Don Gifford, Joyce Annotated: Notes for Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist [rev. edn.] (California UP 1982) - Introduction

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Stephen Dedalus’s Education
Stephen’s education in A Portrait stands in troublesome contrast to contemporary educational practices. His knowledge of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, is not based on a reading of those authors in context or in extenso as it would be in a contemporary university; Stephen’s knowledge is based on a study of selected passages, key points or moments, presented in textbooks which advertised themselves as Synopsis of the Philosophy of .... As Stephen puts it to himself, he has “only a garner of slender sentences.” The educational practice of focusing study on memorable key quotations provided the student with a package of quotable phrases and tended to suggest that thought was aphorism. It also made it possible for an individual to appear remarkably learned when he had, in fact, not read very widely.
Stephen remarks in V:A that his aesthetic is “applied Aquinas”; dramatically this assertion is “correct” since Stephen does use a series of semi-quotations from Aquinas as the basis of his explication. Intellectually, Stephen’s assertion is somewhat confusing since the semi-quotations from Aquinas are used without much regard for the larger context of Aquinas’s work and thought. This confusion has led several critics to challenge Joyce’s grasp of Aquinas, and while that is an interesting issue, the pursuit of it takes the reader away from the dramatic fabric of Stephen’s discussion in V:A to focus instead on Joyce’s mental processes and on Joyce’s relation to the history of ideas. The point is that Stephen is presenting his argument in the conventional form dictated by his training; he quotes his authority only ostensibly to develop the aesthetic latent in Aquinas’s observations; actually Stephen uses the phrases from Aquinas as a point of departure for his own aesthetic speculation because that is the “language” in which he has been trained to present (and to cloak) his own thought. It is widely assumed that Stephen’s aesthetic theory is Joyce’s and that Joyce is using Stephen as a mouthpiece, but it can also be argued that Joyce is using Lynch as a mouthpiece when that character remarks [10] that Stephen’s discussion has “the true scholastic stink.” Stephen’s aesthetic may be Joyce’s only in part, presented in a language appropriate not to the writer who is about to turn his attention to Ulysses but to the coinage of the “young man’s” education and to the young artist’s romantic inclination, since the aesthetic is not any more “applied Aquinas” than it is applied Shelley.

J. S. Atherton has demonstrated that all of Stephen’s quotations from Newman derive not from Newman’s works but from a one-volume anthology, Characteristics from the Writings of John Henry Newman (London, 1875)” [1] Atherton argues that Joyce is trying to give the impression that Stephen is widely read. But Stephen treats his bits of Newman (in the dramatic context of the novel) as parts of a collection of phrases notable for their sounds and rhythms, not notable for their reflection of the context in which they occur or for their reflection of the attitudes of the writer from whom they were taken. This would again suggest the tendency to regard learning not as a grasp of contexts but as an acquisition of quotable moments. The dramatic impression left by Stephen’s mental behavior in the novel is not so much that of a mind that has read widely as it is of a mind that has poked around and collected phrases in a variety of places: some of them collected in conformity with the emphasis of his education, as from Newman, Aquinas, Aristotle; some of them collected in out-of-the-way places, as from minor Elizabethans, from Hugh Miller’s Testimony of the Rocks, from Luigi Galvani, &c. But all of the phrases have been converted from their literary and intellectual contexts to the context of Stephen’s personal use. Above and behind Stephen, Joyce on occasion manipulates the bits and pieces as indicators of ironies and evaluations—for example, in V:A when Stephen, the nonconformist, quotes Christian Aquinas to the Dean of Studies, the conformist, who in turn quotes pagan Epictetus, or when Stephen follows a poetic quotation from Shelley with a superficially apt phrase from Luigi Galvani (”enchantment of the heart”) - except that Galvani was describing what happens to a frog’s heart when a needle is inserted in its spine.

Religious instruction was a regular and required feature of the education Joyce received in fact and which Stephen receives in fiction. Two catechisms were assigned as the basic texts in the courses of religious instruction at Clongowes Wood College in the 188os and 90s:

The Catechism Ordered by the National Synod of Maynooth (Dublin, 1883), called Maynooth Catechism in the notes.
Joseph De Harbe, S. J., A Full Catechism of the Catholic Religion, translated form the German by the Rev. John Flander (NY 1877), cited as de Harbe in these notes.

The catechism or catechisms assigned at Belvedere College when Joyce (and Stephen) were students there in the 1890s are not known. The Rector of Belvedere writes (August 1976) that unfortunately the College’s records are “uncomplete” on this point.

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Monetary values
[On Eveline's finances:] What does it imply that Eveline Hill in the story “Eveline” receives a weekly wage of seven shilldings? What order of poverty and/or exploitation does her wage suggest? [...] Eveline's wage would be the equivalent of $8.75 a week in 1980. [Adjusting for the price of basic commodities listed in Thom's Official Directory, Dublin 1904 - e.g., bacon at 7d. a pound], Gifford reckons that the spending power of her wage is more like $37.17 in 1980.] This would still mean poverty, but of quite a different order. In the late nineteenth century women were still “temporary employees” in the stores and offices, so they were not paid wages on the assumption that they were self-supporting but on the assumption that they lived at home and that the minimal wages they earned would augment an established family income as Eveline's wage does.
 The unpleasant tone of the Hill family's relation to money is not economic but interpersonal. Joyce does not imply that Eveline has to give her whole wage to her father because her family is suffering under grinding poverty, but because her father likes to drink and is brutally ungenerous. [13] If Eveline had been allowed to keep as little as half her weekly wage for pocket money ($18-50, 1980), she would have been “well off” in relation to her lower-middle-class contemporaries, even though her “living standard” (the possessions and services she could afford) would have been below that of a 198o Dublin shop girl. But this, too, is a misleading comparison, since the range of consumer choice which the Dublin world would have offered to Eveline would have been much narrower than that available to her modern counterpart, and conversely Eveline would have felt less deprived than her modern counterpart is liable to feel, since the modem shop girl is comparatively less able to take advantage of the opportunities presented (or at least advertised) as within her field of choice as a consumer. If Eveline were to try to live on her own, Dublin, 1904, she could have found a tenement room, furnished for four shillings per week, unfurnished for one shilling sixpence. If she had a few sticks of furniture, she could have found accommodation for just a little more than one-fifth of her paltry seven shilling salary.

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Notes
1. James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (London, 1964), P. 249 n.

See also ensuing remarks in Gifford’s “Outline of Irish History” (also in Introduction) :
Prehistory: The legendary prehistory of Ireland was chronicled as a series of five successive invasions and colonizations - first, the Parthalonians; second, the Nemedians, who were harassed by the Formorians, gloomy giants of the sea; third, the Firbolg (fourth century B.C.?) who were characterized as undersized, crude, and earthy; fourth, the Tuatha Da Danann, the race of heroes; and lastly, the Milesians, the sons of Mileadh of Spain, ideal free spirits and artists, who were regarded as the “ancestors” of the royal clans of Ireland. The historical basis for these legends was apparently a series of migration-invasions. Neolithic flint users were displaced by a small, dark people from the Mediterranean (Firbolg?); they were invaded by the Picts; the final invaders in the fourth century B.C. were Celts from central Europe, followed by Gaelic Celts from southern France and northern Spain. Accounts of these prehistoric invasions and characterizations of the invaders were very much alive in the oral traditions of early Irish history, though the oral traditions only indirectly reflect the complex waves of migration which peopled prehistoric Ireland. Indeed, the “Irish Race” is still frequently represented as enjoying a mythical purity which the rich mix of prehistoric peoples and Celtic invaders belies - not to mention the continuing admixtures that resulted from social and cultural interchange with Anglo-Saxons, Picts, and Scots (sixth century ff.), with the Viking invaders (ninth century ff.), with the Anglo-Norman invaders (1169ff.), and with waves of English colonists under the Tudors and since. To this day the sharp distinctions some Irish make between a Celtic us and an Anglo-Irish them (and vice versa) can strike a visitor as something of an abstraction. (p.16.)
 
1848ff: [...]The trouble for one who would like to understand political attitudes in Ireland since the famine is that “left” and “right” are all but meaningless terms and that the two conflicts outlined above did not divide people into two camps but into four and multiples of four. (p.21.)

 

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