Emergence of James Joyce’s Dialogue Poetics

From Firenze University Press Journal: Journal of Early Modern Studies (JEMS)

Hans Walter Gabler, Ludwig Maximilians Universität München

In this year 2022, we commemorate the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses one hundred years ago. On 2 February 1922, his fortieth birthday, Joyce held in his hands the first copy of the book towards and on which he had crafted his art, and developed himself, for twenty years and more. Our closest encounter with the emergence of that writing comes through the unfolding of its processes themselves. With a mind-set to the genetics of literary texts, the essay to follow endeavours to respond to the signals of creative awareness, experience, pre-reading issuing into composition, such as they remain materially discernible in the authorial writing that survives.

Our genetic pursuit sets in where Joyce’s writing begins with his epiphany vignettes. Our central interest is on his literary work in prose from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man to mid-Ulysses. This is a period of creativity where self-reflection on his art in terms of both poetics and technique shows at its perhaps most intense in Joyce’s authorship. At its centre in the mid-nineteen-tens is Joyce’s encounter from author to author with William Shakespeare. It is the period through which he develops into a modernist writer.Just upon reaching the age of eighteen years, James Joyce on 20 January 1900 lectured to the Literary and Historical Society of University College Dublin from his essay ‘Drama and Life’ (Barry 2000, 23–29). ‘Drama’ of the present and the prospective future is ‘life’, we understand, under a condition of literature. Crown witness is Shakespeare. ‘Shakespeare was before all else a literary artist … [his] work … was literature in dialogue’ (23).

The present essay builds upon the assumption that here lies the origin of Joyce’s poetics as it grew and exfoliated, over close to two decades of writing, to reaching Scylla and Charybdis, his Hamlet-and-Shakespeare chapter at midpoint in Ulysses. ‘Literature’ is his chosen medium of art. ‘Drama’ is his narrative aspiration. ‘Life’ is the key to attaining it. He perceives — senses, observes, experiences, reads — life epiphanies throughout his day-to-day and night-to-night existence. Whether he senses, observes, experiences, reads — we posit reading-into-text as Joyce’s core mode of perception, and of committing perception — perception text — into his prodigious memory. It is from his read and memory-stored perception texts that he creates and generates literary texts in and of his own writing. For these, he develops an increasingly refined poetics of drama narration, constitutive of narrative character and action in scene and dialogue. This narrative mode, too, deepens progressively to protagonist self-dialogue — scenically silent, audible only in the read-ing. Inviting, indeed demanding, reader perception and participation, the silent protagonist self-dialogues in narrated scenes establish, as well, the reader as participatory character dialogically within the literary artefact. It is under such premises that the following essay in its own mode of genetically critical analysis and argument reviews the emergence of Joyce’s literary art.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.13128/jems-2279-7149-13431

Read Full Text: https://oajournals.fupress.net/index.php/bsfm-jems/article/view/13431



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The University of Florence is an important and influential centre for research and higher training in Italy