Joyce, Derrida, Lacan, and the Trauma of History: Reading, Narrative and Postcolonialism

Joyce, Derrida, Lacan, and the Trauma of History: Reading, Narrative and Postcolonialism

Joyce, Derrida, Lacan, and the Trauma of History: Reading, Narrative and Postcolonialism

Joyce, Derrida, Lacan, and the Trauma of History: Reading, Narrative and Postcolonialism

Synopsis

Christine van Boheemen examines the relationship between Joyce's postmodern textuality and the traumatic history of colonialism in Ireland. Joyce's influence on Lacanian psychoanalysis and Derrida's philosophy, Van Boheemen suggests, ought to be viewed from a postcolonial perspective. Joyce's writing bears witness to a history that remains unspeakable, functioning as a material location for the inner voice of Irish cultural memory. This book engages with a wide range of contemporary critical theory and brings Joyce's work into dialogue with thinkers such as Zizek, Adorno, Lyotard, as well as feminism and postcolonial theory.

Excerpt

Literature bears testimony not just to duplicate or to record events, but to make history available to the imaginative act whose historical unavailability has prompted, and made possible, a holocaust.

Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, Testimony

This book argues the cultural-historical importance of James Joyce's Irish modernity. His projection of a traumatized discursivity encapsulating the life-in-death of Irish experience, his syncretic manner of representation, his paradoxical approach to Irish nationalism, his complex attitude to language and cultural memory anticipate insights which we are only beginning to grasp at the end of the century. Joyce, an Irish Catholic born in 1882, grappled with the realities of colonial experience and the hegemony of the English language; and this struggle entailed an engagement with the evaporation of the presence of the material, and the devaluation or dissolution of art and truth–problems besetting contemporary culture. Not surprisingly, Joyce's writing has had an informative impact on contemporary theory: Joyce's presence in the texts of Derrida, Lacan, and Slavoj Žižek is pronounced; and the simplest way of describing this book is as a study in the informative presence of what Freud called the “death instinct, ” and what I see as the peculiarly traumatizing and uncanny effect of Irish historical experience in the rivalry for truth of three disciplines: deconstructive philosophy, Lacanian psychoanalysis, and Joycean Irish modernist literature. My claim will be that, where the “death instinct” undermines any title to full truth, Joyce's encrypting of the experience of destitution in the material location of his text opens up a new, intersubjective realm of communication which may help to make it possible to work out the heritage of the past and transform the ghostly uncanniness of the “death instinct” into full discourse.

My argument, which does not require the reader's specialist know-

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