Joyce's Iritis and the Irritated Text: The Dis-Lexic Ulysses

Joyce's Iritis and the Irritated Text: The Dis-Lexic Ulysses

Joyce's Iritis and the Irritated Text: The Dis-Lexic Ulysses

Joyce's Iritis and the Irritated Text: The Dis-Lexic Ulysses

Synopsis

Ulysses was written and proofread when James Joyce's vision was seriously blurred and impaired by iritis. The illness required him to use a magnifying glass to enlarge words, separating them out of context and distorting the simple letters in them. This book is the first study to consider the undermining effects of Joyce's iritis on the text of Ulysses. Gottfried examines Ulysses much as Joyce must have tried to see it, in close readings of many small portions of the text, and with a quizzical eye. He locates the particular density and opacity of Ulysses in two sites: within the iritis in Joyce's eyes and within the body of the text with its irritated confusion of letters.
"No reader's eye can be trusted in seeing Ulysses,"Gottfried claims. Instead, the reader is disoriented and infected with a particular kind of "Joycean dis-lexia," so that "a variety of instabilities arise from the reader's unclear view and reading of the novel." The Florida James Joyce Series, edited by Zack Bowen.

Excerpt

Much like an object placed at the focal point of vision measured in an eye examination, Ulysses is placed at the juncture of convergent but different perspectives, related but often at cross-purposes: as a work, it stands at a particular place in Joyce's physical life; as a text, it stands in mediation between the lines of sight of the author and the reader. It is a product of Joyce's increasing difficulties in seeing; it is a source of much confusion to the reader. Ulysses is hard to read in part because it is an object difficult for the author to see and in part because it is made difficult to see by him. The debates about what is to appear in any edition only confirm that it is hard to see what is to be read. In each case, as a product of creation and as a problematic book to be read, Ulysses is also an object meant to be seen, and seeing is a process of considerable challenge for Joyce and for his readers. (And, moreover, the reasons for that challenge are similar.)

It was Joyce's exclamation "My book will never come out now" that moved Sylvia Beach to offer her aid in publishing Ulysses. His plaint at first glance seems to be that of the unknown and thwarted artist and seems much like his character Stephen's comment in "Proteus": "Who ever anywhere will read these written words? Signs on a white field" (3.414-15). Yet Joyce's actual statement is a deeply layered one that at first only appears to have an ulterior motive in getting help; it is rather a statement closely connected to all that Ulysses is as object: a visible product of his careful creation, a text of very questionable "signs on a white field" seen by a reader.

A book "comes out" when it is published; behind Joyce's provocative statement was his recognition not only of this obvious fact but of the ety-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.