Hugh Kenner (1923-2003)

[William Hugh Kenner]; b. 7 Jan., 1923 at Peterborough, Ontario; son of Henry Rowe Hocking [Kenner], a Catholic headmaster and teacher of classical languages; grandson of a mathematician after whom the local school was named; born with speech defect, and presumed deaf; became an early reader and a childhood polymath; studied under Marshall McLuhan at Toronto Univ.; grad. BA 1945 and MA 1946, with Gold Medal in English; introduced by McLuhan to Ezra Pound, who told him it was his duty to meet all the great men of his age; published Paradox in Chesterton (1948), intro. by McLuhan; undertook his PhD at Yale, supervised by Cleanth Brooks, and grad. 1950; visited Ezra Pound in St Elizabeth’s with McLuhan, 1948; his “The Portrait in Perspective” appeared in Seon Givens, ed. James Joyce: Two Decades of Criticism (1948);
issued The Poetry of Ezra Pound (1951), composed in six weeks and intended ‘to help as many people as possible to read Pound for themselves’ at the time of the Bollingen award, and won the Porter Prize; taught at Santa Barbara 1950-73; issued Dublin’s Joyce (1955), Samuel Beckett (1965), and The Pound Era (1971), a monumental study of Anglo-American Modernism; resigned from American Academy of Arts and Sciences, at committee’s repudiation of the Emerson-Thoreau Award to Ezra Pound; appt. Andrew Mellon Professor of Humanities at Johns Hopkins University, 1973-1990; issued Joyce’s Voices (1978), and Ulysses (1982) -a chapter-by-chapter study of the novel; castigated Richard Ellmann in a review of the revised edition of James Joyce (orig. 1959; rev. 1982) for accepting what Kenner called ‘Irish Facts’ LS, 17 Dec. 1982); issued A Colder Eye: The Modern Irish Writers (1983), a work that made him enemies among Irish critics leading to disputations in print with Thomas Kinsella and others;
appt. to Franklin and Callaway Chair of English, University of Georgia, 1990; supported the use of computers in Humanities; suffered stroke in his last years but continued to travel and speak; strong advocate of Desmond Egan as a poet in the Pound tradition and participated at Egan’s side in the IASIL conference in Sassari, 1994, organised by Prof. Guiseppi (“Pino”) Serpillo of Sassari Univ.; retired 1999; d. 24 Nov. 2003; Kenner was made the subject of an issue of the James Joyce Quarterly at his death; his correspondence on Joyce with Adaline Glasheen was published in 2008; he remained a ‘resident alien’ throughout his career in America; m. Mary Josephine Waite (d.1964), with whom three dgs. and two sons, and to whom The Pound Era (1971) is dedicated; m. Mary Anne Bittner, 1965, with whom a son and dg.; Wm. Buckley [see note] acted as best man and wrote an obituary in the National Review [online]; worked closely with Guy Davenport, as the illustrator of his books.

Images of Hugh
Kenner on the
William Buckley Show
[ online ]
Kenner talks about
The Pisan Cantos
[ online. ]
Mazes (1989)
University of Georgia     Mazes (Georgia UP 1989)

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  • Paradox in Chesterton, intro. by Herbert Marshal McLuhan (1948).
  • The Poetry of Ezra Pound (NY: New Directions Press 1951).
  • Wyndham Lewis: A Critical Guidebook (1954).
  • Gnomon: Essays in Contemporary Literature (1958).
  • Dublin’s Joyce (London: Chatto & Windus 1955), 370pp.; and Do., edns. incl. [Gloucester, Mass.: P. Smith 1969), xi, 372pp., port [Wyndam Lewis].
  • The Art of Poetry (1959).
  • Ed., Seventeenth Century Poetry: The Schools of Donne and Jonson (1965).
  • Samuel Beckett: A Critical Study (1965).
  • Flaubert, Joyce, and Beckett: The Stoic Comedians (1964)
  • Ed., Studies in Change: A Book of the Short Story (1965).
  • The Counterfeiters: An Historical Comedy (Johns Hopkins UP 1968; 1985), 181pp., ill. Guy Davenport.
  • The Invisible Poet: T. S. Eliot (1959, 1969).
  • The Pound Era (California UP 1971), 624pp.
  • Bucky: A Guided Tour of Buckminster Fuller (1973).
  • A Reader’s Guide to Samuel Beckett (1973).
  • The Stoic Comedians: Flaubert, Joyce and Beckett (Beacon Press 1962), ill. Guy Davenport; Do. (London: W. H. Allen 1964), xix, 107pp., and Do. [another edn.] (California UP 1974), 107pp., pb.; Do. (Dalkey Archive 2005) - available online.
  • A Homemade World: The American Modernist Writers (NY: Knopf 1974)), and Do. (London: Boyars 1975), xviii, 221pp.
  • Geodesic Math and How to Use It (1976).
  • Joyce’s Voices (1978).
  • Ulysses [Unwin Critical Library; Gen. ed. Claude Rawson] (London: George Allen & Unwin 1982), 182pp. [ded. to Adaline [Glasheen] and Fritz [Senn]; Do. [another edn.] (JHU Press 1987), 182pp. [pp20-40 available at Google Books - online; last accessed .04.2021].
  • Ulysses (London: George Allen & Unwin 1980), 182pp., and Do. [2nd edn.; rev.] (Johns Hopkins UP 1987) [pp.20-40 available at Google Books - online; accessed 22.04.2021].
  • A Colder Eye: The Modern Irish Writers (NY: Knopf 1983).
  • The Mechanic Muse (1987).
  • A Sinking Island: The Modern English Writers (1988).
  • Mazes: Essays (Georgia UP 1989), x, 320pp. [SF: North Point Press 1989 - see note].
  • Historical Fictions: Essays (1990).
  • ed. & intro., Desmond Egan: The Poet and His Work (Orono, Me.: Northern Lights 1990), 222pp.
  • The Elsewhere Community (2002)
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Articles & Chapters
  • ‘The Portrait in Perspective’, in Kenyon Review, X, 3 (Summer 1948), pp.361-81; rep. Dublin’s Joyce (1955), as Chap. 8 [pp.109-33]; also in James Joyce: Two Decades of Criticism, ed. Seon Givens (NY: Vanguard 1963), pp.132-74.
  • ‘The Sacred Book in the Arts’, in Sewanee Review, 64, 4 (Autumn 1956) [q.pp.], rep. in in John Unterecker, ed., Yeats (NJ: Prentice-Hall 1963), pp.10-22.
  • ‘Homer’s Sticks and Stones’, in James Joyce Quarterly, 6 (Summer 1969), pp.285-98; also in Elizabeth Butler Cullingford, Yeats: Poems, 1919-1935: A Casebook (London: Macmillan, 1984), pp.136-45.
  • ‘Molly’s Masterstroke’, in James Joyce Quarterly, 10, 1 (Fall 1972), pp.19-28.
  • ‘Joyce and the 19th c. Linguistic Explosion’, in Atti del Third JJ International Symposium (Trieste: Università Degli Studi, Facolta di Magistero, 1974), c.p.45 [cf. Kenner, The Pound Era (California U.P., 1971), p.98f.]
  • &145;The Cubist Portrait’, in Approaches to ‘A Portrait’: Ten Essays, ed. Thomas Staley & Bernard Benstock (Pittsburg UP 1976), c.p.181.
  • ‘The Computerized Ulysses’, in Harper’s (April 1980).
  • ‘“Fallen on His Feet in Buenes Aires”’, in James Joyce Quarterly ([q.iss.] 1982), pp.223-27.
  • ‘The Impertinence of Being Definitive’, in Times Literary Supplement (17 Dec. 1982), p.1383-84 [on Ellmann’s revised James Joyce].
  • ‘The Computerized Ulysses’, in James Joyce: The Centennial Symposium, ed. Morris Beja, et al., (Urbana: Illinois UP 1984), pp.209-19 [major address, on Roderick O’Conor in FW; partly available at Google Books - online].
  • See Hugh Kenner, ‘The Waste Land’, , in T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, intro. by Harold Bloom (NY: Chelsea House Publishers 1986; update edn. 2007), pp.7-34 [from Invisible Poet: T. S. Eliot (1959), pp.125-56].
  • ‘Modernism and What Happened to It’, in Essays in Criticism, 37 (April 1987), pp.97-109.
  • ‘The Fourth Policeman’, in Conjuring Complexities: Essays on Flann O’Brien, ed. Anne Clune & Hurson (Belfast: IIS/QUB 1997), pp.61-72 [a riposte to Seamus Deane containing an acerbic account of his dealings with Thomas Kinsella].
  • ‘An Insane Assault on Chaos’ [review of James Joyce Archive and James Joyce Manuscripts: An Index], in The New York Times Book Review (22 June 1980), pp.7 & 26-27.
  • ‘Whose Yeats is it Anyway?’, in [review of Collected Works of WBY, Vol. 1, ed. R. Finneran; Vol. 6, ed. William H. O’Donnell; Vol. 7, ed., George Bornstein & Hugh Witemyer; A Reconsideration: Editing Yeats’s Poems, by Finneran, in New York Times (27 May 1990), “Arts” [sect.] - available online.
  • Intro., A. D. Coleman, The Digital Revolution: Visual Communication in the Electronic Age: Essays, Lectures and Interviews 1967-1998 (Tucson: Nazraeli Press 1998), 191pp., ill.

Archives: More than 100 boxes of Hugh Kenner’s papers are held at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Centre (Univ. of Texas, Austin). Contents incl. manuscripts of his critical works and correspondence with Ezra Pound, Louis Zukofsky, William Carlos Williams, Guy Davenport, et al. [online].

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See also Edward M. Burns, ed., A Passion for Joyce: The Letters of Hugh Kenner and Adaline Glasheen (UCD Press 2008), 576pp.

See also under Quotations [infra] and, further, under James Joyce and Samuel Beckett in RICORSO [Commentary sections]. For access to longer extracts from the critical writings of Hugh Kenner held in RICORSO , go to Library, “Major Authors” [infra] and “Critics” [infra].

Query: Kenner, ‘Notes towards an Anatomy of Modernism’ - cited in Denis Donoghue, ‘Bahktin and Finnegans Wake’, in We Irish (1986), p.120.

Internet: Kenner’s The Stoic Comedians (Beacon Press 1962; Dalkey Archive 2005) is available in part at Google Books - online [accessed 12.02.2013].

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Dillon Johnston, ‘A Response to Hugh Kenner: Kinsella’s Magnanimity and Mean Reading’, in Genre, 13, 4 (1980), pp.531-37 [answering the charges specifically levelled against Kinsella in A Colder Eye]. See also Emer Nolan, James Joyce and Nationalism (London: Routledge 1995), et al.

[See also Kenner and Bruce Holsapple on William Carlos Williams: A Colloquy of Sorts - attached. ]

See also Irish responses to Kenner’s A Colder Eye (1983) under Commentary, infra. ]

Obituaries, Nicholas Tredell, ‘Hugh Kenner: Obituary’, in Independent [UK] (27 Nov. 2003 [see extract]); Jon Elek, ‘Hugh Kenner: Literary critic with a passion for Ezra Pound’ [obituary], in Guardian (Friday, 28 Nov. 2003) [see extract]; William H. Pritchard, ‘Hugh Kenner’s Achievement’, in The Hudson Review 57, 3 (Autumn, 2004), pp.383-400 [available at JSTOR - online; accessed 30.08.2011].

[ There is a “Hugh Kenner” commemorative issue of the James Joyce Quarterly. ]

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S. L. Goldberg
C. H. Peake
Thomas F. Staley
Seamus Deane
Vicki Mahaffy
Kathleen McCormick
Emer Nolan
Margot Norris
John Banville
R. B. Kershner
Margaret Mills Harper
Jon Elek
Nicholas Tredell
Books Ireland (2008)
Adaline Glasheen
Christine van Boheemen
Terence Killeen
Website responses to his death include ‘Hugh Kenner is Dead” on “Golden Rules Jones” - the autograph site of a former Kenner student who celebrates in particular the amusing index of A Colder and Eye which includes such entries as “Andersen, Hans C., vitalist, 269; Ardilaun, Lord, cautious philanthropist, 211-212; Beckett, Samuel, immobilist, 9, 28, 29 ...; Beerbohm, Max, depictor, 77, 94; Behan, Brendan, boozer, 9, 324’ [online - accessed 13.08.2008].

Robert Spoo on Hugh Kenner

Robert E. Spoo, ‘Bibliography of criticism on Joyce and history’, in Mark A. Wollaeger, Victor Luftig & Spoo, eds., Joyce and the Subject of History (Michigan UP 1996),p.218.

Bruce Stewart, Excomologosis - an Epistemological Analysis of the Development of James Joyce (PhD TCD 1979)
The Joyce-Flaubert comparison was inaugurated by Ezra Pound who wrote, for instance, that ‘James Joyce produces the nearest thing to Flaubertian prose that we now have in English.’ (The Egoist IV, 2; pp.21-22; February 1917, in Pound/Joyce: The Letters of Ezra Pound to James Joyce, ed. Forrest Read, New Directions 1970, p.89). Hugh Kenner has constantly elaborated that thesis, most expressly perhaps in the most recent book wherein he compares the lexical “objectivity” of Madame Bovary and Dubliners. (Joyce’s Voices, London: Faber & Faber 1978, pp.7-14). What is utterly to the point is Pound’s appreciation of Joyce’s “metallic cleanness of phrasing”, (Read, op. cit., p.134); what is more doubtful and misleading is his conviction that, with Ulysses, Joyce ‘has done what Flaubert set out to do in Bouvard et Pecuchet, done it better, more succinct.’ (Ibid., p.139). In reality, the Joyce-Flaubert comparison is better confined to the question of style, the form/content nexus of the units of composition and the lucent ambiguity of the individual episodes - compare the ending of Un Coeur Simple with that of “The Dead”. Ulysses is much besides a sottiserie of the mediocre, absurd and unjustifiably authoritative petty bourgeoisie, Flaubert’s target; it has positive values which consort rather with the Paradiso, albeit - as Beckett quipped - access is gained via the tradesman’s entrance.
Introduction, p.8.

S. L. Goldberg (The Classical Temper, NY: Barnes & Noble 1961), in the course of discussing the application of Thomistic claritas in Joyce’s theory of aesthetic apprehension, remarks that some critics ‘some want to add Aristotelian or Thomist metaphysics to give meaning to “intelligibility”’ - and adds a note: ‘See, for example, Kenner, [Dublin’s Joyce (1955),] p.148; cf, the revealing remark, p.146, n. about “the only metaphysic in which the theory of epiphanies is meaningful”. It is interesting to note the kind of conclusion to which Mr Kenner’s understanding of the matter leads him. He seems to suggest (pp.139-40) that art is either engaged in “objective” registration (e.g. “distant trains move slowly”) or in “subjective” self-expression (e.g. “distant trains doubtfully”)! In short, his notion of claritas as objective impersonal Truth - a Truth which he assumes may be verified elsewhere (and which bears a strong likeness to Dogma) - all too easily becomes claritas as depersonalised Truth. Nowhere does Mr Kenner suggest what the artist as an individual has to do with the creation of art; the artist seems to be no more than catalyst - in the most non-vital sense of that highly equivocal term. [...]’ Earlier, in the same work, Goldberg writes: ‘I should add, in the light of some recent interpretations as Mr Hugh Kenner’s which seem to me to oversimplify them - that I have devoted the whole of Chapter IV to the subject.’ (p.36; for longer extract, see Library, Major Writers / Joyce, infra.)

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C. H. Peake, James Joyce: The Citizen and the Artist (London: Edward Arnold 1977) - in a chapter-length discussion of A Portrait, writes: ‘Hugh Kenner, whose essay “The Portrait in Perspective’ (in Seon Givens, ed. Two Decades of Criticism [1948], Vanguard 1963, pp.132-74) outlined the struture of the Portrait in a way to which all subsequent accounts (including this one) are indebted, places a slightly different emphasis. He says of the last chapter, “Each of the preceeding chapters, in fact, works towards an equilibrium which is dashed when in the next Stephen’s world becomes larger and the frame of reference more complex.” (Kenner, Dublin’s Joyce, 1955, p.122.) Peake’s alternative formulation reads: ‘At the end of each chapter he attains the completion of one stage in his growth; he finds a new world and a point of rest, though every case a temporary one which collapses under the new strain of some internal pressure.’ (p.70.)

C. H. Peake (James Joyce: The Citizen and the Artist, 1977) - cont.: ‘In the past it was offered as a criticism of Joyce that his hero was too priggish: more recent critics, having recognized the irony in the presentation, have gone to the other extreme of supposing that Joyce was mocking a vain aesthete. Thus Hugh Kenner believes that “by the time he came to rewrite the Portrait Joyce had decided to make its central figure a futile alter ego rather than a self-image” and that “neither Stephen nor any extrapolation of Stephen” could have written Ulysses. (Dublin’s Joyce, p.137.) There can be no doubt that Stephen’s development was a transmutation of Joyce’s, but it would have been a pointless and ridiculous exercise to make by this transformation a figure of mere absurdity and impotence. All Joyce had available for his portrait of the artist was his own experience, and he used and shaped this to distinguish and present what seemed essential to him in the artistic nature. Naturally there is much that looks absurd in the behaviour of the aspiring artist, as there is always something absurd in the behaviour of a young man who takes himself and his future with profound seriousness. Equally there is something foolish, from the wiser viewpoint of critics, in a young man’s attempt to cut free from all ties of family and friends, tear up his roots, and reject his native land. But although the behaviour of a young man, who believes in himself and his purpose, may seem foolish to older, more sceptical men, the energy generated by that foolishness is the means by which some young men pass beyond their immaturity. Stephen’s collapsed and deflated condition in the early chapters of Ulysses does not prove that his wild ambitions at the end of the Portrait were merely futile posings. Joyce, himself, as a young man, was full of similar nonsense, as Richard Ellmann’s biography shows and Stanislaus Joyce and others confirm.’ (p.84.) [For longer extracts, see RICORSO Library, “Major Authors” / James Joyce, C. H. Peake - text.].

C. H. Peake (James Joyce: The Citizen and the Artist, 1977) - “Ulysses” [chap.]: ‘The emphasis on his story [i.e., “Pisgah Sight of Palestine”] and its description as a parable invite critical interpretation, though there is very little agreement as to what Stephen meant and even less as to what Joyce meant. Some of the difficulties are illustrated by Hugh Kenner’s comment that “the vision [Stephen] enunciates is a parable of infertility: plumstones dropping over Dublin from a phallic monument.” (Dublin’s Joyce, p.251.) No doubt the sexual innuendoes playing round the story justify the phallic significance of the pillar, but this makes nothing of the Mosaic reference, and, as plumstones are the seeds of the plum, they seem an inept symbol of infertility. Before speculating about the meaning of the parable, it would be sensible to consider its nature and function in the total fabric of the novel. It is not a self-contained authorial interpolation, but an effusion of Stephen’s mind at a certain point in the action, and the climax to the chapter. With the exception of the imitative verse which accompanies his entry into the chapter, the parable is the first manifestation, in the novel, of the young artist’s talent. In it, many disparate thoughts and experiences are fused: the two old women seen, on the beach; the lane where he had embraced a prostitute; Mr Deasy’s moneybox; the girl selling plums at the foot of Nelson’s pillar (whose cry Bloom had heard on his way to Glasnevin); old Mary Ann, of Mulligan’s song, “hising up her petticoats”; the speeches of Bushe and Taylor; and Crawford’s advice to write “something with a bite in it” about him and his fellow Dubliners. Some links have already been established in Stephen’s mind: on the beach he had imagined the two old women to be hiding a baby in the bulrushes, and, listening to Taylor’s Moses analogy, he had linked this image with that of Michelangelo’s Moses, described in the speech of Seymour Bushe. But other less explicit trains of thought are involved. [...]’ (p.196.)

C. H. Peake (James Joyce: The Citizen and the Artist, 1977) - further references: Peake Also refs. various original discoveries by Kenner such as the procession of deadly sins at the start of Portrait, Chap. 3 (Kenner, Dublin’s Joyce, p.126; Peake, p.73); ‘each chapter gathers up the thematic material of the preceding ones and entwines them with a dominant theme of its own’ (Kenner, in Givens, Two Decades, 1963, p.164; Peake, p.84); Kenner the first to show how the opening paras. of A Portrait ‘enact the entire action in microcosm’ (Dublin’s Joyce, p.114; Peake, p.90n.); Kenner prints schema of Ulysses (Dublin’s Joyce, pp.226-27; Peake); Kenner has suggested that the organs present a ‘vision of Dublin as a mechanization of the Body Politic and the Mysterious Body of Christ’ without examining either analogy in detail (Kenner, ibid., pp.237-38, Peake, p.73); without explaining the point, Kenner says that in Dublin ‘the arts are perverted’ (Kenner, Ibid., p.239; Peake, p.148); disputes Kenner’s explication of the ecclesiastical symbolism of colours in the first six lines of Ulysses (Kenner, Ibid., p.228; Peake p.153.) “Sirens” as ‘Dublin’s great fugue of passion’ (Kenner, ibid., p.254; Peake, p.233; also instances S. L. Goldberg on the chapter - ‘unsuccessful in practice ... meaningless in conception’, Classical Temper, p.281); “Cyclops” as a critique of ‘the entire neo-Celtic movement’ Kenner, op. cit., p.255; Peake, p.236); remarks that Kenner accurately sums up one kind of critical response to “Eumaeus”: ‘Like “Oxen of the Sun”, the episode has incurred the displeasure of those who don’t read closely, and imagine that Joyce is conveying te sense of exhaustion by exhausting the reader for fifty pages.’ (Kenner, op. cit., p.260; Peake, p.277 - adding: ‘In one sense, the style is exhausted, but in another it is very busy.’ (Peake, idem.)

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Thomas F. Staley, ‘Following Ariadne’s Thread: Tracing Jyce Scholarship into the Eighties’, in James Joyce: A Joyce International Perspective, ed. Suheil Bushrui & Benstock (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1982), writes of Kenner’s Joyce’s Voices (1978), and Uysses (1980): ‘Many regard Kenner’s work as the most important criticism being written on Joyce today. His concerns from his first book, Dublin’s Joyce (1956), have lain at the centre of Joyce studies, and most serious Joyce scholarship on Ulysses has had to coine to terms with his work. Joyce’s Voices (1978) is a study of a little over 100 pages and comes out of Kenner’s four T. S. Eliot Memorial Lectures delivered in 1975 at the University of Kent. The first chapter is inspired in part by the setting of Kenner’s lecture and the subject whom they memorialize. Drawing initially on Eliot’s essay, ‘Ulysses, Order and Myth’, Kenner focuses on objectivity and its effect on Joyce’s language. In Joyce’s work the fictional event is inseparable from its linguistic manifestation. Kenner uses the early story “Grace” as an example of how Joyce worked with the resources of language. The second chapter coins a phrase that has already become a standard term in Joyce criticism: “The Uncle Charles Principle”. This is a small instance of general truth about Joyce’s method, that his fictions tend not to have a detached narrator though they seem to have. His words are in delicate equilibrium, [258] like the components of a sensitive piece of apparatus, in that they detect the gravitational field of the nearest person. One reason the quiet little stories in Dubliners continue to fascinate is that the narrative point of view unobtrusively fluctuates. The illusion of dispassionate portrayal seems attended by an iridescence difficult to account for until we notice one person’s sense of things inconspicuously giving place to another’s. This is a developed principle, but it has some relation to what Ellmann once called ‘the blurred margin technique’. / The two remaining chapters in Joyce’s Voices also focus on Joyce’s use of language and the varying voices that give energy and dimension to his texts. The growing interest in narratology in contemporary criticism brings increasing attention to Kenner’s seminal studies, but this is only one reason for the central position of his work in Joyce studies. The originality of his insights, the thoroughness of his arguments, and his mastery of the entire modern period lie at the heart of his influence.’ (pp.258-59.) [Cont.]

Thomas F. Staley, ‘Following Ariadne’s Thread: Tracing Jyce Scholarship into the Eighties’, 1982) - cont: ‘[Ulysses] is also an extension of the sustained engagement Kenner has had with Joyce’s work for more than twenty-five years. This study brings the broad range of Kenner’s ideas from Dublin’s Joyce, The Counterfeiters, The Pound Era, and Joyce’s Voices into perspective [...] Just as Kenner applies the principle of parallax, an organizing principle in Ulysses, and the second look, to Joyce’s texts with such illuminating results, so does he in his Ulysses frequently give us a renewed and fresh look at some of his earlier observations and judgments - a critical parallax. From Dublin’s Joyce and his discussion of “Double Writing”, Kenner has been concerned with Joyce’s rhetoric, its repetitions, its locutions, its interwoven system of referents. In his Ulysses he notes: “Virtually every scene in Ulysses is narrated at least twice.” Narrative idiom that need not be the narrator’s, the “Uncle Charles Principle” of Joyce’s Voices, is also prominent in this study; the mimetic is present, but it gives way to the vast playfulness of the styles, the text itself. Kenner also re-examines the Homeric parallel and its primarily ironic function in the earlier chapters to its ’coercive’ role in the last eight. Technique binds the episodes; the complex narrative voices, “the Arranger”, he calls “the aesthetics of delay”, further revelations that refocus the reader’s previous thoughts. This ’aesthetics of delay’ engages the reader as active participant. Such a technique “restores a governing rhythm of the book, whereby impression in the first half is modified by knowledge in the second, though only after resolute rereading has extracted the knowledge from a stylistic that tends to render it inconspicuous.” Kenner’s study is not a complete and systematic one that covers each episode; rather the study becomes an opportunity to look again at those aspects of Ulysses that continue to engage him and that he judges by inclusion are the central concerns of the text. This is a work by a major critic that modifies, reasserts, refocuses and renews his reading and interpretation of a text, and the results are important and enduring.’ (p.270.) [Staley directs the reader to his own earlier essay, Anglo-Irish Literature: A Review of Research, ed. R. Finneran (MLA 1976).]

Seamus Deane, Heroic Styles: The Tradition of an Idea [Field Day Pamphlet, No. 4] (Derry: Field Day 1984), ‘A recent book, like Hugh Kenner’s A Colder Eye, exploits the whimsical Irishness of the writers in a particularly inane and offensive manner. The point is not simply that the Irish are different because of the disabling, if fascinating, separation between their notion of reality and everybody else. [... &c.’; p.17.]

Vicki Mahaffy, Reauthorizing Joyce (Cambridge UP 1988), writes in a footnote: ‘The presuppositions of post-structuralist theory are not new - Joyce found them in the banned works of “heretics” - but the fact that similar presuppositions structure Finnegans Wake explains why critics schooled in the Wake, such as Hugh Kenner and Frtiz Senn, can enter so easily into post-structuralist discourse.’ (Introduction, p.6, n3.)

Kathleen McCormick, ‘Reproducing Molly Bloom: A Revisionist History of the Reception of “Penelope,” 1922-1970’, in Richard Pearce, Molly Blooms: A Polylogue on “Penelope” and Cultural Studies (Wisconsin UP 1994), pp.17-39, notes that Hugh Kenner was among those who counted Molly an embodiment of evil and destruction who would ‘darken the intellect and blunt the moral sense of all Dublin.’ (Dublin’s Joyce, 1956, p.262), asserting that her “Yes” is “the ‘Yes’ of consent that kills the soul” and has “authority” over the “animal kingdom of the dead” (Idem; McCormick, p.31.)

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Emer Nolan, James Joyce and Nationalism (London: Routledge 1995): ‘[...] 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.)

Emer Nolan (James Joyce and Nationalism, 1995) - cont.: ‘[T]his insistence on deep structure or “universalism” [rather than local and Irish], however, is not always so evident in much mainstream commentary on the texts; there, the early Pound’s sense of Joyce’s essentially satiric treatment of the local is greatly softened, and Joyce’s Ireland generally treated with amused affection. The belief, more exactly, is that Joyce holds in suspension those ethical or political values on which satire depends, reinvoking them only in his direct discussion of Irish politics. At these points, so the argument runs, a fond indulgence of Irish national character gives way to outrage at the absurd claims of Irish political nationalism, and to a horror of political violence. Joyce the chronicler of vernacular wit and poetry is abruptly countered by Joyce the satiric scourge of native folly and vice. The work of Hugh Kenner (himself an eminent Poundian), from Dublin’s Joyce (1956 [sic for 1955; recte in bibliography) to A Colder Eye: The Modern Irish Writers (London: Allen Lane] 1983), provides many examples of this oscillation. It is also the exact parallel of Kenner’s - and many subsequent Joycean critics’ own response to Ireland. A Colder Eye, for instance, offers a wealth of amusing anecdotes about Irish literary culture, a warning widely quoted among Joyce scholars, about the “Irish fact” - (“Providence in creating the Irish (finest of deeds) endowed them with craving for occasional emphatic assertions lacking which the most mellifluous discourse would be as porter poured on the floor”: A Colder Eye, pp.3-4) - together with an intriguing explanation of the conflict in contemporary Northern Ireland: “Recover the mystique of the lost land and the Four Green Fields: your fanatics will make a routine of blowing up babies in their efforts to reclaim the lost fraction of the fourth.” (A Colder Eye, p.277.) Those who upbraid the Irish for confusing culture and politics seem doomed the [sic, for to] repeat the very crime they castigate. Richard Ellmann, for the most part, attributes to Joyce a more gentle, exilic view of Irish nationality: Ireland is “horrible but unforgettable” (James Joyce, 1982, 218.) Joyce’s anger at the failings of its leaders, or their followers, mixed with the regret and disappointment of a patriot. In his later work, Ellmann even disputes orthodox opinions of Joyce’s “apoliticism”, pointing out the compatability of the writer’s vision of Ireland with that of some nationalists. But the ne plus ultra of this revision is the question of physical force: Joyce’s unyielding pacifism strictly circumscribes any possible debate about his nationalist “sympathies”.’ (Nolan, p.10. See also refs. to Kenner at pp.86, 87, 91, 93-94, 104, 107 & 163.)

Note - Richard Ellmann wrote of Joyce’s paper “Ireland, Island of Saints and Sages”; (Univ. Pop., Trieste, 1907): ‘Joyce was less ironic than might be expected. Its point was that Ireland had once deserved the name of Island of Saints and Sages - and a good deal of evidence, only occasionally inaccurate, is marshaled as proof - but had deteriorated monstrously under British rule.’ (JJ, 258.)

Emer Nolan (James Joyce and Nationalism, 1995) - cont.: ‘Takes issue with Kenner’s view of Dublin as a domain of fossilised remnants of eighteenth-century eloquence (p.86) and advances interpretation of Aeolus according to which Professor McHugh’s warning is against the obsession with language (p.89); Martin Cunningham’s “local inflections and his colloquial vocabulary” are correspondingly lauded’ (p.88).

Emer Nolan (James Joyce and Nationalism, 1995) - cont.: ‘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 there 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.’ (Nolan, p.108.) 

Nolan quotes Kenner: ‘When the biscuit tin, by heroic amplification, renders North Central Dublin a mass of ruins we are to remember what patriotic idealism could claim to have accomplished by Easter 1916. Thanks to a knot of hotheads with no prospect whatever of accomplishing what they proposed, Dublin had been the first European capital to undergo the bombardment of modern warfare, and James Joyce had little use for the oratory that fuelled hotheadedness.’ (q. source; presum. Kenner's chapter by chapter study of Ulysses, Allen & Unwin 1982.) to this Nolan retorts: ‘surely we must at least concede that James Joyce had indeed a great deal of use for such language.’ (idem.)

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Margot Norris, ed., A Companion to James Joyce’s Ulysses, NY: Bedford Books 1998 [“A Critical History”]: ‘The publication of Hugh Kenner’s Dublin’s Joyce in 1956 [sic for 1955] was a major critical event in Joyce studies. The strategies of this book, refined and elaborated during the next four decades, consisted of meticulously close reading supplemented by noting significant interventions that are operative in the text by their absence: the subtle effects and changes produced by intonation, idiom, and other qualities of voice; the irony produced by unstated incongruities, significant errors, omissions, and silences (“we ought to observe how much silence pervades such of their conversation as we do hear” [Kenner, Ulysses, p.51]). For the next several decades, Kenner refined his complex close readings of the Joycean text at the same time that he consolidated his influence as the premier critic of Modernism. He published his ambitious study of modernist poetics, The Pound Era, in 1971. In his 1978 work, Joyce’s Voices, he articulated the “Uncle Charles Principle”: “the narrative idiom need not be the narrator’s”’ (p.18). Further: ‘His 1980 edition of Ulysses elaborated the myriad ways the text stimulates the reader’s interpretive creativity with the questions it embeds.’ (Norris, op. cit., p.30.)

John Banville, ‘Bloomsday, Bloody Bloomsday’, in New York Books Review (16 June 2004) [“Essay”], p.31: ‘Even before that momentous purchase [of Ulysses], I knew more about Ulysses than many a person who had actually read it. Wexford’s public library was volumiously stocked with critical studies of Joyce, and I devoured them all, understanding little of their import but enthralled by their aura of arcane, priestly exegesis and grateful for the extended extracts quoted from the sacred text. [...] One mighty tome of Joyce scholarship that I borrowed from the Wexford Library, written by an American academic whose name I have long since forgotten, devoted the entirety of an extensive section on Ulysses to the parallels between the Stephen Dedalus/Leopold Bloom relationship and that of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson [Viz., Kenner, Dublin’s Joyce, Chap. 10: ‘Baker Street to Eccles Street’.] As a result, for many years I assumed that Holmesian rather than Homeric parallel formed the true substructure of the book - so when I came to read Stuart Gilbert’s study of Ulysses directly inspired (directly dictated, some would say) by Joyce himself, I was baffled by the lack of reference, amid all that complex mesh of designated correspondences, to the sleuth of Baker Street and his trusty Achates. Ever since, I have wondered about the exact function of academic scholarship when applied to works of art.’

R. B. Kershner, ‘The Culture of Ulysses’, in Vincent J. Cheng, et al., eds., Joycean Cultures/Culturing Joyces (Delaware UP 1998), ‘Hugh Kenner, in his famous rereading of [Wyndham] Lewis, argues that Lewis is right about what he detects in Ulysses, but misses the fact that it is parody, a conscious critique of the “mechanical mind” behind much of twentieth-century culture rather than symptom of it. Bloom is “a parody of the Enlightenment” (Dublin’s Joyce, 1962 Edn., p.217), the book “a huge and intricate machine clanking and whirring for eighteen hours” [&c.; see further under Joyce, Commentary, infra.] ‘Although Kenner eschews the vocabulary of the left and in other respects holds view far removed from those of the Frankfurt School, his argument here is very similar to Adorno’s view of what Joyce is doing.’ [Goes on to discuss Frederic Jameson’s “Ulysses in History”, 1982 and - later - Wyndham Lewis and T. S. Eliot, stressing their respective attitudes to ‘the political and aesthetic vicissitudes of the Odyssean parallel in Ulysses, set against the sheer mass of fact and furniture in the book’ - viz.: ‘For T. S. Eliot in his essay “Ulysses, Order and Myth” (1923) the former redeemed the latter, while for Wyndham Lewis the latter outweighed and vitiated the former.’

R. B. Kershner (‘The Culture of Ulysses’, 1998) - cont.: ‘Kenner, while retaining the valuation Eliot had put on the formal ordering of Ulysses, recast Joyce’s mechanisms in a parodic light. In a way, [Frederic] Jameson continues and extends Kenner’s reading, but where Kenner suggests that Joyce is launching an Eliotic critique of modern culture from the right, showing how we have lost our original bucolic sense of wholeness, harmony, and independent, individual selfhood, Jameson’s Joyce is satirising capitalism from the left, implying that we have lost any genuine sense of community or of human involvement in production. Eliot’s Joyce might be nostalgic for feudalism, or at any rate for life before the seventeenth-century “dissociation of sensibility,” while Jameson’s Joyce could only hope for a coming radical transformation of society. [... &c.]’ (p.156.) Bibl., Frederic Jameson, ‘Ulysses in History’, in W. J. MCCormack & Alastair Stead, eds., James Joyce and Modern Literature, Routledge & Kegan Paul 1982), pp.126-41.

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Margaret Mills Harper, Wisdom of Two: The Spiritual and Literary Collaboration of George and W. B. Yeats (Oxford: OUP 2006), notes in passing that Kenner ‘famously’ said that Yeats wrote books rather than accumulating poems (p.212; citing ‘The Sacred Book in the Arts’, in John Unterecker, ed., Yeats, NJ: Prentice-Hall 1963), pp.10-22).

Jon Elek, ‘Hugh Kenner: Literary critic with a passion for Ezra Pound’ [obituary], in Guardian (Friday, 28 Nov. 2003): ‘[...] Kenner adapted his critical style to suit the particular author under scrutiny, following Dr Johnson’s observation that literary criticism must be regarded as part of literature or be abandoned altogether. His work avoids academic jargon, and draws on a massive range of influences, seeing connections and parallels in unlikely places. / In a Los Angeles Times review, Richard Eder said of Kenner’s proactive approach that “he jumps in, armed and thrashing. He crashes [literature], like a partygoer... You could not say whether his talking or listening is done with greater intensity.” / Kenner’s magnum opus is unquestionably The Pound Era (1971), the result of two decades of research. This encyclopaedic critical biography explicated the notoriously difficult poetry of Pound and his contemporaries with lively authority. / It begins, for instance, with an evocative account of a 1914 encounter between Pound and Henry James in London: “Toward the evening of a gone world, the light of its last summer pouring forth into a Chelsea street found and suffused the red waistcoat of Henry James, lord of decorum, en promenade, exposing his Boston niece to the tone of things.” Kenner’s book dealt with Pound’s literary genius knowledgeably and carefully, and sympathetically revealed how such a mind could be duped by the vile ideology of fascism. Kenner himself deplored such politics. / In 1973, he left California for Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, where he remained until 1990. A post at the University of Georgia brought him once again to a more temperate climate, and he remained there until his retirement in 1999. He did not receive US citizenship, and found it amusing to be a perennial “resident alien”.’ (For full text, see RICORSO Library, “Reviews”, infra.)

Nicholas Tredell, Hugh Kenner: Obituary, in Independent [UK] (27 Nov. 2003): ‘[...] his culminating work was The Pound Era. As its title suggests, this book sought to identify Pound as the commanding presence in literary modernism, influencing Eliot, Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, William Carlos Williams and the sculptor Henri Gaudier- Brzeska. / Kenner located Pound’s importance in the way that he had broken free of 19th-century linear concepts of time and developed poetic techniques that brought out the vivid existence of words and images from the past in the present: according to Kenner, for example, Chinese ideograms were, for Pound, “neither archaic nor modern. Like cave paintings they exist now, with the strange extra-temporal persistence of objects in space.” The Pound Era was remarkable not only for the range and depth of its explorations, but also for the unusual way in which it was organised. Like Pound’s poetry, it accumulated “luminous details” and departed from strict chronology to complement its argument that modernism was characterised by a different experience of time.’ (Available online; accessed 13.09.2008.)

First Flush”, Books Ireland (Sept. 2008), notice of Edward M. Burns, ed., A Passion for Joyce: The Letters of Hugh Kenner and Adaline Glasheen (UCD Press): ‘Kenner wrote to [Adaline] Glasheen in 1953 “Joyceans are such privy bastards. They fondle their filing cards and tremble lest anyone should get an idea from them”, and earlier Thornton Wilder (with whom she was also to have an extended correspondence) remarked “The chief occupation of Finnegans Wake specialists is the Concealing From Others How Little They Know.” This collection of letters is a literary dialogue between two Joyce addicts and scholars that extended from 1953 to 1984 and provides an amusing insight into scholarly thinking on Joyce over these decades as Kenner and Glasheen exchange ideas, try out new propositions and mutually refine their conclusions. The letters are not continuous enough always to satisfy the reader unless he refers to the elaborate accompanying notes, which mostly provide enough background and fill the lacunae. One surprise for the less informed or more credulous amateur: Richard Ellmann, author of the definitive Joyce biography, is ill-regarded by both correspondents even to the extent that his interpretations are seen as per se confirming those with which he disagrees. His “careerism” and hegemony in Joyce studies are made very clear and (though Glasheen was mostly polite to him since she needed his support among publishers) the shared distaste for the man effectively cemented the Kenner friendship. An entertaining read.’ (Books Ireland, p.197.)

Adaline Glasheen, letter to Kenner: ‘Your book is a wonderful book [...] You and I don’t see Joyce’s work with the same eyes [...] In general, I find your attitude - particularly toward Ulysses - slightly inhuman [...] I think you are a fine critic, perhaps best when most abstract, an unusual virtue [...] our total responses to Joyce are so many miles apart that it would be impossible to bridge them.’ (See Edward M. Burns, ed., A Passion for Joyce: The Letters of Hugh Kenner and Adaline Glasheen, UCD Press 2008, q.p.; quoted by Christine O’Neill [review of same], in Books Ireland, Oct. 2008, p.219.)

Christine van Boheemen-Saaf, ‘Joyce in Theory/Theory in Joyce’, in James Joyce, ed. Sean Latham [Visions & Revisions Ser., gen. ed. Stan Smith], Dublin: IAP 2010: ‘[...] Meanwhile, narratology, the structuralist theory of narrative, had encountered the limits of its theoretical presuppositions in confrontation with Joyce’s Ulysses. Originally formulated in France by Gerard Genette, and popularized internationally by Seymour Chatman, narratology starts from the assumption that a narrative text is to be analyzed through different layers and categories, each of which are clearly distinguishable. When Ulysses was scrutinized through the lens of Genette’s theory, however, it proved impossible to point to a distinct or unifying consciousness to which the narrative might be attributed. In 1978, Kenner had spoken of “Joyce’s Voices”, pointing out that Joyce bends the third-person discourse of the narrator to accommodate the mind, education or personality of the person who is the object of description. In Joyce studies, his term, “the Uncle Charles principle”, came to replace the linguistic denomination of “free-indirect speech”. Kenner noted the perspectival abyss which Joyce’s strategy of disappearing behind his handiwork sets up; but his concluding chapter, “Beyond Objectivity”, could not resolve the phenomenon, nor did he draw the conclusion that Joyce specializes in undecidability. Instead, Kenner fell back on the mythic notion of an “eternal Ausonian Muse” [ftn. ref., Joyce’s Voices, California UP 1978, p.99.] to make sense of Joyce. Thus Kenner, who saw the problem, remained locked in a humanist model. The struggle to locate a unified agency to which the phenomena [157] of the text might be attributed continued to occupy American critics like David Hayman (who coined the term “the arranger” to replace “narrator”) and John P. Riquelme. In France, meanwhile, Roland Barthes, in an analysis of Balzac’s novel Sarrasine had concluded that it is “language which speaks, not the author.” [‘Death of the Author’, trans. Stephen Heath, in The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, ed. V. B. Letich, NY: Norton & Co. 2001, [1466-70] p.1467.]’ (pp.157-58.)

Terence Killeen, ‘Ireland must be Important ...’, in Joyce Studies Annual (2003), pp.18-36: [...] ‘Hugh Kenner has perhaps written best (even if he overdoes it slightly) about the strangeness, to outsiders, of a culture where enthusiasm for its own greatest writers, and, indeed, enthusiasm for anything can seem automatically suspect and a subject of mockery. [...] Kenner has also pointed to the reason why writers, and a forteriori, enthusiasts for these writers, are held in particularily low esteem: in a still predominantly oral culture, writers are regarded as traitors, the very act of writing being seen as secondary and debased, a poor substitute for the glories of oral interchange. Of course, those who make a living out of such a commitment are even more to be despised.’ (p.30.) [In a footnote, Killeen writes that Kenner’s view finds its fullest expression in A Colder Eye but that its roots are to be found as early as Dublin’s Joyce.]

John Attridge, ‘Mythomaniac, Modernism, Lying and Bullshit’, in Flann O'Brien and Modernism, ed. Julian Murphet, et al. (London: Bloomsbury 2014): ‘The name of Flann O’Brien is almost mythically associated with lying and fabulation. In A Colder Eye [1983, p.3.), Hugh Kenner makes him the mascot of a putative Irish compulsion to make things up, prefacing his discussion of ‘Irish Fact’ (“anything they will tell you in Ireland”) with an epigraph from The Third Policeman: ‘I considered it desirable that he should know nothing about me but it was even better if he knew several things which were quite wrong.’ Kenner had had first-hand experience of O’Brien’s untrustworthiness: in Dublin’s Joyce (1956) he cited an interview with Joyce’s father from the 1949 James Joyce Yearbook which O’Brien subsequently admitted to having made up as a joke, declaring himself delighted at the success of his hoax. The anecdote is emblematic of the attitudes to truth and imposture that characterize O’Brien’s fiction. It suggests, for one thing, O’Brien’s contempt for the rigidly factual discourses of academic knowledge, apparent in the pathetic history of Bassett, Le Clerque, De Fournier, Du Garbandier, Hatchjaw, Kraus and, still more pathetically, Henderson, their annotator, in the footnotes to The Third Policeman. And it exhibits O’Brien’s fondness for blurring the line between such serious assertive discourses and non-assertive pseudo-statements, like jokes and fictions. As with the po-faced parody of scholarly apparatus, the best pastiches are deadpan, never admitting to being made up. / Kenner’s caricature of Ireland as a nation of mythomaniacs is apt, at least, when applied to the world of O’Brien’s novels, few of whose characters are altogether innocent of imposture. The narrators of the two early novels, for example, are both notable liars: in At Swim-Two-Birds the narrator lies to his uncle out of avarice (to extract money), idleness (to be left alone in his room) and sheer devilment (to trap Brinsley into accompanying his uncle on an evening walk), while the narrator of The Third Policeman lies elaborately, if naively, to Sergeant Pluck about his identity and his business at the police barracks. The feeble invention of the gold watch, he speculates, may well have entailed all his subsequent misfortunes: ‘Perhaps it was this lie which was responsible for the bad things that happened to me afterwards. I had no American gold watch.’ (p.31; available as .pdf - online; accessed 23.07.2021; see further under O’Brien - infra.)

Christine van Boheemen-Saaf, ‘Joyce in Theory/Theory in Joyce’, in James Joyce, ed. Sean Latham (Dublin & Portland: IAP 2010), pp.153-69: ‘[...] Although there were critics like Hugh Kenner whose Dublin’s Joyce (1955) listens to the discursive nature of Joyce’s language, the first [156] major scholarly approach to Joyce’s work, which was neither philological nor stylistic but structuralist, was not published until 1974. Margot Norris’s The Decentered Universe of Finnegan Wake: A Structuralist Analysis locates Joyce in relation to the linguistic turn. She studies the text through Claude Levi-Strauss’s structural model of myth, Freud’s psychoanalysis, René Girard’s notion of mimetic envy, and points to repetitive aspects of narrative form, informative themes, deconstructive technique, etc. in a radically non-mimetic reading of the work. Although Norris used the term “structuralist” in her subtitle, her anti-essentialist, non-linear approach unweaves even Levi-Strauss’s concept of structure and veers toward Derrida and Lacan. In the mid-1970s the current distinction between “structuralism” and ’post-structuralism” had not yet arisen. It is not surprising that Norris’s innovation of Joyce studies should have been inspired by Finnegan Wake, a text which, as Tim Conley notes earlier in this collection, challenges any mimetic understanding.’

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

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“You inherited it by reading magazines, and Harriet Monroe’s Poetry, and Margaret Anderson’s Little Review had been spreading its news fitfully in America since 1912 and 1917 respectively.”

A Homemade World

Hugh Kenner, Ulysses [1980] (Johns Hopkins UP 1987):

The “motivated” characters in Ulysses - the Boylans, Bob Dorans, Lenehans, not to mention the insanely patriotic “Citizen” - are apt to be figures of fun; “motive”, for Joyce, is comedy’s simplification. The more we know of anyone the hard it is to say what he is about, he is about so many things, and the harder also to specify why he does any of them. This fact has to important consequences. Even with considerable narrative assistance the first-time reader is often unsure what exactly Leopold Bloom is doing, and the expositor finds exact summarising statements surprisingly difficult to frame. / Consider the transaction with Bloom“s letter. [...] (“Use of Homer” [Chap.], p.21.)

See also his remarks on Bloom’s potato: ‘killer of pestilence by absorption - mama's panacea’ (p.80); ‘the very potato that doomed Ireland to pestilence in this very odd family a good luck charm, preserver against pestilence.’ (p.71)

Available at Google Books - online; accessed 21.04.2021.

 Kenner calls Bloom’s mental citation of Molly’s men-friends as ‘the most famous list in Ulysses’ and writes ‘[she was] long regarded as a hardened adulteress, a misconception which deprives Bloomsday of its special tang. Its conceptions were nearly forty years being challenged’ (Ulysses, p.142). Further: ‘No, this is a list of past occasions for twinges of Bloomian jealousy, and there is no ground for supposing that the hospitality of Molly’s bed has been extended to anyone but her husband and Boylan’ (144 n1, 143). [Quoted in Lucca Crispi, ‘Revisiting Molly’s Lovers’, James Joyce Quarterly, 51: 2-3 (Winter-Spring 2014), pp.489-93 - available online; accessed 22.04.2022. Note: Crispi cites Richard Ellmann, Robert M. Adams, and David Hayman among those who have defended her virtue. Idem.)

For extracts from critical commentaries by Kenner other Irish writers incl. notably Flann O’Brien [q.v.] - see RICORSO > Library > “Criticism” - [index].

A Kenner Typescript
Kelly Writers House (Philadephia)
[ @ - defunct 09.11.2014.]

Uncle Charles Principle: Kenner is the author of the “Uncle Charles Principle”, a tag that describes the way in which James Joyce excerpts the language that he uses from the minds of the characters concerned.
‘The first sentence of “The Dead” has also a leaden ring, very perceptible to the translingual ear [...]: “Lily, the caretaker’s daughter, was literally run off her feet.” / Translate that into any alien tongue you like. “Literally?” To wonder what “literally” may mean is the fear of the Word and the beginning of reading. Whatever Lily was literally (Lily?) she was not literally run off her feet. She was (surely?) figuratively run off her feet, but according to a banal figure. [...]’ (p.15.) Kenner remarks that Wyndham Lewis was ‘caught by an inadvertancy of diction in a book not quite, as he thought, completely “swept and tidied” [quotes ‘Every morning, therefore, Uncle Charles repaired to his outhouse ..., &c.]. Lewis thought that in catching Joyce writing “repaired he had caught him off guard. “People,” he said, “repair to places in works of fiction of the humblest order.” He was characterising Joyce as a humble scrivener who kept himself from dropping into cliché by not wholly incessant vigilance. But the normal Joycean vigilance has not faltered here. Like the “literally” of the perhaps illiterate Lily, “repaired” wears invisible quotation marks. It would be Uncle Charles’s own word should be chance to say what he was doing [...] a speck of his characterizing vocabulary attends our sense of him. A word he need not even utter is there like a gnat in the air beside him, for us to perceive in the same field of attention in which we note how “scrupulously” he brushes his hat. This is apparently something new in fiction, the normally neutral narrative vocabulary pervaded by a little cloud of idioms which a character might use if he were managing the narrative. [Here quotes sentence from “Nausicaa”: “Mayhap it was this, the love that might have been, that lent her softlyfeatured face at whiles a look ...”; p.17.] Uncle Charles is a Namer, and deserves to have something named after him. So let us designate [it] the Uncle Charles principle: the narrative idiom need not be the narrator’s.’ (See also Richard Ellmann, in Notes, infra, and numerous references to Kenner’s principle by other critics given here.)
See Kenner, Joyce’s Voices (London: Faber & Faber 1978), ‘The Uncle Charles Principle’ [Chap. 2], pp.15-38:

‘However we try to rationalize “Circe” there are elements that escape. It is the second narrator’s justification and triumph, an artifact that cannot be analyzed into any save literary constituents.’ (Kenner, Joyce’s Voices, 92; quoted by Patrick Hastings, in Guide to Ulysses - online; accessed 20.04.2022.) Note: Hastings also quotes Kenner"s conclusion that imaginary events account for 90% of the text of the chapter. ("Circe" - viz James Joyce’s Ulysses, p.347.)

Talkers & writers (The Stoic Comedians): ‘It would be tempting to base a modern history of Ireland on the fact that the country has never sustained a large-scale publishing industry to erode its vocal and rhetorical bias, and polarize its sense of language towards the immutability of print rather than the coercive evanescent of breath. Even today it is customary for Dublin tavern wits to despise Joyce for practicing the lesser art than the talker’s, a contempt sustained by something more than jealousy. / For nearly three centuries Ireland has mocked the book. [...] Following Swift and Sterne, Joyce shut a living world into a book, a heavy book that contains Dublin, kills it, and sets it into motion once again on a new plane: but a technological plane and a comic because finically precise motion [sic]. Dubliners tell discreditable stories about their enemies, and all Dublin know the stories; but Joyce’s revenge on Oliver Gogarty was to shut him into a book: a deed that crushed Gogarty more, despite the limited number of Dubliners who inspected the result, than any number of rumors: for in a book Buck Milligan enacts the same formal ballet of irreverence, and emits the same delimited witticisms for ever: always on schedule, always in the same context, always on the same pages: a precise definition of imaginative hell, ineluctable, unstoppable, unmodifiable. The preoccupation of Dublin wits with the book continues: both Flann O’Brien in At Swim-Two-Birds and Samuel Beckett in his great trilogy of French novels capitalize on the antisocial quality of literature, the [49] fact that the writer is not speaking, is not drinking, is confronting nobody warming and warming to nobody [sic], but exists shut away in a room setting on pieces of paper word after word which once they have passed through Gutenberg’s machiner no afterthought will ever efface: a deed the vbery antithesis of everything that Irish culture prides itself on being.’

[Vide new sect. [V]: ‘Joyce’s techniques - it is one of his principal lessons - are without exception derived from his subject, often excerpted from his subject. They are not means of representing the subject, and imperfectly; they are the subject’s very members laid on the page, in eloquent or ludicrous collage.’ (The Stoic Comedians, Beech Press 1962; rep. Dalkey Archive 2005, pp.49-50; also given under Joyce, Commentary, supra.].)

Ireland’s & Modernism: ‘The crucial place of Ireland in the recent history of Western literary art is accounted for in the historical fact that Ireland escaped the humanist dogma. Consequently the great Irish nihilists (for so they appear in a humanist perspective) have been the persistent reformers of the fictional imagination.’ (Samuel Beckett: A Critical Study, London: John Calder 1961, p.69.)

Free State - I: ‘[I]n the Dail scrupulous meanness was organized and consolidated as it had never been in a thousand years. Books were proscribed by edict instead of, as formerly, being burned sporadically by treacherous printers, the backstage power of the church moved forward into government, bill after bill was enacted, signed, and enforced, the Free State’s abstractions overtook the old gossipy personal finagling of municipal politics, traditions of generous eloquence receded before the new parliamentary wrangling: “The Taoiseach had started off his speech by telling the House that if he could be convinced that this bill was outraging any principle, then he would consider what could be done, Mr. Morrissey added. Did anybody, inside or outside the House, ever convince the Taoiseach of anything? The Taoiseach was getting from the Opposition the cooperation he deserved. Was not the real reason why they were faced with this bill the fact that the Taoiseach never co-operated with anybody in the country?” (Irish Times, 26 April 1947.) That sort of thing had always gone on in Westminster; now it was installed in Dublin.’ (Dublin’s Joyce, Chatto & Windus 1955, p.275.) [See further under Tim Healy, supra.]

Free State - II: ‘He [Joyce] had written “The Dead”, and he had written, in Ulysses, of Dublin as an immense human form in a state of volitional paralysis, hallucinations whirling through its cog-wheeling brain. These images were as Irish as they were contemporary; as far back as record reaches, the Irish bards have told of lost heroes sleeping; the gods belong to the past, fuerent dei; unlike Odysseys who is a live man for Homer and, to the newest readser, a live man today, unlike the Achaeans deities whose blood was heated by the quarrels of men, Celtic gods and heroes alike inhabit an underground dream-kingdom of the Dead.’ [Kenner here quotes Clémence Ramnoux: ‘The men of the present are turned towards the men of the past. And the men of the past look contemptuously on these stunted descendants. They themselves, however, are only a survival. They pass their time in reminiscences - how touching this becomes in romantic elegy! - and they know they have reached the period of their decrepitude [...] How much this also resembles a religion of death!’ (Ramnoux, “The Finn Cycle”, trans. Maria Jolas, in James Joyce Year Book [ed. Jolas], Paris 1949, p.136; Kenner, Dublin’s Joyce, pp.268-69.)


Holy Week: Kenner contributes list of correpondences between Holy Week liturgy and FW 1. 1-viii; he also remarks the likeness of the four books of Finnegans Wake to the successive days of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday. (See Dublin’s Joyce, 1955, pp.349-51.)

Easter 1916: Kenner glosses the following passage in the Wake as an allusion to the 1916 Rising: ‘I want you, witness of this epic struggle, as yours so mine, to reconstruct for us, as briefly as you can, inexactly the same as a mind’s eye view, how these funeral games, which have been poring over us through homer’s kerryer pidgeons, maaacreedoed as the holiname rally round took place.’ (FW515.) [Q. source.]

The New York Times (26 April 1987) contains the following:

To the Editor:

What can Denis Donoghue be dreaming of in his “About Books” column ‘What Makes Life Worth Writing?’ (March 29) when he has me, of all people, arguing that the second version of the Richard Ellmann biography of Joyce makes it ‘unnecessary for anyone but a graduate student’ to read the writings of James Joyce? Can he produce a sentence I have published that could plausibly be misinterpreted to that effect? I expressed incredulity 28 years ago when some burbler deemed Mr. Ellmann’s first version worthy of the same shelf with Ulysses, and the second version, on which I reported at length in The Times Literary Supplement, did (to say the least) not a thing to mellow my opinion. Joyce is Joyce, irreplaceable, Mr. Ellmann but Mr. Ellmann, and Mr. Donoghue (shall we say?) impetuous.

HUGH KENNER / Baltimore

Denis Donoghue replies:

Unimpetuously, I have deduced from The Times Literary Supplement of Dec. 17, 1982, and from A Colder Eye (1983) that Mr. Kenner holds the following opinions: one, that Richard Ellmann’s biography of Joyce, in its revised as in its original form, is unreliable on matters of fact; and two, that in any case the form itself, the definitive biography of an artist, is merely a diversion from the true object of a reader’s attention, the artist’s own work. If I am wrong on either or both of these considerations, of course I offer Mr. Kenner my apology. [Available online; accessed 09.11.2014.]

J. M. Synge: ‘Synge, it may be, handled one story six times, a story of setting out and then dying, in which those who set forth have chosen better than those who choose to stay.’ (A Colder Eye: The Modern Irish Writers, London: Allen Lane, 1983, p.120; quoted with approbation in Christopher Murray, ‘“The of Lives”: O’Casey versus Synge’, in Journal of Irish Studies [IASIL-Japan], 2002, p.79.)

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Uncle Charles Effect? - Richard Ellmann writes: ‘Another criticism that deeply annoyed Joyce was Wyndham Lewis’s attack upon the diction of A Portrait of the Artist. Lewis took up the sentence, “Every morning, therefore, Uncle Charles repaired to his outhouse, but not before he had greased and brushed scrupulously his back hair”, and said, “People repair to places in works of fiction of the humblest order”, and “brushed scrupulously is a conjunction that the fastidious eye would reject.” (See Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, OUP 1965, p.608; and see further, in Ricorso Library, “Criticism / Major Authors” - James Joyce, infra.)

Restored schema: In Dublin’s Joyce (1955), Kenner restored the ‘Correspondence’ column [i.e., symbols] in Joyce’s Ulysses schema, which Stuart Gilbert had omitted in James Joyce’s Ulysses: A Study (1930), and which is to be found in the schema he supplied to Carlo Linati. (See Len Platt, ‘Corresponding with the Greeks: An Overview of Ulysses as an Irish Epic’ , in James Joyce Quarterly, Spring 1996, pp.508.)

Feeling sore? (1): Hugh Kenner was among those taken in by an ‘interview’ with John Stanislaus Joyce actually fabricated by Flann O’Brien and others. The ‘interview’ was passed off as real and hence published in James Joyce papers edited by Maria Jolas (James Joyce Yearbook, Paris 1949). Kenner transcribed them at length in Dublin’s Joyce (1955), Chap. 14: “The Stuffed Phoenix” (pp.265-67), with the remark: ‘Just when Joyce had issued, in Ulysses, his certificate of demise on that paralysed world, it suddenly began to assume [267], in his father’s nocturnal monologues, a particularly vivid factitious life. It began to pass into myth.’ (p.268.) Kenner goes on to describe installation of Tim Healy - formerly the butt of his childhood Parnellite poem “Et Tu, Healy” (which J. S. Joyce had had printed) - in the Governorship of the Free State as one of the immediate inspirations of the new book [i.e., Finnegans Wake]. (p.268.)

Note that the familiar quotation about Joyce making a map of it if set down in the desert is also quoted as authentic in Declan Kiberd, Ulysses and Us, faber 2009, q.p.)

Feeling sore? (2): Note that Richard Ellmann quotes JSJ as saying ‘That blackguard Lloyd George knew what he was doing when he gave them the Free State; he knew they’d make a mess of it’, giving as his source an interview [by Ellmann] with John Sullivan who had called on JSJ at JAJ’s request. A further quotation from JSJ takes the form of a rejoinder on hearing that his son was writing a book about the night: ‘I hope his night-thoughts are better than his day thoughts’, along with an expression of the belief that he should have become a singer, adding, ‘But he has done well enough.’ (Ellmann, James Joyce, 1965, p.624.) The endnote reference to the latter remark is an interview with Niall Sheridan, 1953; compare ‘Interview with Mr John Stanislaus Joyce’, in A Joyce Yearbook, ed. Maria Jolas, Paris 1949, p.169.)

Sassy Sassari: At the IASAIL conference in Sassari in 1994 Hugh Kenner was invited to participate with Desmond Egan in a presentation of the latters multivocal poetry, and also to introduce the Northern Irish poet Michael Longley, which he did by announcing that he had not read him but that he had been told he was to be compared with the “Silver Poets”. An incensed Edna Longley, Professor of Poetry at QUB (Belfast) and wife of Michael Longley, later assailed Kenner him verbally at the conference banquet with the words: ‘you know nothing about Irish poetry’ - to which Kenner replied in his characteristic cotton-wool voice: ‘I know more than you think.’ It then became known that Kenner was in recovery from a stroke and that his invitation to introduce Longley, like his participation in a choral poem by Egan, were orchestrated by Egan and Robert Welch, the current chairman of IASIL, in conjunction with Guiseppe [Pino] Serpillo of Sassari University, the convener of the conference - Egan having elicited from Kenner the statement that he was the successor to Pound in a prefatory essay. Also present, and vocally incensed by the extraordinary prominence accorded to Egan at the conference was Michael Hartnett, who suffered an epilectic fit on the marble floor of the Sardinian airport and drank solidly through the proceedings. In the course of Egan’s presentation, jointly with Kenner and Welch, Hartnett roused himself from apparent sleep to remonstrate against the unfair allotment of time given to Egan. The conference proceedings appeared as “Insula/Islands/Ireland - The classical world and the Mediterranean in 1996. About this time Derek Mahon contributed a bon mot to Irish literary conversation in remarking that Desmond Egan took all the fun out of debating who was the worst Irish poet. (Retrospective note by BS.)

John Kidd, ‘The Scandal of Ulysses’, in The New York Review of Books (30 June 1988)

It was unfortunate that The New York Review of Books assignment fell to Richard Ellmann in 1984, because he was the principal adviser to the Synoptic Edition, was named on its double title page, and under most circumstances would be expected to decline reviewing a work he had advised for seven years. That his piece became the 1986 Random House Preface and appeared in The New York Times Book Review means that the godfather to the text was the only reviewer in the two most influential American literary journals. The pattern recurred in England when the Times Literary Supplement ran Hugh Kenner’s fulsome accolade, utterly unaware of Kenner’s relentless American campaign in favor of “The Computerized Ulysses” (as he called it in Harper’s, April 1980). For years, most Joyceans (myself included) knew about the long-awaited but darkly shrouded monument-in-progress only through Kenner’s writings.

Without appearing to build a conspiracy theory, I must add that the James Joyce Quarterly assigned its only review of the new Ulysses to Michael Groden, who had long been a collaborator in the edition and was named on the title page of both the 1979 edition prototype and the finished 1984 text.

See full copy - as infra.

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The Arranger”: The term was introduced by David Hayman (Ulysses: The Mechanics of Meaning, 1970) and adopted to good effect by Hugh Kenner in Ulysses (London: Allen & Unwin 1980) [Chap. 7; “The Arranger”], pp.61-71 - quotes Hayman, “Ulysses”: The Mechanics of Meaning (NY 1970): ‘I use the term “arranger” to designate a figure who can be identified neither with the author nor with his narrators, but who exercises an increasing degree of overt control over his increasingly challenging materials’. (p.70; quoted in Kenner, Ulysses, p.61 [n7].)

On William Buckley, Jr. ...

Until Nov. 8, 2016, historians of American politics shared a rough consensus about the rise of modern American conservatism. It told a respectable tale. By the end of World War II, the story goes, conservatives had become a scattered and obscure remnant, vanquished by the New Deal and the apparent reality that, as the critic Lionel Trilling wrote in 1950, liberalism was “not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition.”
 Year Zero was 1955, when William F. Buckley Jr. started National Review, the small-circulation magazine whose aim, Buckley explained, was to “articulate a position on world affairs which a conservative candidate can adhere to without fear of intellectual embarrassment or political surrealism.” Buckley excommunicated the John Birch Society, anti-Semites and supporters of the hyperindividualist Ayn Rand, and his cohort fused the diverse schools of conservative thinking — traditionalist philosophers, militant anti-Communists, libertarian economists — into a coherent ideology, one that eventually came to dominate American politics. [...]

Rick Perlstein, ‘I Thought I Understood the American Right. Trump Proved Me Wrong.’, in New York Times Magazine (11 April 2007) - available online; accessed 12.04.2017.

Mazes: Essays (Georgia UP 1989), incls. “The Dead-Letter Office”; “The Untidy Desk andthe Larger Order of Things”; “The Making of the Modernist Canon”, “When Academe Ran a Fever”, “Earth’s Attic”, “Where Every Prospect Pleases”, “Fuller’s Follies”, “On the Impertinence of being ‘Definitive’” [pp.101-12] &c., - but also a critique/review of Richard Ellmann’s revised biography of Joyce (1982) in which the biographer is taken to task for inconsistencies in variant accounts given of Alfred H. Hunter, the model for Leopold Bloom, in the different editions of his work.

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