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Joyce's open city: Colonialism, style, and the politics of impurity

Jones, Paul (2010) Joyce's open city: Colonialism, style, and the politics of impurity. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

Although much has been written about the politics of Joyce's style, critics often fail to do justice to the style of Joyce's politics, and this thesis re-visits this complex topic in order to articulate an optimistic reading of Joyce's response to colonialism, and the idiosyncratic 'cosmopolitan' or 'transnational' style of his mature work. In particular, this thesis engages with recent political accounts of Joyce's texts, especially the work of Andrew Gibson and Len Platt, and, while saluting their emphasis on a precise historical and intertextual contextualization of Joyce's writing, it objects to their reading of Joyce's style as an aggressive satire undertaken against class and cultural enemies within the colonial situation of modern Ireland. Instead, drawing on the recent work of Joseph Valente and Finn Fordham, this thesis attempts to emphasize the ethical subtlety and enabling optimism with which Joyce's work responds to the cultural antagonism of modern Irish politics through its cosmopolitan style. A key aspect of this argument is a revaluation of Joyce's attitude to the English language and its literature, and I argue that Joyce's 'babelian' version of the language in 'Finnegans Wake', although rooted in a response to colonialism, does not represent a destructive revenge upon the colonial power, as some critics argue. My central metaphor, the 'open city', aims to underline the ways in which the critique of authority that occurs in Joyce's texts, all of which are set in the city of Dublin, allows the emergence of an heterogeneous, decentralized textual community, the ethics and creative effects of which Joyce celebrates. Working chronologically through Joyce's mature work, from 'The Dead' and 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' to 'Ulysses' and 'Finnegans Wake', this thesis aims to highlight some of the continuities within the trajectory of Joyce's writing, in conscious opposition to the understandable critical tendency to bracket off 'Finnegans Wake' from the other texts in Joyce's oeuvre. Methodologically, I use a technique of close reading and an extremely detailed attention to a wide range of literary, cultural and historical intertexts to carry out my revisionary account of Joyce's politics. I also bring together two approaches to Joyce which have been distinct and often opposed in critical history, namely a post-structuralist analysis of Joyce's sophisticated play with philosophical ideas, and a scholarly attention to historical and intertextual material. While offering original interpretations of all the major works, this thesis also contributes to knowledge about Joyce's engagement with an eclectic range of contexts and intertexts; these include the use of the Irish novelist George Moore in 'Dubliners' and 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' (which has been consistently and seriously underestimated by criticism), the presence of Flaubert in 'Dubliners', the influence of eighteenth-century theories of the comic on the 'Oxen of the Sun' episode of 'Ulysses', the use of nineteenth-century historical linguistics in the later work, Joyce's response to the development of radio technology in 'Finnegans Wake', and his reaction to right-wing political theory and oratory of the 1920s and '30s, in particular his attitude to his contemporary, Éamon de Valera, and the Irish Free State.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Thesis not available for consultation.
Keywords: James Joyce colonialism style politics
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Depositing User: Mr Paul Jones
Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2010 15:34
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:45
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1050

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