Academic journal article Studies in Short Fiction

Paradigm Lost: "Grace" and the Arrangement of "Dubliners."(Special "Dubliners" Number)

Academic journal article Studies in Short Fiction

Paradigm Lost: "Grace" and the Arrangement of "Dubliners."(Special "Dubliners" Number)

Article excerpt

In late September 1905 James Joyce wrote from Trieste to his brother Stanislaus in Dublin, requesting (as ever) some personal favors and describing for the first time his plan for arranging the short stories that would eventually become Dubliners in a coherent sequence:

The order of the stories is as follows. The Sisters, An Encounter and

another story ["Araby"] which are stories of my childhood: The

Boarding House, After the Race and Eveline, which arc stories of

adolescence: The Clay, Counterparts, and A Painful Case which are

stories of mature life: Ivy Day in the Committee Room, A Mother

and the last story of the book ["Grace"] which are stories of public

life in Dublin. (Letters 2: 111)

During October and November Joyce composed "Araby" and "Grace," the two remaining stories of this original 12-story sequence, and reversed the order of his stories of "adolescence."(1) At the end of November 1905, he mailed this early version of Dubliners to the English publisher Grant Richards, little suspecting that he would endure nearly a year of frustrating and ultimately futile negotiation for their publication. On 26 October 1906 Richards, who feared that both he and his printer could be prosecuted for publishing an "indecent" book (Scholes 149), finally returned Joyce's manuscript (which had grown to 14 stories in the interim with the addition of "Two Gallants" and "A Little Cloud").(2)

What chiefly interests me in this "Curious History" of the publication delays for Dubliners, as Joyce called it (Letters 2: 324), is not the often exaggerated story it tells of Joyce's defense of his artistic integrity, nor the lesson it offers on the power of censorship, but rather the way Joyce's descriptions of his artistic intentions in his letters to Richards in 1905-06 have entered and come to dominate the critical discussion of Joyce's short fiction. Midway in his correspondence with Richards, for example, on 5 May 1906, Joyce identified a central theme in his work, defined his literary style, defended his refusal to compromise either his text or his artistic conscience, and once again described his conception of the four-part arrangement of the stories:

My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my

country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed

to me the centre of paralysis. I have tried to present it to the

indifferent public under four of its aspects: childhood, adolescence,

maturity and public life. The stories are arranged in this order. I

have written it for the most part in a style of scrupulous meanness

and with the conviction that he is a very bold man who dares to

alter in the presentment, still more to deform, whatever he has seen

and heard. I cannot do any more than this. I cannot alter what I

have written. (Letters 2: 134)

Countless critical studies of Dubliners have focused on the thematic and symbolic implications of "paralysis" in Joyce's stories, usually citing both this letter to Richards and his earlier, August 1904 letter to Constantine Curran ("I call the series Dubliners to betray the soul of that hemiplegia or paralysis which many consider a city" [Letters 1: 55]), together with the trio of symbolically suggestive, italicized terms, "paralysis," "gnomon," and "simon," in his opening paragraph for "The Sisters" (9). Likewise one book -- in its title -- and numerous articles and chapters on Dubliners have invoked Joyce's own phrase, "a style of scrupulous meanness," to characterize the narrative objectivity and scientific naturalism in the stories (Brandabur). And hardly any substantial critical commentary on Dubliners, from Harry Levin's James Joyce: A Critical Introduction, published in 1941, to the present, fails to mention the four-part organization of the collection. …

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