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James Joyce and the Language of History: Dedalus's Nightmare

Synopsis

"History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." Stephen Dedalus's famous complaint articulates a characteristic modern attitude toward the perceived burden of the past. As Robert Spoo shows in this study, Joyce's creative achievement, from the time of his sojourn in Rome in 1906-07 to the completion of Ulysses in 1922, cannot be understood apart from the ferment of historical thought that dominated the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Tracing James Joyce's historiographic art to its formative contexts, Spoo reveals a modernist author passionately engaged with the problem of history, forging a new language that both dramatizes and redefines that problem.