Joyce, Milton, and the Theory of Influence

By Patrick Colm Hogan | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
A Romantic Milton Masked with Dante Alighieri's Face: Joyce and Milton before Ulysses

1906 was, as Ellmann reports, a dry year for Joyce, and he did virtually no new writing. Dubliners had almost achieved its present shape, but still ended with the story '"Grace"--which, as Ellmann has pointed out (following Stanislaus), "employed the tripartite division of the Divine Comedy, beginning with the Inferno of a Dublin bar, proceeding to the Purgatorio of a drunkard's convalescence, and ending in the Paradiso of a highly secularized Dublin church" ( James Joyce 229). In this Paradiso, the stern spiritual guidance of virginal Beatrice is replaced by the worldly direction of a priest who has sold his spiritual principles for donations from the wealthy and who aptly takes his name from one of the streets in Dublin's brothel district: Father Purdon.

But Joyce felt something was missing in the collection (see SL109-10) and projected two further stories--"Ulysses" and "The Dead." He completed the latter and placed it after the Dantean "Grace." As far as I am aware, this is the first of Joyce's prose fiction that incorporates a direct reference to Milton. And it follows what are evidently his first borrowings from Dante into that genre as well.


Dubliners, Milton, and the Imperial British State

Parts of "The Dead" seem strongly if implicitly Miltonic. Most obviously, the names of Gabriel and Michael recall Milton, though these names are by no means exclusive to Paradise Lost. While the connection between the two Gabriels does not appear to go beyond their common name, and perhaps a

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