Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Joyce author finds himself a heretic

Author Kevin Birmingham's new book on James Joyce's Ulysses is being attacked by professional Joyce scholars, particularly in Ireland and the United Kingdom, over its claim that Joyce suffered from syphilis, in spite of the fact that Birmingham assembles plenty of evidence, says a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Jonathan Goldman. Apparently Birmingham is some sort of heretic. Excerpt:

Luca Crispi, of University College Dublin, is particularly displeased. He lambasted Birmingham when interviewed for an article in the Sunday Times: “There’s no argument there; [Birmingham] just simply says things, weaves them together. … It’s more like historical fiction than fact.” He continues, at some length, and apparently, in some heat, impugning Birmingham’s methods and motivations; according to the article, Crispi considers the syphilis argument as the sort of claim ”used to sell books.” (As if anyone believes the best way to sell books is to write about Ulysses.) Crispi does not impugn Birmingham’s evidence—an immense amount of research detailed in his endnotes.

Hat tip, Arthur Hlavaty.

5 comments:

Arthur Hlavaty said...

It could go with the Doctor Faustus theory of syphilis bringing genius. Anthony Burgess's Nothing like the Sun says that's what happened to Shakespeare.

Thorfinn Axelson said...

Genius output, a behaviorist would offer.
But then, who knows. Maybe super smart drugs are the stupidest idea ever - just rush into unprotected sex, and let genius bloom!

Thorfinn Axelson said...

If anyone has the Joyce-denouncements from John Raulston Saul's book Voltaire's Bastards, please paste it here, it is the shittiest attack on Joyce/post-modernism by a writer of entertaining almanac-history and maybe Nouveau-Nationalistic-elite Canada crowd-control. I have no quarrel with this Irish V.D. Exposé, but thought this was an obtuse appraisal by an author I consider a keen historian.Anything slightly reproductive will draw ire in Ireland, but Saul really was some of the worst...I need to reread it, I think I'm repressing the memory! He admitted he was a genius, possessed by genius? However, he seems to be the anti-RAW in explicating Joyce's intent with FW.

Bobby Campbell said...

The idea that the spark of Joyce's altered state of consciousness may have come from a venereal disease picked up from a prostitute really plays into his working class hero mythos as interpreted by outsider Joyce scholars like RAW & McKenna.

"Here in Moicane we flop on the seamy side, but up n’ent, prospector, you sprout all your worth and you woof your wings, so if you want to be Phoenixed, come and be parked."

—JJ, FW

Moicane is a red light district, getting "phoenixed" by being "parked" there seems newly interesting!

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