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Joyce’s ‘corpo straniero’ the European dimension of Irishness in four border crossings



This article explores Joyce's unique position as an Irish citizen of Europe through a study of the letters preserved as part of the Hans Jahnke Bequest at the Zurich James Joyce Foundation.
I N
Mr. Daedalus was himself a renegade
from the Nationalist ranks: he professed
cosmopolitism. But a man that was of all
countries was of no country—you must
first have a nation before you have art.
(SH 103)
Joycean scholarship is often associated with a sort of “anxiety of belat-
edness” which, reinterpreting Brooker’s metaphor, might be compared to
that of latecomer “guests wondering whether there’s anything left to drink”
(2002, 203). Such anxiety seems unwarranted: the vitality of this field of
study has never abated and is in fact constantly providing new insights and
analytical tools.
Two aspects, in particular, have contributed towards the impetus for
research. In the first place, a bulk of new documentation by and about Joyce
has appeared over the last decade, both confirming and upsetting previous
assumptions; this is the case of the 2002 National Library of Ireland acquisi-
tions and the 2006 Hans Jahnke bequest to the James Joyce Foundation. In
the second place, several aspects of Joyce’s figure and works are still object of
heated debate, with significant theoretical impact.
Most notably, a favoured academic topic has recently undergone major
revisions. e beginning of the twenty first century might be considered
a sort of gulf in the critical discourse regarding Joyce’s relationship with
Ireland. In the mid-1990s, Hofheinz and Williams noted the spread of a
non-Irish and a-political idea of Joyce, emphasizing how the writer was of-
ten read as a cosmopolitan author who had merely left Ireland behind him.
Significant work in a postcolonial perspective flourished with, among oth-
ers, Joseph Valente, Vincent Cheng and Christine van Boheemen. But it
was probably in 2006, with Andrew Gibson’s James Joyce that a new, more
radical tendency emerged: the “materialist turnchallenged the cosmopoli-
tan figure of Joyce by means of a “nationalization of the author, as also
discussed in John McCourt’s Questioni Biografiche (2009). Recently, Gibson
provided further explanations of his theoretical stance:
Historical materialism also presumes that the more we know about the
historical relations between the British and the Irish in the late nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries, the more our grasp of Joyce substantially improves
and deepens (2010, 181).
Despite its unquestionable value, a critical “immersion in Ireland” can
also present some risks: in extreme cases, an emphatically Irish perspective
on Joyce can result in taking the writer out of his actual cultural context,
offering a limited angle of the reality he experienced. Joyce’s Irish-centred
logic is traversed by the multiple influences of its European frame, as part of
the same, broad picture; in this sense, his crossing of boundaries is not only
a basic trait of his life and works, but also, as I will argue, the essence of his
cultural repertoire and of his own Irishness.
In line with the latest scholarly work on cosmopolitism,1 I propose to
emphasize how Joycean studies are part of Irish studies especially because of
the European dimension they embrace. With this objective in mind, I will
analyze transnational intersections and encounters in a rather unexplored
area of Joyce’s corpus, the Hans Jahnke collection at the Zurich James Joyce
Foundation; the focus will be especially on the 60 documents which testify
to the private correspondence between James Joyce and his son, Giorgio.2
ese letters, postcards and notes shed new light on four different boundary
1 For the question of cosmopolitanism, see for example Binnie et al., 2006; the idea of
transnationalism is treated in Ben-Rafael and Sternberg, 2009. My use of the terms ‘cosmopoli-
tanism’ and ‘transnationalism’ here conform to the definitions proposed by Alan Latham (2006,
94-5) and Portes et al. (2009, 568-9) respectively.
2 My heartfelt thanks go to the director of the Zurich James Joyce Foundation, Prof. Fritz
Senn, who offered me full access to the Jahnke collection. A description of the Hans Jahnke
documentation is available in Frehner and Zeller, 2006. e Zurich material is still under copy-
right and quotations from the manuscripts and typescripts are accordingly limited in this essay.
All references to James Joyce’s letters to Giorgio Joyce are in parentheses after the quotation, in
a day/month/year format. My translations from Joyce’s Italian are provided in the footnotes or
after the text.
crossings involving linguistic, thematic and textual aspects of the manu-
scripts and they are worthy of detailed analysis.
I. Italian/English: A linguistic encounter
e first border to be crossed in the Jahnke material is a linguistic one,
concerning the English and Italian languages. To be more specific, it oc-
casionally regards dialects, which yield a more composite and complex pic-
ture. As is well known, Joyce communicated in Italian with his children,
even after leaving Trieste; according to Francini Bruni, he “used to say that
the language for family affection could only be Italian(qtd in Potts 1979,
45). Consequently, the 60 documents which compose the correspondence
between James and Giorgio Joyce are mostly in this language, except for a
few cases, when father and son are not the only recipients.
It seems unnecessary to dwell upon the subject of Joyce’s Italian, since
the most groundbreaking views on the subject have appeared in well-known
essays by Melchiori (1979 and 1995), Bosinelli (1998), Ruggieri (1992),
Vaglio (1994), Lobner (1983) and Zanotti (2004); what I wish to comment
on are some specific aspects of the Jahnke papers. e new documentation
offers a wider perspective on Joyces communication modalities with his
family than ever before, as well as additional information about Joyce’s pri-
vate use of Italian. We are now allowed a more nuanced and informed view
on particular linguistic choices, a view which both confirms and broadens
previous assumptions.
One of the most relevant features of the Jahnke letters is that they
especially reflect Joyce’s split identity as an expatriate. For instance, Joyce’s
condition of “migrant” or “exile” is unconsciously expressed in a lapsus, or
revealing mistake, which is also quoted in the title of this essay: in a let-
ter dated 30 August 1932 he complains that a “foreign body” entered his
eye, defining it in Italian a “corpo straniero” (“foreigner’s body”), instead of
“corpo estraneo” (“foreign body”).
Indeed, the linguistic encounters between English and Italian, in all
their variants, appear dialogic, to the point that the two languages often
intermingle. In particular, some letters addressed to both Giorgio and his
wife Helen Fleischman are written partly in English and partly in Italian,
with the two languages alternating within sentences:
Mi rallegro della [sic] buone notizie datemi di Stefanuccio and also of the
other members of the colony.3 (19/07/1932)
Language switch within sentences is a rather new phenomenon: avail-
able published letters addressed to Giorgio and Helen are usually in English,
with possible salutations or postscripts in Italian. A practical explanation of
the bilingual writing in the Jahnke material could be that the Italian sec-
tions were especially meant for Giorgio, since Helen could not understand
them; but this does not exhaust what is involved in such a complex use of
e most striking aspect of the bilingual letters is that personal re-
marks, opinions or emotions are usually expressed in Italian:
I am waiting [sic] a reply from Collinsonabout the glaucoma complication, cosa
che mi sorprende molto perché non me ne sono mai accorto.4 (19/07/1932)
Italian is also the language of playful comment or verbal provocation:
[Brauchbar] wrote [Lucia] a long letter of encouragement but […] quello che
fece era un’asineria [...].5 (19/07/1932)
It cannot be excluded that an emotional linguistic bond underlies the
choice of the language of expression. Whereas the second language is gen-
erally believed to allow the subject more distance from the topics under
discussion (see Pavlenko 2007, 131), in Joyces case the situation is appar-
ently reversed. As already noted by Melchiori (1979), Bosinelli (1998) and
Milesi (2003), Italian represented a “lingua franca” for Joyce and was both
the family lexicon and the “language of politics, of Irish politics(Mel-
chiori 1995, 22). Evidence in the Zurich documentation both confirms and
broadens this idea, highlighting a bilingual affective response where Italian
3 “I am glad to hear the good news about Stephen and also of the other members of the
4 “I am waiting [sic] a reply from Collinson about the glaucoma complication, a thing
which surprises me very much, since I had never realized it before.” Given the syntactic con-
struction of the sentence, the first verb might be assumed to be ‘I am awaiting,” but the manu-
script does not seem to present this reading.
5 “[Brauchbar] wrote [Lucia] a long letter of encouragement but […] what he did was
is not only connected to “family affection,” but also to emotional expressiv-
ity in general.
In the Jahnke material as a whole, the use of Italian is characterised
by the combination of different registers and a large use of colloquial-
isms and idioms, such as “ne ho le tasche piene” (“I am fed up with it,”
19/07/1932) andsangue da una rapa non si cava” (“one cannot get blood
out of a stone,” 23/04/1935). Set phrases are also occasionally transformed
or distorted, thus extending their meaning and expanding the language’s
Indeed, we are well accustomed to both Joyces switching registers of
language and transformations of words and set phrases from his novels.
What emerges from the letters is that he adopted these procedures in a con-
tinuative way throughout different functions of writing (public and private
texts) and in different languages (English and Italian), thus substantiating
Melchiori’s remarks:
e whole of Joyce’s work is a constant infringement of conventional linguistic
structures in order to accommodate not only the creativity of the writer who
translates the common idioms, the language of the tribe, into an individual
style belonging to him alone, but also to involve the creativity of each
individual reader who is invited to translate what he is offered into his own
private language (1995, 20).
II. A migrant’s-eye view of “Ireland/ Europe/ e World/ e Universe”
Transnational encounters in the Jahnke collection do not only concern
Italy and its language, but also many other European countries. From 1930
to 1940, approximately when the Jahnke letters were written, Joyce trav-
elled to various cities, touring France, England, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium,
Germany and Denmark. In his letters to Giorgio, Joyce talks about his expe-
riences around Europe, offering an overall rich and cosmopolitan picture.
What appears as the common thread in the numerous perspectives on
different countries is Joyce’s ironic attitude. His irreverent remarks usually
concern those aspects that are considered typical of a certain cultural model,
such as beliefs and behavioural distinctions. Conventional national imagery
is then de-contextualized and turned to a new purpose, or transformed into
something incongruous with the original discourse.
In particular, Joyce often re-employs the most formulaic and grotesque
clichés about European national characters. For instance, Joyce thus answers
Giorgios claim that he has no pleasant memory of the years he spent in
Però se davo una mano di pittura alla Francia e se arricciavo i baffi degli italiani
e se chiudevo le bocche dei tedeschi e se davo una doccia rinfrescante agli
inglesi e se solleticavo gli svizzeri sotto le ascelle e se spidocchiavo i russi? Eh?
Il quadro forse sarebbe meno orribile.6 (21/05/1935)
Joyce humorously dismisses Giorgios unpleasant comments on Europe
through inter-discursive irony, thus parodying stereotypes. As Fritz Senn
notes, parody is “an inverse form of homage” (2007, 80) and in the Jahnke
letters no European population is spared Joyce’s particular homage. In 1936,
a trip to Denmark was the source of inspiration for a sort of fairy tale which
Joyce wrote in English for his nephew, Stephen:
I cannot send you a Copenhagen cat because there are no cats in Copenhagen.
ere are lots and lots of fish and bicycles but there are no cats. Also there are
no policemen. All the Danish policemen pass the day at home in bed. ey
smoke big Danish cigars and drink buttermilk all day long. (05/09/1936)
e whole text revisits several clichés about Denmark and its popula-
tion, including the fact that Danish police were seemingly well-known for
undergoing little or no supervision. At the same time, though, this fairy tale
is meant to fascinate the child and let his imagination approach different
realities, or picture other, foreign dimensions.
Manipulating stereotypes was more important to Joyce than eschewing
them: thus, he paid great attention to commonplaces and grotesque reduc-
tions about national characters or images, which he playfully captured in
his correspondence. He confronted any monolithic conception of otherness
on its own terms, in a procedure that is similar to what Paola Pugliatti and
Donatella Pallotti define the “unmasking of naturalized discursive practices”
in the “Wandering Rocks” episode of Ulysses (2004, 152).
6 “If I had given France a coat of paint, and curled Italian moustaches, and closed Ger-
man mouths and given the English a refreshing shower and tickled the Swiss under their arms
and deloused the Russians? Maybe the picture would be less horrible.
While putting clichés under a magnifying glass, Joyce emphasized their
deforming aspect and therefore their improbability; in this sense, stere-
otypes become platforms from which intercultural prejudice is disarmed.
Exaggeration and obvious irony are all ways to reject conventions and make
cultural boundaries more traversable. Yet, Joyce’s irony is often ironic in
its turn. As in Wayne Booth’s idea of “unstable irony (1975, 62), Joyce’s
humour encompasses multiple dualities, so that there is no certainty that he
always means the opposite of what he’s writing. In other words, his irony
is pervasive but not uniform, as it opens up the possibilities of manifold
For instance, in a 1938 letter Joyce playfully lists all the people who
would be amazed at hearing Giorgios beautiful singing; his last entry is “i
bravi britannici ingoiatori di patate” (‘the good British potato-swallowers,”
06/01/1938). Joyce uses a stereotype, a perceived dietary habit typically as-
cribed to the Irish by the English, and applies it to the British people in gen-
eral. It’s the term “britannici” that attracts our attention, because Joyce was
very careful in the choice of terms, especially regarding geopolitical matters:
in this respect, for example, it has already been noted that in A Portrait of
the Artist as a Young Man Stephen locates Ireland in Europe, omitting the
United Kingdom (P, 12). As far as the above example is concerned, it can-
not be excluded that the word “britannici” might be the real source of scorn;
at any rate, it demonstrates Joyce’s continuative attention to the knots of
political tension.
While parodying national stereotypes and received discourse, Joyce also
establishes a distance from the objects of his humour; he often speaks as an
observer who is foreign to any national context. e Jahnke letters show well
Joyce’s heterogeneous and ambiguous sense of national belonging, which
pivots between different incorporations. His departures are never complete,
especially from Ireland: detachment is something that always continues to
happen. e new research challenge opened by the Zurich material, thus,
is to try and understand the simultaneity of connections and variations in
Joyce’s cosmopolitan and multilayered reality.
III. Territorial and Mental Otherness: Lucia Joyce
e Janke letters also allude to a third kind of border crossing, which
concerns the symbolic spaces of the mind. Lucia Joyce and her psychologi-
cal issues are the main topic of many letters addressed to Giorgio: Joyce of-
ten describes Lucia’s conditions, gives details about her medical reports and
provides his opinion on her treatment.
In some of these letters, Joyce seems to perceive Lucia as a stranger, or
rather, as a foreigner; her mental distance from him is worded in terms of
physical remoteness. Geography is the metaphor Joyce commonly uses to
describe Lucias divide from him and from the social context at large: she
inhabits a faraway foreign country which is hard to reach. For instance, in
1935, while Giorgio was in New York, Joyce suggested that Lucia was locat-
ed even further away from himself and his son, writing: “Vi è molta acqua
adesso tra te e me E ci sono due piccoli mari fra noi e Lucia.” (“ere’s a lot
of water now between you and me And there are two small seas between us
and Lucia,” 23/04/1935).
Joyce’s “geographical” metaphors essentially rely on archetypical rep-
resentations of identity parameters. “Being elsewhere” is a common image
adopted in defining mental disorder, but it is interesting to see how this
image modulates in a migrant writer’s perspective. As might be expected,
Joyce seems to perceive a connection between his condition of exile and his
daughter’s inability to integrate in any social system. Lucia does not live ac-
cording to conventional order; she is described as escaping all constrictions
and transcending all boundaries. is is a sort of freedom Joyce seems to
sympathize with:
Le sue stramberie possono fare soghignare [sic] gli isolani fra i quali per il
momento ella ha scelto di vivere. […] A loro ed a se stessa può sembrare una
stupidina. A me no però.7 (21/05/1935)
In this passage, Joyce is referring to Lucia’s stay in Ireland. Her rea-
sons for being a stranger there go beyond the questions of homeland and
national identity, but Joyce often seems to relate these two aspects. He is
also very concerned about other people’s views of Lucia; because of her ex-
clusion from any system, she could be thought capable of disrupting order
and provoking conflict. In a letter to Giorgio, Joyce indignantly ridicules
this idea:
7 “Her eccentricities can provoke the sneer of those islanders among whom she has cho-
sen to live for the moment. […] She might seem a little silly to them and to herself. But not
to me.”
[…] noto che mi scrivi che tutto è tranquillo in Irlanda malgrado la presenza
di Lucia. Che cosa è il senso di ciò? Perché la presenza di Lucia dovrebbe
provocare una ribellione od una guerra civile.8 (23/05/1935)
Ridicule is conveyed through hyperbolic imagery which widens the
family context to that of the whole country. At the same time, Joyce is still
relying on traditional topoi: political rebellion was historically interpreted as
an attack on rationality. e political metaphor replaces the most common
geographical ones in alluding to Lucia’s mental condition. Incidentally, poli-
tics and geography are strictly interrelated in the idea of boundary.
e issue of Lucia’s rightful place, both symbolic and physical, was a
major preoccupation for Joyce, who constantly tried to “put up a home for
her.9 As can be seen in the history of psychiatry, the apparent increased
freedom of the unconventional subject results in experiences of confinement
and solitude. Joyce seemed well aware of every aspect of Lucia’s personal ex-
ile, and most letters testify to his attempts at building a bridge between his
daughter and himself, or the world.
IV. e Jahnke material as a place of textual encounter
A common leitmotiv of the Zurich letters is music and opera. While
encouraging Giorgio to pursue his singing career, Joyce often mentions op-
eratic works and, at times, playfully quotes from their texts. For instance,
when defining a common acquaintance “quel moscardino di viscontino”
(“that dandy viscount,” 31/07/1937), Joyce is referring Puccini’s La Boheme
(Act III, Scene 1). Even the jocoserious complaint “Ma che pena, che tor-
mento, che stento mi sento!” (“What a pain, what an agony, what a misery
I feel!” 02/02/1938) might be inspired, among other texts, by Rossini’s Er-
mione (Act I, Scene1).
8 “I notice that you write that everything is calm in Ireland, despite Lucia’s presence.
What does that mean? Why should Lucia’s presence provoke a rebellion or a civil war.
9 e quotation is taken from the manuscripts of Joyce’s letters at the British Library
(Weaver Collection), ADD 57351-064, dated 20/04/1932. Further references to this collection
will be indicated by the abbreviation BL followed by the catalogue number of the letter and
its date. I wish to thank Prof. William Brockman for the useful information and bibliographic
references he provided me regarding the Weaver Collection.
Apart from opera, the most relevant source of quotations in the Jahnke
letters is Joyce’s own work. In particular, he often includes pieces from
Finnegans Wake:
Mi cito per finire: “And all the Dunder de Dunnes in Markland’s Vineland
beyond Brendan’s herring pool wears number nine in Yangtsee’s hats.10
Given the highly polysemic nature of the Wakean text, the meaning of
most of its passages in the letters is often far from being obvious. Still, Joyce
seemed to assume that Giorgio was both familiar with the text and able
to catch the sense or implication of its quotations; this certainly reveals a
new aspect of the father-son relationship, a sort of literary complicity which
could be of biographical interest.
In some letters, Joyce similarly relies on his son’s knowledge of Ulysses,
although the allusions to this novel are definitely less demanding. Ulysses is
never extensively or directly quoted, but Joyce evokes its text on at least two
occasions: when discussing the risk of losing one eye, he compares himself
to the Cyclops (30/08/1932), while, in a humorous account of the weather
conditions in Paris, he mentions the saints Gervasius, Servasius and Boni-
facius (21/05/1935), who also appear in one of the interpolations of the XII
episode of the novel (U 441,10-11).
e self-quotes in the letters can be connected to a common tendency
of Joyce’s literary writing processes, which I have elsewhere defined “mul-
tiple re-employment” (2008, 150). is tendency consists of constant re-
turns on the “already written,” and is based on a concept of text as a dy-
namic entity that can be re-enacted in the course of time and re-adapted
according to different contexts. Citations of and allusions to Ulysses and
Finnegans Wake in the letters have, of course, a different function than the
“re-employments” in the literary writing process. Yet, even in the letters,
when Joyce recalls ideas, emotions and impressions in connection with
fresh experiences, he significantly turns to textual memory: in other words,
he combines personal recollection with what Hughes defines “the memory
of words” (1987, 86).
10 “To finish I quote myself: [...].” e Finnegans Wake text reads: “And all the Dunders de
Dunnes in Marklands Vineland beyond Brendan’s herring pool takes number nine in yangsee’s
hats” (FW 213.34-36)
On the whole, the Jahnke material widely testifies to the use of inter-
and intra-textuality in Joyce’s writings. Of course, these phenomena also
concern the fictional texts contained in the collection, where Joyce’s works
encounter other works or intersect among themselves. Exemplary in this
regard is a typescript that displays the title “Chamber Music” but contains
two poems that were published in the collection Pomes Penyeach: “Alone”
and “Bahnhofstrasse.” e origin of this hybridization is not clear; in a pure-
ly hypothetical way, it could be connected to the fact that, according to the
documents in the Weaver Collection, in 1932 Pomes Penyeach was being set
to music by Mrs. Piccoli, after her husband, Prof. Piccoli from Cambridge,
had translated the whole collection (BL 57351-065, 20/04/1932).
In the intertextual encounter, translation plays a central role. Poetry
seems again the preferred space of intersection, since the Jahnke material
includes several verse translations. A significant example is the poem “Sulla
spiaggia a Fontana”, an Italian version of the 1914 poem “On the Beach at
Fontana”, which was also published in Pomes Penyeach. Even in this case,
we have no certainties about the origins of the text, which might be Joyces
self-translation (see Natali 2011). What seems certain is that translations,
or self-translations, testify that Joyce’s intertextuality moves through what
Minier defined “interlingual networks” (2005, 81), revealing the “foreign
at different levels.
It is not surprising that the Jahnke material shows how Joyce’s texts dia-
logue with each other and with works by different authors: these phenom-
ena characterize the entire Joycean corpus and have been largely discussed.
Rather than providing unexpected vistas, the Jahnke documentation seems
to embrace most Joycean features like a sort of microcosm, while highlight-
ing their multicultural context.
New materials certainly add to our knowledge about Joyce, but the
main question is not how revolutionary this new knowledge is, but rather
how it affects the way we think about Joyce and how it can interact with
or encourage new perspectives of investigation and new approaches. In this
case, the Zurich letters highlight how Joyces transnationality is fundamen-
tal to both his private and public expression, as it underlies various forms of
intertextuality and interdiscoursiveness at different levels.
Joyce clearly cultivated a multiple vision of the border, which he seemed
to conceive as a “process” incorporating several realities. Because of its dyna-
mism, Joyce’s constant transnational dialogue also acquires a new relevance
in recent scholarly discourse, according to which cosmopolitanism does not
arise from a refusal of a specific cultural identity: it develops from an idea of
culture and nation as moveable entities which can re-articulate and extend
across the globe, while maintaining a connection with an “original position”
(See Pearson, 2010; Archibugi, 2003; Cheah, 1998).
Indeed, from his standpoint of a national and cultural “in-betweener”,
Joyce seemed to perceive borders as places of alternative significations, where
no perspective acquired predominant value. In other words, Joyce’s cosmo-
politism and transnationalism open new possibilities without establishing
alternatives” to Irish culture. His writings show no signs of replacement of
a mainstream discourse with another; rather, they question the concept of
mainstream discourse per se and demystify it through sarcasm and parody.
Language, a salient element in this procedure, also escapes any official”
frame with its varying and often distorting shapes.
With these remarks I do not mean to suggest that an Irish-historical
perspective on Joyce would be limiting or unproductive; its fruitfulness de-
pends on the meaning we ascribe to signifiers such as “nation” and “culture
in their constantly varying contexts. Indeed, Joyce’s writings can prove pre-
cious in order to explore the European frame of Irish studies: as shown in
previous discussion, they help us identify the possible areas of engagement
which bring different cultures together and they question any notion of
boundary, reminding us that nowadays, in an age of changing demograph-
ics, we should come to think of new spaces which include the emigrant and
immigrant peoples of various countries.
Additionally, Joyce’s transnational issues are connected to the cultural
identity concerns and the challenging of boundaries which characterize con-
temporary Irish literature, in a continuity that is worth stressing. Multicul-
tural issues and threshold crossings are now central to Irish studies, as seen
in recent work on contemporary literature: Amanda Tucker emphasized the
conception of Ireland as a multicultural society in McCann’s novels (2010),
Asier Altuna-Garcìa de Salazar dealt with the “new Irish” in a study on Mar-
sha Mehran (2010), Emilie Pine analyzed the patterns of emigration and
return in the plays of Bolger, Devlin, Murphy and Hughes (2008), while
the first issue of the new journal Studi Irlandesi - A Journal of Irish Stud-
ies is devoted to “Italy-Ireland Cultural Inter-relationsand includes Gioia
Gamerra’s noteworthy investigation of threshold images and intertextuality
in McGuckian (2011).
e question of un-reconciled homeland conflating with the world at
large represents a constant tension which snakes its way through Irish litera-
ture, a common thread which connects Joyce to the present. “[T]he impetus
to flee the land and to flee culture as such,” as well as “the ‘Irishsearch for
a different hearing, for a new epistemology, a new mode of representing or
mapping the world and thus a new mode of inhabiting it” (Docherty 1996,
222) are commonly considered the main concerns of Irish postmodern lit-
erature; this discussion has tried to show how the roots of such concerns can
also be traced back to the foundations of Joyce’s poetics.
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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man presents a non-linear compositional progression, characterised by continual fractures, bifurcations and revisions; the genetic dossier includes pre-compositional notes and works that were never published, such as Epiphanies, A Portrait of the Artist and Stephen Hero. The genetic analysis of this long process of writing, the documentation of which covers a period of around fourteen years, reveals not only how the Portrait was conceived and composed, but also Joyce's evolution as a writer from the very first evidence of his literary activity. This new perspective on Joyce's mode of composition opens the way to a range of potential interpretations of the individual texts, as well as methodological and theoretical insights regarding genetic criticism.
The following essay aims at investigating the semantic and intertextual denseness of McGuckian’s poems, going beyond her supposed incommunicability. She has often highlighted the “balancing” and “clarifying” power of her own poems, and the unbiased reader will realise that they do contain an immediate and outspoken quality. This is often mysteriously conveyed by certain images which emerge from the intermingling of textual and intertextual places. Usually, in many of her works, McGuckian quotes or refers to wide parts of some texts, whose source is not indicated. Sometimes her poems rise from the way these fragments are interwoven, even without any ‘new’ word, in order to define and confirm a contemporary and intimally feminine poetical identity. This essay will discover and enlighten some of these intertextual processes and devises, which, necessarily, add meaning to her already semantically and iconographically dense poetic visions.
This essay reads Colum McCann's novels Dancer and Zoli as an important contribution to recent discussions about Irish multiculturalism. Because these works suggest that cultural diversity should be considered through an exploration of differences rather than the recognition of similarities, these novels create a poetics of alterity that does not erase national and cultural boundaries but allows readers to see beyond them. In doing so, McCann poses Irish multiculturalism as the responsibility of the Irish-born as well as the newly arrived immigrants and exiles.
Readers and critics of Joyce have been unusually concerned with the question of an audience for his work in their search for an appropriate mode of reception: Joyce criticism has been occupied with what a 'Joycean criticism' might be. The claim has often been made that 'theory'—meaning post-structuralism in particular—has furnished the long sought tools for a proper treatment of Joyce's writing; and this is explained by the further claim that such theory itself partially derives from, and is deeply influenced by, that writing. Yet the union of modernism with theory was not pre-ordained or given in the nature of Joyce's texts, but a strategic move in a particular conjuncture.