The Poetry of James Joyce Reconsidered

The Poetry of James Joyce Reconsidered

The Poetry of James Joyce Reconsidered

The Poetry of James Joyce Reconsidered

Synopsis

"An indispensable collection of essays that should inspire new interest in Joyce's poetry, both for its own sake and for its relationship to the prose works."--Patrick A. McCarthy, coeditor of the James Joyce Literary Supplement


"The authors demonstrate collectively that the lyric poems reward--and will continue to reward--greater attention than they have hitherto received. The collection as a whole should inspire the next generation of Joyceans to foreground Chamber Music and Pomes Penyeach in their scholarship and in their teaching."--Victor Luftig, coeditor of Joyce and the Subject of History


To many, James Joyce is simply the greatest novelist of the twentieth century. Scholars have pored over every minutia of his public and private life--from utility bills to deeply personal letters--in search of new insights into his life and work. Yet, for the most part, they have paid scant attention to the two volumes of poetry he published.

The eight contributors to The Poetry of James Joyce Reconsidered convincingly challenge the critical consensus that Joyce's poetry is inferior to his prose. They reveal how his poems provide entries into Joyce's most personal and intimate thoughts and ideas. They also demonstrate that

Joyce's poetic explorations--of the nature of knowledge, sexual intimacy, the changing quality of love, the relations between writing and music, and the religious dimensions of the human experience--were fundamental to his development as a writer of prose.

This exciting new work is sure to spark new interest in Joyce's poetry and will become an essential and indispensable resource for students and scholars of his life and work.

Excerpt

Joyce’s final paragraph of Dubliners is bowed, as a piece of music for a stringed instrument requires bowing: a downward stroke “falling on every part of the dark central plain,” upbow “on the treeless hills,” downbow “falling softly upon the Bog of Allen,” upbow “and, farther westward, softly falling” and then sweeping sonorously down to the tip of the bow “into the dark mutinous Shannon waves.” the effect is clearest in the final sentence: down with “falling faintly through the universe,” up with “and faintly falling,” down again with “like the descent of their last end,” the bow then held at fullest extension until the final words disappear. Each breath, each stroke is perfectly in its place. After the words “upon all the living and the dead” at my father’s funeral, a cellist began Bach’s Sarabande from the second cello suite: the mirroring of words and music was exact.

There is no escaping the melodic possibilities of Joyce’s line: from “Rhythm begins” (U 3.23) to “there ultimately is the poeta” (fw 482.31– 32), Joyce tells us over and over again to look to his poetry. Marc Conner begins his opening essay with A. Walton Litz’s famous pronouncement of 1966 that “James Joyce was first and last a poet.” All of us would happily agree, but since that time there has been little in the critical literature to back up this claim. The Poetry of James Joyce Reconsidered is, quite improbably, the first book of essays on Joyce’s poetry. Chamber Music, in particular, has been too easily consigned to the juvenilia shelf, and Joyce’s poetry generally is too good and too memorable to have been so long ignored. in a model opening essay, Conner lays out the groundwork in an open and informed way, so that we are reconnected with the earlier scholarship of Litz, Scholes, and Boyle on the subject of Joyce’s poetry, and are eager to learn what a new generation of scholars will make of it. in careful and necessary steps, Gillespie, Campbell, Garnier, Owens, Paterson, Conner, Fargnoli, and Holdridge make the case that Chamber Music and Pomes Penyeach reveal rich connections to the . . .

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