GENETIC JOYCE STUDIES - Issue 5 (Spring 2005)


NOTES & ARTICLES  - TOOLS & QUERIES  -  LOST & FOUND  -  ABOUT GENETIC JOYCE STUDIES


 

Passports, Ports, and Portraits: Joyce's Harbouring of Irish Identity

 

Valérie Bénéjam

 

Perhaps the most striking image of a harbour in Joyce's work is the North Wall where Eveline suddenly refuses to board the ship which is to take her away to Buenos Aires with Frank:

All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing her into them: he would drown her. She gripped with both hands at the iron railing.

    Come

No! No! No! It was impossible. Her hands clutched the iron in frenzy. (D 41 ; emphasis added)

Being drawn away from Ireland seems by a slight vowel shift to turn into a fear of being drowned: the harbour, instead of being a locus of departure or passage, becomes a point of non-achievement and immobilization.

Traditionally, in epic literature, sea voyages are an essential element of the hero's characterization. Be they ancient Greeks or Anglo-Saxons, epic heroes prove their skill by building a ship and setting it to water, then crossing safely to wherever they, their God or Gods, want it to go. In the process of preparing for the voyage, they usually assemble and lead a group of sailor-warriors, thus proving their capacity as leaders of men. And further, by entrusting themselves to the seas, they also symbolically prove their acceptance of either Fate or Providence, according to whether they are Pagans or Christians. As a result, the sea-voyage is an essential motif in epic literature, and most epic heroes (Ulysses, Aeneas, Beowulf, etc.) are accomplished sailsmen.

But Eveline clearly is no candidate for epic adventure. "I know these sailor chaps," her father has warned her (D 39); and in what looks very much like a panic attack just before boarding the ship, she seems to unconsciously heed the warning. Her paralysis is often considered emblematic of that which is to be encountered, in various degrees and through various symptoms, with most characters in Dubliners. In opposition to such immobility and helplessness, they are always entertaining dreams of escape, where the possibility of changing their lives, and sometimes of leaving Dublin, plays a fundamental part.

Another example having to do with harbours and ships is to be found in "An Encounter": the young boys have planned a day of minching with a view to reaching the Pigeon House Fort, which is as far East as they can go into the sea, along the South Wall this time, without actually boarding a ship. However, they never reach the Pigeon House, and stop in Ringsend, with a view, not on the high seas, but on the River Dodder, a local tributary of the Liffey. The ideas of termination and circularity present in the name "Ringsend" probably suited Joyce's purpose. On their way there, in keeping with their dreams of escape and adventure, they spend some time admiring a Norwegian three-master. The young boy examines the foreign sailors with a confused idea of finding one with green eyes, but he meets nothing but blue, grey and black eyes. Yet in the end, in Ringsend, bottle-green eyes will finally meet his own, coming from the pervert's disturbing look. The child's muddled mythology of sea-voyage has turned into an unpleasant, stressful experience which does not have the least epic or exotic touch about it.

Although it may sometimes be in less dramatic fashion than with Eveline, paralysis always creeps back and the dreams of escape and adventure fall through. The Dubliners are apparently incapable of travel or change, and also seem to carry full responsibility for their failures. Indeed, if Dubliners is to be considered as Joyce's first harbouring of Irish identity, it might be in the sense of harbouring a grudge against the Irish.

At the end of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the main character may be found also on the point of boarding a ship, and this is the entry in Stephen's diary for April 16:

Away! Away!

The spell of arms and voices: the white arms of roads, their promise of close embraces and the black arms of tall ships that stand against the moon, their tale of distant nations. They are held out to say: We are alone. Come. And the voices say with them: We are your kinsmen. And the air is thick with their company as they call to me, their kinsman, making ready to go, shaking the wings of their exultant and terrible youth. (P 275)

This sounds like the same "come" cry that Frank tried on Eveline, although the call to Stephen appears definitely more promising: indeed, ten days later, in the next entry, Stephen's mother will be found packing his clothes. However, at this stage, Stephen's mind is not bent on practical, prosaic arrangements for his departure: the roads extend their white arms, the shipmasts their black arms, and thus in Stephen's sensual mythology, voyaging becomes a gathering of willing women, welcoming him with outstretched arms. Next to this female promise of embrace, "the spell of arms and voices" may also first be understood as a more epic and manly call–"arms" in the sense of "weapons," as in Virgil's famous beginning, "Arma virumque cano" ("I sing of arms and the man"). The voices are definitely male that speak to Stephen in first person, claiming "we are your kinsmen." In Anglo-Saxon, "kin," or "cyn," means race (as in "cyning" which became the English word "king"); and it may be wondered whether this Old English "kin" is not to be opposed to the Irish "race" mentioned only a few lines later in the famous ending of the Portrait: "I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of my experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race" (P 275-76). Stephen would then be torn between two affiliations–his Irish race on the one hand, his kinship with the English sailing tradition on the other. The epic undertones of the passage suggest that the dilemma might eventually be solved by resorting to a more Mediterranean mythology of heroic sea-voyages: Virgil's æneid had Homer's Odyssey as its model, and an Irish Ulysses might also discover how to travel the high seas with an Irish soul.

Through a final ellipsis (in a book so full of them), nobody actually witnesses or reads about Stephen's departure, and one may only hope he did not, like Eveline before him, cling to the railing. But the final words seem reassuring : "Dublin 1904 / Trieste 1914." Some travelling, at least, has been done.           

Ulysses, however, starts with a disappointing realization : Stephen is already back in Dublin, and his voyages will definitely not be told in terse, action-packed epic fashion.[1] Indeed, the references to his dislike of water and fear of drowning are numerous in Ulysses.[2] Stephen contrasts himself either with Haines the Englishman–nicknamed "the sea's ruler" (1:574), in reference to "Britannia rules the seas"–, or with his friend Mulligan, the Irish hero and a good swimmer–"You saved men from drowning. I'm not a hero, however" (U 1.62). The heroic, sea-voyaging mythology seems now completely abandoned, and when Stephen catches sight of a three-master at the end of "Proteus," it is homing with furled up sails–certainly not a symbol of departure and adventure abroad.

Indeed, Ulysses is not Stephen's Odyssey, but Bloom's, perhaps because this new hero has accepted that his exotic, adventurous wandering is to be entirely Dublin-bound:

He rests. He has travelled.

With?

Sinbad the Sailor and Tinbad the Tailor and Jinbad the Jailer and Whinbad the Whaler and Ninbad the Nailer and Finbad the Failer and Binbad the Bailer and Pinbad the Pailer and Minbad the Mailer and Hinbad the Hailer and Rinbad the Railer and Dinbad the Kailer and Vinbad the Quailer and Linbad the Yailer and Xinbad the Phthailer. (U 17.2320-8) 

To quote Eveline's father: we know these sailor chaps. And we also understand the meaning of Joyce's alphabetical declension. From now on, if any travelling gets done, it will be linguistic. Indeed, just a few lines later, to the question "Where?", the answer is but a dot on the page (U 17.2331-2): the Irish sea port has become the over-sized final full stop in the episode–a point of termination, but also a sign of literary exploration.

However, here again, the very end of the book marks the traveller's achievement: "Trieste-Zurich-Paris / 1914-1921." He rests. He has travelled even further. And it seems Joyce has found the ultimate solution to his Dublin characters' fear of sea-voyages: they can stay in Dublin, he will do the travelling.

***

The indications of time and place of composition given for each of Joyce's three major books draw an uninterrupted trajectory on the European continent: "Dublin 1904 / Trieste 1914," "Trieste-Zurich-Paris / 1914-1921," and in the end of Finnegans Wake: "Paris, / 1922-1939."[3] Two conclusions can be drawn from this trajectory: first, between his major departure from Ireland in 1904 and the publication of Finnegans Wake in 1939, Joyce always wrote about Ireland, and always did it away from Ireland; second, between 1904 and 1939, Joyce was constantly on the move. Although this seems blurred by stating only the major cities, the movement along the trajectory was in fact continuous: Joyce neglected to mention all the stop-overs or visits, the minor stays, or attempts at settling down elsewhere (as in Rome for instance); and he also omitted the extraordinarily numerous moves within each city. What is nevertheless interesting is that it was his choice first to tell his readers that the books had been written outside Ireland, and second, for the first two books at least, to situate this writing on a travel route. Not only are absence and movement essential elements in the writing process, but they are also part of the information Joyce wanted imparted to his readers.[4]

Much has been said on the question of Joyce's ambivalent attitude towards Ireland, and his mixed feelings of nostalgia, distrust and fear of betrayal. His decision to stay away from the country seems to have been complemented with the constant refusal to get publicly drawn into the Anglo-Irish debate: as a young man, he always felt his future was outside this binary opposition;[5] and as an artist, he consistently reached beyond any simple, univocal presentation of the issue.[6] It may even be argued that the European Continent was to him the only safe way out of the Irish-English dilemma–Europe as non-involvement, before actually reaching the very pinnacle of international neutrality–Switzerland.[7]

An interesting incident took place in 1932: when pressed by Yeats to become a member of the new Academy of Irish Letters, Joyce politely but firmly refused.[8] Even though he might have been very enthusiastic about the new Irish state, he always gave the impression that he did not wish to spend his forces either in defense or in attack of the Irish nation. At the end of his answer to Yeats's invitation, Joyce wrote the following words: "I hope your health keeps good. For myself I have to go back to Zurich every three months about my eyes. Still, I work on as best I can" (325). The feeling is of a sick man who would have no strength left to uphold Irish letters, at least as an institution, and who requires all his forces to complete his "work in progress." However, the excuse mentioned significantly involves travelling every three months from Paris to Zurich, and back–"work in progress" indeed, for the words may be taken very literally, at least in the etymological meaning of progress: progredior, to advance, go ahead, travel (per viarum, on roads), from pro, ahead, towards, and gradior walking. Besides, all this travelling was done with the British passport Joyce retained all his life, as if his distrust of Ireland extended to entrusting it with his official nationality. Or as if fixing his identity as Irish could have endangered either his travelling, or his writing, or both.[9]

Indeed, absence seems to have been what made Joyce's writing possible. On the subject, there are a couple of strikingly contradictory famous quotes: in answer to Philippe Soupault's question "Why not go back to Dublin?", Joyce is reported as having answered "It would prevent me from writing about Dublin"; and in response to Mrs Sheehy Skeffington asking him why he did not return to Ireland, he apparently replied "Have I ever left it?"[10] The paradox at first seems easily solved in a dialectical movement of presence and absence: being away from Ireland ensures that the writer keeps Ireland present in mind.

However, there is another comparable exchange in Ulysses, when Bloom asks Stephen: "Why did you leave your father's house?" and Stephen provocatively answers: "To seek misfortune" (16:252-3). Perhaps this quote may also reflect on Joyce's writing. Indeed, the first-time reader of Ellmann's biography is usually stunned by the frequent reversals of fortune–lack of money, sudden financial support or withdrawal of support, with their consequences in terms of numerous changes of address. The impression of movement seems constant, together with a feeling of unsettledness[11] : even the most spacious flats are always reported as cluttered, untidy, at times even chaotic. If we wonder how Joyce could possibly write in such surroundings, we may remember Proust's remark that an "although" is often a "because" in disguise: Joyce probably wrote because rather than in spite of such discomfort.

Arthur Power reports for instance the significant episode of the soundproof room especially provided by Valéry Larbaud:

... he told me that he preferred to work surrounded with activity ... and that he had found it impossible to work in the silence and security of that room especially designed for writing, which Larbaud had lent him, near the Luxemburg Gardens; a room I once visited with him to collect some manuscripts. Built in the foundations of a house it was fashioned like the bunk of a ship with a long table down the centre. Cool in summer; owing to its small size it could easily be heated in winter, and it had seemed to me ideal in every way. But its very noiselessness had made it impossible for him to work there. (Power 100)

 On the other hand, discovering Joyce writing in the disorder of a hotel close to the Gare Montparnasse, he exclaimed:

... one could not help wondering how he could work under these conditions; a lift continually grinding up and down outside his door, the noise and bustle of luggage being wheeled along the passage outside; a child crying in the next room;..." (Power 99-100)

The lift and the luggage were probably better surroundings for Joyce to inscribe his writing into the flux of life than the tomb-like room provided by Larbaud. Here, the image of Joyce writing on a suitcase comes to mind.

Joyce's perpetual movement and travelling abroad, as far as it seems particularly associated with his writing, is indeed in complete contradiction with the traditional image of the writer's necessary silence and isolation, from which an original voice could arise. Joyce's most original writing arose from bustle and agitation instead, from the sound of lifts and hotel luggage, from the movement going on around him.

I see an interesting parallel here with Joyce's prodigious memory, as witnessed for instance by William Fallon, who met him in Paris in 1931:

He was preoccupied with memories of Dublin. He enquired about my former house in Fitzwilliam Street, and the college boys who lived in the same line of houses. Then he invited me to check the accuracy after naming and numbering the households on both sides of that residential street in those far off years. He didn't overlook mention of a broad passageway that led to the residence and horse-training establishment of one Rogers, who, if we are to believe Joyce 'wore leather leggins and a sports jacket day and night in mitigation of an iron-grey beard sprouting from a florid complexion'. (On my return to Dublin I checked Joyce's memory with the aid of a Thoms Dublin Directory, and found that he was correct in every item. At the same time I learned that the habit of listing a series of business names in shopping centres was one of Joyce's devices to retain pictures of his Dublin.)[12]

This technique inevitably brings to mind the classical rhetorical mnemotechnics of loci memoriae,[13] except in Joyce's case, the architectural or urban locus is not used to remember an oration, but rather remembered to produce the text itself.[14] Just like Joyce's characters are often found walking around Dublin, Joyce himself, as Fallon recalls, regularly deambulated through this locus of his memory. The mental deambulation through the streets of Dublin was accompanied by the actual peregrination on the roads of Europe, and this double, concomitant process made possible the incorporation, within the Dublin arising from Joyce's memory, of all the foreign elements encountered during his travelling, including of course foreign languages. It seems only this perpetual complementary movement (the mnemotechnic deambulation and the actual peregrination) could give life to Joyce's Dublin, and hybridity to Joyce's Hiberno-English.[15] Thus including all the modernity of Europe into his native town, Joyce ended up providing Ireland perhaps not with a modern national identity, but at least with a modernist artistic self.

Instead of–as the usual phrase goes–finding foreign peculiarities to write home about, Joyce wrote to the world about the peculiarities of home. Like a traveller in a foreign land, he travelled in the mental Dublin of his past, and transcribed in writing all the details of the city and all the idiosyncrasies of its inhabitants. These letters he sent to the modern world. Indeed, Joyce's continuous travelling also insured that no other place was ever allowed to really become home. It seems the unsettled, uncomfortable position he thus struggled to retain was that of perpetual foreignness, and it is then tempting to draw a parallel with the character of Leopold Bloom, the Jew walking around Dublin with his passport to eternal wandering.

***

Foreignness, as perspective and as consciousness, seems an essential notion, especially given Joyce's explanation to Jacques Mercanton about his choice of a Jewish hero in Ulysses:

Bloom juif ? Oui, parce qu'il fallait un étranger. Les Juifs l'étaient alors à Dublin, il n'y avait pas d'hostilité à leur égard, mais du mépris, le mépris qu'on a toujours pour l'inconnu.[16]

It seems the main viewpoint in Ulysses had to be a foreigner's, not only because Joyce wanted a foreign viewpoint on Ireland, but also because Bloom is perceived as a foreigner by the other Dubliners.[17] Bloom's perspective is therefore valued not only as a virgin, curious perspective on Ireland–although it is also that–, but mainly because it allows the assessment of Irish hospitality and welcome of foreigners. Just as Joyce tested the hospitality of his Italian, Swiss or French friends in Europe, and sometimes tested it to the limit,[18] Bloom is specially devised to test the hospitality of the Irish to his essential foreignness.

The question of hospitality in Joyce's work has already been much commented, and brilliantly so recently by Jean-Michel Rabaté.[19] From his use of Jacques Derrida's reflexion on the subject, I would like to retain especially that the question of hospitality is a foreigner's question, in the sense of being a question asked by as well as addressed to the foreigner, and also that this question ultimately questions identity:

La question de l'étranger, n'est-ce pas une question d'étranger ? Venue de l'étranger ? (...) Mais avant d'Ítre une question à traiter, avant de désigner un concept, un thème, un problème, un programme, la question de l'étranger est une question de l'étranger, une question venue de l'étranger, et une question à l'étranger, adressée à l'étranger. Comme si l'étranger était d'abord celui qui pose la première question ou celui à qui on adresse la première question. Comme si l'étranger était l'Ítre-en-question, la question mÍme de l'Ítre-en-question. Mais aussi celui qui, posant la première question, me met en question. (11)[20]

 The most uncivil question Bloom encounters is of course dramatized in "Cyclops." The definition of the term "nation"  turns out to be a crucial point in the crescendo of xenophobia:

–But do you know what a nation means? says John Wyse.

–Yes, says Bloom.

–What is it? says John Wyse.

–A nation? says Bloom. A nation is the same people living in the same place.

–By God, then, says Ned, laughing, if that's so I'm a nation for I'm living in the same place for the past five years.

     So of course everyone had the laugh at Bloom and says he, trying to muck out of it:

–Or also living in different places.

–That covers my case, says Joe.

–What is your nation if I may ask? says the Citizen.

–Ireland, says Bloom. I was born here. Ireland.

    The citizen said nothing only cleared the spit out of his gullet and, gob, he spat a Red bank oyster out of him right in the corner. (12:1419-33)

The Citizen, as the main representative of the one-eyed nationalism targetted by Joyce in the episode, has the most straight-forward reaction: his spitting illustrates what I was quoting earlier about Jews in Ireland. But Ned's joke on being a nation on his own is also particularly revealing, because to Bloom's generous and inclusive, albeit awkwardly phrased perhaps, definition of a nation, it opposes the ultimate logic of the narrow-minded, exclusive, nationalistic definition: a nation of one, meaning a nation which eventually excludes and leaves out whoever is different from him. The prospect is a nation of clones, or replicas of the same. This radical refusal of differences illustrates Joyce's criticism of an Irish nationalism that would end up imposing a limitative definition of Irish identity.

It is easy to understand with this example how the question of hospitality is essentially linked to that of identity. Hospitality obviously requires from the host that he should be confident enough in his own identity not to perceive alterity as a threat. Bloom as a Dublin Jew, being at once completely Irish and irremediably foreign, is constantly probing Irish identity and its capacity to welcome and include. He is the necessary touchstone by which the generosity of the nation's hospitality will be tested–not in its grand welcome of the occasional foreigner arriving from abroad, but in its daily treatment of the eternal wandering stranger at home.

In Dubliners, the question of hospitality was already central to the portrait of Joyce's fellow citizens. He had written all the stories between 1904 and the Spring of 1906, all, as already mentioned, rather harsh on his countrymen. But during an unpleasant attempt at settling down in Rome in the summer of 1906, he was suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling of nostalgia for Irish hospitality. This apparently launched him into the writing of "The Dead," like an afterthought to render the warm, kind-hearted conviviality of his compatriots, for which he suddenly felt so much regret.[21] Again it seems movement and a feeling of foreignness triggered Joyce's writing.

And once more, the question of hospitality is closely linked with that of identity and nationalism: one of the moments in "The Dead" when the agreeable, congenial atmosphere of the party seems threatened, is during the unpleasant exchange between Gabriel and Molly Ivors, when she accuses him of neglecting his own country, people and language in favour of continental Europe, and ends up by calling him a "West Briton!" (190). Molly Ivors's question is posed in cultural yet clear-cut terms: should Irish people uphold their culture and language by spending their holidays discovering their neglected country, or may they go abroad to discover other countries and cultures? Her uncompromising answer is that if they do not uphold Ireland, they may as well side with the English. She may be confident in her defense of Irish identity, but is it a confident identity she defends? After all, she is the one who breaks the evening's harmony and conviviality by deciding to leave without joining the others for supper, and in the process, she provokes some discomfort in her host ("I am afraid you didn't enjoy yourself at all, said Mary Jane hopelessly," 195). In the end, Molly Ivors goes without accepting Gabriel's offer to see her home: "I'm quite well able to take care of myself," she claims, leaving solitarily–a party of one–, again as if the portrait of Irish nationalists necessarily involved solitude and exclusion.[22]

The incident with Molly Ivors is interesting because it poses the problem along cultural and especially linguistic lines:

–And haven't you your own language to keep in touch with–Irish, asked Miss Ivors.

–Well, said Gabriel, if it comes to that, you know, Irish is not my language. (189)

 Joyce may have entertained similar views.[23] At least it is obvious that, along with retaining a British passport, he also retained the English language for his writing, probably judging that its universal quality made it his likeliest "passport to eternity".[24] But as a passport progressively gets covered with foreign visas, Joyce's English moved on from Hiberno-English, gradually taking on a more and more cosmopolitan look, until it reached its form in Finnegans Wake, where the very notion of boundary or frontier between languages seems completely abolished.[25] In a way, what Joyce does with language in Finnegans Wake is exactly the same thing he does with national identity–testing its hospitality to foreignness to the limit.[26] How much can English be strained and twisted and thus invaded, and still be understood as English? What is striking about Wakese, is that while testing the limits of the hospitality of English, it makes even the native speakers feel like foreigners when reading their native tongue.

This could be understood as the Irish writer's revenge against the English language that was imposed on him.[27] Stephen had been musing about the Dean of Studies's English:

The language in which we are speaking is his before it is mine. How different are the words home, Christ, ale, master, on his lips and on mine! I cannot speak or write these words without unrest of spirit. His language, so familiar and so foreign, will always be for me an acquired speech. I have not made or accepted its words. (P 205)

Wakese could be understood as Joyce's attempt not only at "making" the words himself, but also at giving the English a taste of what it can be for one's native tongue to be at once "so familiar and so foreign." This conception however, if strictly applied, would then unnecessarily restrict Joyce's readership to the English.... If Joyce's transformations and deconstructions of English or Hiberno-English has a political dimension, it is probably in its exposure of the images and clichés of the language of colonization, meaning both those of the colonizers and those of the colonized. And through and beyond the Irish question (where the issue of hospitality may be so sensitive, being so entangled with that of colonization), it may reach a more universal questioning about hospitality and national identities. And perhaps that would be my provisional conclusion: just as Leopold Bloom's perspective in Ulysses makes us embrace the foreigner's viewpoint, the language in Finnegans Wake systematically puts us, whoever we are, again in the foreigner's place. In general the experience of the Joycean reader may indeed correspond to a foreigner's position in a hospitable foreign land--–asking questions and being asked questions about our respective identities.

As a conclusion, I will quote from another writer whose native land has at least as problematic and troublesome an identity as Joyce's had: the Lebanese-born, French-speaking writer Amin Maalouf recently published a book called Origines. Perhaps in reference to Alex Haley's best-seller, he feels the need in his preface to defend his choice of the word "origins" as a title, claiming that "roots" give the feeling of fixing people to the land and hampering movement. "Origins," on the contrary, provide a symbolic meaning to his link with his native land, which makes individual destinies possible. Instead of the roots that fix trees to the land, he prefers the image of feet walking along roads.[28] When I read him, I realized it had been with the same idea in mind that I had chosen to focus on the "ports," "harbours" and "passports" in Joyce's writing. Joyce's books seem to me neither a lesson in Irishness nor in any other national identity, but a lesson in foreignness; and if his work is to harbour Irish identity, it is certainly not with the aim of fixing it in the past or of offering a memorial to its turn-of-the-century self, but of always testing its hospitality to the limit, by retaining, like a foreign passport, a foreign perspective.

 

Works Cited:

Attridge, Derek & Marjorie Howes eds. Semicolonial Joyce. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Beckett, Samuel et al. Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress. London: Faber, (1929) 1972.

Cheng, Vincent J. Joyce, Race, and Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Cixous, Hélène. L'Exil de James Joyce, ou l'art du remplacement. Paris: Grasset, 1968.

Deane, Seamus. "Joyce and Nationalism." James Joyce, New Perspectives, Colin MacCabe ed. Sussex: Harvester Press; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982: 168-83.

Derrida, Jacques. De l'hospitalité. Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1997.

Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce. Oxford: Oxford University Press, (1959) 1982.

Gibson, Andrew. Joyce's Revenge: History, Politics, and Aesthetics in Ulysses, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Jones, Ellen Carol. "Border Disputes." James Joyce and the Difference of Language. Laurent Milesi ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Joyce, James. The Critical Writings, Cornell University Press (1959) 1989.

Dubliners, Robert Scholes & A. Walton Litz eds., Viking Critical Library edition, New York: Penguin Books USA, 1996.

Finnegans Wake, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976.

Letters I, Stuart Gilbert ed., New York: Viking Press, 1957.

Letters II, Richard Ellmann ed., New York: Viking Press, 1966.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Seamus Deane ed., Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1992.

Ulysses, Hans Walter Gabler ed., Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986.

Kenner, Hugh. Dublin's Joyce. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987.

Maalouf, Amin. Origines. Paris: Grasset, 2004.

Mailhos, Jacques, "The Art of Memory: Joyce and Perec." Transcultural Joyce, Karen R. Lawrence ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998: 151-69.

Mercanton, Jacques. Les Heures de James Joyce. Arles: Actes Sud, 1988.

Milesi, Laurent. James Joyce and the Difference of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Murat, Laure. Passage de l'Odéon: Sylvia Beach, Adrienne Monnier et la vie littéraire à Paris dans l'entre-deux-guerres, Paris: Fayard, 2003.

Nolan, Emer. "State of the art: Joyce and postcolonialism." Semicolonial Joyce, Derek Attridge & Marjorie Howes eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000: 78-95.

James Joyce and Nationalism, London & New York: Routledge, 1995.

O'Connor, Ulick ed. The Joyce We Knew: Memoirs of Joyce, Dingle, Co. Kerry: Brandon, (1967) 2004.

Rabaté, Jean-Michel. James Joyce and the Politics of Egoism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Rathjen, Friedhlem. "Silence, Migration, and Cunning: Joyce and Rushdie in Flight." James Joyce Quarterly 39.3 (Spring 2002): 553-58.

Slote, Sam. "No symbols where none intended: Derrida's war at Finnegans Wake." James Joyce and the Difference of Language, Laurent Milesi ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 195-207.

Stoppard, Tom. Travesties. New York: Grove Press, 1975.

Yates, Frances A. The Art of Memory, London: Routledge,(1966) 1999.

Zweig, Stefan. The World of Yesterday: An Autobiography, New York: Viking Press, 1943.


[1] Stephen's travels are actually alluded to several times, but generally in very cynical tone, and the conclusion seems to be that, far from flying to his freedom like his "old father, old artificer" Dedalus, Stephen, like Icarus, fell back and was drowned into the Irish sea: "You flew. Whereto? Newhaven-Dieppe, steerage passenger. Paris and back. Lapwing. Icarus. Pater, ait. Seabedabbled, fallen, weltering. Lapwing you are. Lapwing be." (U 9.952-4) Hugh Kenner, analysing Stephen's name, is adamant about it: "St. Stephen, the first martyr; Dedalus, the exiled builder of labyrinths. Our Stephen of course is his son, who fell into the sea" (Dublin's Joyce, 245).

[2] When walking along the strand in "Proteus": "I am not a strong swimmer. Water cold soft. When I put my face into it in the basin at Clongowes. Can't see! Who's behind me? Out quickly, quickly! Do you see the tide flowing quickly on all sides, sheeting the lows of sand quickly, shellcocoacoloured? If I had land under my feet. I want his life still to be his, mine to be mine. A drowning man" (U 3.323-30).  In "Wandering Rocks," when meeting his sister, he immediately expresses his fear of being drawn into his family's problems through the metaphor of drowning: "She is drowning. Agenbite. Save her. Agenbite. All against us. She will drown me with her, eyes and hair. Lank coils of seaweed hair around me, my heart, my soul. Salt green death" (U 10.875-77). The final recapitulation takes place in "Ithaca": "... that he was a hydrophobe, hating partial contact by immersion or total by submersion in cold water, (his last bath having taken place in the month of October of the preceding year), disliking the aqueaous substances of glass and crystal, distrusting aquacities of thought and language" (U 17.237-39). Like many other Joyceans, it was a shock for me to discover in William Fallon's recollections of the young Joyce that he had been an expert swimmer (Ulick O'Connor ed., The Joyce We Knew, 46-47).

[3] I except Dubliners, which carries no such information, probably because it would have been in contradiction with its focus on paralysis.

[4] The word "exile" comes to mind here, being the title of Joyce's play (and of the book Hélène Cixous drew from her thesis–Exile de Joyce). There is an interesting criticism of the use of this word in a comparison between Joyce and Rushdie made by Friedhlem Rathjen. According to him, Rushdie tells us that "the state of exile in the narrower sense of the word is always involuntary and never accepted; this is not the kind of exile that Joyce experienced." On the contrary, "Rushdie, as he sees himself, is not an exile but rather a migrant. Migration means that there is no return: paradise is lost, and this is accepted as a matter of fact, albeit painfully" (553). Unwilling to choose between the positive or negative connotations of either migration or exile, I prefer using the more neutral terms of absence and movement.

[5] In "Telemachus," Stephen rejects both the old woman standing for Ireland, and Haines the Englishman: "Well? Stephen said. The problem is to get money. From whom? From the milkwoman or from him. It's a toss up, I think. ... I see little hope, Stephen said, from her or from him" (1.497-501).

[6] See on this question the remarkable introduction to Semicolonial Joyce by Derek Attridge and Marjorie Howes: "This strategy of evoking and simultaneously complicating oppositions is entirely characteristic of Joyce's writing and of his attitude to political and ethical issues. ... He even extended this preference for undecidability and hybridity to the very opposition between separation and union as distinct principles of thought (as well as practical policies), so that even  these terms cannot finally operate in isolation from each other." (2) In the same collection of articles, Emer Nolan also remarks on the complexity and subtlety of Joyce's position in his fictional work, which never quite reach the same level in his non-fiction writing: "his writings about Ireland may not provide a coherent critique of either colonised or colonialist; but their very ambiguities and hesitations testify to the uncertain, divided consciousness of the colonial subject, which he is unable to articulate in its full complexity outside his fiction." (130)

[7] In the words of Tom Stoppard in Travesties: "Oh, Switzerland!–unfurled like a white flag, pacific civilian Switzerland–the miraculous neutrality of it, the non-combatant impartiality of it, the non-aggression pacts of it, the international red cross of it–entente to the left, detente to the right ..." (25)

[8] "I hope that the Academy of Irish Letters (if that is its title) which you are both [Yeats together with Bernard Shaw] forming will have the success it aims at. My case, however, being as it was and probably will be I see no reason why my name should have arisen at all in connection with such an academy: and I feel quite clearly that I have no right whatsoever to nominate myself as a member of it." (Letter to W. B. Yeats, 5 October 1932, in Letters I, 325).

[9] As Seamus Deane so adequately put it, "Joyce was always to be the Irish writer who refused the limitations of being Irish" ("Joyce and Nationalism," 176).

[10] Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, respectively pp. 643 and 704. Both these quotes apparently date from the thirties. I stress the reported quality of both statements, because many other similar quotations, or similar versions of perhaps the same remarks, seem to be circulating: in The Joyce We Knew (Ulick O'Connor ed.), Eugene Sheehy recounts that his sister Mrs Sheehy-Skeffington had asked "Mr Joyce, you pretend to be a cosmopolitan, but how is it that all your thoughts are about Dublin, and almost everything that you have written deals with it and its inhabitants?" and that he had replied "Mrs Skeffington! ... there was an English queen who said that when she died the word "Calais" would be written on her heart. "Dublin" will be found on mine." (37-38) In the same collection of memoirs, Sean Lester remembers meeting Joyce after his arrival in Switzerland during World War II, and asking him "Why do you not go home?". "I am attached to [Ireland] daily and nightly like an umbilical cord," was Joyce's answer (119). It is impossible to decide how embellished these anecdotes might have been by other Irish travellers or exiles, or even what stage Irish exile Joyce wished to play to please his friends.

[11] Arthur Power makes the parallel with the character of Ulysses: "Indeed, on meeting Joyce himself one could not but be reminded that his wandering existence was similar to that of his chosen hero, travelling as he had done from country to country and from town to town, and now in Paris from flat to flat, and from hotel to hotel, to say nothing of his numerous departures down into the French countryside to Nice, Burgundy, Brittany, and even into Holland and Switzerland; always restless, and always seeking." (The Joyce We Knew, Ulick O'Connor ed., 95)

[12] The Joyce We Knew, Ulick O'Connor ed., 53-54.

[13] This consisted in the representation of a speech as a deambulation around a locus, usually  a building or a city, each part of which was associated to an element in the oration.  On the Ad Herennium treaty from the 1st century B.C., which develops this mnemotechnic device, see the beginning of Frances Yates's The Art of Memory.

[14] On this subject, see Jacques Mailhos's remarkable article, "The Art of Memory: Joyce and Perec."

[15] See on this subject the notion of "Wakean peregrinism", as studied by Sam Slote.

[16] "Bloom Jewish? Yes, because he had to be a foreigner. The Jews were so in Dublin then. There was no hostility towards them, but contempt, the contempt one always feels towards the unknown" (Les Heures de James Joyce, 15. My translation).

[17] On the question of Irish antisemitism and of the analogy between the Irish and Jewish causes, see Andrew Gibson's particularly well-informed chapter, "Only a Foreigner Would Do: Leopold Bloom, Ireland, and Jews" (42-59).

[18] See for instance the portrait of Joyce in Laure Murat's Passage de l'Odéon, and particularly the story of how he negociated the rights for Ulysses in the United States with no benefit for "Shakespeare and Co." (174 sq).

[19] Joyce and the Politics of Egoism.

[20] "Isn't the question of the foreigner a foreign question? A question coming from abroad? ... But before being a question to address, before pinpointing a concept, a theme, a problem, a programme, the question of the foreigner is a foreigner's question, a question coming from the foreigner, and a question to the foreigner, addressed to the foreigner. As if the foreigner was first he who asks the first question or he to whom the first question is addressed. As if the foreigner was the being-in-question, the very question of the being-in-question. But also he who, asking the first question, questions me." (My translation).

[21] See Joyce's letter to his brother Stanislaus from Sept. 25, 1906: "Sometimes thinking of Ireland it seems to me that I have been unnecessarily harsh. I have reproduced (in Dubliners at least) none of the attraction of the city for I have never felt at my ease in any city since I left it except in Paris. I have not reproduced its ingenuous insularity and its hospitality. The latter 'virtue' so far as I can see does not exist elsewhere in Europe" (Letters II, 164). For the story of Joyce's stay in Rome, see Ellmann, 224-242 (as well as 245 sq., for the theme of hospitality in "The Dead").

[22] I cannot pretend here to be exhaustive on the subject of Joyce and Irish nationalism. On this question, see particularly Seamus Deane's "James Joyce and Nationalism," Emer Nolan's James Joyce and Nationalism, as well as Vincent Cheng's Joyce, Race, and Empire.

[23] See "Ireland, Island of Saints and Sages", where Joyce denounced the artificiality of the Gaelic League's revival of the language (CW 155-56). See also Stephen's remark to Davin in the Portrait: "My ancestors threw off their language and took another, Stephen said. They allowed a handful of foreigners to subject them. Do you fancy I am going to pay in my own life and person debts they made?" (220)

[24] See Jolas's defense of what he calls Joyce's "onslaught" against a traditionalist, static view of language: "The English language, because of its universality, seems particularly fitted for a re-birth along the lines envisaged by Mr. Joyce. His word formations and deformations spring from more than a dozen foreign languages." (Beckett et al, Our Exagmination..., 90). See also Victor Llona's "I don't know what to call it but it's mighty unlike prose": "... Mr. Joyce expects too much from his readers. Few, if any, will possess the knowledge of languages–and other sciences–that would allow them fully to grasp the niceties of meaning in this work. However, he may point out, were he disposed to answer such criticism, that in this departure he but anticipates the trend of the times, which assuredly leans to a thorough internationalization in speech as in everything else." (Ibid., 99-100)

[25] In 1915, in a conversation with Stefan Zweig, Joyce remarked: "I'd like a language which is above all languages, a language to which all will do service. I cannot express myself in English without enclosing myself in a tradition" (Stefan Zweig, 275).

[26] On the process of the "creolization" of language in Joyce, see Laurent Milési's ("Introduction: language(s) with a difference," 14-15), as well as the notions of "hybridity" and "migrancy" in the essay by Ellen Carol Jones in the same collection ("Border Disputes," 142-160).

[27] See the study of Joyce's "writing back" in Gibson's chapter about the "Oxen of the Sun" episode ("An Irish Bull in an English Chinashop: Oxen of the Sun," 150-82).

[28] Amin Maalouf, 9.

 

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