Writing the City: Urban Visions & Literary Modernism

By Desmond Harding | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE

Ulysses and Manhattan Transfer

A Poetics of Transatlantic Literary Modernism

So now we come to Joyce. What was the main thing that Joyce did in this work? You know more or less what Ulysses is about: it's 700 pages of description of a day in the life of a man who solicits advertisements for an insurance company [sic]. The whole day is described from beginning to end. What exactly did Joyce do? He took one character, one person, one event and looked at it under an incredible microscope. Ordinarily you could describe a day like that in three or four pages. He began to examine all the details under the microscope, that is, he completely unfurled everything that you see at that moment […] One subject merges into another, one word into another.

(From the audience: Dos Passos does that.)

Don't ever draw parallels […] That just confuses things. It's disgraceful what critics are doing, linking Joyce with Proust or whomever. Don't make that mistake.

The most ridiculous aspect of criticism of Joyce is that when they deny the question of the usefulness of studying Joyce and when they write about learning from Joyce they keep viewing learning as slavish copying. Whether they say that it isn't necessary to learn or it is necessary, they always look at learning as copying. But learning is not copying but understanding what the particular process consists of; not in borrowing the external form, but in understanding the principle and making it one's own, and then there will be one's own representational form.

~ Sergei Eisenstein, Lecture on James Joyce at the State Institute of Cinematography, November 1, 1934 1

The creative power of the cult of experience is almost spent, but what lies beyond is still unclear. One thing, however, is certain: whereas in the past, throughout the nineteenth and well into the twentieth century, the nature of American literary life was largely determined by national forces, now it is international forces that have begun to exert a dominant influence. And

-95-

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Writing the City: Urban Visions & Literary Modernism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Preface ix
  • Chapter One - "Saxa Loquuntur" 1
  • Chapter Two - Dubliners 31
  • Chapter Three - Grave Memories 59
  • Chapter Four - The Metropolitan Consciousness of a Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 79
  • Chapter Five - Ulysses and Manhattan Transfer 95
  • Afterword 133
  • Notes 137
  • Bibliography 183
  • Index 215
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