James Joyce and Victims: Reading the Logic of Exclusion

By Sean P. Murphy | Go to book overview

3

Religion and Resistance in Stephen Hero and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

JOYCE TESTIFIES IN BOTH STEPHEN HERO (1904) AND A PORTRAIT OF the Artist as a Young Man (1916) to the ways ideology, while often employed in the service of disempowering colonial subjects, can empower individuals who elect to resist occupying the places dominant ideologies carve for them in the totality. Specifically, in these works Stephen Dedalus's identity depends upon words, his individuality depends upon the grammar of language, and his subjectivity depends upon the "I” which he enacts through agency and resistance. Always ahead of his time, Joyce addresses subjectivity's relationship to social systems before structuralists outlined the ways systems and codes allow human beings to achieve "personhood, ” and before poststructuralists decentered structuralist systems. The act of resistance, a potentially empowering use of agency within the systems that enable (and disable) subjectivity, necessarily points to a context, to that which the resister resists, namely ideology. Ironically, the systems that allow for subjectivity in the first place also limit the range of possibilities available to subjects for individual action. Resisting ideology on an individual basis entails opposing all the apparatuses ideology uses to materialize itself. Joyce depicts Stephen's act of resisting powerful apparatuses as a way out of the paralysis that seizes colonial Ireland, even if it does not facilitate an escape from the system of ideology, the system which Stephen and his compatriots inhabit and speak.

Stephen's resistance of dominant ideologies eventually leads to his victimization, for he occupies the Other position as a resister. Citizens who accept stories that mask the alienation inherent in exploitative modes of production often seek an Other on whom to project the burden of their alienation and their colonized desire. Rather than face the harsh realities of existence in a colonial culture

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