Social(ist) Institutions in 'Ulysses'
Before World War I, Joyce shared the dream of a great artist- leader who could stand firm against the current tides of politics and yet express the deep desires of the masses, the dream that also motivated much of Eliot's and Yeats's poetry. Joyce was fascinated by heroic nationalism and anarcho-syndicalism. He dreamed of an artist who could create the myth to foment a Sorelian general strike in Ireland, freeing the nation from England and at the same time freeing the Irish proletariat from capitalist domination--without requiring a military movement. As we have seen, he conceived of his act of leaving Ireland as an "intellectual strike" and found in Italy political leaders who seemed to be dreaming of the same kind of revolution that he was. But when the war broke out and the masses showed more enthusiasm for war than they ever had for a general strike, Joyce watched in horror as the leaders he had admired, D'Annunzio and the Italian syndicalists, joined together to convert syndicalism into a militaristic nationalist movement that eventually became Fascism. Joyce's letters show considerably less enthusiasm for any political movement after 1914, and some critics have interpreted his later works as a rejection of politics entirely. But Joyce did not reject politics; he rejected only a specific political orientation--the politics of proto-Fascism. Joyce struggled to find a way out of the political logic that turned the refusal to serve anyone--a general strike--into militaristic obedience. Ulysses is one monument to that struggle. Joyce sought to revise the theory of myths and revolutionary violence that underlay syndicalism so that the power of myth to inspire acts of resistance did not lead directly to militarism.