Ulysses and the Metamorphosis of Stephen Dedalus

Ulysses and the Metamorphosis of Stephen Dedalus

Ulysses and the Metamorphosis of Stephen Dedalus

Ulysses and the Metamorphosis of Stephen Dedalus

Synopsis

"Ulysses is usually approached as a narrative designed to frustrate any attempt by the reader to discover unity or coherence. But in this study Margaret McBride explores at length the highly self-conscious layers at work within the story and makes the case that this intense reflexivity effects a plot and theme that are more integrated and more familiar than critics have heretofore realized: Joyce's great novel may be a brilliant variation on the Kunstlerroman or story of the artist. A close examination of the work's self-referentiality suggests that the entire tale may center around Stephen Dedalus. This study therefore begins by focusing on the character of Stephen. Stephen is, significantly, a time-obsessed writer who wishes to obtain the time-transcending status of an Ovid or a Homer. When the wider tale is examined in terms of Stephen's ambition, Ulysses emerges as, potentially, a "self-begetting" work - that is, the finished narration can be read as a creation of the aspiring writer featured within the narrative itself." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Ulysses is a text that has undergone a number of metamorphoses since its publication in 1922. And, just as the study of literature itself has successively investigated a variety of theoretical premises—such as New Criticism, poststructuralism, and cultural studies—a text like Ulysses seems to shift and assume different shapes or at least reveal different aspects as readers scrutinize it through different frames. One such angle on this novel, an angle that initially may seem limited in its potential, is the reexamination of Ulysses in terms of its place in the movement known as Modernism. Ulysses for decades was labeled the Modernist text par excellence, so it may seem strange to ask at this juncture if such a vantage point could produce fresh insights. But it seems to me that several major features of the narrative, from its realistic opening to its obsession with time, deserve to be looked at anew.

More specifically, the story's interest in the figure of the artist, and simultaneously the concomitant, continual foregrounding of the question of the work's own authorial source, may merit reconsideration. These components should perhaps be viewed not just through a vision influenced by recent literary movements but through, as well, a lens created by the novel's opening three chapters. the Telemachiad quite self-consciously introduces the character of Stephen Dedalus, a time-obsessed artist whose storyline clearly sets up the expectation of a traditional Künstlerroman. Moreover, as Stephen's surname suggests, this decidedly Homeric Bil dungsroman can be seen as a work also under the influence of Ovid. the Roman poet is yet another writer interested in transcending time through art and one who has achieved a form of immortality through the brilliant recasting of ageless Greek myth. Such an aligning proffers intriguing . . .

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