James Joyce and German Theory: The Romantic School and All That

James Joyce and German Theory: The Romantic School and All That

James Joyce and German Theory: The Romantic School and All That

James Joyce and German Theory: The Romantic School and All That

Synopsis

"James Joyce's aesthetic theories, as explicated by Stephen Dedalus in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and in the "Scylla and Charybdis" chapter of Ulysses, have generally been assumed to be grounded in Aristotle and Aquinas. Indeed, Stephen mentions those thinkers especially in Portrait, at the same time as he rejects Romantic notions. This book investigates the extent to which Joyce's theories as well as his practice, beginning with his critical writings and Stephen Hero, are indebted to early German Romanticism. The allusions, affinities, and analogies, as well as differential relationships between the Joycean oeuvre and texts of Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Friedrich Schlegel, and Novalis are often palpable, sometimes tentative, but clearly present in most of his works, including Finnegans Wake." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

German romantic theory appears to have little or no INFLUence on Finnegans Wake, and the text seems to contradict every Romantic edict. It does not argue for the superiority of any specific method of art and defeats any attempt to be pigeonholed by a particular theory. Yet the experimentation with language, the exploration of the unconscious, the crossing over into forbidden territories, and the striving for forbidden knowledge all point to the same revolt against Classical forms and distinctions that the Romantics expressed. No author who considers himself a Classicist would hold truth and fiction in equal regard and introduce a character, as Shaun does Shem, with "Putting truth and untruth together a shot may be made at what this hybrid actually was like to look at” (fw, 169.8— 10); even if these words are spoken by a supercilious character like Shaun, and thus have ironic implications, a similar emphasis on irreconcilable opposites may be found throughout the text of the Wake. Certainly, indictments against Romanticism are usually found in Shaun's speech, too: "What the romantic in rags pines after like all tomtompions haunting crevices for a deadbeat escupement and what het importunes our Mitleid for in accornish with the Mortadarthella taradition is the poorest commononguardiant waste of time” (fw, 151.17— 21, my emphasis on hce). For Shaun, we might say, Romantics are nothing but hoboes who yearn for a return to the Middle Ages and Arthurian traditions as depicted by Malory. hce, however, slips silently into Shaun's speech, undercutting the authority of his opinion.

In the sense that Finnegans Wake differs deliberately from previous stylistic norms, it is Romantic, and it would, in fact, hardly be an exaggeration to say its style is "blown to wild ad-

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