Ethical Joyce

Ethical Joyce

Ethical Joyce

Ethical Joyce


Marian Eide argues that the central concern of James Joyce's writing was the creation of a literary ethic. Eide examines Joyce's ethical preoccupations throughout his work, particularly the tension between his commitment as an artist and his social obligations as a father and citizen during a tumultuous period of European history. This is the first study devoted to Joyce's ethical philosophy as it emerges in his writing.


A river is not a woman.

Although the names it finds,

The history it makes

And suffers –

The Viking blades beside it,

The muskets of Redcoats, the flames of the Four Courts

Blazing into it –

Are a sign.

And in my late forties

Past believing

Love will heal

What language fails to know

And needs to say –

What the body means

I take this sign

And I make this mark:

A woman in the doorway of her house.

A river in the city of her birth.

The truth of a suffered life.

The mouth of it.

(Eavan Boland, “Anna Liffey”)

In Finnegans Wake, Joyce amplifies the meditation on May Dedalus in Ulysses, presenting Anna Livia Plurabelle as an ethical agent, a figure (sometimes quite literally, as when she becomes a geometrical figure) through whom ethical relations might be understood and engaged. in suggesting this capacity, Joyce differs from a traditional and even patriarchal equation of maternity with moral rectitude, an equation exemplified in his time by the extremely conservative roles assigned to women as moral exemplars within the domestic sphere. alp does not always act in accord with the standard moral codes of her culture or her . . .

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