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Did Joyce Write Hamlet? Maybe not, but Stephen wants to.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009; 02:02 pm 1 comment

Peterson, Richard F. “Did Joyce Write Hamlet?” James Joyce Quarterly 27 (1990): 365-372.

 

            This article was significantly better, both in quality of writing and strength of argument, than the last one I read.  By looking closely at Stephen’s argument concerning the correlation between Shakespeare’s life and Hamlet, Peterson extrapolates Stephen’s points to the artist’s own life as he searches “for a way of expressing himself” (365). Peterson sees Stephen as identifying with Shakespeare’s struggles as an artist, admires how he “transformed a personal sea of troubles into a radiant, universal, dramatic form of life” (366). Stephen also identifies with Shakespeare’s fleeing of his birthplace, seeking instead a large city to nurture his artistic growth. In order to deal with his own issues of being an artist trapped within the baseness of life, he transfers his pain onto Shakespeare, constructing a rather tenuous back story for the Bard, “reinvent[ing] the life of Shakespeare to fit his own personal and artistic struggle” (366).

            Just as Stephen draws details of Shakespeare’s life out of his work, Peterson interprets Stephen’s analysis to be representative of the poet’s life. Peterson argues that Ann Hathaway represents Stephen’s mother in his emotional development. Luckily, however, Stephen’s Ann is two fold (otherwise that would be weird). Stephen’s mother represents the force stunting his development; just as Hamlet must cope with his (as Stephen sees it) premature entrance to the adult world, so must Stephen defeat the haunting image of his mother’s ghost in order to continue to progress as an artist (369). As I said, the representation is twofold: on the other side is, oh yes, the church. Stephen “sees the Church mortally wounding his youth,” just as Ann did to Shakespeare, giving him a “terrifying fear of death” that he must overcome, and “create, like his Shakespeare counterpart…a new world out of his own spiritual and emotional void” (369, 370). Thus, Stephen transfers his own emotionally scarring experiences, and their effect on him, onto Shakespeare. All told, Peterson’s argument is interesting and well-expressed, using excellent textual references and very focused analysis.

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Annotation on “Some Joyce Skies”

Wednesday, September 23, 2009; 02:22 am Leave a comment

Gordon, John. “Some Joyce Skies.” James Joyce Quarterly 33 (1996): 411-427.

            The SparkNotes summary of Ulysses identifies that both Stephen and Bloom notice the same cloud drift over the sun as they go about their morning activities, and that Bloom’s mood is affected by the change in light.  This instance is a prime example of Joyce’s intense attention to the minute details of his scenes. In his article “Some Joyce Skies,” John Gordon takes this intricacy one step further, analyzing Joyce’s placement of the sun and constellations in Ulysses, with a few brief mentions of Dubliners and Finnigan’s Wake.  Through the use of an almanac and other information detailing the construction of the cosmos on 16 June 1904, Gordon establishes that Joyce was in fact extremely accurate not only of the exact location of the sun at a given moment, but of the appearance and position of the various constellations mentioned and implied throughout the novel.  However, does not provide an overarching argument concerning the significance of Joyce’s celestial ordering, summing up rather lamely that understanding Joyce’s sky is “essential for understanding what is going on” (411).

            Despite the lack of a uniting theme, Gordon’s specificity is impressive, as is Joyce’s. Apparently Joyce is often accurate to a matter of degrees concerning where the sun would have shone on a particular street at a certain time. Using maps of Dublin, Gordon traces Bloom’s wanderings, identifying points of his walk in which he or others he encountered would have been in sun or shadow based on their street location and direction, as well as identifying observations or fluctuations of mood in the text which could result from the sun.  In his discussion of the nighttime stars, Gordon formulates a more solid argument related to the emergence, placement, and timing of certain constellations.  Again, Joyce is amazingly accurate concerning what constellations would have appeared where in the sky at what time.  Gordon’s argument becomes most interpretive in his discussion of various characters’ astrological signs in reference to specific appearances in the text.  The majority of the interpretations are related to Molly or Milly, the most interesting analysis in my opinion being from episode 14 concerning Bloom’s astrological sign Taurus (horny and horned) with a red mark on its forehead which “blazes” (14.1108).  All told, Gordon’s meticulous analysis highlights Joyce’s fascinating attention to detail but beyond that his examples do not illuminate Ulysses much further.

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