The Novels of Joyce

The Novels of Joyce


My project originally began as an
attempt to outline the intellectual development of Stephen Dedalus, the
literary alter-ego of James Joyce from Joyce’s 1916 novel “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” in which we get Stephens childhood. Joyce’s follow-up
in 1922, “Ulysses,” in which we finally get Stephen as a young adult. So looking back
at all the pages that I scrapped, and there were a few, I realized that this
wasn’t so much a project that concluded in this attempt. It certainly began here,
but by no means was I looking for his intellectual development by the end. I
realized as the project went on that it became more about tracing Stephens
subjectivity. Now Stephen, who is modeled after the events of Joyce, originally
begins as a kind of a more reserved conservative Catholic child and by the
end is is a bit more secular-minded, to put it lightly. And I found that
this creates an interesting double bind in the character of Stephen Dedalus. Joyce creates Stephen in a way that is
Joyce recreating himself through Stephen, which may lead to some issues of
interpretation. So while the novel certainly begins here, as Stephen as a
young child in “A Portrait of the Artist,” that’s not the end by the time we get to
Ulysses. Now in Ulysses it’s important to point out that, while Stephen is the
protagonist of “A Portrait of the Artist,” in Ulysses rather there’s no single main
character. Rather, Stephen gets a third of the novel, an advertiser Leopold Bloom
gets a third of the novel, and Bloom’s wife Molly gets a third of the
novel. Now as the novel begins in “A Portrait of the Artist,” now Stephen is
eight years old but by the time that Stephen is 22 in
the end of Ulysses, yeah again he’s a he’s a very different,
changed person. It’s also important to then point out that because Stephen is
specifically modeled off of the events of Joyce’s life,
Stephen is also considered to be the younger more ostentatious version of
Joyce, and Bloom is the older, more mature, more refined version. So if “Ulysses” is a
novel that’s written to be about two different versions of Joyce existing at
two different versions in the city of Dublin, there’s got to be some sort of
symbolic resolution that closes this space between these two characters. And
this happens in “Ulysses” at a highly symbolic level. What’s interesting
about this, is that they both, Stephen and Bloom, gaze into a mirror and realize
their own features in the other. The line reads something like, “Silent each
contemplating the other in the reciprocal flesh of both mirrors of
theirhisnothis fellow faces.” So what you have here is a narrator that’s
anything but omniscient. James Joyce writes a novel about two different
versions of himself being symbolically resolved. And I find, though, at a greater
level, he’s not so much writing about Steven and Bloom coming together as two
different versions, but instead Steven and Bloom, if anything, recognize each
other not because of physical, but intellectual similarities. In so doing
they recognize that none of these pre-existing ideas of the world they had
on their own. If anything, they are created and recreated and from this
moment on, all pre-existing ideas are thrown into a permanent state of flux. I
find here that Joyce’s example presents us one of the great accomplishments of
the humanities. This being mapping in the unknown territory and the unknown
distance at which we stand from our own selves. We are always continuing to
create an encounter, and therefore recreate ourselves. From here, the
complexities of Joyce and through the reflections of appearances, and through
the ideas of others that they’re composed of that we will inevitably also
be composed of. This idea might be daunting, it suggests that we are by no
means original. And I agree, I don’t think we are. And I find that liberating. If
anything, it suggests that at a greater level, our subjectivity is never complete.
It is an endless mosaic, rather, is always giving succession and life
to itself. If anything, our subjectivity is then a mosaic that we live within,
and this idea can, therefore, be by no means my own. I find that it’s all
of ours and we live within it. Thank you

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