A New Approach to Joyce: The Portrait of the Artist as a Guidebook

By Robert S. Ryf | Go to book overview

2 Understanding Joyce: A Background

SYMBOLISM has had a long and interesting history. Medieval concepts of hierarchy and correspondence legitimized it and gave it a frame of reference, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century science shattered it, and the romantics tried to restore it. These are matters that have been dealt with in detail by many scholars.

I am chiefly interested in distinguishing between what I shall arbitrarily call allegorical symbolism on the one hand and romantic symbolism on the other. In Dante's great allegory The Divine Comedy the symbols, in most instances, present little difficulty. When, in Canto I of the Inferno, Dante is confronted by a leopard, a lion, and a wolf, we can easily understand that these allegorical animals are, in moral terms, to be translated Worldly Pleasure, Ambition, and Avarice; or, in political terms, Florence, the royal house of France, and the Papal See, respectively. These interpretations accord with a common and universal tradition within a unified frame of reference.

When the common tradition begins to crack and disintegrate, however, as has been true in the modern world, there is a shift from allegorical to romantic symbolism, as writers probe the world beyond the senses and the world beyond reason, as they move from exactitude to inexactitude. The things for which a symbol stands be-

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A New Approach to Joyce: The Portrait of the Artist as a Guidebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Contents *
  • Introduction 1
  • Understanding Joyce: A Background 7
  • The Portrait and Chamber Music 37
  • The Portrait and Stephen Hero 42
  • The Portrait and Dubliners 59
  • The Portrait and Ulysses 77
  • The Portrait and Finnegans Wake 98
  • Joyce's Esthetic Theories Applied 106
  • Joyce's Use of Irony 156
  • Joyce and Our Twentieth-Century World 191
  • Notes 209
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