S. L. Goldberg, The Classical Temper: A Study of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” (London: Chatto & Windus 1961)

Chapter 1: Introductory
[...] This present study let me say at once is concerned only with Ulysses, not with Joyce’s work as a whole; and clearly the decision to concentrate on this one novel-and at such length-calls for some explanation.

The first and most important reason is simply that Ulysses is Joyce’s central achievement - the most important expression of his imagination, the book on which, I believe, his reputation will most firmly rest. Those that came before it-the volume of lyrics, Chamber Music (1907) and the play, Exiles (1918), as well as Dubliners and the Portrait of the Artist - exhibit an artistic assurance, an unusual subtlety and perceptivity, intensity, detachment, an unmistakable power - but they are not major works. They are obviously the work of a man who took his art seriously, who recognized that to practice it required intelligence and self-knowledge as well as individual talent, and they show a sensibility in the process of real growth. Only with Ulysses, however, did Joyce find the human experience, the objective themes, to fulfil his possibilities. Whatever we think of its success, Ulysses undoubtedly challenges the highest judgment. Finnegans Wake is far more problematical. It displays a fluidity, an abstraction, a hunger for the absolute, incompatible with the dramatic commitments of art, commitments that, as Joyce himself took pains to insist, are not purely technical but, in the widest sense, moral or spiritual. In this respect, Finnegans Wake seems to mark a shift in Joyce’s attitudes, a swing back to a view of life and of art like those he had earlier rejected, and which the vast pretensions of the work and its affinities with Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés do nothing to recommend. It certainly opens up possibilities in the use of language; but art has deeper obligations than that, and whether its experiments ever achieve any historical importance is a question we may leave to the scholars of the future. But it is 1[16] precisely the virtue of Ulysses that it means too much to us now and here to escape our most responsive, scrutiny, and for this reason I have focused my attention upon it, referring to Joyce’s other works only where they might help to explain or to clarify. (pp.16-17.)

[Gives account of the warmer reception of Ulysses in America academe on the grounds that] Joyce’s sensibility is Roman Catholic and Irish, the literary models to which he looked were Continental rather than English, while his art is more self-conscious, more abstract, more concerned with spiritual and social alienation, than is usual in the English novel. None of these characteristics is a disadvantage in America; on the contrary, American literature [18] has always possessed many of them in itself. (pp.18-19.)

[...]

With some distinguished exceptions, the critics of Ulysses have been reader to talk about the general significance of its subject, its structure of intentions, its modernity, its “greatness”, than to discriminate what is truly imagined, truly alive in it. (p.19.)

[Quotes Marvin Magalaner and Richard M. Kain] on the incertain outcome of Ulysses:] “[...] How seriously must the meeting of Stephen and Bloom be considered in theory, when it remains so ineffectual in fact? Is the end result merely that of ineradicable loneliness or does Molly’s final “Yes” indicate the acceptance of the life force?” (Magalaner & Kain, Joyce the Man, the Work, and the Reputation, 1956, p.214-15, 152). There is even no certain indication that Molly will get Bloom his breakfast. Yet surely the basic iss is not that of the narrative’s resolution at all, nor of Joyce’s acceptance of the “life force”. In fact, it is just because they see nothing more than this kind of indiscriminate “acceptance” that some critics have attacked Joyce for his nihilism. The meeting of Bloom and Stephen, and Molly’s “yes”, derive their meaning from the book as a whole, and if their dramatic significace is not effectually realized, then any theoretical significance Joyce may or may not have intended is hardly of much relevance. But the time Bloom and Stephen do meet in the penultimate chapter and Molly utters her “affirmation”, Joyce’s attitudes ought to be - and, I believe, are in fact - perfectly clear. (p.27.)

[...]

Joyce learned his artistic discipline from a variety of masters; Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Ibsen and, in the novel, Flaubert. That discipline is a large aprt of what he called the classical temper. The meaning he gave to the phrase has nothing to do with academisim or plaster models from the Greek, nor is it to be [31] confused with what T. E. Hulme and T. S. Eliot have meant by “Classicism”. It is elss definite and more complex than that, and to define its genuine presence in Ulysses is the main object of this study.

In very broad terms, we may say that, as Joyce understood the term, the classical temper is essentially dramatic. It accepts the ordinary world of humanity as the primary object of itsattention, and endeavours to see it and present it steadily and whole. In order to do so, it seeks patiently for maturity, detachment, impersonality of judgment and an artistic method, that, while it begins with the local and the concrete as its foundation, enables it to penetrate beyond them. The classical temper thus involves a moral as well as an artistic ideal, an ideal of spiritual completeness and impersonal order. No one knew better than Joyce that to record life truly engaged the artist’s whole sensibility in most complex, delicate moral perceptions and judgments. If he avoided dogmas and “beliefs” - all explicit systems of values - this does not mean he rejected all values whatever; it only means that he trusted to his dramatic imagination to discern and express them in life as he knew it. If in some ways he started his career from Aestheticism, “the romantic temper”, he rejected it both in life and in art for exactly the same reasons. The classical temper displays itself as a responsive openness to life, a firm grasp on the centrally human, a respect for the present reality we all share, an allegiance to the objective, and a mistrust of metaphysical or naturalistic “realities” abstracted from the total complexity of human experience. This attitude is the ground of his finest inspiration.

Joyce quite rightly disclaimed any special depth or originality for his ideas: “if there is any difficulty in reading what I write it is because of the material I use. In my case the thought is always simple.” (Frank Budgen, James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses, 1937, p.291.) His work has nothing of Mann’s massive deployment of abstract knowledge and theory, Gide’s restless exploration of ethics, Lawrence’s prophetic intensity, nor is his symbolism boldly, poetically speculative like that of Melville. All we can say is that his art turns upon certain focal themes, but themes which are finally inseparable from one another because finally inseparable from their dramatic matrix. In no sense do they compose a “philosophy” or a doctrine. They are more like aspects of one organic whole or emphases within a continuous and complex [32] rhythm, and in tracing the most important of them in Ulysses I have let them emerge as far as possible in the course of discussion without trying to enforce too rigid a scheme upon them.

I have chosen to begin (in Chapters II and III) with the only one about which Joyce himself developed any theory and which consequently requires theoretical understanding from his readers: namely, his personal conception of, and relations to, his art. The theme had a far more than theoretical interest for him, however. Coming to him as a sense of vocation - a duty laid upon him by the possession of a special gift, a fate in the acceptance of which lay his personal freedom and fulfilment - the rôle of artist had for Joyce a finality that turned its necessities into the very terms of his moral life. Once he saw, and accepted, and defended his destiny, his first task was to discover how he must fulfil it. The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is the record of his history - though a history conceived imaginatively and ironically - up to the point where, in his hero’s theory of aesthetic beauty, he formulated his first conception of the task before him; but it also goes beyond that to the point where it becomes clear to us, if not to Stephen Dedalus, not simply that his first conception is inadequate but that with experience and growth Stephen will find it inadequate himself. The aesthetic theory in the Portrait is not as it stands to be taken as Joyce’s own. It leaves out too much, and what it leaves out are precisely the moral responsibilities Stephen has still to learn that his vocation entails. No doubt Joyce himself had recognized them before Stephen is shown as doing so, for in the abortive Stephen Hero the hero is loud in proclaiming them. (But historical truth was not, as he came to realize, Joyce’s real concern; poetic truth was more revealing. Stephen’s militant Aestheticism and its collapse under the pressure of the social conditions and beliefs he had violently rejected, was a symbol such as Ibsen might have used, expressing a truth tbout more than the artist’s own development or even about Art in the abstract: it could reflect the social and spiritual conditions that make Art possible and keep it flourishingly alive. So that Art in the Portrait became a symbol of those conditions, of the moral state of the artist and of his society. [Cites Jane Jack, ‘Art and the Portrait of the Artist’, in Essays in Criticism, V, 1955, pp.354-64.) In Ulysses Joyce takes up Stephen again at the stage where his earlier grandiose plans now seem to lie in ruins; in this sense, the two books rely on each other. Stephen, we discover, has had to return from Paris; he [33] has written nothing significant (a little poetry, a few sketches and reviews); he feels the sharp discrepancy between his boasts and, ambitions and his actual reputation; he lives in a Martello tower with an ambiguous “friend”, isolated, bitter, and torn by remorse: the chickens have come home to roost. The question is whether his experience has taught him anything. It has; and the result is most clearly expressed in his theory about Shakespeare, Hamlet, and the relationship between father and son, maturity, and immaturity. He has perceived what he had not before, that, art “brings the whole soul of man into activity”, as Coleridge, puts it, and that no artist can achieve the heights Stephen aspires, to, can never see his world truly, unless his own inner self be in order. The freedom and vitality of the artist depend on the “subordination of his faculties to each other according to their relative worth and dignity” - that is, on the same source as moral freedom and vitality.

All this lies implicit in Stephen’s discussion of Shakespeare. In abstract aesthetics it necessitated a search for a way around the crude Romanticism that chained the artist either to his own personal emotions or to the very social values he wished to assess: subjectivism or naturalistic representation. The way Joyce adopted owed a good deal to the Symbolistes and could in some sense be called Symbolism; but in order to avoid some of the common connotations of that term I have rather preferred to call it symbolistic. For once he came to see Art as a symbol of moral and social vitality, the creation of art became largely the subject, of the art itself. Attention now turns to the artist’s understanding of his material - to the process by which the object becomes understood in being apprehended by a subject - rather than to any naturalistic or metaphysical world regarded as objectively real irrespective of any subject. In Stephen Hero, Joyce had expressed something of this central concern with the creative process and its significance in the celebrated notion of “epiphanies” - the acts of mind, moments of time, coincidences of matter, whereby anything becomes an object of understanding by being understood, or in somewhat different terms, becomes a symbol by being apprehended imaginatively. In Ulysses, Stephen puts this in a way more relevant to Shakespeare’s case - and to Joyce’s own. There is nothing mystical, supernatural, or anti-rational about his conception of the “epiphany” or aesthetic symbol, and [34] there is no urgent reason why we need buttress it with philosophical arguments when Joyce himself did not. Much more important are its consequences in his work. Not only does Ulysses become, in one aspect, a symbolistic “drama of meaning”, but since it is also a drama about its own birth, it necessarily includes, as Stephen’s argument unmistakably suggests, a hidden character: the author himself. He is not the real Joyce, of course the Joyce who was known to his friends and died in 1941; not a mere persona either; but Joyce the artistic or poetic personality whose voice has completely passed into his work. In Ulysses he lives in his characters, but beyond them. The events he narrates are (in a soft and flexible sense) about himself as a young man, but it is not the Stephen who goes out into the night who wrote Ulysses. It is an older Stephen, a gayer and wiser man, seeing more and understanding more. And once we see that Ulysses insists both upon Joyce’s presence in it as a book, yet outside it as an action at a real place at a real time, we can see that it has a temporal dimension of the utmost importance: the distance between Dublin, 1904, and Trieste-Zurich-Paris, 1904-21, the distance Stephen has to grow to become able to see himself as lie sits in the Dublin library talking of Shakespeare in the reflection of “that which then I shall be”.

This theme thus assumes another aspect: the exploration of moral order. As we should expect, self-knowledge, self-realization, detachment, human completeness, balance, are Joyce’s key concepts. He has nothing especially new to say about social or ethical or religious values; in many ways he seems old fashioned, humanistic, something of a Rationalist in ethics, with a strong sense of the religious in life but without formal religion. His obscurity, as he said, derives from his material, the complexity of the world in which he sought these traditional virtues. Stephen clearly lacks them, which is one of the essential points about him. Bloom, who lacks the imaginative potentialities of Stephen and yet so desperately needs them, is nevertheless the unexpected figure who does possess something of the moral maturity Stephen needs. Bloom is representative of an age of disintegrating values and yet outside it, his “exile” partly exclusion and partly the freedom of detachment, a man partly corrupted and yet deeply innocent. Joyce’s treatment of both his heroes is profoundly ironic, rid so important is it to understand that irony and the attitudes [35] from which it springs - especially, 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. [viz., “Modes of Irony in Ulysses”] Joyce’s irony is satirical, it is true, but it is complex with endorsesment and (in the strictest sense) compassion as well - the attitudes, in fact, that distinguish Stephen from the author. (pp.32-36.)

[...]

[...] Joyce was not foolish enough to suppose that the artist must be, in the ordinary sense, a “good” man; on the other hand, he saw that the spiritual order and vitality implicit in the highest art is a moral condition which has a subtle, indirect but nevertheless very real connection with the actual life of the artist in all his personal and social relationships. A character like Stephen Dedalus, for example, or even Leopold Bloom, is both something of a self-portrait and not a self-portrait. As personal reminiscences of Joyce the man indicate, he was never the slightly unbalanced, conscience-stricken, frustrated young prig Stephen is, and certainly not so representative of the mass-world of advertise ments and popular “culture” as Bloom. On the other hand, Stephen is a portrait of the artist, though as a young man. Joyce evidently had a similar consciousness of his talents, a similar cold and rather arrogant intellectuality, and a similarly ambiguous struggle with his native environment. What is more, as he grew’ older, he was also like Bloom in his extraordinary ordinariness as a family-man and citizen, in his humour, in his detached but insatiable curiosity. For all his critical irony towards his heroes, he never fails to recognize the imaginative potentiality of the young man and the essential virtue of the older one. So that the Joyce who is “all in all”, who comprehends both his complementary protagonists but is larger and freer than either one of them or even the simple combination of the two - Joyce the artist - is not to be equated with Joyce the man nor utterly divorced from him. All we can say in general terms is that in his, books he reworked situations and themes he found in his own;, experience, either actually or potentially - which is so obvious a truism that it is hardly of much profit. (p.38.)

[...]

Chapter II: Art and Life - The Aesthetic of the Portrait
To approach Joyce’s art theoretically, through his aesthetic, is not without its dangers. The commonest mistake is to take that aesthetic as a sort of criterion, a point of reference by which to measure Joyce’s success. Probably every reader of modem literature has met Stephen Dedalus’s theory in the Portrait and his views on Shakespeare in Ulysses, and it seems only natural to apply Joyce’s own aesthetic in the criticism of his books, if not all of literature. The fact is, however, that the real value of the aesthetic theories is of a different kind. For it is always dangerous to judge a writer’s work by his own theories - we tend, only too easily, to beg the most relevant questions; and these dangers are particularly acute when, as in Joyce’s case, the theories appear as an integral part of a complex work of art. But if they cannot supply us with a critical yardstick, or even a useful structure of the author’s intentions, they can help us, I believe, in another way: if we are prepared to follow them patiently and critically, they lead us directly towards the preoccupations and the forms of his imagination.

The main interest of the aesthetic theory in the Portrait (and in Ulysses too) arises from the fact that it brings many of the themes of the novel itself to a convenient focus - in particular, both the kind of attitudes that subtly impel Stephen all through it and the limitations of those attitudes as well. The theory is primarily Stephen’s, not Joyce’s, even though Joyce used many of his own ideas in it, and to examine it is largely to examine Stephen as a dramatic character. The theory therefore offers a convenient starting-point for critical discussion of the art; yet even while it does so, it offers peculiar difficulties of its own.

One is simply the terminology that Joyce, and Stephen after him, adopted from his reading in Scholastic philosophy, and the rather elliptical and even crabbed style of his thought: its “scholastic stink”, as one character puts it. This hardly makes for easy understanding or easy exposition - so much so, indeed, [41] that to approach Joyce’s work this way may seem (I confess) all too like struggling through a hedge instead of going in by the gate. But there are further difficulties still. The theory both in the Portrait and Ulysses raises problems of interpretation which are precisely equivalent to those raised by the novels themselves and which have no easy solution. No one could claim that the theory is always clear even when it is most explicit, and what Joyce has written about aesthetics in various places is still so scrappy that we can call it a full aesthetic theory only with a generous courtesy. But to increase the difficulty, it is not always very easy to distinguish between his own views and those of Stephen Dedalus. Joyce himself made some jottings on aesthetics in his notebooks in 1903-04; these are echoed both in Stephen Hero and the Portrait. He delivered two papers to his college Literary and Historical Society on “Drama and Life” (1900) and “James Clarence Mangan” (19033), I which are echoed in Stephen Hero and in Ulysses.[Ftn. on Herbert Gorman’s printing of jottings from the notebooks in James Joyce: The Definitive Biography, London: 1941, 1949; and Critical Writings, 1959.] The term “epiphany”, which is mentioned in Stephen Hero, not mentioned in the Portrait and then recalled in Ulysses, is one the young Joyce is known to have used himself for tiny sketches. However closely they resemble each other, none of these theories is exactly the same. Naturally enough, almost every critic of Joyce’s work supports his view of it by an interpretation of what he takes to be Joyce’s own aesthetic, even if the support is only that of a suggestive analogy; and it is clear that some interpretation at least is required. Yet the very fact that interpretations of the art and of the theory are so closely linked also requires us to make sure we view the latter as accurately as the former, and that we understand the full implications both of what Joyce has Stephen say in any particular context and, equally, of what he does not have him say. The basic problem of Joyce’s aesthetic, in other words, is like that of his art - to detect where, and how, Joyce qualifies the attitudes of the artist as a young man. Critical probing as well as exposition is called for. [42]

If we examine these various theories in relation to each other it quickly appears that those in the novels are more highly wrought, more developed, than anything that survives of Joyce’s personal comments. It is understandable enough that Stephen’s remarks in the Portrait should have led to an inflation of their value as a general aesthetic and some not very convincing applications of them to Joyce’s work. But even on a casual reading, Stephen’s character in the Portrait ought to provoke a certain caution about his theories. His emancipation from his society, for example, is clearly less assured than he supposes, and despite his citation of Aquinas in support of his aesthetic, the forms in which his imagination actually expresses itself seem more like those of a late nineteenth-century aesthete than a tough-minded, twentieth-century neo-Thomist. He is obviously not to be identified with the artist as an older man. If we look at Joyce’s other novels, moreover, we also notice that Stephen is portrayed with far less irony in Stephen Hero and with a far more complex irony in Ulysses. This general difference is reflected in the differences between the theories he propounds in each work, differences important not only for their theoretical implications but also for their dramatic implications about the novel in which they appear. In other words, if we put the theory in the Portrait side by side with those in the notebooks and Joyce’s other writings and Stephen Here, and press certain problems they raise, we can hardly avoid concluding that the theory Stephen advances in the Portrait is not a satisfactory aesthetic in itself, that its force in the novel is not so much philosophical as dramatic, and that it awaits completion and rectification by the views he advances in Ulysses. The theory in the Portrait serves to reveal not so much the nature of art as the nature of Stephen Dedalus; and to miss this, or to attempt to assess Joyce’s work by the theory as he there presents it, is inevitably to distort his artistic achievement.

Before examining the theory, however, it is probably as well to clarify right at the start two or three other common assumptions about it and about Joyce’s art. The first is that, whatever difficulties we find in Stephen’s views, Joyce’s own theory is all of a piece, and was so from the very beginning, and that to discover what it is, all we need do is simply find the common denominators in his various formulations, supply the assumptions that will reconcile them together, and interpret the result to taste. The second [43] assumption is that this underlying aesthetic is specifically Thomist, or neo-Thomist, and that what Stephen Dedalus says in various places is “correctly” interpreted as what Aquinas meant or what others have since constructed on a foundation of his ideas. Both assumptions are highly questionable. To take only one example: it is true, as any examination of the theories quickly reveals, that the notion of what Joyce called “epiphanies”, which is touched on in Stephen Hero (but nowhere else, and never explicitly developed), is essential to any aesthetic attributable to Joyce himself. It is also true that the theory in the Portrait is crippled by the omission of the concept (or something like it), while the more satisfactory theory in Ulysses depends upon it. But the concept as it is assumed in Ulysses is rather different from the form in which it is mentioned in Stephen Hero, and if we wish to understand Joyce’s own views we ought to take that difference into account. We may, for whatever reasons, prefer the early formulation with its vaguely metaphysical flavour (although personally I do not), but we cannot reasonably presume that it represents Joyce’s own, real and always consistent view. But the real importance of this is its bearing on the second assumption. Although the notion of “epiphanies” is of central importance, some critics have tried to add it to Joyce’s other aesthetic theories by supplying him with a gratuitous metaphysical system, and interpreting “epiphanies”, as well as the terms Stephen explicitly borrows from Aquinas, in a fully Scholastic sense. Despite his Scholastic terminology, Joyce’s aesthetic is not strictly Theorist at all. Nor is there any real evidence whatever that he gave any of his aesthetic terms a theological meaning, or that he intended at any stage to reveal through art the ordered spiritual vision of Christianity. He may never have cast off the effect of his religion even though he rejected it, or escaped the influence of his Jesuit teachers; on the other hand, his reading in Aquinas seems to have been private and idiosyncratic, and certainly not undertaken in pursuit of a Catholic philosophy. Joyce was never a philosopher of any kind, and we must not read too much into what he actually wrote for the sake of making it consonant with what we perhaps feel he ought to have written.

Another temptation, closely connected with this, is to overemphasise Stephen’s theological analogies. In the course of his discussion, both in the Portrait and again in Ulysses, he compares the artist with God; and though the insights his analogies are designed to illuminate are better postponed until later chapters, it is probably as well to insist at the beginning that his analogies are only analogies, not identifications. He is not arguing from art to religion, as is sometimes thought; he is advancing aesthetic doctrines, not metaphysics. When he compares the (limited) autonomy of art and of the human artist to the (unlimited) autonomy of God, we ought not suppose that his metaphor elevates the one to the place of the other or was meant to. Again, if he sometimes uses phrases or doctrines of doubtful religious orthodoxy, this may perhaps shock some people (as no doubt the aggressive young Stephen intended), but it does not necessarily invalidate his point about art. The foundations of his theory do not lie in his theological analogies, which are more expository devices than experiential premises, and we have to ask what purpose they serve, what point Stephen is really making, before assuming that his unorthodoxy is a dramatic hint from Joyce that his character’s theory is completely wrong. The difficulty with Stephen’s theories, indeed, is that they are not wrong in any simple, black-ard-white sense at all; he is always at least partly right. The weaknesses are a matter of his emphasis - what he neglects, what he over-stresses, what he therefore distorts.

At bottom, both Joyce and Stephen are concerned with one main set of aesthetic problems; the relations between art and life, or (in slightly different terms) between the artist-as-man and the artist-as-artist. These are inevitably among the central problems of any aesthetic in our post-Romantic era, and they admit of no easy, universal solution. On the one hand, the desire to dissociate art and life has an obvious motive and an obvious validity - a work of art is not properly the direct expression of social or personal attitudes, and not therefore to be estimated simply as a social or psychological or moral epiphenomenon. It exists in its own right and demands a response in its own terms. On the other hand, the desire to relate art and life is no less necessary and no less valid - a work of art is a human artifact and it necessarily exists in a social context. Looking back over the various attempts of the last century and a half to satisfy these apparently conflicting impulses, we may at least say that either impulse alone is likely to emasculate art or to pervert its integrity unless checked [45] by the motives and insights that prompt the other. The difficulties of the artist himself in coming to terms with a society that all too crudely demands his service or all too easily provokes his rejection - difficulties from which perhaps no significant artist since Blake has been free -= serve only to heighten the theoretical confusions. Joyce himself offers a classical example of the issues, and all the more so since he was so conscious of them and tried, in the dramatic figure of Stephen Dedalus, at once to present them and to work out a solution. And although the terms in which he did so can be assessed only in a detailed analysis of his art, these issues constitute the broad underlying significance of Stephen’s theorizing, and particularly of the most marked change of emphasis discernible between his views in the Portrait and those in Ulysses.


In the former novel, Stephen is intent on the dissociation of art and life, on the autonomy and integrity of the work of art in itself. In the course of his argument, however, he conspicuously underestimates the other side of the matter: the positive relations between the work of art and the life from which it springs, which it engages in others, and which it expresses in its own terms. The result is that what he says is largely disabled by what he omits. As it stands, his theory lapses all too readily into a barren formalism encouraging a purely internal analysis of works of art, a concentration on their patterns of organization to the exclusion of questions of imaginative depth and value. (Indeed, to view Joyce’s own art through the theory in the Portrait would lead to just that kind of formalistic analysis and evasion of judgment it has received from some of its commentators.) Up to a point, Stephen’s supplementary theory of aesthetic Forms - “lyrical”, “epical” and “dramatic” - is an attempt to fill this gap; but in so far as it is, it remains strikingly inconsistent with his more extended, and obviously more personally important, theory of beauty and art. The theory of forms really foreshadows what he attempts in Ulysses - and for this reason I have reserved treatment of it until Chapter III and (more thoroughly) Chapter VI: to understand it fully requires a context larger than that provided by the Portrait alone. But this being the case, it is also quite clear that the views in Ulysses make no complete break with the earlier ones. On the contrary, they partly assume them even while they reveal their inadequacy - just at the crucial points, indeed, [46] where we might expect the immature and incautious Stephen to be inadequate. Consequently, although the theory in Ulysses is more adequate, it does not in itself form a completely satisfactory aesthetic either. Its greater strength lies rather in its correction of the earlier unbalance, its firmer grasp on the subtle, complex relations of art, artist and society - an insight that, theoretical though it is, nevertheless marks a significant shift from one book to the other.

There are three major, interretated problems that Stephen fails to solve in his theory in the Portrait, problems that arise from and reflect his wider attitudes: the relation between aesthetic value and moral judgement; the difference between aesthetic beauty and natural beauty; and the relation between aeshetic form and aesthetic meaning. In each case, to follow out his ideas is tot find ourselves reach the impasse of his immaturity. [...; 47.]

As soon as Stephen starts talking in his paper about the poet as the “mediator between the world of his experience and the world of dreams” (SH, p.65), we recognise the characteristic Shelleyan flavour. It is absurd, says Stephen, for “a criticism itself established upon homilies to prohibit the elective courses of the artist in his revelation of the beautiful.” - the emphasis [59] is Stephen’s. We are told that “every age must look for its sanction to its poets and philosophers”; that the poet is the “intense centre of the life of his age”; that,”he alone is capable of absorbing in himself the life that surrounds him and of flinging it abroad again amid planetary music”; that critics must set their calculations by the “poetic phenomenon”.

It is time for them to acknowledge that here the imagination has contemplated intensely the truth of the being of the visible world and that beauty, the splendour of truth, has been born. The age, though it bury itself fathoms deep in formulas and machinery, has need of these realities which alone give and sustain life and it must await from those chosen centres of vivification the force to live, the security for life which can come to it only from them. Thus the spirit of man makes a continual affirmation.

Thus he also distinguishes between mere “literature” and “poetry”, the one concerned with the “manners and customs of societies”, the externals, and the other with the essential and “unalterable laws” of society’s

The artist has “twin faculties, a selective faculty and a reproductive faculty”. He has to “disentangle the subtle soul of the image from its mesh of defining circurnstances” - to catch what he elsewhere calls an “epiphany” - and to “re-embody” it in the most suitable artistic circumstances. This language is far from exact, of course, and the difficulties it raises are never discussed, but it is sufficient for Stephen’s next major point-an attack on the “romantic temper”. This is the artistic attitude that finds “no fit abode here for its ideals and chooses therefore to behold them under insensible figures”; the attitude, presumably, that damages a good deal of Shelley’s own work and some of the French Symbolists’, by producing remote, unsubstantial images whose feet never quite touch the ground. The dangers of the romantic temper, says Stephen, are to be remedied by the adoption of the “classical style”. The classical temper, in opposition to the romantic, “chooses rather to bend upon these present things and so to work upon them and fashion them that the quick intelligence may go beyond them to their meaning which is still unuttered”.

In other words, Stephen like the young Joyce himself is advocating art that combines an intense concern with values, so that it becomes an imaginative “criticism of life”, with a technique [60] firmly based upon a realistic fidelity to ordinary experience. “Life”, as Joyce said in “Drama and Life”, “we must accept as we see it before our eyes, men and women as we meet them in the real world, not as we apprehend them in the world of faery” (Critical Writings, p.45). It is hardly surprising therefore that Joyce the Romantic rebel felt more at home with the art of Ibsen than with that of his Irish contemporaries at the turn of the century or with the kind of poetry that Stephen in the Portrait composes. The artist had to recognize the wider meaning and implications of his art; his devotion to it had to be in the interests of “spiritual truth” and “affirmation”. A mere aesthete, as he said in The Day of the Rabblement, “has a floating will” (Gorman, P. 72). Ibsen combined the artist’s “lofty impersonal power” with an admirably “classical” technique. In contrast, George Russell, as reported in Ullysses, advocates “formless spiritual essence?’ as the proper substance of art. Stephen’s unspoken response to him there - “Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past” - is in part a demand for the discipline of a technique committed to everyday life. But since Stephen has by that stage reached a rather maturer awareness of the same problems the young Joyce also had to face, it is also something more.

Returning to the Portrait with all this in mind, we find one of Stephen’s remarks there particularly revealing. Speaking of his theory of beauty, he adds:

So far as this side of esthetic philosophy extends, Aquinas will carry me all along the line. When we come to the phenomena of artistic conception, artistic gestation and artistic reproduction I require a new terminology and a new personal experience. (238)

On the other hand, he obviously does not see the difficulties into which his “pennyworths of wisdom” from St Thomas have led him. Nor does he see how much more acute those difficulties are made by his adopting casual ideas from St Thomas without adopting the metaphysics that give the ideas coherence. Thus the problem of the poetic meaning and truth of art is capable of some kind of solution if we hold a philosophy that gives “intelligibility” a metaphysical range: if we believe, that is, that the intelligibility of art ought to reveal and reflect the intelligibility inherent in all things in the world. A Thomist aesthetic could be [61] developed in this way (as Maritain, for one, shows - Art and Scholasticism, 1930, trans. J. F. Scanlan); and Hermeticism or Neo-Platonism or some kinds of Symbolism or Transcendentalism encourage the same approach too. But unless we foist a philosophy of this kind upon Stephen, or upon Joyce, the theory in the Portrait remains cripplingly limited.

The fact is. however, that neither Joyce nor Stephen accepts any such metaphysical philosophy. If there are vestigial traces of Shelleyan Platonism in the paper in Stephen Hero they are clearly out of place beside the arguments for “the classical temper”, and in Ulysses, we find, the whole argument is reformulated precisely in order to avoid the slightest suggestion that art reflects some other metaphysical world. And even in the Portrait Stephen’s attitude is perfectly clear and definite. He dismisses some possible interpretations of what Aquinas meant by claritas and (although he is probably wrong about Aquinas) his reasons for doing so are of the highest importance:

It would lead you to believe that he had in mind symbolism or idealism, the supreme quality of beauty being a light from some other world, the idea of which the matter is but the shadow, the reality of which it is but the symbol. I thought he might mean that claritas is the artistic discovery and representation of the divine purpose in anything or a force of generalization which would make the esthetic image a universal one, make it outshine its proper conditions. (242)

He rejects all these interpretations, and since he consistently stands by his rejection, since it is also the attitude of Stephen Hero, and since it is even elaborated still further in Ulysses, we must take it, I believe, as Joyce’s rejection too. We could say, indeed, that it is a premise of the whole art of Ulysses itself, a corollary (though as put here, only a negative one) of “the classical temper”. Joyce never believed that art represents ideas that can be extraneously formulated, or some supernatural “Reality”. He is obviously at one with Stephen at least in trying to prevent art from disappearing altogether into any ethical or social or scientific or metaphysical Truth it is supposed to serve.

But if we can appreciate the force both of Stephen’s rejection in the Portrait and of his contempt for the enormous pretensions, the “literary talk”, of some of the Symbolist theories of the time, we have to admit that the mere rejection, however just it may be, is not enough. The basic problem still remains. Correct up to a point, but with a still limited insight into the issues he raises, [62] he seems to suggest that if a work of art had any kind of universal meaning it would “outshine its proper conditions”. The old term “universality” may be inadequate, but to put nothing in its place is again to cut art off from life altogether.

Of course, we could do what many of Joyce’s critics do, and save Stephen’s theory by interpreting it in the light of - or rather, by conflating it with - ideas from outside the Portrait. Some want to add the notion of “epiphany” from Stephen Hero to give a moral content to claritas (e.g., Frank Kermode); some want to add emotions, attitudes, values, to give content to consonantia and stasis’ (e.g., Rudd Fleming); some want to add Aristotelian or Thomist metaphysics to give meaning to “intelligibility”. (Hugh Kenner, Dublin’s Joyce, p.148; see note, infra.) But whether these are acceptable as Joyce’s views or not (and I hope that even so brief an examination of his writings will have suggested which are and which are not), all these interpretations import ideas into the Portrait, all add to what Joyce makes Stephen actually say. What is even more important, however, all such additions finally result in obscuring the crucial dramatic logic of the theory in both the Portrait and in Ulysses as well. For Joyce clearly limits Stephen’s understanding of art just as he limits his understanding of life; what Stephen does not see about the one is what he does not know of the other. And his explicit rejection of any metaphysical view of art is significant just because it does lead him to an impasse, to a central problem he has to face as soon as he realizes what it is, just as Joyce himself had to face it: how does art have moral significance and of what kind? how, indeed, do any of our activities have moral significance, and of what kind? These are necessarily the questions he confronts in Ulysses. (p.63.)

[...]

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. [...; p.320; return to text.]

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Chapter II: Art and Life - The Aesthetic of the Portrait
As soon as Stephen starts talking in his paper about the poet as the “mediator between the world of his experience and the world of dreams” (SH, p.65), we recognise the characteristic Shelleyan flavour. It is absurd, says Stephen, for “a criticism itself established upon homilies to prohibit the elective courses of the artist in his revelation of the beautiful.” - the emphasis [59] is Stephen’s. We are told that “every age must look for its sanction to its poets and philosophers”; that the poet is the “intense centre of the life of his age”; that,”he alone is capable of absorbing in himself the life that surrounds him and of flinging it abroad again amid planetary music”; that critics must set their calculations by the “poetic phenomenon”.

It is time for them to acknowledge that here the imagination has contemplated intensely the truth of the being of the visible world and that beauty, the splendour of truth, has been born. The age, though it bury itself fathoms deep in formulas and machinery, has need of these realities which alone give and sustain life and it must await from those chosen centres of vivification the force to live, the security for life which can come to it only from them. Thus the spirit of man makes a continual affirmation.

Thus he also distinguishes between mere “literature” and “poetry”, the one concerned with the “manners and customs of societies”, the externals, and the other with the essential and “unalterable laws” of society’s

The artist has “twin faculties, a selective faculty and a reproductive faculty”. He has to “disentangle the subtle soul of the image from its mesh of defining circurnstances” - to catch what he elsewhere calls an “epiphany” - and to “re-embody” it in the most suitable artistic circumstances. This language is far from exact, of course, and the difficulties it raises are never discussed, but it is sufficient for Stephen’s next major point-an attack on the “romantic temper”. This is the artistic attitude that finds “no fit abode here for its ideals and chooses therefore to behold them under insensible figures”; the attitude, presumably, that damages a good deal of Shelley’s own work and some of the French Symbolists’, by producing remote, unsubstantial images whose feet never quite touch the ground. The dangers of the romantic temper, says Stephen, are to be remedied by the adoption of the “classical style”. The classical temper, in opposition to the romantic, “chooses rather to bend upon these present things and so to work upon them and fashion them that the quick intelligence may go beyond them to their meaning which is still unuttered”.

In other words, Stephen like the young Joyce himself is advocating art that combines an intense concern with values, so that it becomes an imaginative “criticism of life”, with a technique [60] firmly based upon a realistic fidelity to ordinary experience. “Life”, as Joyce said in “Drama and Life”, “we must accept as we see it before our eyes, men and women as we meet them in the real world, not as we apprehend them in the world of faery” (Critical Writings, p.45). It is hardly surprising therefore that Joyce the Romantic rebel felt more at home with the art of Ibsen than with that of his Irish contemporaries at the turn of the century or with the kind of poetry that Stephen in the Portrait composes. The artist had to recognize the wider meaning and implications of his art; his devotion to it had to be in the interests of “spiritual truth” and “affirmation”. A mere aesthete, as he said in The Day of the Rabblement, “has a floating will” (Gorman, P. 72). Ibsen combined the artist’s “lofty impersonal power” with an admirably “classical” technique. In contrast, George Russell, as reported in Ullysses, advocates “formless spiritual essence?’ as the proper substance of art. Stephen’s unspoken response to him there - “Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past” - is in part a demand for the discipline of a technique committed to everyday life. But since Stephen has by that stage reached a rather maturer awareness of the same problems the young Joyce also had to face, it is also something more.

Returning to the Portrait with all this in mind, we find one of Stephen’s remarks there particularly revealing. Speaking of his theory of beauty, he adds:

So far as this side of esthetic philosophy extends, Aquinas will carry me all along the line. When we come to the phenomena of artistic conception, artistic gestation and artistic reproduction I require a new terminology and a new personal experience. (238)

On the other hand, he obviously does not see the difficulties into which his “pennyworths of wisdom” from St Thomas have led him. Nor does he see how much more acute those difficulties are made by his adopting casual ideas from St Thomas without adopting the metaphysics that give the ideas coherence. Thus the problem of the poetic meaning and truth of art is capable of some kind of solution if we hold a philosophy that gives “intelligibility” a metaphysical range: if we believe, that is, that the intelligibility of art ought to reveal and reflect the intelligibility inherent in all things in the world. A Thomist aesthetic could be [61] developed in this way (as Maritain, for one, shows - Art and Scholasticism, 1930, trans. J. F. Scanlan); and Hermeticism or Neo-Platonism or some kinds of Symbolism or Transcendentalism encourage the same approach too. But unless we foist a philosophy of this kind upon Stephen, or upon Joyce, the theory in the Portrait remains cripplingly limited.

The fact is. however, that neither Joyce nor Stephen accepts any such metaphysical philosophy. If there are vestigial traces of Shelleyan Platonism in the paper in Stephen Hero they are clearly out of place beside the arguments for “the classical temper”, and in Ulysses, we find, the whole argument is reformulated precisely in order to avoid the slightest suggestion that art reflects some other metaphysical world. And even in the Portrait Stephen’s attitude is perfectly clear and definite. He dismisses some possible interpretations of what Aquinas meant by claritas and (although he is probably wrong about Aquinas) his reasons for doing so are of the highest importance:

It would lead you to believe that he had in mind symbolism or idealism, the supreme quality of beauty being a light from some other world, the idea of which the matter is but the shadow, the reality of which it is but the symbol. I thought he might mean that claritas is the artistic discovery and representation of the divine purpose in anything or a force of generalization which would make the esthetic image a universal one, make it outshine its proper conditions. (242)

He rejects all these interpretations, and since he consistently stands by his rejection, since it is also the attitude of Stephen Hero, and since it is even elaborated still further in Ulysses, we must take it, I believe, as Joyce’s rejection too. We could say, indeed, that it is a premise of the whole art of Ulysses itself, a corollary (though as put here, only a negative one) of “the classical temper”. Joyce never believed that art represents ideas that can be extraneously formulated, or some supernatural “Reality”. He is obviously at one with Stephen at least in trying to prevent art from disappearing altogether into any ethical or social or scientific or metaphysical Truth it is supposed to serve.

But if we can appreciate the force both of Stephen’s rejection in the Portrait and of his contempt for the enormous pretensions, the “literary talk”, of some of the Symbolist theories of the time, we have to admit that the mere rejection, however just it may be, is not enough. The basic problem still remains. Correct up to a point, but with a still limited insight into the issues he raises, [62] he seems to suggest that if a work of art had any kind of universal meaning it would “outshine its proper conditions”. The old term “universality” may be inadequate, but to put nothing in its place is again to cut art off from life altogether.

Of course, we could do what many of Joyce’s critics do, and save Stephen’s theory by interpreting it in the light of - or rather, by conflating it with - ideas from outside the Portrait. Some want to add the notion of “epiphany” from Stephen Hero to give a moral content to claritas (e.g., Frank Kermode); some want to add emotions, attitudes, values, to give content to consonantia and stasis’ (e.g., Rudd Fleming); some want to add Aristotelian or Thomist metaphysics to give meaning to “intelligibility”. (Hugh Kenner, Dublin’s Joyce, p.148; see note, infra.) But whether these are acceptable as Joyce’s views or not (and I hope that even so brief an examination of his writings will have suggested which are and which are not), all these interpretations import ideas into the Portrait, all add to what Joyce makes Stephen actually say. What is even more important, however, all such additions finally result in obscuring the crucial dramatic logic of the theory in both the Portrait and in Ulysses as well. For Joyce clearly limits Stephen’s understanding of art just as he limits his understanding of life; what Stephen does not see about the one is what he does not know of the other. And his explicit rejection of any metaphysical view of art is significant just because it does lead him to an impasse, to a central problem he has to face as soon as he realizes what it is, just as Joyce himself had to face it: how does art have moral significance and of what kind? how, indeed, do any of our activities have moral significance, and of what kind? These are necessarily the questions he confronts in Ulysses.

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[...]

Chapter III: Art and Freedom - The Aesthetic of Ulysses
[...]

Stephen’s theory is something of a parody of Shakespearian commentaries, but it is also something much more. Continually during the course of the discussion his reflections indicate how deeply he feels the connection with himself. “Elizabethan London lay as far from Stratford as corrupt Paris lies from virgin Dublin” (176/186). He is not seeking mere biographical parallels. What urges him is the need for explanation and understanding of his own situation. His theory is about Shakespeare, but it is also about himself and all other artists too. It is, as it were, a commentary on the myth of Shakespeare, the particular hero in whose story may be found the universal laws that hold for all his type, in whose deeds may be found a universal wisdom. Even though Stephen’s theory seems a mere tour dejorce to his audience, it is a task of self-understanding imposed on him by necessity:

What the hell are you driving at?
I know. Shut up. Blast you! I have reasons.
Amplius. Adhuc. Iterum. Postea.
Are you condemned to do this? (196/205)

The answer to this unspoken question is clearly, yes. The theory itself explains the necessity. When he is challenged, Stephen promptly says he does not believe it, but the reply comes glibly. His silent reflections reveal more than his protective speech - “I believe, 0 Lord, help my unbelief” (202/211). Even if his theory is false in fact it is nevertheless, like the story of Odysseus, metaphysically true - “If we consider the matter well”, says Vico, “poetic truth is metaphysical truth, and physical truth which is not in conformity with it should be considered false.” The case of Hamlet lies at the heart of Ulysses, and Stephen’s argument about it as a work of art explains why. Although the aesthetic theory here is as dramatically “placed” as that in the Portrait, it is not as an ironic emphasis upon the action but as its intellectual principle.

The problem of the “matter” of art is introduced very early in the chapter. Russell cuts across the desultory conversation about Hamlet:

-All these questions are purely academic, Russell oracled out of his shadow. I mean, whether Hamlet is Shakespeare or James I or [67] Essex. Clergymen’s discussions of the historicity of Jesus. Art has to reveal to us ideas, formless spiritual essences. The supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring. The painting of Gustave Moreau is the painting of ideas. The deepest poetry of Shelley, the words of Hamlet bring our minds into contact with the eternal wisdom, Plato’s world of ideas. All the rest is the speculation of schoolboys for schoolboys. (173-4/183)

It is the “dreams and visions in a peasant’s heart” that interest Russell; he is the Platonic Charybdis of the chapter to the Aristotelianism and Scholasticism of Stephen. Stephen does not contradict Russell explicitly or directly. His unspoken rejoinder is his real answer:

Unsheathe your dagger definitions. Horseness is the whatness of allhorse. Streams of tendency and cons they worship. God: noise in the street: very peripatetic. Space: what you damn well have to see. Through spaces smaller than red globules of man’s blood they creepycrawl after Blake’s buttocks into eternity of which this vegetable world is but a shadow. Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past. (174-5/184)

In other words, it is a disagreement about the substance of art and, with that, about Reality as well. To Russell art is a direct communication with a world more real than this, an ideal world of pure essences. Since the flesh and blood with which the artist may clothe his ideas are less real, they are inferior, not necessary, and therefore irrelevant to his main concerns. The aim of art is to bring the mind of the reader also into communication with the, world of ideas, and this is done by a direct revelation of that world. The artist is only a medium, a middleman through whom the minds of other men may reach the world of Forms. The nature of the artist, his limitations, his name, are all irrelevant since these play no essential part in his artistic function. He is a kind anonymous Aeolian lyre, visited by an inspiration he cannot, understand but whose direction he must obey.

Much of this may seem to put words into Russell’s mouth, but it is impossible not to recall the essay on “Art and Life” in Stephen Hero where Stephen, in adopting Shelley’s views on the visionary rôle of the imagination - a romanticism that applied to the social function of art - had insisted at the same time on the discipline of the “classical temper”, by which he had meant a deep and vital concern with the here and the now. Once again [68] after disappearing from the Portrait, where the whole tendency of the argument is to preserve art from subservience to distant “Realities”, this line of thought appears in Ulysses, but in a more subtle and far-reaching form. Stephen’s objections to “Platonism” now go further than to mere questions of style; they involve a different philosophical outlook. His earlier formula - that the artist is a “mediator between the world of his experience and the world of his dreams” - expresses something of his objection to Russell, but it is inadequate for all that he means. In the discussion on Shakespeare and Hamlet he attempts to make his deeper meaning clear - mainly to himself.

The course his argument takes is not designed to make the essentials stand out; it is dramatically presented, and we realize that the central points of the argument strike too close to Stephen’s self for him to have given them open expression. In following the argument, therefore, we have to rearrange it and supply the connections between conclusions Stephen merely asserts. The real clues are his unspoken reflections, the odd phrases from Aristotle or Aquinas that indicate the drift of his thought. If once we catch that drift, however, his argument leads from this first disagreement with Russell to the nature of artistic freedom. And like a good Aristotelian, he drops the phrase about the artist’s dreams. He assumes that the world the artist knows is the world of his experience-the macrocosm outside, and the microcosm within. And like a good Aristotelian again, he argues that the artist himself is his world, that macrocosm and microcosm are for the artist one and the same. The artist himself stands at the centre of Stephen’s theory; art is for him personal expression and at the same time objective (though not necessarily representational) “truth”.

Once again Stephen’s point of departure is the same as in the Portrait: the Scholastic theory of knowledge. For Aquinas, as for Aristotle, man can have no direct intuition of forms or essences. He cannot know in the manner of God and the angels, whose knowledge is a direct apprehension of the proper nature (or quiddities) of things. Man forms concepts, reaches true knowledge of essences, only by the aid of his one direct contact with reality-his senses. The foundation of this theory of knowledge, and the foundation of Stephen’s own treatment of aesthetic apprehension in the Portrait, is the principle Nihil est intellect nisi prius fuerit in sensu. The first stage of human apprehension is the distinguishing and organizing of sense-impressions by the sensitive soul, the apprehension of the object as a sensible thing, “selfbounded and selfcontained”, as Stephen magniloquently puts it, “upon the immeasurable background of space or time which is not it” (Portrait, p.241). The second stage is the mind’s action upon this sensible aspect of the object, and its abstraction from it of its intelligible structure: a stage that roughly corresponds with what Stephen describes as the perception of consonantia. But where Stephen had fumbled over the later stages of aesthetic apprehension in the Portrait, he now seems to revert to the more satisfactory, though still vaguely formulated, insight expressed in Stephen Hero. To understand what the notion of epiphany properly means - a meaning that Stephen now, but only now, tacitly assumes - we must turn to the remaining aspects of the Thomist theory of knowledge. For Aquinas, the whole act of knowledge concludes when the mind, which is both an active principle and also a potentiality of knowing all things, takes possession of the intelligible structure, apprehends the nature of the object, and now realizes and expresses its intellectual perception in a concept. It thus forms a word, and by this means it can communicate its understanding to others. Language is the product, or rather the expression, of the whole process of apprehension. Of course, only the concept that the mind judges as true - i.e. as exhibiting to the mind’s self-conscious scrutiny a conformity between itself and the object - becomes knowledge, and it is this that Stephen takes as the material of art: the artist’s knowledge of ordinary reality now and here.

Stephen’s disagreement with Russell. clearly cuts deeper than mere matters of style. He is maintaining that the particulars of experience can no more be ignored by the artist than by other men, for the mind apprehends truth only through contact with them. The forms of things can be known only in and through their sensible aspects. As Aquinas puts it,

the proper object of the human intellect, which is united to a body, is a quiddity or nature existing in corporeal matter; and through such natures of visible things it rises to a certain knowledge of things invisible. ... For the intellect to understand actually its proper object, it must of necessity turn to the phantasms [i.e. images retained by the imagination and the memory] in order to perceive the universal [70] nature existing in the individual. But if the proper object of our intellect were a separate form; or if, as the Platonists say, the natures of sensible things subsisted apart from the individual; there would be no need for the intellect to turn to the phantasms whenever it understands (Summa Theologica, Ia, lxxxiv, 7; trans. by Fathers of the English Dominican Province, 22 vols, London; n.d.)

The artist can have no direct knowledge of “spiritual essences”, no intuition of the true nature of things apart from the things themselves. The world of here and now is itself the only door to its meaning. Stephen does not deny that the artist seeks to know and express what appear to him the essential natures of things; in this respect his argument is again closer to that in Stephen Hero than that in the Portrait. His difference with Russell is about what epiphanies are, and so about the conditions under which they may be apprehended and expressed in art. The contemplative philosopher strives to reach the rare, purely intellectual vision of the forms and principles of reality abstracted from all sensible particulars. But even if the artist - like all men - naturally strives to the same end, he cannot as artist neglect the very nature and material of his art. The knowledge he requires is not of abstractions but of things, of individuals. It is because he had dimly realized this that Stephen had defined art in the Portrait as the disposition of “sensible or intelligible matter” and had described it as the expression “From sound and shape and colour which are the prison gates of our soul, [of] an image of the beauty we have come to understand” (235). The artist tries to apprehend the nature, the meaning, of things - epiphanies - but not what Russell calls “formless spiritual essences”. As a man he cannot think without recourse to images of sense; as an artist, endeavouring to impart knowledge of individual things and people, he is especially bound to use “sensible matter” to convey his “intelligible matter”. The artist is like the lover; both must descend to particulars

Which sense may reach and apprehend, Else a great Prince in prison lies.

Russell’s attitude violates at once the nature of man and the nature of art. No one - and especially no artist - can rely on communications relayed through the “yogibogeybox”. [71]

But Stephen carries the argument further - from the nature of human knowledge in general to a special act of knowledge: knowledge of oneself. And this brings us not only to the reasons for his curious theory of Hamlet but also to the reasons why the argument is central to Ulysses - to the connection between art and freedom, between the stasis of the artist’s work and the stasis of his spirit.

The clue to Stephen’s direction is his unspoken reflection, which echoes his thoughts during the history lesson he had given earlier in the morning - “But I, entelechy, form of forms, am I by memory because under everchanging forms” (178:23/187:26-7.) For Aristotle and his Scholastic followers, knowledge is the human soul in act, a realization of a potency, a perfecting. Man is distinguished from other creatures by the nature of his form or soul. In him it includes but transcends the sensitive soul of the animal; he alone is distinguished by his mind or intellect, his rational soul. Like all material things and creatures, he is composed of matter and form. To say that a thing is animate is to say that its matter is more highly informed than that of an inanimate thing. Man is so highly informed that he is selfdetermining. His soul-of a “slow and dark birth”, as Stephen puts it in the Portrait, “more mysterious than the birth of the body” - is the principle of his individual being as a person. The sensitive soul of an animal can act only through the physical organs of the animal, which has no other life than that of the senses and appetites. The rational soul of man, however, although it needs the senses to provide it with the objects of its operationi.e. the objects of its knowledge or understanding-nevertheless operates without their aid, for the intellect knows its objects as intelligibles. Moreover, since it is regarded as standing to its knowledge in the relation of potency to act, the human soul may be said to possess an infinite capacity for knowledge of the material universe. The soul is the principle of the human being; its proper end is knowledge; and in the act of knowledge the being fulfils itself-this is the heart of its life. To start with, of course, it knows nothing-it is like a blank page on which nothing is as yet written but on which is potentially written everything. The potentiality of the soul is successively actuated, progressively fulfilled in the achievement of knowledge. The record of our acts of understanding would thus be the record of the fulfilments [72] of our soul. Our complete biography would have to include acts of perception perhaps, and certainly acts of will, habits and the like, but since the soul is most fully actuated in knowledge of truth it is acts of knowledge that form the most important aspect of a man’s life.

On this view, knowledge is an activity that ends in a kind of possession. The mind reaches out and takes into its own life the form of the thing known, and in doing so it takes on that form itself. It becomes the form of the object, as it were. The subject and object are united in a single reality, a single form, which is at once the actualization of the object-as-knowable and of the subject-as-knower. The object cannot be known nor can the subject know except in relation to each other; the unity they achieve in the form of the object is the actual knowledge. Since the mind is capable of becoming all the forms in the material universe and in so doing actualizing its own potentialities, it may be said to be the form of forms. As Aristotle puts it, the soul is in a way all existing things; for existing things are either sensible or thinkable, and knowledge is in a way what is knowable, and sensation is in a way what is sensible: in what way we must inquire.

Knowledge and sensation are divided to correspond with the realities, potential knowledge and sensation answering to potentialities, actual knowledge and sensation to actualities. Within the soul the faculties of knowledge and sensation are potentially these objects, the one what is knowable, the other what is sensible. They must be either the things themselves or their forms. The former alternative is of course impossible: it is not the stone which is present in the soul but its form.

It follows that the soul is analogous to the hand; for as the hand is a tool of tools, so the mind is the form of forms and sense the form of sensible things. (De Anima, 43 1b-432a; trans. by W. D. Ross, 2 vols., Oxford, 1928-52.)

What is known by the intellect is not the complete being of the object of course, but only its abstracted form. The intellect cannot know the form, again, without the phantasms of sense to aid it. What Aristotle says here must be read with the qualification that in the object itself the form is embodied in matter, that it is also a sensible object.

It is this passage that Stephen recalls in his reflections. During the history lesson earlier in the day he had mused on time as the process of actualizing the potential or possible - a thought that now recurs in the library scene (182/191). He had gone on to [73] recall the moment in his own past when he sat reading in a Paris library, all the world he was to meet in the future lying in the darkness of his soul’s potentiality

in my mind’s darkness a sloth of the underworld, reluctant, shy of brightness, shifting her dragon scaly folds. Thought is the thought of thought. Tranquil brightness. The soul is in a manner all that is: the soul is the form of forms. Tranquillity sudden, vast, candescent: form offorms. (23/26-7)

The idea is clear enough even in Aristotelian terms: a man’s experience actualizes the potentialities of his soul as itjoins with and takes on the forms of all the successive objects he comes to know. The development of the soul is thus the sequence of the epiphanies it discovers. [...] (pp.74.)

Chap. IV: The Modes of Irony in Ulysses [...]
Lewis’s basic charge is that Ulysses exhibits “a certain deadness, a lack of nervous power, an aversion to anything suggesting animal vigour”. Underneath its glittering surface it is merely an enormous accumulation of matter, a nightmare of the naturalistic method, an “immense nature-morte”. The fault is more than a technical one, for the book not merely represents, it also unconsciously reflects, a mechanically conceived world. Joyce delights in hunting down verbal clichés “like fleas”, but his characters are most of them mechanical “walking clichés” too - Bloom a stage Jew, Mulligan a stage Irishman, Haines a stage Anglo-Saxon, and Stephen an impossibly stagy “poet” whose affectations of superiority are ridiculous. Although he tells us so much about them, Joyce fails to bring them to life: “where a multitude of little details or some obvious idiosyncrasy are concerned, he may be said to be observant; but the secret of an entire organism escapes him”. Lewis will have none of the usual formulas about Joyce’s achievement. Claims for his impersonality in the presentation of the characters are absurd since “there are no persons to speak of for the author to be ‘impersonal’ about. ... Ulysses is a highly romantic self-portrait of the mature Joyce (disguised as a Jew) and of his adolescent self; luckily, Bloom-Joyce is a more likable fellow than Stephen-Joyce. Similarly, Lewis dismisses the claim that Bloom is a great portrait of l’homme moyen sensuel: Ulysses is simply a re-doing of Bouvard et Pécuchet. As for the Homeric framework, “that is only an entertaining structural device or conceit”. Joyce’s real distinction, when it is all boiled down, is merely his technical virtuosity - his brilliant parodies, his exploitation of clichés, his encyclopaedic resourcefulness in techniques of narration. He is, Lewis concludes, “essentially the craftsman”, and it is the craftsman in him that is alone alive and progressive; as a man he is still “a ‘young man’ in some way embalmed”.

This, we might say, is the classic case against Ulysses by those [102] who take Bloom and Stephen as heroes without irony, and it is a formidable one. Mr Kenner sets out the classic reply. His tactics are those of judo: he adds momentum to Lewis’s attack only to turn him neatly on his head. Very generally, Mr Kenner’s case is that Ulysses is mechanical, the characters are clichés, it is an appalling nature-morte - but Joyce meant it so. It is all ironical.

He begins by assuming, quite rightly, what Wyndham Lewis might have realized - that Joyce’s presentation of Dublin, although naturalistic in method, is ironic and critical in effect. Joyce does not merely hold the mirror up to nature; he tries to reveal the meaning of what he portrays, its significance to the spirit. In other words, his naturalism aims not at the “slice of life” but at the “epiphany”. But in so far as he portrays twentieth-century Dublin truly, Mr Kenner argues, he portrays a society in which are incapsulated the traditional values of Christian humanism, though in a debased and well-nigh exhausted form. An objective picture of Dublin, 1904, must include those traces of eighteenth-century Dublin that still remain as mute symbols of the values by which the present corruption may be judged. In this regard, Dublin is not simply a representative European city; Mr Kenner insists that it is a special case. For Dublin, above all cities, he claims, exists most significantly in its love, and exploitation, of language ; Dublin, we might say, is its language.

The rest of his argument is built on these two premises about the incapsulation of the past and the importance of language in Dublin. Dublin is really Mr Kenner’s hero - it is Dublin’s Joyce he sees. In one sense it is clearly true to say, as he does, that “every Dublin phrase has a double focus: the past meaning it locks away, the present vagueness it shapes. It is in language that the dead city is preserved; and it is language that maintains the citizens in deadness” (p.9). It is always true that older values are preserved in the forms of language, and true, too, that many of our contemporary forms of language do express moral or spiritual confusion. It seems only a natural extension of this to claim, therefore, that the subject of Ulysses is “style” and “what style implies” (p.17). But what this leads to is a defence of Joyce’s exploitation of parody and cliché, on the grounds that his linguistic caricatures parody, and at the same time recall, the language of twentieth-century Dublin, which parodies and [...; 103]

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One remarkable thing about his interpretation is the extent to which it leaves Wyndham Lewis’s criticisms intact. For one thing, on Mr Kenner’s reading Ulysses is extraordinarily static. [106] Nothing whatever happens in it. It is only a machine; nothing more can emerge from it than is put it. [. O]ne wonders whether the natural objection to a clockwork book is really answered by the deistical claim that it has a Designer, even if he is an ironically critical one. The common assumption that Ulysses is a complex, symbolic poem, to which the ordinary interests and techniques of the novel are irrelevant, is justifiable only so long as we don not forget that it is also - and rather more obviously - a representational novel, and much, if to most, of its meaning is epxressed in and through it representational mode. It contains “probable” and significant charactres, in a “probable” and significant setting, doing and saying “probable” and significant things, so that it inevitably calls into play those expectations and ssumptions we bring to the novel (as to each literary form0 and which control the way we seek its meaning. Even if Wyndham Lewis misses the point of some of the characters he attacks, Mr Kenner seems equally to miss some of the point behind Lewis’s attack itself.

Another interesting aspect of his interpretation is that, for all his insistence on the difference betweenthe ironical Joyce and the destructive Stephen Dedalus, the two should emerge as so alike. He credits Joyce with an irony so comprehensive and so somplete that it suggestsan attitude towards odern life strikingly similar to Stephen’s scornful rejection - and just about as arid. Joyce’s criticism may be more personally detached, wider in range, deeper in penetration than Stephen’s, yet it always seems to Mr Kenner to operate against his characters and all they represent,. It implies a total repudiation of Industrial man and everything he has spawned. It may be qualified by the recognition of the real values “parodied” by the present collapse, the ideas towards which the characters pathetically gesture, the [107] insights that only serve to imprison them in their present rôles instead of freeing them. Yet as Mr Kenner interprets it, Joyce’s attitude is a kind of Flaubertian, or rather, neo-Augustinian, recoil from modernman and his earthly city, which seems hardly more than another, more modern, variant of the Romanticism exposed in Stephen. One may call Stephen’s attitude a barren isolation and Joyce’s an ironic detachment, but as Mr Kenner presents them they come to pretty much the same thing. It is significant that he should take Joyce’s aesthetic the wrong way - or, rather, interpret it in the light of what he feels Joyce ought to have said. He argues that Joyce’s criticism of the contemporary world is regulated by the vision of a world metaphysically intelligible, of a language metaphysically “true”, of an order supernaturally ordained - in short, that his aesthetic is founded upon Scholastic theology and, in seeking to direct the imaginative vision through his material to the spiritual world it parodies, he exhibits genuine and important affinities with the theoretical aims of some of the French Symbolists. But this is to take Joyce’s Scholastic language and his flirtations with the pseudo-magical aspects of French Symbolism too seriously; as we have seen, there is no warrant for any such theological or metaphysical interpretation of what Joyce (or Stephen) actually says. One can use symbols without being a Symbolist, and Aristotelian or Scholastic language without being a Thomist. We must remember Stephen’s explicit rejection in the Portrait of what he calls “symbolism or idealism” (p.242), and what he says there, together with his argument in “Scylla and Charybdis”, should make us at least wary of ascribing to Joyce the kind of attitude exhibited in, say, The Waste Land and Four Quartets . To criticize the deficiencies of men and institutions does not necessarily involve systematic theological or metaphysical beliefs, nor does it imply a total rejection of this world except as a symbol of another. To press these attitudes on to Joyce is not only to distort the fact of his break with Roman Catholicism, it is also to distort his work.

In fact, as one considers Mr Kenner’s interpretation of Joyce further, it becomes difficult to resist the question, just how ironical can you get? As he sees it, Joyce’s irony is completely pervasive and totally comprehensive; like mock-heroic, it apparently multiplies all the values of Ulysses by -1 [minus one]. The result [108] is like the critical analysis of the student who thought the poem, “A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot”, was intended to be funny: one is spellbound at the perfectly possible vision of what the work might have been. And it has some curious critical consequences, for wherever Joyce’s reader may think the characters or the writing not so impressive as they were intended to be, Mr Kenner is at hand with his irony to transubstantiate all. Sometimes he is clearly right in pointing to irony; on the other hand, he is sometimes merely puzzling. He does not seem to discriminate. Perhaps the most glaring puzzle is his interpretation of Molly Bloom’s final silent soliloquy. Molly is one of Joyce’s more doubtful successes. She has been acclaimed in terms similar to Joyce’s own - “though probably more obscene than any preceding episode it seems to me perfectly sane full amoral fertilisable untrustworthy engaging shrewd limited prudent indifferent Weib. Ich bin das Fleisch das stets bejaht.” [Letters, [Vol. 1], 1957, p.170.] Other readers have felt that Molly is too little realized, too neatly done to a formula, or too fleischig, to make affirmations of any great and convincing significance. But whatever his success with her, Joyce’s intention is surely clear enough. If any reader felt that the final pages of her monologue can be “over-sentimentalized”, one would expect him to raise some doubts about Joyce’s success in artistically embodying his intention. Not so with Mr Kenner. The critical question is diverted by a piece of ingenious interpretation: ‘The “Yes” of consent that kills the soul has darkened the intellect and blunted the moral sense of all Dublin. [...] Her “Yes” is confident and exultant; it is the “Yes” of authority: authority over this animal kingdom of the dead’ (Kenner, Dublin’s Joyce, p.262). Joyce’s irony is so comprehensive that it turns “Yes” into “No”, and so fine that only one reader in ten thousand perceives the fact.

Stephen Dedalus is a more complicated case. Of course, Mr Kenner is certainly right in pointing to the irony with which Joyce views him in both the Portrait and Ulysses. He is something of a humourless and sterile young prig, uncertain of himself, cocksure, too ready to take his alienation as a virtue in itself, scornful, affected, rather absurd. One could make a similar list of Bloom’s limitations and faults, though the list would not be quite so long for that more slippery character. But in perceiving the irony Joyce directs at his heroes, Mr Kenner concludes that he [109] rejects the characters themselves. He assumes that such critical detachment dissolves the object. One need only state the assumption to see its extravagance. It is equally possible, and in Joyce’s work is in fact the case, that irony is a qualifying criticism, which does not imply a total rejection of its object in the least. Irony and sympathetic understanding, or even love, are not necessarily incompatible, nor is there any reason why Stephen’s potentialities as an artist should be dismissed because he is very immature and clearly portrayed as such. To think so is surely to miss Joyce’s point, to ignore the process of growth upon which he insists. One of Mr Kenner’s remarks about the Portrait of the Artist is very revealing of his critical difficulties. Noticing that the emergence of Stephen’s artistic vocation is presented with a certain irony, he concludes that so unpleasant and aesthetic a young man could never have become a real artist. He is a persona Joyce necessarily rejected as futile. But this leaves the problem of what to make of the last section of the novel: “there remains a moral ambiguity (how seriously are we to take Stephen?) which makes the last forty pages painful reading” (p.121). The assumption is that Joyce is repudiating Stephen in toto, that he dropped his persona like a pair of old socks, that it is merely the Portrait of a Young Man. We may admit that the irony is there, that Stephen’s conception of freedom - “silence, exile, and cunning” - is limited and negative, “indigestibly Byronic” as Mr Kenner puts it (p.132). On the other hand, however insufficient Stephen may be, and however limited his understanding, he surely must take the first steps. His ignorance may cripple the aesthetic theory he propounds, but at least he has an inkling that he is ignorant. If the word “life” which he constantly uses seems to mean nothing very definite to him, this does not mean that the immaturity and instability of a young man are necessarily fatal limitations to his development - or that Joyce thought they were. What is interesting and important about the last pages of the Portrait is, in fact, the first glimmering of Stephen’s maturity - signs of the humour that Mr Kenner finds totally missing, and even a significant touch of self-irony:

April 15. Met her today point blank in Grafton Street. The crowd brought us together. We both stopped. She asked me why I never came, said she had heard all sorts of stories about me. This was only to gain time. Asked me was 1 writing poems? About whom? I asked her. [110] This confused her more and I felt sorry and mean. Turned off that valve at once and opened the spiritual-heroic refrigerating apparatus, invented and patented in all countries by Dante Alighieri. Talked rapidly of myself and my plans. In the midst of it unluckily I made a sudden gesture of a revolutionary nature. I must have looked like a fellow throwing a handful of peas into the air. People began to look at us. She shook hands a moment after and, in going away, said she hoped I would do what I said.
Now I call that friendly, don’t you?
Yes, I liked her today. A little or much? Don’t know. I liked her and it seems a new feeling to me. Then, in that case, all the rest, all that I thought I thought and all that I felt I felt, all the rest before now, in fact ... O, give it up, old chap! Sleep it off! (AP287-88)

Perhaps such passages do not amount to much, just as Stephen’s conception of freedom does not amount to much; but to think that Joyce’s irony dissolves it away to nothing is to distort the portrait of a young man fumbling inevitably towards his proper stature as a human being. The irony points the false moves he makes, the “errors” whose successive unfolding forms the underlying structure of the novel. He does not triumph at the end of the novel, nor need we believe that Joyce thought he could. (At that stage Joyce himself did not.) But neither is Stephen necessarily lost forever like Icarus: he is flying high, he will suffer a fall, and in Ulysses will appear in the interesting condition of trying to do something about it. As Stephen says of Shakespeare, his “errors” are really “portals of discovery”.

In much the same way, Mr Kenner seems to misinterpret the play, Exiles, which was written during the time the early parts of Ulysses were being composed. As he points out, it is certainly concerned with moral freedom - more explicitly, in fact, than any other of Joyce’s works. On the other hand, it is probably the least successful of any. It seems to lack the personal detachment, the objective correlative, necessary to realize its meaning clearly and universally, and its flaws make it difficult to interpret. In particular, they make it very difficult to accept its hero, Richard Rowan, as the great and good man he is apparently intended to be. Inevitably we begin to suspect a deep irony on Joyce’s part, a subtle, implicit rejection of his hero. This is Mr Kenner’s view. He pounces on the idealistic “freedom” he takes Richard to represent - that is, mere unconditional impulse divorced from the limitations of fact and the recognition of moral law - and [111] argues that Joyce is exposing its self-defeathing sterility. (p.112.)

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The nature of moral freedom is a central theme not only in Exiles and the Portrait, but also in Ulysses, and it is vitally important to understand the terms in which Joyce conceived it. (p.113.)

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