Academic journal article European Joyce Studies

Radical Intertextuality: From Bouvard et Pécuchet to Finnegans Wake

Academic journal article European Joyce Studies

Radical Intertextuality: From Bouvard et Pécuchet to Finnegans Wake

Article excerpt

Joyce, Flaubert: two of the most mythologized masters of nineteenth- and twentieth-century prose. Although critics regularly comment in passing on the possible connections between these two iconic figures - typically invoking their association with realism, their foundational roles in the inauguration of modernist, and even postmodernist, modes of writing, or their reputations as frenzied workers obsessed with the quest for the mot juste1 - scarce attention has been paid to the ascertainable details of this literary relationship: to the identifiable features of a thoroughgoing engagement with Flaubert which is discernible throughout Joyce's works.

Yet the intuition of a significant connection between Joyce and Flaubert is not new, and in fact dates back to the very earliest days of the reception of Joyce's writing.2 Ezra Pound placed Joyce in the line of Flaubert's descent as soon as he became acquainted with Dubliners and the first two chapters of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in January 1914.3 Writing about Dubliners in The Egoist later that same year, Pound referred to Joyce as a "follower of Flaubert" because the Dubliners stories, he explained, "deal in exact presentation" and unfold in "clear hard prose."4 When A Portrait came out in print three years later, Pound's review, again for The Egoist, continued in this vein of emphatic laudatory analogy, stating that

James Joyce produces the nearest thing to Flaubertian prose that we have now in English.5

Pound's conviction regarding the Joyce-Flaubert connection never relented; on the contrary, his statements on the matter became ever more adamant as each of Joyce's works reached publication. In 1933 he even went so far as to describe the relationship in terms of straightforward paternity: "Joyce," he stated, "went back to Papa Flaubert."6

Anecdotal evidence tends to corroborate Pound's critical hunch. In a letter to Frank Budgen written in 1932 (possibly in response to an appeal for information by the author of James Joyce and the Making of "Ulysses"), Paul Suter remembered that

Flaubert was his particular favourite. Indeed he knew entire passages of Madame Bovary by heart. Above all he admired the musicality of the language and the hearty rhythm of the diction.7

Budgen himself reports Joyce's claim to have read every word Flaubert ever published, adding that "Of all the great nineteenth-century masters of fiction Joyce held Flaubert in highest esteem."8 Constantine Curran recalls "Flaubert frequently croppfing] up in our talk"9 during his and Joyce's student days in Dublin. Jan Parandowski, who knew Joyce during the Paris years, remembers Joyce declaiming by heart from one of Flaubert's stories ("Hérodias").10 Richard Ellmann gives an account of an evening in a Parisian restaurant during which Joyce gleefully pointed out what he took to be grammatical errors in Flaubert's stories (JJII 492). Such concurring reminiscences, though they do not amount to evidence, are highly suggestive.

Careful inspection of Joyce's works, libraries, and manuscripts confirms a sustained interest in Flaubert's texts. The spectrum of Joyce's responses and elaborations is broad, spanning his entire writing career, and ranging from precise, localized allusions to the use of devices, techniques, and structures derived from disparate corners of the Flaubertian oeuvre. This essay will seek to shed light on the nature of Joyce's engagement with Flaubert in Finnegans Wake, taking its cue from a trio of key manuscript jottings which register Joyce's thoughts about the literary relationship. The notes11 appear on non-consecutive pages in Finnegans Wake notebook VI.B.8:

Flaub. treatment

of language as a kind

of despair

J.J contrary

J[ohn] S[tanislaus] J[oyce] can rest having made me

G[ustave]. Flaubert can rest having made me]

Larbaud result of

J[ames]. J[oyce] + G[ustave]. F[laubert]. (JJA 30:315, 329, 338)12

In 1990, David Hayman dated these jottings to mid-1924. …

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.