James Joyce's Pauline Vision: A Catholic Exposition

James Joyce's Pauline Vision: A Catholic Exposition

James Joyce's Pauline Vision: A Catholic Exposition

James Joyce's Pauline Vision: A Catholic Exposition

Synopsis

Not a study of Joyce's thought or attitude but, rather, an attempt to penetrate Joyce's imagination, this extraordinary work complements previous studies of Joyce's Catholicism. This is the most thorough and convincing demonstration yet of the ways Joyce absorbed Catholic thought and reworked it, and it should go far to show that at least some familiarity with Catholic theology is necessary for a sophisticated appreciation of Joyce.

Excerpt

When my cue comes, call me, and I will answer. My next is, most faire Piramus. Hey ho. Peter Quince? Flute the bellowes-mender? Snout the tinker? Starveling? Gods my life! Stolen hence, and left me asleepe: I have had a most rare vision. I had a dreame, past the wit of man, to say what dreame it was. Man is but an Asse, if he goe about to expound this dreame. Me-thought I was, there is no man can tell what. Me-thought I was, and me-thought I had. But man is but a patch'd foole, if he will offer to say, what me-thought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the eare of man hath not seen, mans hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dreame was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballet of this dreame, it shall be called Bottomes Dreame, because it hath no bottome; and I will sing it at the latter end of a play, before the Duke. Peradventure, to make it the more gracious, I shall sing it at her death.--Midsummer Night's Dream (act 4, first folio)

Stephen, discussing "Hamlet, I am thy father's spirit" (U 188), hears two personalities in that "I": the voice of buried Denmark and the voice of unburied Stratford--not John Shakespeare but William, the creator of Hamlet Senior. Similarly, I hear two voices in the passage above: that of the incomparable Bottom, brooding over the mysterious "dream" of being embraced by a fairy queen; and that of the author of MND itself. This second voice expresses the purpose of Shakespeare, much larger than Bottom's. Bottom is using the Pauline text to find some expression of the experience he foggily recalls; Shakespeare further uses it to express the wonder of the "strange and admirable" in human love and folly. For him too St. Paul's wonder at the embrace of God for asinine humans makes a useful comparison.

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