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Reflections on Light in Aeolus

Wednesday, September 30, 2009; 03:54 am Leave a comment

I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to do new posts for our reflections from Monday or if we were supposed to comment of our own posts or what, so I went with the most accessible option.

 

An interesting comparison with my analysis of light and Dan Dawson’s speech comes from the other speech that appears in episode 7, that of John F. Taylor.  Quoted in lines 828-870, this speech is also about Ireland and significantly ends with light imagery. In the previous example, references to light were concentrated on description of Ireland itself. In this second case, however, light happens, as lightning on Mt. Sinai, or represents (one of the rare times) religion as the “light of inspiration” (7.866-68). The more metaphorical use of light as “shining” in the face of Moses(Ireland)(Bloom). Needless to say, this speech is received much better by the men in the newspaper office.  This acceptance may stem from the preference of elegant metaphor over bombastic description, or from what is being described, the plight of the Irish rather than Ireland’s scenery. However, the OBVIOUS parallel between Moses and Bloom is troubling, especially appearing in an episode that seems to emphasize Bloom’s ostracism as a Jew more that some others. It’s almost as if Moses is accepted as Irish before Bloom, a designation which we see he craves.

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On “City Limits: Reading Gender and Urban Spaces in Ulysses” by Johanna X. K. Garvey

Wednesday, September 16, 2009; 09:16 pm Leave a comment

Garvey, Johanna X. K. “City Limits: Reading Gender and Urban Spaces in Ulysses.” Twentieth Century Literature 41.1 (1995): 108-23. Print.

Johanna X. K. Garvey’s “City Limits: Reading Gender and Urban Spaces in Ulysses” uses a mainly French feminist critical approach to map the role of Dublin’s cityscape in Ulysses (108). Although Virginia Woolf and Judith Butler make cameo appearances, Garvey generally frames her analysis within the psychoanalytic and semiotic theories of Hélène Cixous and Julia Kristeva. Garvey’s rather large scope of investigation lobs two round questions at the text: 1) are the “spatial configurations” of Joyce’s Dublin mere reproductions of “recurring gender dichotomies”? 2) And if so, does Ulysses offer the space for a subversive or “countertextual” reading of such gender constructions (109)?
Despite the article’s rough conclusion, “it is up to Joyce’s readers, perhaps, to recognize the warnings buried in Ulysses” . . . etc., Garvey does introduce some valuable feminist critical tools for examining the text (119). For instance, her contrasting of maternal and paternal spaces provides some useful vocabulary for a psychoanalytic understanding of the text. In post-structural psychoanalysis, the paternal is associated with what is known as the symbolic (aka the Name or Law of the Father), a (sometimes literal) realm or system of representation in which symbols (signs) share a direct and oppressively concrete relationship to things and more importantly meanings. The maternal, on the other hand, is tied to the semiotic, that which evades definition and encoding, constantly shedding its referents or proliferating new ones until meaning overflows. As Garvey points out, Ulysses’ association of watery imagery with maternity, and images of desolation and barrenness with man’s domain, seems to withstand a psychoanalytic treatment.
That this seems, at least for Garvey, unlocks large portions of the book, however, should be taken as cause for caution rather than motivation for adopting a strictly psychoanalytic approach to the work. In fact, it is precisely psychoanalysis’ penchant for collapsing texts into logically encoded typologies that speaks to its own perilous relation to the Law of the Father. Garvey seems to fall prey to just this relation when she concludes that it is up to readers to identify “warnings buried” in the text, implying that there is a hidden message in Ulysses that simply requires the right code to materialize (119).

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“Ulysses” in Critical Perspective

Wednesday, September 16, 2009; 08:57 pm Leave a comment

Gillespie, Michael, and A. Nicholas Fargnoli, eds. “Ulysses” in Critical Perspective. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2006.

This book is a collection of articles from prominent scholars in many different fields of Joycean studies, attempting to map out the current state of scholarship on Ulysses.  Each of the contributors looks both back at the scholarship that preceded them and forward to the scholarship they think should follow.  As the forward by the series editor tells us, the editors divided studies on Ulysses into nine categories:  Reader Response, Narratology, Language Theory, Feminism, Queer Theory, New Historicism, Genetic Criticism, Cultural Studies, and Bibliography.  The contributors, corresponding to these areas of study, are John Paul Riquelme, Margot Norris, Sheldon Brivic, Kimberly J. Delvin, Joseph Velente, Ira B. Nadel, Michael Groden, Gregory Downing, and William Brockman.  These are put forth as the leading experts of our time in their respective fields.  The essays are further grouped into three sections: 1) The Words on the Page (dealing with close reading) 2) Perspectives of the Readers (different theoretical approaches) and 3) Pre- and Post- Publication (dealing with the history of the text production and reception).

The impetus for compiling these essays was that such a collection of critical essays on Ulysses had not come since 1989, (Benstock, Bernard, ed. Critical Essays on James Joyce’s “Ulysses”. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1989.) and the editors wanted to showcase the developments in various fields of Ulysses studies since then.  This is not a book intended for students of Ulysses but rather for scholars who already have some grounding in the novel but want the current material organized for them.  Therefore, it is not a great place to start out, but it will be very useful for tracking down arguments made about the novel and seeing who the major figures in the field are.  On that note, other than the contributors already mentioned, the scholars cited the most are: Ruth Bauerle (for issues of music in Joyce), Jacques Derrida, Stacey Herbert, Cheryl Herr, R. B. Kershner, and Leonard Gary.

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James Joyce’s Ulysses: A Casebook

Wednesday, September 16, 2009; 08:54 pm Leave a comment

James Joyce’s Ulysses: A Casebook, edited by Derek Attridge, compiles a selection of essays about Ulysses written from soon after its publication to the present. In his introduction, Attridge explains the need to “find one’s own way of engaging with Joyce’s consistently inventive language (6, emphasis mine), and to develop a “direct engagement with Joyce’s writing, when the guides and notes are put away” (16). His casebook stresses the idea that the reader—and especially the novice Joycean or someone reading Ulysses for pleasure (the suggestion of starting with the fourth episode and then returning to the Telemachiad later certainly helps to empower the reader most of all)—ought to develop a personal connection with the text uninhibited by too much outside criticism, and thus doesn’t seek to be the definitive guidebook.

Attridge’s collection of essays, therefore, seeks to bring together writing about Ulysses from a variety of different perspectives which exhibit a direct engagement with the text, but also which will help the reader to develop the same sort of involvement and enjoyment him/herself. For this reason, it’s all over the place; there’s a conversation between Joyce and Frank Budgen from 1934, and an essay by Vicki Mahaffey outlining the problems surrounding editing Ulysses and its various editions, noting as well Joyce’s view of error in relation to his writing. There’s one by Emer Nolan on Ulysses in relation to Irish nationalism and independence, and another by Ewa Ziarek that approaches the novel from a feminist standpoint. What I find particularly interesting is that there’s an essay by Leo Basani, “Against Ulysses” which serves as one of the few recent negative criticisms of the novel (although it criticizes more how Ulysses is studied than the novel itself).

Ulysses: A Casebook seems like a really valuable text, although it seems like it may be aimed at the more casual reader than one in an academic setting (like, um, us). The call for putting down the supplementary texts and just reading the book is a pretty compelling one.

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