Joyce's Revenge: History, Politics, and Aesthetics in Ulysses

Joyce's Revenge: History, Politics, and Aesthetics in Ulysses

Joyce's Revenge: History, Politics, and Aesthetics in Ulysses

Joyce's Revenge: History, Politics, and Aesthetics in Ulysses


'Gibson's nuanced historicist semi-colonial reading is particularly effective in the interpretation of the most challenging parts of the novel, especially the last three episodes.' -Clare Hutton, Times Literary Supplement'This thought-provoking study makes a significant and highly original contribution to scholarship on Ulysses... a particular strength of this book is the way in which it seeks to interpret the aesthetic of Ulysses as a whole, rather than focusing on a few key features or episodes.' -Clare Hutton, Times Literary Supplement'Andrew Gibson combines a wealth of knowledge and research... with an admirable sensitivity to the Joycean text. The book has much to do with what postcolonial theory calls 'hybridity' and 'mimicry', but is also densely and precisely historicized... Joyce's Revenge immerses itself in a broad range of specific cultural discourses on subjects from nationalist politics to medical debates to the politics of street names, the politics of Shakespeare and bardolatry, Protestant-Catholic relations, Jewishness, Irish historiography, women's journals, and astronomy. The result is an important new study that will alter the ways we read Ulysses.' -Professor Vincent J. ChengIn this book Andrew Gibson argues that the aesthetic practices that make up Ulysses are responses to the colonial history of Ireland and the colonial politics of Irish culture.


Écrasez l'infâme!

In 1935, John Eglinton published an account of Joyce in Irish Literary Portraits. It must have seemed to Joyce, wrote Eglinton, 'that he held English, his country's spiritual enemy, in the palm of his hand'. Alas, the English language 'found itself constrained by its new master to perform tasks to which it was unaccustomed in the service of pure literature. … Joyce rejoiced darkly in causing the language of Milton and Wordsworth to utter all but unimaginable filth and treason.' Eglinton argued that Ulysses was an act of 'treason' fuelled by an 'ironic detachment from the whole of the English tradition.' It was Joyce's 'Celtic revenge' on the colonial power.

This study seeks to revive Eglinton's way of reading Joyce. But it will also revise, complicate, and transform his terms of reference. Joe Brooker has pointed out how far the early responses to Joyce's novel tended to be of two kinds. Ezra Pound is representative of one and H. G. Wells of the other. Pound writes of Joyce as chiefly concerned to attain 'an international standard' in art and writing. Pound's Joyce is anti- and post-nationalist and intent on rising above his Irish origins into modern Europe 'as a contemporary of continental writers'. But Wells saw Joyce quite differently. in Brooker's phrase, for Wells, Joyce is still deeply 'enmeshed in the national politics from which he has emerged'. Both Joyce and his art are not only selfevidently Irish and Catholic, but also 'insurrectionary'. Wells effectively identified the multifaceted outrageousness of Ulysses with a

Irish Literary Portraits (London: Macmillan, 1935), 145–6.

Ibid. 143–4.

Ibid. 146.

See 'Reading in Transit: a Study of Joyce's Anglophone Reception' (Ph.D. thesis, Uni
versity of London, 1999), 21–4.

'“Dubliners” and Mr. James Joyce', Egoist, 1/14 (15 July 1914), 267; repr. in ch i.
66–8, at 66.

'Reading in Transit', 22.

Quoted in Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (rev. edn.; Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1982), 608.

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