Joyce, Milton, and the Theory of Influence

By Patrick Colm Hogan | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
Ulysses: Remorse and the Epic

It is commonplace to observe that, in Ulysses, Joyce combines at least three important modernist techniques: stylistic experimentation, psychological realism, and structural parallelism with earlier work (what Eliot called "the mythic method" [ "Ulysses"27]). The first technique evidences a view of style as arbitrary. In the course of his novel, Joyce passes through a wide range of styles, developing, exaggerating, and abandoning each in turn. In contrast, Joyce's concern with psychological realism appears to manifest a belief in the accurate representability of human thought processes by way of such techniques as interior monologue and stream of consciousness. Finally, the mythic method is ambiguous between realism and conventionalism. Neither strictly representative nor merely arbitrary, it is probably best thought of as a sort of cognitive modeling, metaphorically constructive rather than literally mimetic or freely imaginative. Though Milton's presence in the style of Ulysses is slight, Joyce himself acknowledged some localized Miltonisms. For this reason, it is worth considering style briefly before going on to examine psychology and structure, the aspects of the novel to which Milton is centrally important.


Milton's Solemn Passage in "Oxen of the Sun"

In a letter to Frank Budgen dated 20 March 1920, Joyce outlined the history of English prose, which he sought to imitate and parody in "Oxen of the Sun." Following "the Elizabethan chronicle style" and preceding "a choppy Latin-gossipy bit," Joyce inserted "a passage solemn, as of Milton, Taylor,

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