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This chapter discusses how literary heritage and authorial legacies are addressed, reflected on and performed in reconfigurations of Shakespeare. It reads the encounter of Beckett’s aesthetics with Shakespeare by way of Joyce’s use of language and his performative reworking of literary heritage. Interacting with Joyce, Beckett also found an early model of how to engage with literary history in a way that is both creative and destructive. The chapter focuses on the ‘Scylla and Charybdis’ episode of Ulysses, which inquires into notions of authorship, national heritage and identity. With regard to Shakespeare, and particularly Hamlet, the chapter records various received paradigms of literary lineage and reception. The second part of this chapter traces Beckett’s inversions of Joycean and Shakespearean paradigms. Shakespeare becomes part of the creative matrix of Beckett’s works where the very richness of his material emerges in his use of minute details and his attention to the mole-cular level of languages and ideas that form the minimal components of his work.
Across his career, as the previous work of this chapter’s author and that of other critics such as Andrzej Duszenko, M. Keith Booker, David Ben-Merre, Jeffrey Drouin, and Ruben Borg has shown, James Joyce frequently included reflections on a changing landscape of time in response to Einstein’s ‘new physics’. However, while there has been important recent research touching on this topic, including the author’s wider survey of work in modernist studies, no critic has yet fully centred the watch as a technological index of Joyce’s attitudes to time. In this essay, three specific examples of Joyce’s concern with watch technology are looked at, located in the relationship of timepiece and character; firstly, Bertha’s wristwatch in Joyce’s play Exiles (1918), followed by Bloom’s pocket watch in Ulysses (1922) and, finally, HCE’s timepiece in Finnegans Wake. Each of these watches evidence Joyce’s complex feelings about connections between embodiment, sexuality, and technology.
This chapter considers the connections between modern Irish literature and the politics of nationalism, rebellion, partition, and sectarianism. It discusses key moments in the evolution of Irish culture and writing, including the 1798 rebellion, the revolutionary period of 1916–22, and the 1998 Belfast Agreement. James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) registered the decisive impact of the fall in 1890 of the parliamentary leader, Charles Stewart Parnell, on the country and its literature. W. B Yeats seized on this moment of political crisis in order to launch a movement for cultural revival. Yet most Irish writing in the independent Irish state after 1922, although hostile to Catholic hegemony and to the censorship of art, was counter-revolutionary rather than aesthetically or politically radical. While Beckett explored the legacies of an experimental Irish modernism from Paris, realist novelists, such as John McGahern and Edna O’Brien, dominated the domestic scene. The chapter concludes with an assessment of the generation of poets and critics that emerged from Northern Ireland after the 1960s, including Seamus Deane, Tom Paulin, and Seamus Heaney.
Chapter 2 reads James Joyce’s Ulysses alongside the Victorian industrial novel. Deeply invested in social determination, Gaskell’s Mary Barton, nevertheless, offer sympathy as the way out of the class struggles it deplores. At the same time, sympathy is precisely one of those impurities inciting desire that Stephen explicitly disavows at the end of Portrait of the Artist. Sympathy, though, remains fundamental to Ulysses, intertwined with its reflections on an autonomy that is equal parts aesthetic and political. Sympathy is seen here to be a form of social coercion limiting Stephen’s artistic autonomy even as its absence is part of what prevents the Irish from uniting against their common enemies and achieving political autonomy. Contrasting Bloom with Stephen, I read the Blooms as a model of community that refuses to see autonomy and sympathy as opposed values, a form of family that counters the patriarchal family of the national imaginary.
This chapter focuses on James Joyce’s investments in life at the microscopic level in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake as a way of linking literature and science methodology with Grusin’s (2015) concept of a “nonhuman turn.” Ebury’s intervention is to turn an established critical conversation about Joyce’s knowledge of the nature of matter towards his aesthetic and ethical emphasis on nonhuman life, and consider how his interests in science facilitate an awareness of connectedness across different categories of being. Previous ecocritical scholarship on Joyce has mostly concerned itself with whole entities, from Joyce’s representation of rivers or trees to Joyce’s attitudes to specific species and biological principles. Ebury builds on Tim Clark’s (2015) “scale framing” approach to argue that Joyce’s use of the nonhuman microscopic scale, informed by the complexities of quantum physics, might help us to cope with the difficult equation of our responsibility to the nonhuman.
In this chapter Katherine O’Callaghan highlights the crucial fact that, for many Irish writers of the Irish Revival, the West was a rhetorical construction through-and-through; most of them never had the opportunity to travel there: “For most Irish artists in the first half of the twentieth century, the West of Ireland was a place encountered not through personal visits or deep study, but through the paintings, sketches, and accounts of others.” Her essay begins by noting that “While access to the West had been improved by the extension of the railway – the Achill Sound train station had opened in 1895 – travel to and around the West was still challenging” for most. Annette Hemphill’s little-known diary, written in 1906 but published only in 1991 as Rambles of Four in Western Mayo, sets a poignant ethnographic tone in this essay that stretches from John Millington Synge and James Joyce to Daryll Figgis’s Children of the Earth, published in 1918, and Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s Cré na Cille, published in 1949.
Beginning with Claude McKay’s “The Harlem Dancer”—in which the national space of Harlem opens up to the Caribbean from which its eponymous dancer has likely emigrated—this chapter reads the mass migration resulting from the structures of imperial capital as the determining social ground of modernist literature. Indeed, modernism registered, to an unprecedented degree, in both formal and thematic terms, an early moment of what we have now come to call globalization. But if modernist form betrays a complicity with globalization, in its persistence representation of the way national literary spaces open themselves up to cultural materials from elsewhere, it also levels a consistent critique of both capitalism and nationalism, a critique that unites its left and right wings. Modernist texts thus tend to separate economic and cultural globalization, critiquing the first, while advocating for the second, even as they demonstrate their deep inter-relationship.
This chapter surveys Ellison’s complex relationship with other key Modernist writers, as expressed both explicitly in his letters and chapters, and implicitly in his short stories, in Invisible Man, and in Three Days Before the Shooting … . Examining key moments in his intellectual formation, such as his encounters with Eliot and Joyce during his undergraduate studies at Tuskegee, it also maps out the paradox of his attested admiration for but rare intertextual dialogue with Hemingway, and his ambivalent and shifting positions on Faulkner. Lastly, it suggests that despite Ellison’s and Morrison’s mutual and clearly voiced antipathy, these two writers have far more in common, particularly in terms of their conceptions of Modernism, than either would like to admit. Throughout my overview, I will take account of the best pre-existing scholarship on this subject.
Chapter 2 surveys some different ways in which Asia features in the Irish literary imagination from Lafcadio Hearn and W. B. Yeats to the present. Ronan Sheehan’s Foley’s Asia, dealing with a celebrated nineteenth-century Irish sculptor of imperial monuments, and Naoise Dolan’s Exciting Times, set in Hong Kong against the backdrop of a ‘rising China’, are its contemporary examples. In early twentieth-century writing, Asia represented an exotic non-modern alternative to Western modernity. Later, it served as a backdrop to the fall of the British Empire. More recently, it suggests a strange new hyper-modernity with which the West will have to catch up. In all versions, Asia is conceived somewhere between the exotic and apocalyptic, a world at once tantalizing and threatening.
James Joyce and T. S. Eliot advanced a ‘double consciousness’ in their approach to myth that pervades Tony Harrison’s Metamorpheus(2000) and Sandeep Parmar’s Eidolon(2015). This double consciousness is not unique to modernism, but it intensifies in early twentieth-century literature, inscribing modernists’ desire to explore what Michael Bell describes as ‘the problematics of history under the sign of myth’. The mythic counterpointing that underpins Harrison’s work indicates that his modernist influences have been neglected by critics and poets such as Simon Armitage, eager to position his poetry as eschewing unnecessary complexity. However, whereas Metamorpheus and Eidolon would both be symptomatic of metamodernist literature in Andre Furlani’s understanding of the term, it is only in Eidolon that the legacies of ‘fractured’ writing allow for an enigmatical account of Helen, one of the most elusive figures in Greek myth.
This chapter provides a fresh, detailed and historicised account of ‘high’ Modernism and its relationship to the Gothic, c.1910–1936. It explores the various ways in which Modernist theories of the aesthetic – the novel, the short story, Imagist poetry – shaped Gothic Modernist representations. Many Modernists overtly despised dark Romanticism – Wyndham Lewis derided the ‘beastly and ridiculous spirit of Keats’ lines’ and Virginia Woolf was quick to dismiss ‘the skull-headed lady’ of the Gothic Romance. Instead, their work privileges an aesthetics of finitude and inference over any use of overtly supernatural machinery. ‘Modern’ accounts of psychology shape these representations of anxiety and entrapment but so, too, do authorial theories of the aesthetic. By reading the work of a range of important Modernist contributors, including Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, E. M. Forster and May Sinclair, this chapter suggests that the most enduring examples of Modernist Gothic are found in the mode’s representations of haunting, the unconscious and the dead.
The 'Scylla and Charybdis' episode of Ulysses makes questions of personal and national literary rivalry its topic. Stephen Dedalus’s wrestling with Shakespeare’s Hamlet in front of a skeptical audience in the National Library acts out the dramas of mimetic rivalry and anxiety of influence that are the chapter’s theme. Here, Joyce reflects on the nature of literary production and on national and international literary competition and consecration. The episode compresses a compendium of irreverent earlier Irish readings of Shakespeare into Stephen’s performance and transacts Joyce’s ongoing rivalry with his own Irish contemporaries, this articulated in a ghostly or doubled timeframe that counterpoints the 1904 Dublin of the novel’s setting to the 1922 Paris of Ulysses’ eventual triumphant publication. 'Scylla and Charybdis' satirizes the liberal humanist sentimentalism of the Goethean concept of weltliteratur. Weltliteratur, in Ulysses, consecrates the texts it elevates into a cosmopolitan supranational system that claims to be neutrally above the national field and its melancholy petty obsessions; nevertheless, national rivalries are essential to world literary systems and even when, maybe especially when, they are elevated to 'world classics' canonical texts are made to serve some political purpose.
This chapter traces the contours of Derek Walcott’s career from regional Caribbean author to English-based publishing success to relocation to the United States in the American university system. Shortly after the publication of Omeros in 1990, Walcott became the Caribbean region’s first writer of colour to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, an award associated with a wider recognition of a new Caribbean literary 'province' that had emerged in similar ways to the Irish and American 'provinces' of the early twentieth century. Omeros is an ambitious epic work that attempts to totalize both Walcott’s and the Caribbean region’s mixed indigenous, European, African and American heritages. But, like other earlier modernist epics, Omeros combines an exultant sense of literary accomplishment with anxieties of failure. As promises of new postcolonial beginnings for the Caribbean slide into visions of climate catastrophe, and as Walcott finds himself an émigré in an imperial and racist America, the poem oscillates between its affirmative and apocalyptic impulses.
Seamus Deane was one of the most vital and versatile authors of our time. Small World presents an unmatched survey of Irish writing, and of writing about Irish issues, from 1798 to the present day. Elegant, polemical, and incisive, it addresses the political, aesthetic, and cultural dimensions of several notable literary and historical moments, and monuments, from the island's past and present. The style of Swift; the continuing influence of Edmund Burke's political thought in the USA; the echoing debates about national character; aspects of Joyce's and of Elizabeth Bowen's relation to modernism; memories of Seamus Heaney; analysis of the representation of Northern Ireland in Anna Burns's fiction – these topics constitute only a partial list of the themes addressed by a volume that should be mandatory reading for all those who care about Ireland and its history. The writings included here, from one of Irish literature's most renowned critics, have individually had a piercing impact, but they are now collectively amplified by being gathered together here for the first time between one set of covers. Small World: Ireland, 1798–2018 is an indispensable collection from one of the most important voices in Irish literature and culture.
Some critics polarize Joyce and Yeats by invoking the Irish Literary Revival. This practice, which can seem unduly based on sectarian divisions, the politics of post-1916 Ireland, and the retrospective formulation of ‘Modernism’, fails to address adequately Yeats’s and Joyce’s common origins in the Aesthetic and Symbolist ethos of the 1890s, their common dedication to ‘the religion of art’. Yeats’s profound influence on Joyce attaches Joyce to the Revival, as does the struggle between different brands of cultural nationalism as represented by Joyce in Stephen Hero and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Walter Pater was fundamentally important to the aesthetics of both Yeats and Joyce; the Paterian ‘epiphany’ as a symbolic structure bridges their poetry and prose; and Charles Stewart Parnell, who can assume qualities of Pater’s ‘artist-hero’, complements Pater in his importance to both: to their dialectics between art and history. The chapter ends with a discussion of some startling thematic overlaps c. 1914 between Yeats’s Responsibilities and Joyce’s Portrait.
Belfast as a literary subject is absent from the key texts of Irish modernism written in the early twentieth century, when Belfast was a major industrial city renowned for its shipbuilding. This chapter examines works by the few writers who wrote of the industrial city with its numerous working class that had built the Titanic: Richard Rowley, Sean O’Faolain, and Louis MacNeice, the latter two of whom excoriated the city. Even Joyce, who understood that Dublin was a quintessential modern city in Ulysses, ignored the city to its north, while Samuel Beckett in his novel Murphy, a work focused on London (that sought to do for London what Joyce had done for Dublin), chose to deal with industrial modernity only in a satiric and dismissive fashion.
This chapter highlights the formative impact of colonial urbanism on the ‘high’ modernist aesthetics of the 1920s, focusing on the role of Dublin in the work of James Joyce. In Dublin, imperial ideals of unity, equalisation and harmony were inscribed onto the architectural landscape and crystallised in early twentieth-century British philanthropic discourses. This chapter focuses on the Empire Day movement, whose organisers aimed to inspire pride and participation in colonial subjects through a day-long urban celebration. While this event attempted to synchronise time across the empire’s cities, as part of an early Commonwealth imaginary, Joyce’s ‘Wandering Rocks’ episode from Ulysses confronts readers with experiences of dissonance and asynchronism, just as the temporality of the episode itself resists readerly synchronisation.
This book argues that modernists such as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf engaged creatively with modernity's expanding forms of collective experience and performative identities. Judith Paltin compares patterns of crowds in modernist Anglophone literature to historical arrangements and theories of democratic assembly to argue that an abstract construction of the crowd engages with the transformation of popular subjectivity from a nineteenth-century liberal citizenry to the contemporary sense of a range of political multitudes struggling with intersectional conditions of oppression and precarity. Modernist works, many of which were composed during the ascendancy of fascism and other populist politics claiming to be based on the action of the crowd, frequently stage the crowd as a primal scene for violence; at the same time, they posit a counterforce in more agile collective gatherings which clarify the changing relations in literary modernity between subjects and power.
This chapter argues that we should take seriously Orwell’s claim, in his 1946 essay ‘Why I Write’, that ‘what I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art’. By examining how this ambition of yoking art to politics plays out in Orwell’s final novel, it places Nineteen Eighty-Four within the context of the literary problems and practices of Orwell’s precursors and contemporaries. First, it considers his relationship with literary modernism and its legacies, with particular reference to his analysis of the work of James Joyce and Henry Miller, for instance in the 1940 essay ‘Inside the Whale’. Next, it examines Nineteen Eighty-Four in the light of earlier dystopian and speculative fiction by William Morris, Aldous Huxley, E. M. Forster, Jack London, Katharine Burdekin, Storm Jameson, and others; it also considers the influence on Orwell of Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. Finally, it assesses depictions of writing and the politics of language within the novel, and how their treatment might relate to Orwell’s sense of his place within twentieth-century literature.
James Joyce was educated almost exclusively by the Jesuits; this education and these priests make their appearance across Joyce's oeuvre. This dynamic has never been properly explicated or rigorously explored. Using Joyce's religious education and psychoanalytic theories of depression and paranoia, this book opens radical new possibilities for reading Joyce's fiction. It takes readers through some of the canon's most well-read texts and produces bold, fresh new readings. By placing these readings in light of Jesuit religious practice - in particular, the Spiritual Exercises all Jesuit priests and many students undergo - the book shows how Joyce's deepest concerns about truth, literature, and love were shaped by these religious practices and texts. Joyce worked out his answers to these questions in his own texts, largely by forcing his readers to encounter, and perhaps answer, those questions themselves. Reading Joyce is a challenge not only in terms of interpretation but of experience - the confusion, boredom, and even paranoia readers feel when making their way through these texts.