Hélène Cixous, The Exile of James Joyce, trans. by Sally Purcell [prev. in French, l’Exil de James Joyce, Paris: Bertand Grasset 1972] (London: Calder 1976)

Note: Cixous reprints the “1904 Portrait” in its entirety under the devised title “A Flamboyant Autobiography” [pp.206-12; as supra, and remarks [inter al.]: ‘The language of this first essay in particularly interesting, as nowhere else in the later works are we so struck by Joyce’s personal speech.’ (p.212.)

‘Stylistically it could pass for an obscure parody of the decadent late nineteenth-century art, but it is the form taken by the twenty-two-year-old Joyce’s metaphysical anguish, the object of his frustrations, his inexpressible aspirations, his apprehension of the choice that lay before him, the choice of following the beaten track or of making his own way.’ (p.212.)

‘For if the essay is called Portrait of the Artist [1904], it is simply in order to mislead, for there is scarcely a trace of the actual artist in it. A portrait it may be, but it is a pre-Stephen portrait of a nameless artist, or of one who is not yet an artist. It is the portrait of an “imperson,” struggling impersonally to bring into the world that being within it that desires to come jnto fuller existence. While the theme of the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is that of the search for and formulation of a personal aesthetic, that of this first Portrait is merely a preliminary: the artist is being sought for, which accounts for the extreme abstraction. There is no individual, no subject yet. The whole piece offers an elaboration and construction of a context in which the living artist might develop and emerge - a text, therefore, which is prior to the existence of the artist, which precedes the creator and is therefore in a state of chaos, yet which contains the promise of creation. At the end the artist will win his identity. In order to write he will have to multiply his contacts with the outside world, to knit a whole network of relationships into which as artist he will fit; and in the course of this exercise the artist begins to find himself, and to disengage himself from the actual writing. Throughout the exercise Joyce experiences more or less clearly the effects of time and space, of connection with others and of the relationship with oneself. Only as a footnote to this adventure of self-construction does the artist think about inventing his tools and formulating the rules of his rhetoric. / The original individual is seen as rhythm, as the relation of part to whole, as the curve of an emotion; he is not a person with a human appearance and characteristics that can be described, but a fluid movement, a consciousness in time. / There may be some influence of Bergson on this declaration of war on material things, this refusal to consider a living being as immobilised in a superficial, permanent form like a passport photograph, [...]’.

Note: Joyce later wrote that he offered an introductory chapter [of AP] to Mr Magee (John Eglinton) and Mr Ryan, editor of Dana. It was refused.’ (My marginal note [BS] in Cixous, op. cit., p.206.)

[...] But there remains, lurking, that theological left-over instituted in the notion of the “spiritual” which holds the text in front of the mirror. Spiritual mirror, spiritual chapter. Is not the “spiritual liberation” in fact brought about via a liberation of signifiers, fraudulently crossing the “classical” realist border, and that of its solemn double, symbolism? Is not the scene of writing, when only just set, already slipping, turning, and always decentered? A flirt beckoning at the same time as pushing away. Choosing to suffer from a confusion afflicting the ego, the it, the id, the subject, the signified and the sacred. Interrupting the strangeness of here and now with even more strangeness from elsewhere. Producing that unheimlich [19] effect which sets up a play between the familiar, and the sudden breakdown of the familiar, between the home (Heim) and the hidden (heimlich), between my self and that which escapes me. Freud [“The Uncanny”, Standard Edn., London: Hogarth Press, 1953-74, vol. 17, pp.217-56] has demonstrated that all this is aroused by doubt, by intellectual insecurity, acting as a screen for the fear of being blinded (a fear which is an indispensable axis crossing the Joyeean space) which is itself a substitute for the fear of castration: fear which in its turn produces the other self, that kind of other which is kept handy in case the self should perish, which in literature becomes “the double”, a stranger to the self, or its indirect manifestations: doubling of the self, split self, and all those subversions of the subject, visibly at work in the excerpt quoted: where “I” (the narrator) weigh up my strength, my existence, my grasp on reality, and my abdicating by examining the power of words.

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On the aethetics of Stephen Dedalus: ‘[...] From Saint Thomas Joyce borrows the foundations of a large part of his aesthetic theory. His need for order and his need for freedom are reconciled in the pleasure he derives from obtaining for his art the benefits offered by an ethical vision of the world. His use of the Thomist order and rejection of the faith that inspired it guarantee sufficiently his freedom to form “ a theory of art which was at once severe and liberal. His Aesthetic was in the main applied Aquinas, and he set it forth plainly with a naif air of discovering novelities. This he did partly to satisfy his own taste for enigmatic roles and partly from a genuine predispostion in favou of all but the premisses of Scholasticism.” (SH,81.) / Stephen does to, however, make direct and exclusive use of Saint Thomas; his aesthetic is neither Thomist nor orthodox, but a combination of characteristics aborrowed from theories of his own times and skillfully annotated quotations from Aquinas. It may be asked to what extent Joyce already determined the form of his conclusions, justifying them afterwards by an apparently honest chain of deductive reasoning. In the reasonably extensive field covered by his reflections, what seems to concern him most is a certain definition of the artist’s function and of his mediating situation between art and the world, followed by the elaboration - by way of his definition of beauty - of a new form of art whose essence is the theory of the epiphany (which was originally a rather artificial addtion to the rest of his theories.) (p.624).

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Cixous discuss the theory of genre [lyric, epic, drama] (p.625), the requirement for “impersonality” (p.626), and the definition of “beauty” (p.228) and, finally, Stephen’s account of the ’analysis performed by the mind upon the object’ (p.629.) Further: ‘In Stephen Hero, integritas is first defined as a way of detaching and isolating the object from all that is not the object and of perceiving it as an integral thing of [for in] itself. here Stephen is distorting Aquinas’ thought, for what the saint says is that integritas or perfectio, completeness and fulfilment in all formal qualities of the object in relation to what it must be in God’s eternal design, is the first condition - not of the object’s isolation but of its participation in this universal pattern conceived by God. Next Stephen defines the “analysis” performed by the mind upon the object. It has to be examined as a whole and as the sum of its parts, in relation to other objects and to itself, and one must verify the equilibrium existing between those parts in order to be fully assured of its symmetry and to recognise it as an independent composite entity. This is the Thomistic “proportio” which connections with what Joyce calls “the rhythm of beauty”. In Portrait he says, “Beauty awakens in us, or ought to awaken, or induces, or ought to induce, an aesthetic stasis, an ideal pity or terror, a stasis called forth, prolonged, and at last dissolved by what I call the rhythm of beauty.” (Portrait, p.206.) [629]

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‘Rhythm is proportio, and the idea of formal harmony leads to claritas, a quality which does not seem to serve Stephen’s purposes and which be eventually replaces by the term quidditas, meaning the essency of the object, or its “soul”, the clear radiance of the image that manifests itself in the epiphany, when the object puts off the vesture of its mere appearance. / The concept of “soul” and “epiphany” are clearly spiritual ones, and in Portrait Stephen suppresses both of then [for them]; in their place he introduces the artists “imagination”; In Stephen Hero aesthetic apprehension was not reserved for the artist alone, and in order to bring in the notion that it is so reserved [in A Portrait ], Stephen has to twist Aquinas’ thought and misrepresent his intentions. He says, “I thought he might mean that claritas is the artistic discovery and representation of the divine purpose in anything or a force of generalistation which would make the aesthetic image a universal one, make it outshine its proper conditions. But that is literary talk.” / This “literary talk” is in fact close to the Thomist conception; but Stephen wishes to separate aesthetic apprehension from is metaphysical implications, to keep the vision but connect it with an activity of the imagination, to formulate it in romantic terms rather than theological language. [.../] Claritas, the object’s manifestation of itself, coincides with its creative conception; perception and conception unite to form “discovery by art”, the artist’s appropriation of reality. “The symbol has no previous existence; it is created by the artist, invented in the moment of illumination.”’ (J.-J. Mayoux, James Joyce , Gallimard 1965, p.70; here p.630.) Note: in a section, “The Evolution of the Notion of Epiphany”, Cixous examines the more subjective epiphanies and concludes: ‘From the beginning the epiphany has a potential capability for personalisation which develops until it can reverse the relationship that previously existed: that of the subject receiving some manifestation from the object.’ (p.621.)

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Chap. XXIV - ‘Conclusion: Joyce’s Dream’
‘If Stephen recalls so insistently the magnificent “slaughter-houses” of history at the beginning of Ulysses, and if the Lamb is led to the slaughter in virtually every chapter, this is not solely because of Joyce’s very real and often-proclaimed pacificism; it is also because Joyce is concerned with his nightmare as with real life. In fact, if history really were a process of becoming, if dialectic existed, and if the nightmare could come to an end, then Joyce the artist would have no more reason to write; it is necessary for blood to flow, so that Joyce may be a man of peace. It is also necessary for all to be in all, for Catholicism to affirm the eternal existence of man, and for symbolism, following the path of Hermetic tradtion, to establish a network of correspondences such that possession of the minor terms will ensure by analogy knowledge of how to find the major terms and meanings. / If all is in all, as in a dream all may replace all, and the hierrachy of values may be reversed as one pleases. Events are neither amusing nor sad, since they do not have a place in any progression; they are merely echoes of a permanent situation. God may be used as a symbol for the act of defecation and excrement may have the same value as ink; a dog may bark in place of the Word, and God many enter a dog’s body. In this world, where Joyce acknowledges no priorities, the aritst is free within the nightmare. To Joyce, the fruitful paradox of history is this: by definition, a nightmare is an adventure in which one is involved, whose [726] contradictions one is absolutely powerless to resolve. Yet it is in constraint that the imagination is free. The tension between contradictions is the energy of art and the origin of language; helplessness in the face of destiny justifies the artist’s decision to exile himself.’ (pp.726-727.) [...] ‘In the last analysis, what Joyce says is what also overwhelms Stephen: the fact that freedom exists outside the culture in which one is irremediably imprisoned; that one sleeps out one’s life to the accompaniment of history as told by a God who speaks the same language as oneself; that only within this history does one have a place to occupy and a part to play. If God speaks the language of men, He does so because men have invented God speaking their language, and because they claim to justify themselves and to render themselves innocent by attributing to God the Word that gives the signal for the slaughter to begin.’ (p.736; end.)


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