Academic journal article European Joyce Studies

Styling Hospitality: Gustave Flaubert and George Moore in James Joyce's "The Dead"

Academic journal article European Joyce Studies

Styling Hospitality: Gustave Flaubert and George Moore in James Joyce's "The Dead"

Article excerpt

It is a critical commonplace that the style of Dubliners is influenced by the nineteenth-century French novel, in particular the texts of Flaubert and Zola, but some of the specific points of contact of this engagement deserve to be explored in greater detail. Since Ezra Pound pointed out the connection, Joyce's "style of scrupulous meanness" (LII 134) has often been traced back to Flaubert's Trois Contes, especially the first story of the collection, Un coeur simple.1 Likewise, Joyce's naturalistic style and his pseudo-medical diagnosis of Dublin as "that hemiplegia or paralysis which many consider a city" (LI 55) has been identified with Zola's objectivescientific critique of society, especially as it was channelled through the mediating figure of George Moore.2 Dubliners forms part of a wider pattern of French influence on Anglo-Irish literature of the early twentieth century, in which figures such as Moore, Yeats and Synge turned to French models, sometimes as a way of avoiding a politically undesirable connection with English literature. However, these general accounts of the ground-style of Dubliners overlook some of the specific traces of Joyce's reading of French fiction in the text. This essay will look at two examples of this intertextuality by focusing on the central theme of hospitality in "The Dead." Perhaps the most resonant act of hospitality in the story is not the sumptuous feast of the party (which some critics have seen as falsely hospitable generosity offered only to family and friends), but Gabriel Conroy's mental accommodation of the figure of Michael Furey and "the vast hosts of the dead," in his "journey westward" (D 223) at the end of the text.3 This final scene contains cryptic echoes of two texts written by figures intimately involved with the nineteenth-century French novel: Flaubert's second story in Trois Contes, La L?gende de saint Julien l'Hospitalier, and George Moore's novel, Vain Fortune.4 Both of these intertexts feature self-reflexive career narratives, in which each of these writers sees his work as embodying a kind of hospitality. Through these cryptic moments of intertextual reference, too obscure to be called allusions, Joyce reflects upon the artistic form and value of intellectual hospitality, and suggests that a critical entertainment of foreign materials can be energising and productive, challenging states of paralysis. This artistic hospitality is exemplified by Joyce's subtly heterogeneous, ironic style in "The Dead," which anticipates the stylistic hybridity and irrepressible energy of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.

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Criticism discussing the links between Flaubert and Joyce has tended to focus on too generalized a sense of "the pervasive affinity of mind and art which places both in a common literary tradition."5 However, the recent work of Scarlett Baron has reversed this emphasis in favour of close textual attention, and this essay builds on her detailed underlining of the significant intertextual links between Trois Contes and Dubliners.6 It is worth demonstrating the kind of intimate but subtle echoes of Flaubert's stories that ripple throughout Dubliners. For instance, in Flaubert's first story, Un coeur simple, Victor, the central character F?licit?'s nephew, is a sailor possessing "frank open look" who "entertained her by telling stories mixed up with nautical language."7 He must go away to sea, and, at the quay to say her unhappy goodbyes, F?licit? suffers a perceptual corollary to her emotional tumult: "Then the level of ground fell, there were beams of light criss-crossing in all directions, and she thought she was going mad when she saw some horses up in the air."8 Like this, the Dubliners story "Eveline" contains a sailor called "Frank" - named after Flaubert's sailor's look- who is a narrator of tall, nautical tales, and the story culminates in a similarly sea-sick quayside farewell, in which "all the seas of the world tumbled around [Eveline's] heart" (D 41). …

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