor, was “awfully sick” about it, and concluding with a gibe at Yeats’s rumored financial dependence on Lady Gregory: “O you inquisitional drunken jew jesuit! She gets you a job on the paper and then you go and slate her drivel to jaysus. Couldn’t you do the Yeats touch?” / In one of his multi-level puns Joyce debased the “cultic twalette,” yet even he fell under the spell of at least one Irish influence, describing the Book of Kells to his old Dublin friend Arthur Power as “the most purely Irish thing we have” and “the fountainhead of Irish inspiration,” including that of his own work. And certainly the intricately [47] allusive language of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake has its source in a fantastic richness of imagination similar to that which, one thousand years before Joyce, found expression in the curiously decorated margins of that treasured manuscript.’ (pp.47-48.)

Richard Kain (Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce, 1962; 1972 Edn.): ‘Like his contemporaries, Joyce dreamed of creating ideals for Ireland. His first consideration of the role of the artist - his favorite subject - reflects the spirit of dedication in the Dublin of 1904. An essay, “A Portrait of the Artist,” written in January of that year, was rejected by the editors of the new magazine Dana, and has only recently been published (in the Spring, 1960, issue of the Yale Review). Its peroration envisages a utopian future of socialistic enlightenment. Even though Ireland remains “under joint government of Their Intensities and Their Bullockships,” the artist proclaims the goal: / “To those multitudes, not as yet in the wombs of humanity but surely engenderable there, he would give the word: Man and woman, out of you comes the nation that is to come, the lightening of your masses in travail: the competitive order is employed against itself, the aristocracies are supplanted; and amid the general paralysis of an insane society, the confederate will issues in action.” / Here are the grandiloquence and the vagueness of youth. Joyce is about to choose exile, and years of frustration are to leave their mark. Yet the familiar words which conclude his A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) still resound with idealism. Although Joyce’s own soured hopes were beginning to find release in ironic mockery, he once shared the aspirations of his fictional counterpart, Dedalus: [48] / “I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.” (pp.48-49.) [For longer extracts, see Richard Kain, op. cit., in RICORSO, “Library” / Critics, infra.]

Francis Harvey, ‘Stephen Hero and A Portrait of the Artist [.... &c.]: The Intervention of Style in a Work of Creative Imagination’, in A Bash in the Tunnel, ed. John Ryan, London: Clifton Books 1970): ‘[S]urprisingly, one of the first things that struck me on a rereading was the fact that it [Stephen Hero] did not seem dated - which, curiously enough, was the predominant impression left on me by a rereading of the Portrait. Its flaccid languorous paragraphs [203], clotted with sensuous adjectives, are full of Ninetyish nuances and cadences, and, ironically enough, again and again echo the language of the Celtic Twilight which Joyce so despised: words from the early Yeats like dim, grey, soft, dark, sad, low, gentle, wilt and droop on page after page. / Stephen Hero makes a much more immediate impact on the reader; it is, of course, far less contrived stylistically and, one supposes, is a factual record of Joyce’s life at the time; it is full of long passages of excellent dialogue which do not appear in the Portrait; it has a natural human warmth and spontaneity conspicuously absent from the studied, self-conscious posturing - literary and personal - of the other book; it reproduces the texture of life as one imagines it at the time in a hard clear light and not as if through a glass dimly - which is what occurs in the Portrait where everything is seen through a complex highly wrought curtain of obfuscating prose and each character seems a sort of wraith trapped in the interstices of Stephen’s subjectivity.’ (p.204.) Compares the encounter with the woman in the ‘black straw hat’ in Stephen Hero [‘Good night, love ...’] with the Dollymount Strand scene in A Portrait: ‘The writing in the first passages is lucid, vigorous, unpretentious and remarkably free of soft-centred adjectives. [...] The second passage is hard to stomach. [...] The inversion of the last sentence is unforgivable. [...] This is so bad that it reads like a parody - a self-parody. It is invertebrate, static, narcissistic, so verbally introverted that it seems to be admiring itself. It is dead: embalmed in its own virtuosity. [...’; 206]. Flaubert’s search for le mot juste has degenerated into empty preciosity.’ (pp.206-07.)

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Edna O’Brien, The Country Girls (1963), Baba to the enthusiastic Caithleen, on first arriving in Dublin: “Will you for Chrissake stop asking fellas if they read James Joyce’s Dubliners? They’re not interested. They’re out for the night. Eat and drink all you can and leave James Joyce to blow his own trumpet.” (p.159.) Declan Kiberd, quoting the above, remarks: ‘Yet Joyce’s Dubliners holds the key to the meaning of the girls’ experience.’ (Kiberd, ‘Growing Up Absurd: Edna O’Brien and The Country Girls’, in Munira H. Mutran & Laura P. Z. Izarra, eds., Irish Studies in Brazil, Sao Paolo: Associação Editorial Humanitas 2005, p.155.) Also, ‘[Reading Dubliners] was the first time in my whole life that I happened on something in a book that was exactly like my own life. I had always been a stranger from [114] what had been my life up to then.’ (Barbara Bannon, ‘Authors and Editors’, in Publishers’ Weekly, 197, 25 May 1970, pp.21.22; quoted in Kiberd, op. cit., 2005, p.157.)

Edna O’Brien, ‘Dear Mr. Joyce’, in John Ryan, ed., A Bash in the Tunnel: James Joyce by the Irish (Brighton: Clifton Books 1970): ‘Was he garrulous? Did he wear a topcoat? Did he hanker after an estate? [...] He started to study medicine three times [...] He saw his countrymen as being made up of yahoos, adulterous priests and sly deceitful women. He classed it the “venereal condition of the Irish” [sic for general paralysis of the insane or spiritual paralysis]. Like the wild geese he had a mind to go elsewhere; it was not to follow an alien king but to commence a revolution in word. He wanted to be continentalised [...; 43] To him words were not literature but numerals, digits, things that when he strung them together in his wild, prodigious way took on another light, another lustre and were the litany of his lapsed Catholic soul. he like hymnbooks and tittle-tattle and tongues to be welded together. The English he strove for was pidgin, nigger, cockney, Irish, Bowery and biblical. [...] His love object, the only one as far as we know, was from Galway, the city of his tribal name. Are such things total chance. She had reddish-brown hair and he wanted that she had fuller breasts and fat thighs. To achieve this he urged her to drink cocoa [...] His own words for all his own feelings were that they were mad and dirty.’ (pp.43-47.)

Edna O’Brien, ‘James Joyce’s Odyssey: The labors of Ulysses’, in “A Critic at Large” [ser,] (New Yorker, 7 June 1999): ‘To make the book accurate to Dublin life required help from friends and relatives. It did not occur to Joyce that the pious ones, including members of his family, would recoil from his obscenities or that the literati who had been his drinking friends in his medical-school days would envy him the altitude to which his genius would go. One such friend was Oliver Gogarty, who, in an article published in the Saturday Review of Literature, in 1941, reminisced about Joyce with a sickening sanctimoniousness that did little to conceal his envy, and rued the fact that, in writing Ulysses, Joyce had lost the keys to his inferno. Joyce hadn’t lost anything: he merely wanted to insure that every detail, every feature of the Dublin he had left and would never live in again, was flawlessly and matchlessly rendered. [Cont.]

Edna O’Brien (‘James Joyce’s Odyssey: The labors of Ulysses’, New Yorker, 7 June 1999) - cont.: ‘He would need to know the kind of pianola in Bella Cohen’s brothel, the kind of lamp that Stephen Dedalus would smash with his ashplant when the ghost of his dead mother appeared, and the pretty music-hall airs that might be played. (“My Girl’s a Yorkshire Lass” was what he decided on.) And Homer: he was always returning to Homer. He was intrigued by Hermes’ gift of a moly flower to Ulysses, to protect the traveller from Circe’s wiles. This moly flower - a white flower with a black root which was said to have magic propensities - was “a hard nut to crack,” he wrote to his friend Frank Budgen. It led to a train of questions. Would it be an invisible influence against accident? [Cont.]

Edna O’Brien (‘James Joyce’s Odyssey: The labors of Ulysses’, New Yorker, 7 June 1999) - cont.: ‘If so, what accident might that be? Syphilis, he thought, but then he wondered if the etymology of syphilis was “swine love” or “synphileis” - the conjoining of humans. And could the moly also be absinthe, which made men impotent - the juice of chastity, the blessed potion against contracting syphilis? He corresponded with the Baroness St. Leger, “a siren of the Lago Maggiore,” and she assured him that the moly was the garlic flower. He chose Hermes, the god of signposts, to shepherd Leopold Bloom in his traversal of the city in the course of a single day, before he returned home late at night to his sexually robust wife, Molly. Greece and Dublin, the ancient and the modern, coalesced into one. [Cont.]

Edna O’Brien (‘James Joyce’s Odyssey: The labors of Ulysses’, New Yorker, 7 June 1999) - cont.: ‘Joyce was equipped with rhyming dictionaries, maps, street directories, Gilbert’s “Historic and Municipal Documents of Ireland.” He badgered his friends for precise information on this or that - a list of shops, awnings, the steps leading down to 7 Eccles Street. He asked his faithful Aunt Josephine to get a page of foolscap and scribble down any “Goddamn drivel” that came into her head, and to find out whether, during the winter of 1893, the canals had been frozen hard enough for people to skate on. To Frank Budgen, he wrote, “Approach an ink bottle.” Budgen had been a sailor, and for Joyce, his experiences at sea - sea stories, sea slang, the sexual pangs of the sailors - had to be transferred into the mouths of aroused Dublin wanderers. After each exertion, he would collapse and repair to a bedroom - his eyesight worse than ever, Nora having to nurse him.’ (For full-text copy, see under Edna O’Brien - here or as attached.]

Edna O’Brien, James Joyce (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1999), [on the so-called “black letters”]: ‘Nora’s powers over him were strengthened [by the events of 1909.] She had proved herself to be the stronger one, he, the suitor, asking that their future love be “fierce and violent”. / Many have been baffled that a man of Joyce’s daunting intellect chose and remained constant to this peasant woman It is beyond these letters, it is beyond propriety, it remains inexplicable as the Eleusian mysteries.’ (p.68.) Further, ‘Much has been written about the impropriety of publishing the infamous letters and Richard Ellmann, who selected them,] was castigated. Years earlier far less incriminating ones were published with the permission of Nora and Giorgio, and Samuel Beckett fumed against literary widows, saying that they should be “burned on a pyre along with the writer himself” But do they make us think any less of Joyce or of Nora? Do they demean the marriage? Hardly. True, they are as outright in their earthiness as the mystics are in their ecstasies, yet they share the mystic’s longing for a couple to dissolve into one. Joyce’s chaos is our chaos, his barbaric desires are ours too, and his genius is that he made such breathless transcendations out of torrid stuff, that from the mire he managed to “bestir the hearts of men and angels”. Moreover he was a young man filled with a scalding passion and at that very same time attending a hospital in Dublin to be treated for a “damned dirty complaint”, an infection which he had picked up from a prostitute. / These letters are about more than smut. First and foremost they are a measure of the inordinate trust that he had in Nora to allow him to be all things, the child-man, the man-child, the peeping Tom, and the grand seducer. But there is also her own sexual prowess, no small thing for a convent girl from Galway and a radical thing in defiance of that male collusion whereby women are expected to maintain a mystique and conceal their deepest sexual impulses. Sexuality and maternity being thought to be contrary. / The letters are fascinating for yet another reason - why did he never destroy them or ask her to destroy them? He who was so obsessed with secrecy that he would not allow even his sisters to see Nora’s underclothes when they had come back from the wash, was sending these ejaculations into a small apartment where any member of the family could easily have chanced upon them. He was also asking Nora to conceal her excitement, almost. Almost! The voyeur in him had at last been unleashed and in his own city, amongst his own kin and in the country which he believed had repressed him and upon which he wished to pour the glorious and unabated bucket of sexual slime. The letters were for Nora, of course, but they were also for Joyce, to convince himself that he was free of every vestige of Roman Catholic guilt. But was he? (pp.74-75.) [...] He did not offer these letters to the world but neither did he ensure that they be destroyed. (p.76; for longer extracts see Ricorso Library “Criticism/Major Authors”, infra.)

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C[onstantine] P. Curran, James Joyce Remembered (OUP 1968), on Joyce’s affinity with Symbolistes: ‘Huysman’s symbolism of colours fitted in, too, with the Rimbaud sonnet “Voyelles”, which Joyce would repeat to me. Imitating Rimbaud and À Rebours [of Huysman], we would push these fin-de-siècle fancies, as I imagine students were doing in every university town, to the correspondence of colours and the sounds of muscial instruments and with the sense of taste, compiling, for example, monochrome meals, tables d’hote in black puddings and caviare, black sole with Guinness and black coffee.’ (p.19; quoted in Phillip Herring, ‘Joyce and Rimbaud: An Introductory Essay’, in James Joyce: An Joyce International Perspective, ed. Suheil Bushrui & Benstock, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1982, p.172.) [Cont.]

C. P. Curran (James Joyce Remembered, 1968), cont.: ‘He was diligent in following up clues and the modish allusions to more esoteric writers in Yeats and the French Symbolists. His extraordinary memory and natural acuteness did the rest in the way of preserving for use immediately, or after a great space of years, what came his way.’ (pp.35-36; quoted in Frank Shovlin, Journey Westward: Joyce, “Dubliners” and the Literary Revival, Cambridge UP 2012, cp.126.)

C. P. Curran (James Joyce Remembered, 1968), cont. - on Joyce’s aesthetics: ‘[...] As to Aquinas, I must also mention Boedder’s Natural Theology, the textbook used in the class of religions doctrine open to all students. He had a page or two on Thomistic aesthetics starting out with pulchra enim dicuntur ea quae visa placent. Rickaby’s General Metaphysics was read in the philosophy classes [see note, infra]. Joyce could not but have seen it in the hands of his friends who were reading philosophy including, for example, J. F. Byrne (Cranly), who sat at the same table with him in the National Library and at least in the first week of the [term] would [36] have opened its pages. Rickaby, between page 148 and 151, holds the marrow of Joyce’s aesthetics. It is Rickaby who quotes from St. Thomas well nigh all that Joyce uses touching the good and the beautiful which by its mere contemplation sets the appetite at rest. He discusses its unity, or integritas, its harmony of parts[,] or consonantia, and its clear lustre, or claritas; commonplaces, it may be said. But for me an intriguing detail is that Rickaby illustrates part of his argument by a sudden unlikely reference to a barn, just as Joyce, in his talk with Lynch, suddenly invokes the basket on the head of a passing butcher’s boy.’

[Note: for bibliographical details of Rickaby’s General Metaphysics, see under Joyce > Notes - as attached.]

C[onstantine] P. Curran (James Joyce Remembered, 1968) - cont. [new para.] ‘These Stoneihurst manuals would have escaped the attention of no intelligent student in the College; Joyce could have got what he wanted from them in half an hour. He could as easily have garnered further fodder from the two or three pages of De Wulf’s Introduction à la philosophic néo-scholastique, in which one finds a clear enough outline of the plan utilized by Joyce’s “applied Aquinas”. There, as in the other textbooks I have mentioned, he would have found the enjoyment of aesthetic pleasure to reside formally in disinterested contemplation and its perception to be of the intellectual order. He would have found not merely Aquinas’s three requisites for beauty, ending with the radiant “resplendentia formae”, but also more than the seed of Joyce’s “epiphanies”. The claritas pulchri on which Stephen Dedalus broods is defined as having in view that “property of things in virtue of which the objective elements of their beauty - order, harmony, proportion - reveal themselves clearly to the intelligence and so elicit its prolonged easy contemplation”. Joyce’s epiphanies have a wider range, but their source lies between Aquinas and Flaubert.’ (Ftn. cites Dr. Coffey’s trans. of 1907, and remarks that De Wulf’s Introduction was published in 1904, and incorporates material from his earlier studies of the aesthetics of St. Thomas published in 1896.) [Cont.]

Curran on John Stanislaus Joyce: ‘he could fascinate indefinitely with stories told with consummate art, one neatly fitting into one another. And these stories would be of a perfectly drawing-room character until suddenly he would slip into the coarse vein and another side of his nature and vocabulary be revealed.’ (p.70; quoted in Declan Kiberd, Ulysses and Us, Faber 2009, pp.183.)

C[onstantine] P. Curran (James Joyce Remembered, 1968), cont.: ‘Joyce’s epiphanies have a wider range, but their source lies between Aquinas and Flaubert. / Whatever, for a season, his reading may have been in the Bibliothèque Ste Geneviève, Joyce did not follow any of the philosophy courses in University College, and there is no record of his attendance at any meeting of the Academy of St. Thomas, a discussion group meeting irregularly to read papers and debate [...] range[ing] from Epictetus to Bacon and the neo-Kantians. His acquaintance with St. Thomas derived, I am satisfied, not from such meetings and certainly not from any formal study of [37] of philosophy, scholastic or otherwise, in the College. It would have begun in the sodality and advanced classes for religious instruction in Belvedere [...] the same principles, ad mentem divi S. Thomae, his vocabulary and definitions, made a part of the general atmosphere of college discussions and entered into basis criticism in the literature classes. [...] Joyce’s scholastic definitions are sprinkled through some review[s] he was writing for the Daily Express in the winter of 1902; later I was listening to them in monologues on aesthetics which remain in my memory as much from the manner of their exposition as from the matter. The dry, staccato delivery of these pronunciamentos was appropriate to their scholasticism, and their didactic certitude squared with the hard core of his mind. What held my attention then was the seeming difference between their sharp concreteness and his devotion to Ibsen and the Symbolists and, in particular, to Verlaine and Yeats [...] But our talks were rarely on this aesthetic level; they went with casual meetings as we crossed town together to the north side and ran mostly on the theatre or music, or chance topics.’ (pp.36-38.) [Cont.]

Note: Joyce read A. P. Sinnett’s Esoteric Buddhism and The Occult World, according to C. P. Curran, James Joyce Remembered, OUP 1968, p.32; cited in Len Platt, “References to Madame Blavatsky and her ideas in the Wake - An Annotated List” (2008) - formerly available Goldsmith College of University of London - online.

C[onstantine] P. Curran (James Joyce Remembered, 1968) - cont.: Curran repudiates Joyce’s conception of the students as members of a ‘shivering society’ especially in connection with the student’s revolt against the use of the English anthem at degree conferring ceremonies (p.61.) Curran wrote to Joyce at length on receiving a copy of A Portrait, registering his view that the ‘student characters are too little individualised within their own group’ (p.163). He also speaks at length of a ‘faculty of divination’ for plots against him that ‘lay dangerously close to persecution mania’ (p.80), and quotes Byron: “His life was one long war with self-sought foes, / Or friends by him self-banishe’d, for his mind / Had grown Suspicion’s sanctuary [...]” (Childe Harold, III, 80, here p.81; and cf. John Garvin [Andrew Cass] - as supra.)

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Thomas E. Connolly, ‘A Painful Case’, in James Joyce’s “Dubliners”: Critical Essays, ed. Clive Hart (London: Faber & Faber 1969), pp.107-14: ‘[....] Between the introductory three stories and the terminal three about public life (I exclude “The Dead” which was added to the original design), the stories in Dubliners are arranged in balancing pairs. “Eveline” and “After the Race” show male and female views [on] the state of virginity. “Two Gallants” and “The Boarding House” treat of seduction from opposite views in the single life. “A Little Cloud” and “Counterparts” deal with frustration of the married male parent. In “Clay” and “A Painful Case” Maria is the adult female celibate and James Duffy is the adult male celibate. All the individual stories deal with frustration in the search for some sort of love, be it religious, spiritual, maternal, paternal, or sexual love. From first to last, there is a mounting intensity that culminates, in the most bitter of these stories, “A Painful Case”, in a frustration of love that ends in death.’ [End; p.114.]

Stan Gébler Davies, James Joyce: A Portrait of the Artist (London: Poynter 1975): ‘[Joyce’s] attitude to his own nationality was thoroughly nineteenth-century, as if politics had ceased with the death of Parnell. Nor did he present his people as in any way deserving of independence or the respect of the world. In Ireland there would always be a traitor at the right moment, therefore the organisation of military resistance to the English in secret societies was one “eminently suited to the Irish character because it reduces to a minimum the possibility of betrayal.” / The villain of the piece was the Church [...] What was the answer to Ireland’s troubles? Joyce suggested hope lay with Sinn Féin’s separatist policies of boycott and passive resistance but must have done so with tongue in cheek since he had been sarcastic about the policy when he was still in Ireland. In any case it was Sinn Féin that brought Ireland eventually to that bloody confrontation which [140] horrified Joyce. Still, the artist could not be expected to be a political prophet as well.’ (pp.140-41.)

Frank Tuohy, Yeats (London: [Thames & Hudson] 1976), quotes Yeats’s account of his encounter with Joyce (‘I have met you too late. You are too old’) in the introduction to Ideas of Good and Evil, and copied in Ellmann’s biography of Joyce. Lady Gregory wrote to Yeats, ‘Poor boy, I am afraid he will knock his ribs against the earth, but he has grit and will succeed in the end. You should write and ask him to breakfast with you on the morning he arrives [in London], if you can get up early enough, and feed him and take care of him and give him dinner at Victoria before he goes, and help him on his way [...]’ (p.118). Lady Gregory was repaid in Ulysses [Mulligan]: ‘She gets you a job on the paper and then you go and slate her drivel to Jaysus. Couldn’t you do the Yeats touch? [...] [&c.].’ (Idem.) Lily Yeats thought Dubliners a ‘never to be forgotten book, a haunting book [...] I saw the elderly women coming out and slipping into the city chapels for mouthfuls of prayer, seedy men coming out and slipping into greasy public houses for mouthfuls of porter – but of their lives I knew nothing [...] Since I read Dubliners I feel I know something of their lives.’ J. B. Yeats dismissed Dubliners, ‘Good God, how depressing! One always knew there were such persons and places in Dublin, but one never wanted to see them.’ Further: Yeats found A Portrait a masterpiece, ‘So much vitality, and no business to drain it off – that’s the charm of Dublin, and doubtless it was the charm of Athens.’ On re-reading it he wrote: ‘That book will last forever, preserved like a fly in amber by its incomparable style.’ Maud Gonne found A Portrait ‘self-analysis of a somewhat mediocre soul who has failed to see and understand the beauty it has lived among.’ (Tuohy, p.120); Frank O’Connor called Joyce the ‘greatest master of prose rhetoric who has ever lived.’ (Idem.)

Maurice Beja, Epiphany and the Modern Novel (1971) - on epiphany: ‘The word of course refers to the manifestation of Christ on the 12th day, January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany. The word would therefore necessarily have been known to the young Joyce, and as a Catholic he need not have waited, as Oliver St. John Gogarty has suggested he did, to learn its meaning “as an aside in his Latin class.” Joyce did not know Greek, but he may have known the original meaning of [Greek epiphany]: a manifestation, striking appearance, esp. an appearance of a divinity, according to the OED, which also relates the verb to manifest. In English, the word has for the most part kept its theological context, although the OED does cite figurative adaptions of it. The attempt to determine sources for it other than the ecclesiastical one for Joyce’s application of it have proved unconvincing.’ (p.72.)

See further in “Notes”: ‘An Epiphany was life observed, caught in a kind of camera eye which reproduced a significant moment without comment.’ (Quoting Scholes & Kain, Workshop of Daedalus, p.14.) Beja insists that sudden is the operative word in Joyce’s definition of epiphany [SH188; new edn. [reset], foreword by Slocum & Cahoon, 1956, 216], and that this precludes treating epiphany as an apt term for the process, intentions, or results of FW on account of its great length. (pp.73-74.)

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Roland McHugh, The Sigla in Finnegans Wake (Texas UP 1976): ‘The difficulty of absorbing FW results not merely from the highly fragmented nature of its text but also from the fragmented nature of the absorption process itself. In reading FW one makes a succession of isolated discoveries pertaining to various disciplines and stationed randomly throughout the volume. Appearing in no special order, they are soon forgotten unless some form of cataloguing is attempted, which is an occupation repugnant to most persons in search of aesthetic ends. (p.1.) Unfortunately much published exegesis exhibits a depressing indifference to context and continuity, which results from the disproportionate acquaintance with the text possessed by most exegetes. Chapters I.i and I.8, for example, are more familiar to most of us than, say, the Book II chapters. The cohesion of parts wil be appreciated only when the reader has formulated canons for distinguishing them. I propose here to try to assist him. / Ideally, we should try to remains conscious of the dual function of every own. There is a linear function, a contribution to the syntatic complex in which the word stands. We must be able to account for the position of any unity in FW as a transition between the unites on either side of it. Secondly there is a systemic function, a contribution to the tone of the section. Very common words are chiefly linear in function; names such as the thousand or so rivers mentioned in I.8 are chiefly systemic, in this case enhancing the watery quality of that chapter. But every word must be allowed its contribution to texture. Just as the eighteen chapters of Ulysses [2] possess individual styles, moods and atmospheres, so each of the seventeen FW chapters has a private aura. It was very rare for Joyce to transfer any partly-composed material from one chapter to another. The only instance of any length which I can give is the paragraph 223.35-224.07, which if retained in its original place would have separated 396.05 and 06.
 The reader who has not recognized chapter unification may assume that, since almost any passage includes the main themes or obsessions of FW, he need only pick one at random and admit every allusion its words can be contorted to produce. The usual consequences is temporary fascination followed by loss of the faculty for drawing lines of exclusion, leading to conceptual overload, psychic saturation.
 In the initial stages I consider familiarity to be more important than comprehension. [...] Painful as it may see, I would urge the reader to make some attempt at reading through FW before beginning this book, if only to form some idea of the physical dimensions of the chapters.
 The distinguishing feature of my approach to FW is my concern with Joyce’s sigla. [...] (p.3.) [...] I believe that the greatest priority for the beginner is to acquire enough familiarity with [Finnegans Wake] to see the simple equilibrium of two symmetrical half-arches supporting a keystone of greater complexity.’ (p.6.)

Further [on “St. Patrick and the Archdruid” [in Book IV]: ‘Among St. Patrick’s major exploits were this defiance of royal authority in lighting a fire at Slane in Holy Saturday. This led to an unsuccessful [visitation] by the instruments of King Laoghaire (Leary); the vital clash did not however occur until Easter Sunday. It took the form of a contest of miracles performed at Tara before the king by his druid Lucat Mael and by Patrick. The saint was consistently able to surpass the druid and eventually destroyed him. The particular miracle featured in FW involves the darkness brought over the land by Lucat Mael’s invocations. Requested to dispel it, he announced that he would be unable to do so until the following day. Patrick caused it to vanish instantaneously. As the sun shone forth once more, all the people cried out glorifying Patrick’s God.’ (Ibid., p.108.) [...]

Ending:‘[...] My object in any case has been to increase the accessibility of FW to the reader rather than to dictate rules for exegetes. Exegesis is necessary, but it presents a danger of distracting from its subject: there is no substitute for direct contact with the text. I must also observe that to appreciate the book fully one needs to live in Dublin. I earnestly recommend Finnegans Wake, as a human experience unlike any other.’ (p.137; end.)

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Matthew Hodgart, James Joyce: A Student’s Guide (London: Routledge Kegan & Paul 1978) - on Joyce’s politics: ‘James Joyce [...] belonged to a great world and a little world. The little world was the Ireland in which he was born and educated, the great world was geographically the continent of Europe where he passed most of his life, and intellectually the avant-garde world of the arts, in its last heroic period. This period has only just closed, with the deaths of Joyce’s near-contemporaries Stravinsky and Picasso. [...]’ (p.1.) ‘Of the subjects most germane to literature, psychology was perhaps the one he took most seriously. He seems to have remained sceptical about the therapeutic value of Freudian or Jungian psychoanalysis, and probably even about the descriptive value of Freudian or Jungian theories, but he certainly found that Freud’s books offered myths no truer or falser than the myths of Christianity or other religions, myths which could be used as striking frameworks for his novels. [...]’ (p.3.) ‘Joyce showed very little interest in the Irish peasantry, and know little about the west. But he was deeply concerned with two developments of the later nineteenth century, the terrorist movement and the Parliamentary movement led by Parnell.’ (p.22; cont.)

Matthew Hodgart, (James Joyce: A Student’s Guide, 1978) - cont.: ‘Joyce’s serious interest in Irish politics began and ended with the Parliamentary movement, and that in fact meant Parnell to him. [...] Joyce admired him partly because he was the antithesis of the backslapping, sentimental, oratorical Irish type of politician. [23; ...] Parnell’s coolness (“indifferent, paring his fingernails”) gave Joyce his own life-style.’ (pp.23-24.) ‘Bloomsyear, 1904, was a time of relative stagnation and calm’ (ibid.) Hodgart discusses the rise of volunteer armies in Ulster and the South. ‘Joyce was of course out of Ireland throughout this period [viz., 1916], but it would be a mistake to think that he was not deeply interested in contemporary politics. At the time of the troubles he was writing Ulysses about an earlier period, and it was published just about when the Civil War was finished. But he began Finnegans Wake a year later with a sketch that partly describes Rory O’Connor’s death, and most of the leading figures from 1916-23 appear as characters in the book: Erskine Childers, for example, becomes “Haveth Childers Everywhere [...] [Arthur] Griffith, [Michael] Collins, [Kevin] O’Higgins and other Treaty and Civil War figures are often mentioned, and [Eamon] de Valera is given a satirical treatment in the “Shaun” chapters [...]’ (p.28.) [For query the relation between Rory O’Connor and High King Roderick O’Connor as possible models for the episode named after the latter

Note: Hodgart gives space to symptomatic consideration of Joyce’s alcoholism and its consequences for his life and works (pp.38-40) and considers his sexual life also, concluding that he ‘seems to have lapsed into a vaguely fetischistic, voyeuristic, onanistic state of sexual being, which is reproduced in the meandering thoughts and dramatised fantasies of Bloom’ (ibid., p.42). [On A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man]: ‘[...] Stephen is an heroic figure, forging the uncreated conscience of his race, but he cannot cease to be a creature of his time and place, and that means he is also a rather affected and conceited young provincial, trying to be a colder fish than he can ever be. Joyce tried to hit a balance between self-glorification and self-criticism, and I think that he succeeded in doing so. But he perhaps did not make his attitude clear enough for the majority of readers. Some critics see the book as an expression of self-pity, others, like Hugh Kenner [Dublin’s Joyce], as a satirical attack on an absurd young man.’ (p.58.)

Matthew Hodgart, (James Joyce: A Student’s Guide, 1978) - cont. [On “Cyclops”:] ‘[...] a deliberate rejection of violence [...] especially the violence of nationalst Ireland.’ [On “Ithaca”:] ‘Stephen and Bloom, the two parts of the artist, have finally become one: Stephen, symbolising their joint soul, disappears outward from the earth’s gravitational field into space, while Bloom, who represents their physical joint body, homes on the earth and is buried in her, as a seed or embryo: he assumes the position of the child in the womb [128] before he goes to sleep. The meaning of the book is always to be looked for in terms of the artists’s creativity. What this chapter says is that the artist, or at least the male artist, cannot fulfil himself and become truly creative unless he achieves a successful union with a woman, a relationship which is sexual and more than sexual.’ (pp.129.) On Finnegans Wake:] ‘The pathos of the end is intense, but the humour, as always in Joyce at his best, is equally marked. It may be true that Joyce failed in his attempt to write a universal epic, and that he thought he had failed; and Finnegans Wake may have collapsed under the weight of its symbolism. But it is a glorious failure.’ (End; p.188.) [For longer extracts see RICORSO Library, “Major Authors”, James Joyce, text.]

Malcolm Brown, The Politics of Irish Literature: Thomas Davis to W. B. Yeats (London: George Allen 1972): writes that he ‘man [that got away James Stephens]’ thus floats about Joyce’s Dublin as a sort of impostor ghost, embodied first in “the Citizen” as cognate with Ireland’s champion shot-putter and green chauvinist, and finally alighting upon Mr. Bloom in one of his comic fantasies of mock-heroic grandeur. But Joyce found no place in his structure for any of the more common Dublin responses to the escape. Naturally, he had no sympathy with Dublin Castle but neither could he see his way to allow the Irish popular - “cute as a fox”, in Stephen Dedalus’s words, its modest recompense of laughter ] at the Castle outwitted.’ (p.194.)

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C. H. Peake, James Joyce: The Citizen and the Artist (London: Edward Arnold 1977) [On Dubliners:] ‘The stories are of particular people in particular situations; the book composes a moral portrait of a particular city: and, although both are in some way expressive of the lives of all men and all cities, the universality is, as it were, a byproduct of the book’s particularities. / This is characteristic of most good fiction and would not need emphasizing if so much criticism of Dubliners did not make an entirely different emphasis - on mythical and symbolic significances. The objection to these interpretations is not that they are too ingenious or too subtle, but that they spread over stories of rich and delicately articulated meaning a coarse membrane of symbolic and archetypal platitudes, or substitute for the author’s finely-formed progeny the sooterkins aborted by the critic. Indeed, it is sometimes suggested that the stories would be of little account were it not for the deeper levels plumbed by symbolic analysis [See note] and, in pursuit of such revelations, the simple facts of the stories are often ignored, misconstrued or even invented; such symbols as are present, like the dying fire in “Ivy Day in the Committee Room”, are exaggerated, distorted and bent to fit some archetypal scheme (usually a simplified derivative from Ulysses or Finnegans Wake); and arguments are offered which would not be acceptable in dissertations on the Number of the Beast or the Baconian theory. Scientific proof cannot be required of critical interpreters, but it does not follow that free association can pass for literary analysis.’ (p.8.)

Note: ‘For instance, Marvin Magalaner complains that “too few have seen the trouble that Joyce took to give more than a surface meaning to his seemingly transparent, harmless stories” (Magalaner & Richard Kain, James Joyce: The Man, The Work, The Reputation, Calder [1956] 1957, p.75). I suspect that few readers have found the stories transparent, and Joyce’s contemporaries certainly did not think them ‘harmless’. The same critic speaks of “the fragile narrative” of “An Encounter” (75) and the “otherwise trivial narrative” of “Clay” (Ibid., p.70.) Similarly, William York Tindall thinks that, if it were not for the symbols he claims to find in them, “Clay” “has little point beyond the exhibition of pointlessness” (Tindall, A Reader’s Guide to James Joyce, 1959, p.29), and “A Mother” little to offer beyond a funny story.’ (Ibid., pp.37-38).

C. H. Peake, James Joyce (1977) - cont. [on “Eveline”]: ‘The irony of the story is rather obvious and “literary”, perhaps because it plays, not without pity, round the traditional and particularly Victorian theme of a girl torn between love and duty who finally makes the heroic sacrifice of happiness at the call of home and religion. But Joyce conscientiously demolishes sentimentality. Eveline is hardly a girl in love: marriage for her means that “people would treat her with respect then”, and her affection for Frank is far from passionate: “First of all it had been an excitement for her to have a fellow and then she had begun to life him.” The love is casually tacked on as a secondary condition in her vision of their future (“He would give her life, perhaps love, too”) and, when finally he goes, “her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition.” She seems to be as incapable of love as of movement, and, as no overpowering passion is drawing her away, so the dutifulness which holds her back is drab and halfhearted. (p.22.)

Further: ‘The paralysis of the will, the undermining of the soul, which Joyce consistently presents in terms of a longing to escape or a nostalgic inflation of the past coupled with an inability to act, is perhaps most sumply and straightforwardly presented in “Eveline” and, although the thematic point is rather blatantly evident, the nature of th efears which immobilize the girl are sensitively explored and the superficial disguises of love and duty are stripped off to show the real inner forces which will prevent her for ever achieving “life”.’ (p.23.)

C. H. Peake, James Joyce (1977) [on the Ulysses scheme]: ‘It appears, then, that Joyce’s notes are less a diagram of the novel than a set of partially cryptic memoranda referring to certain submerged patterns to be kept in mind by the author but not necessarily traced consciously by his readers. Nevertheless Joyce certainly hoped that his readers would, at various levels of awareness, respond to these submerged patterns: his willingness to show his notes to chosen commentators implies that he was anxious to encourage such a response. The consequences of the publication of the notes have been very mixed: the relationship of some notes to the work itself is so obscure as to have been a source of mystification rather than elucidation, while others, in particular the Odyssean parallels and the ‘technics’ have provided essential elements of the critical terminology in which the book is discussed. If it is imposible to regard the scheme as the complete framework on which Ulysses was constructed, it is equally impossible to regard it merely as evidence of Joyce’s obsessional and trivial ingenuity. (pp.169-70; ...] There is nothing unusual in the occurrence of dual or multiple principles in a novel’s structure: what is characteristic of Joyce is the degree of elaboration in the subordinate patterns - an elaboration beginning in the symmetrical groupings of the Dubliners stories and culminating in Finnegans Wake, where the two principles become one, and what is constant is cyclic development. Joyce’s fondness for such structures is related to his apprehension of experience as the product of interacting polar opposites. His disposition, as artist, inclined him to approach the problems of combining complexity and order, whether in form or content, by establishing opposed forces or currents. In Ulysses the static patterns, such as “Organs” and “Arts”, relate to the paralysed city; the developing patterns, such as the Odyssean parallels and ‘technics’, relate to the principles of real or potential growth. Whereas in the earlier books the movement of the artist is directly contrasted with the city’s stagnation, in Ulysses Bloom, structurally as well as thematically, is a bridge between the two: he belongs to the city but not to its paralysis, his cometary orbit is within the city’s system but is a constant cyclic moral activity. The novel’s structure, like its content, grows out of the earlier opposition of city and artist, but reflects a much more complex relationship between them.’ (p.170.) [End Chap. 3; for longer extracts, see RICORSO Library, “Criticism / Major Authors”, James Joyce, C. H. Peake, [link].)

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J. Mitchell Morse, ‘“Where Terms Begin” / FW I.i.’, [Chap. 1] in A Conceptual Guide to Finnegans Wake, ed. Michael H. Begnal & Fritz Senn (Pennsylvania State UP 1974): ‘Vico’s history does, to be sure, go round and round: but it had an unmistakable beginiing, unmistakeable as a thunderclap, and it is divided into period that begin and end; its essential argument, in fact, is that history is not a random fortuity of events but a divinely ordered pattern whose repeate ssequences guarantee that in the long run there will be no progress - that the achievements of human dignity, endlessly repeated, will endlessly and foreever be undone by a divine providence that cares nothing for human dignity. / In the letter which I have quoted above [Letters, I, p.241: “I have the book now fairly well planned out in my head”], Joyce told Miss Weaver that she could gain insight into his work in progress by reading Lewis McIntyre’s Giordano Bruno and Vico’s The New Science. “I would not pay overmuch attention to these theories, beyond using them for all they are worth, but they have gradually forced themselves on me through circumstances of my own life.” [Letters, 1, p.241; also cited in W. Y. Tindall, A Reader’s Guide to James Joyce, Thames & Hudson 1963 Edn., p.244-45]. That is to say, though not a true believer, he found some thinkers sufficiently interesting or sympathetic to suspend his disbelief, as we willing suspend ours while reading say The Wind in the Willows. In Finnegans Wake, [2] speaking the words of Shem with the voice of Shaun, he said of Bruno, “I will be misundertord if understood to give an unconditional sinequam to the heroicised furibouts of the Nolanus theory” [163.23-24]; and of Nicholas of Cusa, “I am not hereby giving my final endorsement to the learned ignorants of the Cusanus philosophism” [163.16-17] But he applied these and other thinkers to the problem of organising his own experience, in the same way that he applied Aquinas. Certainly FW 1.i is a fine example of what we may call applied Vico. Which is not to say that Joyce believed Vico any more than he believed Aquinas.’ Further quotes the morbid fear of thunderstorms that Joyce shared with Vico, and his talk of it in the aforementioned letter to Miss Weaver. (p.2-3.) [See further extracts under Giambattista Vico, in Notes, infra.]

J. Mitchell Morse (‘“Where Terms Begin” / FW I.i.’, 1974), gives a full account of Vico in Joyce [as in Commentary, supra] and also discusses Vico’s account of his fall from a ladder in childhood (in Autobiography), which Morse equates with the fall of HCE. (p.4.) Further: ‘All these things are necessary [i.e., crude, inhuman, monstrous acts], says Vico, in order to raise men from savagery to full humanity through unquestioning respect for law merely because it is law: first divine secret law, interpreted and administered by priest-kinds “subject to no one but God” (Fisch & Bergin, edn. Sect. 25, 995-98), then heroic secret law, interpreted and administered by the conquering demigods or heros or artistocrats in their own “private interest” (Sect. 38, 677, 965-73), then human public law, interpreted and administered by the people and later by human monarchs in the interest of the people (29, 39, 936, 974, 978, 1008). Then, with returning corruption, the whole process beings again (1108).’ ‘[S]ince he has shown in such detail that Christian history is as unjust and bloody as any other, he can only be ironically politic in concluding that Christianity is the only true religion because it alone leads to virtuous actions. (1110), and that the purpose of The New Science is to promote piety (1112.)’ (p.5.) ‘Thus Vico figures in Finnegans Wake not only as the author of a theory of history that Joyce used for all it was worth, but also as a complex personality, a model (like Swift) for Shem and Shaun.’ (p.8.) Quotes: ‘The nature of peoples is first crude, then benign, then delicate, finally dissolute.’ (New Science, sect. 242; here p.9.)

Jacques Aubert (1974): Aubert has established on textual evidence that Joyce derived the aesthetic progression, ‘lyrical, epical and dramatic’, as well as his dialectical theory of ‘drama’, from such neo-Hegelian writings as the works of Bernard Bosanquet, Benedetto Croce, and S. H. Butcher. His arguments are presented in ‘L’Esthetique Moderne de James Joyce’, in Atti del Third International James Joyce Symposium (Triese: Universite Degli Studi, Facolta di Magistero, 1974), pp.102-08, and more amply, with a ‘post-mimetic’ appraisal of Joyce’s achievement, in Introduction a L’Esthetique de James Joyce (Paris: Didier, 1973). Up to then Joyce commentaries have been concerned with whether or not the Portrait aesthetic is authentically Thomistic. Aubert finds that Joyce’s formative principles truly derive from ‘some movement already coming out of Europe’ (SH36) viz., Hegel and Nietzsche along with the acknowledge hylomorphic texts De Anima and Summa Contra Gentiles. This finding opens up a new field of enquiry and, incidentally, ratified Richard Ellmann‘s speculative, dialectical interpretation of Ulysses, in Ulysses on the Liffey (London: Faber & Faber, 1972).

Comment [BS]: Leaving aside the question of his development it may therefore be said that Joyce’s aesthetic formulae of 1899-1903 launch a very definite conception of the ratio which obtains or ought obtain between literary form and the Idea that it strives to encapsulate. Joyce’s scholastic “whatness” is not infinitely far removed from the essence of phenomenology; his art is inflexibly oriented toward the Realisation of the “truth of the world”. Indeed, Finnegans Wake achieves in an appreciable sense the object that Joyce desiderated for ‘drama’ in 1900: ‘Human society is the embodiment of changeless laws which the whimsicalities and circumstances of men and women involve and overwrap .... Drama has to do with the underlying laws first, in all their nakedness and divine severity, and only secondarily with the motley agents who bear them out.’ (CW40) In the increasingly empirical climate of Joycean studies to use Hart’s term the ‘rational and true appreciation’ to use Joyce’s of the writer’s methods and intentions tends to be occlude by clouds of textual issues. ‘Structure’ is in some ways apter than ‘form’; but structural criticism fails to reckon on the intellectual purpose of the work, what end it is designed to compass. In the last analysis empirical studies no less than impressionistic studies of Joyce’s works are ancillary, as exegesis is ancillary to hermeneutics. [Remarks abstracted from TCD Dissertation of 1979.]

Michael Hollington, ‘Svevo, Joyce and Modernist Time’, in Modernism: A Guide to European Literature 1890-1930, ed. Malcolm Bradbury & James MacFarlane (Harmondsworth: Penguin [1976], 1991): ‘“Non-events” are distinctive features in Modernist writing. [Cites The Three Sisters, Godot, The Trial, Man Without Qualities, & Magic Mountain.] Bloom is barred from the sight of high-class underwear by intervening tramcars or people. Moore deeply, Stephen Dedalus’s refusal to spend the night at Eccles Street frustrates our [430] desire for a satisfactory conclusion to Ulysses. This absence of events reflects a contemporary sense of irony; it is also rooted in Modernist feelings about time. [...] Most [...] accounts give us a highly solemn version of the novel; the frequent assumption that the novel communicates profound truths [...] frequently goes hand in hand with the belief that these truths concerns correspondences between characters, symbols, and themes within the book and mythic counterparts without, transcending temporal distance, achieving spatial order. [...] Ulysses shares with Svevo’s book a radically sceptical attitude to all absolutes. I take its version of Modernist relativity to be (as Ellmann and others have held) a humanistic “wise passivity”, its formal experimentation being the means of conveying the state of affairs where such an attitude makes sense. Like Svevo, Joyce is conscious of potential significance; by flooding the day with an immense amount of experience and a very large number of lines of interpretation, he intends us to feel the comic arbitrariness of the patters we are able to construct. / I presume, therefore, that the book’s basic technique is associative, and that structure and pattern are built up in a way that is essentially the same as the way in which both Bloom’s and Stephen’s minds operate. As matter is accumulated in contingency and in consciousness, so it is in narrative, largely through verbal association, the staple of all the narrative voices in Ulysses.’ (p.431.) / The seriousness of Ulysses would, to my mind, stand in sharper outline if that formula were simply reversed; and here the comparison with Svevo is tonic. Ulysses shares with Svevo’s book a radically sceptical attitude to all absolutes. I take its version of Modernist relativity to be (as Ellmann and others have held) a humanistic “wise passivity”, its formal experimentation being the means of conveying the state of affairs where such an attitude makes sense. Like Svevo, Joyce is acutely conscious of potential significance; by flooding the day with an immense amount of experience and a very large number of lines of interpretation, he intends us to feel the comic arbitrariness of the patterns we are able to construct.’ (p.432; for longer extract, see RICORSO Library, “Major Authors” / Joyce, infra.)

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