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Joyce’s Revenge: History, Politics, and Aesthetics in Ulysses

Thursday, September 17, 2009; 03:26 am Leave a comment Go to comments

Andrew Gibson’s Joyce’s Revenge: History, Politics, and Aesthetics in Ulysses employs a historical structure to establish and contextualize Ulysses into the framework of Anglo-Irish relations during the period of 1880-1920.  While acknowledging the elusiveness of its goal, the book attempts to place Joyce’s political commentary into a category wholly detached from existing groups, while analyzing the commentary it provides on said factions, leaders, etc.  While not a firmly linear episode-by-episode account of the book, it moves more or less chronologically through Ulysses, though some topics such as Shakespeare and Judaism are given a more in-depth analysis.

The book draws heavily on historical sources regarding Ireland and also on sources written by Joyce himself.  An important critic which Gibson draws on is John Eglinton (and his account of Joyce, published in Irish Literary Portraits), who presents the notion that “. . . Joyce rejoiced darkly in causing the language of Milton and Wordsworth to utter all but unimaginable filth and treason . . . [caused by] ironic detachment from the whole of the English tradition” (Gibson 1).  Thus Ulysses is Joyce’s act of rebellion against the colonial presence of England.

While this is work is not as essential or perhaps as useful as Gifford’s Ulysses Annotated or Blamires’ The New Bloomsday Book, it can be used as a valuable source after the aforementioned sources are exhausted, or perhaps for a closer look at a particular aspect of the novel.

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