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Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Interesting new article on James Joyce

A 1922 photograph of James Joyce by Man Ray. (Public domain photo). 

 "James Joyce Was a Complicated Man" by Henry Oliver, an article posted at The Fitzwilliam, starts out by zeroing in on the date James Joyce chose for Ulysses

"After Nora Barnacle masturbated James Joyce under a bridge, she became his muse. It was their first date, and Nora thought it a way of keeping her ardent admirer at bay. The glove that Nora had removed, Joyce kept by him in bed as a young man. But this was more than infatuation. That day became the centre of Joyce’s imaginative work, the day on which Ulysses was set. 

"A few years earlier, Joyce had been seduced by a prostitute, down by the River Liffey, an encounter which began his retreat from religion and religious authority. Now Nora was bringing him towards his central idea: the role of love in human affairs, and the notion that, as Richard Ellmann put it, the ordinary is the extraordinary; Joyce’s novel is the 'justification of the commonplace.' What happened between him and Nora that day wasn’t crude or immoral or disgusting: it was life. And it became the foundation of Ulysses."

Lots of other interesting observations in the article, too. This passage, for example, could be read as a restatement of how Ulysses influenced Illuminatus!: "Consciousness is fragmentary and so, to depict consciousness, novels must become fragmentary too. As T.S. Eliot said, 'the number of aspects' in Ulysses 'is indefinite'.” This seems like a restatement of RAW's comment that Ulysses does not have one objective point of view. 

The author, Henry Oliver, has his own Substack. 

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