JAMES JOYCE: some personal reflections
A new biography of the famous Irish novelist James Joyce(1882-1941) was in bookstores this summer, 2012, or winter if you lived in the southern hemisphere as I do. It’s more than 600 pages and it’s by the British biographer Gordon Bowker--James Joyce: A New Biography.(1) This is not the Gordon Bowker who is the American entrepreneur and co-founder of Starbucks.
Bowker’s book is a very useful and readable updating of Richard Ellmann’s classic life—a biography so magisterial, I am informed, that no one has really attempted to compete with it since its first edition in 1959 and its revised edition in 1982. After reading several reviews of both these biographies I decided to put together some of my own reflections on Joyce, his writing and his life. This Literature Network Forum seems like a suitable cyberspace location to post some of my prose-poems on the subject.-Ron Price, Tasmania, Australia.
In 1959 I had not even heard of James Joyce. I was 15, in grade 10 in a small town in southern Ontario. I worked hard as a student to get as high a set of marks as I could; I was very successful at this aim. Outside my studies, I was a non-reader, at least I read as little as possible. Sport, having fun with my friends, an interest in girls and rock-‘n-roll music, an emerging interest in the Baha’i Faith which I joined in 1959, and a family-centred life kept me busy and my hours filled. By 1982 I was working in a tin-mine on Tasmania’s wet west-coast. I’d heard of James Joyce by then but, as a student and then a teacher mainly of the social sciences, Joyce was still far out on the periphery of my intellectual and information life.
As the years went on, though, many years after my four years studying the arts, sciences, and education at university(1963-67) and many years into my 30 years as a teacher and lecturer, my interest in literature slowly grew(by the 1990s). When I retired from FT and PT work some 40 years after completing high school, and in the early years of the 21st century, I began to make-up for my deficiencies in the humanities. James Joyce was just one of the many writers I came to take an interest in during the first decade of no paid-employment, 2002 to 2012.
So it was that when the new biography on Joyce came out this year, I was all ears.-Ron Price with thanks to 1several online reviews of this new biography as well as reviews of that 1959 biography of Richard Ellmann, and some 40 online-hard-copy articles about Joyce, his life and his writing that I have collected in the last ten years: 2002-2012.
There is so much to read now with
the internet bringing in bundles of
print at the press of a mouse, and a
library always there as a back-up if
needed. So here is James Joyce and
a new biography, with that old one
waiting for me and all those reviews
going back to the 1920s….And then
his autobiographical novels are out(1)
there waiting should I decide to get
into his externalized consciousness.(2)
Joyce’s hyper-intellellectual heights
were and are too much for me….his
language, like his life, is just too hard,
too messy for my tastes even if he just
may be the the 20th century’s greatest
literary mind! He is one of the most(3)
self-referential writers of the century
in which I have lived most of my life,
and my own writing is so highly self-
referential, autobiographical and, as it
is said: so utterly, strongly, memoiristic.
I do not invent; I use material from my
life and that is at the epi-centre of my
opus, my oeuvre…However universal
my writing is, it is also local, everyday
sort of stuff, self-centered…..…the same
kind of personality-stuff that Joyce wrote.(4)
1 All of Joyce’s novels are complete borrowings from his own experience, as Stephen Spender writes in his review of James Joyce’s Letters: Volume 1 in The New York Times, 26 May 1957. Spender calls Joyce’s major novels “the only events of importance in the early part of the 20th century.” He also said in that same review that “they are…monstrous constructions of egocentric genius.”
2 Writer Joseph Collins(1866-1950) had a review of Joyce’s Ulysses in The New York Times on 28 May 1922. Collins wrote that Joyce had “a lifelong habit to jot down every thought that he ever had….and Ulysses comes nearer to being a perfect revelation of a personality than any book in existence;” or as another critic said 2 weeks later: "Before Joyce, no writer of fiction had so foregrounded the process of thinking.”
3 Many have held this view. Jake Cole has this view in: Not Just Movies: Offering unwanted opinions on film, TV and more, 25 November 2011. Cole wrote that Richard Ellmann’s James Joyce is “the best literary biography I’ve ever read.” As yet another reviewer of Ellmann’s book wrote: “It’s so giant, so all-encompassing, so authoritative.”
4 We read in perhaps the first review of Ellman’s book in The New York Times, 25/10/’59, a comment made by T.S. Eliot that: “Joyce was the most completely self-centered man I have ever known.”
11 October 2012
It is difficult not to regard, indeed it is quite fitting to regard, James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in autobiographical light. It would seem that Joyce intuited this autobiographical reality early on and most certainly was consciously aware of this personal nature of his writing by the time he undertook the novel. This book is, I think, a sort of 'Pilgrim's Progress' from the world of objectivity to the world of Einstein's relativity which had entered the world more than ten years before Portrait.
I could illustrate this by dealing with several facets of the novel, beginning with the overarching guide through the novel: the narrator. The first chapter of Portrait, too, begins with a montage of memories of very young childhood. If Joyce first approached his autobiography through this novel, I first approached my autobiography through a narrative of my life and this led, by 1992, to a poetic narrative of literally thousands of poems. -Ron Price with thanks to "The Dedalus Factor: Einstein's Science and Joyce's Portrait of the Artist," Timothy D. Clark, in Joyce's Papers on the Internet, 20 December 2002.
Here you will find my life and times,
but my account is flawed and fails,
as life itself fails, is flawed, and, for
the most part, apparently makes no
thing happen of any consequence.(1)
But the potential is there for much
good, much effect, if only.....if only
the reader can be part of it, & then
the self-centred poet becomes the
most universal and a life, of little
apparent ultimate significance....
keeps a now for then, a music
that all can use and words that
are, strangely, the poet's very
last will and testament..........
(1) From The Poet's Notebook: Excerpts from the Notebooks of 26 American Poets, WW Norton & Co., 1995, p. 219.
James Joyce’s first novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is not so much fiction as autobiography. What the book is really all about is the painful metaphysical struggle or religious revolt that fashioned Joyce’s soul in his youth and early adulthood. Joyce finished the novel on the eve of WW1 when he was 32. In his novel Ulysses he deals with ordinary, average, everyday people, human nature and its undistinguished representatives, Everyman.
In Ulysses Joyce gives us the portrait of a city, Dublin on 16 June 1904. My mother was born that year in Hamilton Canada. Joyce played imaginatively with the details of that city and its life. This artistic creation represented a search for unity and his reflections were based, among other things, on a belief that history was “a nightmare from which he was trying to awake.”
My autobiography finally began to take a form which pleased me when I was sixty in 2004 and it is really about quite a different struggle than that of Joyce. There was some revolt, a revolt from tradition, the secular and sacred worlds in which my society was enmeshed, but there was much more of a new and different fashioning of my soul beginning in my youth and early adulthood. My work is also the portrait of an epoch, of several epochs, a humanly human, ordinarily ordinary man who plays imaginatively with the facticity of his life in an effort to reveal its essence, and in an effort to do much more.
My work represented, as I look back on it now in retrospect, an artistic desire to create a unity out of multiplicity and to reflect on my world, my society in the dark heart of an age of transition when a tempest was blowing the very foundation of society and harrowing up the souls of its inhabitants. –Ron Price with thanks to Sean O’Faolain, “50 Years After Bloomsday,” The New Yok Times on the Net, 13 June 1954.
I, like Joyce, find affection between souls
transitory, qualified and varies in intensity-
souls are liable to estrangement--but also
possesses something eternal for our time,
tomorrow and tomorrow until the last of
our syllables of recorded time and, like
Joyce, I find my writing possesses---or
.....so I like to think---an utter cohesion-
100s of quotes, ideas, events and details
giving support to one another in a great
oeuvre, multi-particled universe of words
pulled together by letters, poems, & long
autobiography, memoir, diary & journals-
wayward seeds of spontaneity, hopefully
giving somewhat obsessive fascinations
with coincidences and verbal play, home
by my own hearth, by the fire I pull up
my chair and contemplate the micro &
macro worlds/universes of a billion suns.
15 September 2008 to 11 October 2012
Last night I revisited Cambodia’s Killing Fields on the 4 Corners program “Where Are They Now?”1 I read some of the commentary on the subject and the writing of Bruce Sharp2 interested me the most. In his essay Counting Hell Sharp wrote that we are confronted with incomplete and inconclusive evidence, and it is tempting, therefore, to say that we will never really see the full picture of what happened in Cambodia’s Killing Fields from April 1975 to January 1979. It is also tempting to say that after more than thirty years have passed, it is time to move on.
So much of the contemporary scene and of history is “a time to move on.” History is, as Edward Gibbon once wrote, “little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.” To the German-Swiss novelist and poet, Hermann Hesse, as he put it in his The Glass Bead Game, the study of history means “submitting to chaos and nevertheless retaining faith in order and meaning. It is a very serious task.”
Perhaps the most apt definition of history insofar as the Killing Fields is concerned is the one from James Joyce in his Ulysses. “History,” Joyce wrote, “is a nightmare from which I am trying to wake.” Historians are accustomed now to the idea of genocide. Cambodia was not the first occurrence of genocide and it will not be the last. There have been a myriad newer crimes since 1979. “Do we still need to worry about the old ones?” Sharp asks rhetorically. Why should we bother with numbers? One and a half million, two and a half million deaths in Cambodia: does it matter? There was once a time when these were not merely numbers. These numbers had names, and that is why it matters, he concludes.2-Ron Price with thanks to1 “Where Are They Now?” 4 Corners, ABC1 TV, 27/6/’11, 8:30 p.m., 2the link: http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/bsharp.htm, and 3the internet site Cambodia, 1 April 2005.
It was a big year ’79. Those killing
fields came to an end, the revolution
in Iran took place and I settled into a
life in Tasmania at the age of 35 Y.O.
I was in Ballarat at the CAE during all
those years of 1 to 2 million deaths in
Cambodia. I was busy reading so many
books, helping the Baha’i community &
surviving another four years of marriage-
family and the community responsibilities
until I was worn-out due to my own wars,
my own hell with bipolar-disorder……and
Cambodia was at least a million miles away
in another world, indeed, another universe.
Ron Price 28 June 2011
JUST ABOUT ANYTHING
I find, as I go about with the intention, the pleasure and the task of writing prose and poetry, that I simultaneously belong to several world’s. They mesh, these worlds, with little effort on my part. They seem to be a natural bi-product of the process, of putting pen to paper as we used to say. But what one writes and how in these several worlds: little ones and big ones, the micros and the macros, the knowns and the unknowns, physical realities and spiritual realities, history and the future, man and society, mineral and animal, comfort and discomfort—and on and on I could go listing the many polarities or dichotomous worlds where I simultaneously, and in some dynamic, mysterious and complex synchronization exist and where I also ponder—depends on a host of factors.
I could describe the parts of each of these dual-worlds, but such an exercise would require that I not be brief. I want to be brief here and just mention these several coexisting worlds in order to emphasize other aspects of the writing process that engage me. I have listed these dualisms, these above dichotomies, within which my writing takes place, but my focus in this brief two-page prose-poem is on that function of writing which enables me to get outside myself on the one hand and which helps me to deal with the clash of differing opinions in a tone of lively sensible conversation, in a manner of the rapid flow of complexity and in a mode of ease, force and perspicacity on the other. Such is my aim, and one needs aims in life especially when one is a writer and author, poet and publisher. This function provides, if it is successful, a matrix within which I try to deal with complicated truths simply and to give to simple truths their often and necessarily complex setting.
Unlike James Joyce, I generally possess a strong and pleasing temperamental conjunction of vitality and equanimity, at least in recent years, in the years of this new millennium, years devoted primarily to writing(2001-2012), Perhaps this is due to the new medication package I have had since 2001, and even more especially in the last 6 months(4/’12 to 10/’12); perhaps, too, this temperamental conjunction is primarily due to being freed from the responsibilities of job and community life which consumed fifty to seventy hours each week for years before my retirement.
Perhaps, in addition, this coexistence of vitality and equanimity is essentially due to the freedom, at long last, to concentrate more fully, most fully—even obsessively—on writing, on my idiosyncratic interests, on my duty to this slowly evolving and mysterious art of writing and to its integration in and service toward my Faith, my society and myself in the early evening of my life, these years in my early(60-68) late adulthood(60-80). For decades I had had to focus on so much else: getting an education, getting jobbed, getting married, raising a family, paying the bills, playing my part in the wider community, dealing with my health problems, inter alia. I was motivated to deal with, by necessity that great mother of inventions, many other more practical ends for well over half a century.
In different ways to Joyce, my relationship with women has been a godsend, so to speak, I have had two marriages over some 45 years in total(1967-2012), and each of the women I married made it impossible for me to see myself in heroic, grandiose, terms as much as I'd have liked to and even no matter how much I tried. At the beginning of my first career success in the early 1970s my first wife and I divorced. But she had been a strong helpmate for seven years: 1967 to 1973. The reasons for my divorce back in the mid-1970s are complex and i deal with that subject elsewhere in my memoiristic writings.
At the height of my writing success on the internet in the first decade of the 21st century, my second wife worried more about how I was filling up the dish-washer with dishes and the washing machine with clothes, whether I was assuming my fair portion of the domestic tasks and whether I was taking my medication. She also had her own health problems and psychological issues, family problems and community activities, all of which kept her fully occupied with her own agenda.
The practical turn of mind of each of the women I married helped keep my feet squarely on the ground, as far as that was possible and as far as it was necessary---and it was necessary. One must tread whatever artistic path, whatever aesthetic or spiritual path, with practical feet. The persistence and patience of my first wife, Judy, & then my second, Chris--beginning in 1967, and then in 1975---respectively, and the quality of their individual heart and soul---provided a loyalty and faithfulness which was the essential, the core, bond in any long-standing, enduring marital relationship.
Each of these women had an active mind and were multi-skilled. Marriage was a place where I could engage my brain with the woman who was, as best they could, be my indefatigable helper in the path, the journey, that was my life. I often found my brain inadequate on many a matter, matters both practical and simple as well as idealional and complex---and I came to appreciate the excellent advice both these wives gave me on the many practical and intellectual issues that I faced over nearly five decades. I do not mean to imply, nor would I want to readers to imagine, that either or both of these marriages were characterized mainly by the simply transfer of advice from one mind to another. Our relationships were complex ones and I deal with that complexity elsewhere in my autobiographical writing.
Family life and Australian society also helped to keep whatever egotistical and narcissistic proclivities I possessed manageable. There has been a strong egalitarianism developing in family life in the West, particular during these last several decades and epochs, and this has been especially true in Australian society generally. Any tendency to be carried away by one’s achievements tends to be kept within bounds by strong currents of anti-authoritarianism, egalitarianism, individualism and a phenomenon known as "the tall-poppy-syndrome" or “taking-the-piss.” -Ron Price with thanks to James Joyce A Student’s Guide, Matthew Hodgart, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1978, p.11.
Joyce felt so unappreciated that
he felt compelled to leave Ireland.
Being unappreciated concerns me
not, now, in the evening of my life
with a successful teaching career
behind me, with the internet giving
me a setting for more teaching and
learning than I have ever done and
where I can take the products of my
obsessive, relentless, idiosyncratic
writing life and post them in hybrid
forms that I never could have done
in soft or hard covered books……
My poetry’s and prose’s methods
with publishers were insufficient
to ever get published. An amalgam
of the academic and the populist,
of the everyday and the serious
did not allow me to write on just
about anything and find readers
here and there and virtually in
every nook and cranny of space.
14 September 2008 to 11 October 2012.
Sylvie Hill, in a MA research paper submitted to Carleton University, discusses masturbation, sexual frustration and artistic failure in James Joyce's portrait of Stephen Dedalus. James Joyce is much more frank in his writing about sex than I have been in my writing life, although I have made-up for this to some extent in my unpublished journal,a journal which may never be published especially after my death. In my lower moments, and I have had many over the days and months, years and decades; and even in my not-so-low moments, I have had many experiences that make me appreciate the picture, the portrait, painted by Joyce in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
Although I have never had recourse to prostitutes to deal with my sexual frustrations, although I have not been unfaithful in 45 years of marriage, I would present a far from complete portrait of myself if I disregarded how sexual tension has affected my life as an adult. My carnal urges have not been satiated through sexual exchanges with prostitutes. The combination of writing and masturbation is, at least as Sylvie Hill puts it, "a way of integrating with the structure of life, a way of working out Joyce's life problems." My reading has made me aware of this combination of factors for many writers and non-writers.
For many in our 21st century fast-lane, our media-oriented modernity and post-modernity, there exists the assumption that one can’t really understand someone until one comprehends the nature of their couplings, their sex-life, or lack thereof. The fact that one can wrap-up someone in a cloud of concupiscence, in a con-sex-ualizing context of public activity and private passions, that one can pick the lock, and open up everything sensual for inspection has become for many a sine qua non of much of modern biography.
If readers want to learn more about Ron Price the historical figure, the man I write about in my many-genred oruvre, I would suggest they begin elsewhere than with my sex-life. I would not deny the importance that sex has had to me and I write about my experience of it far more than that great American novelist Henry James(1843-1916), but I do not view my life in terms of its orgasms, its spasms, however delightful they have been---and they have been. In sensory terms I'm not far below Naomi Wolf in expatiating on their pleasure and potency, experiences Wolf writes about in her 2012 book "Vagina.
In my writing the most affecting, troubling dynamic I offer for the prurient and the perplexed, the voyeuristic and the venturesome, is that between sex and love. It is an ample theme with intense interests, passions and strategies. They throb through the commonest of lives. Although I see my life in retrospect as a rich and interesting one, it is an ordinarily ordinary, humanly human, common, life. It has been characterized by much erotic reserve and much moral earnestness but, both this reserve and this earnestness have been played out against a background of cultural traits and patterns of values transformed in my lifetime out of all recognition, or should I say only partly visible. These patterns and these values are more complex, more discontinuous and more astounding than we who have lived through/experienced them can appreciate and understand."
Ulysses is a novel by James Joyce. It was first serialized in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, then published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach on February 2, 1922, in Paris. It is considered one of the most important works of Modernist Literature, although readers were often bewildered and disgusted by its studied incoherence, its occult and mystic symbolism.(1)
At the time of its publication ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the successor of Baha'u'llah, the Founder of the Baha'i Faith, had been dead for just ten weeks. Shoghi Effendi, His successor and the leader of the Baha’i community, had translated ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament into English. It was a document that was crucial to the ongoing nature of the Covenant at the very centre of the Baha'i Faith, a religion which claimed to be the newest, the latest, of the Abrahamic religions. Shoghi Effendi was also dealing, at trhe time of the publication of Ulysses in 1922, with the activities of the Covenant-Breaker Mohammad Ali who had just seized the keys to the Holy Tomb, the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh.(2) James Joyce was then in his fortieth year. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs: Some Reflective Comments on History, 15 September 2008 with thanks to (1) Dr. Joseph Collins, “James Joyce’s Amazing Chronicle,” New York Times, 28 May 1922; and (2) Ruhiyyih Rabbani, The Priceless Pearl, Baha’i Pub. Trust, London, 1969, p.53.
He was intimately, obsessively
centred on his work, burrowing
into its sources in experience,
thought and in mental lodgings
that provided fascinating self-
portraits of his absolute merit
unrelated to the work of others;
of his capacity to turn observations
of a lifetime into a work of art.
He could only achieve his prime
objective—his task—his art-----
through living his life & entering
into others’ lives with obsessive
fascination, with coincidence, &
verbal play, as well as with the
ability to give a real distinctive
timelessness and cosmic import
to one ordinarily ordinary & one
humanly human life, the life of
one man: himself, just one day.
My mental lodgings achieve my
prime task through this art as I
enter into the lives of others, &
my society-its history-&-future,
and my own dear self with an
obsessive fascination & with
apparent coincidence, a verbal
play, as well as the capacity to
give distinctiveness, some of that
timelessness & cosmic import to
one man over four epochs in the
first century of the Formative Age
of the Baha’i Era in a new cycle in
the planetization of humanity & its
dominant principle:human political
and religious unification over many
millennia and centuries, epochs-ages.
15 September 2008 to 11 October 2012.
Note: Like the American born writer Henry James(1843-1916), I focus on personal experience in my writing. Like him, I probe and prod the painful hidden corners of the psyche, but I only lay bare a small portion of it all for public consumption if, indeed, the public ever has any interest in the consumption of my life. Like the English novelist D.H. Lawrence(1885-1930), I have had my sexual frustrations, troubles and woes, but I do not lay them bare in all their intimacy in my writing. I have written my 7000+ poems much like the way Lawrence wrote his 800 poems---but the comparison with Lawrence is only partial. He wrote his poetry very much like prose with much spontaneity and a good deal of personal sentiments. That is the dominant style and method which characterizes my poetic opus.
A VAST CONTINENT
My poetic world of Pioneering Over Five Epochs is animated by a complex and simple, an inexhaustible life and paradoxically exhaustible life. We visit and revisit it as we might a great city, one of the vast continents of the planet or, indeed, the planet itself on a voyage from outer space. Gradually we come more and more to recognize certain places and certain faces, understand situations and grasp relations.
Gradually readers are enabled to find their bearings through greater and greater familiarity with the terrain.1 Each poem alters somewhat the existing relationships, the nature of the total design. A single pattern emerges from a vast mosaic of fragments, from what appears to be an unbelievably laborious fragmentation of narrative structure. But each piece of land, each poem, has its own discrete charm, simplicity, story, insight. Some of the landscape, the poetry, is refreshing, stimulating; some is banal, quotidian; some repetitive containing a sense of deja vu. -Ron Price with thanks to 1A. Walton Litz, The Art of James Joyce: Method and Design in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, Oxford UP, NY, 1961, Chapter II.
I paint a canvas here,
sing my song:
in an instant of time.
simultaneity of effect,
Never seen poems
quite like them, mine,
fixed points along a line
of a spiritual-imperishable
fragrance, and my life,(1)
making a narrative order,
a comfort, at the core of
the design, the flickerings
of an innermost flame
that flashes its messages
through the brain, in an
unending search for a
consistency and harmony.
1 Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Iqan, p.8.
20 February 1999 to 11 October 2012.
PEOPLE PAPER AND ENDLESS WORK
As I draw significantly on my own inner world for my subject matter, turning what delights or troubles me into a poem, an image, giving expression to my conceptions or those of others, and setting them at rest as they whirl about me from one domain of phenomenal reality to another; as I also draw on the ideas of others on the assumption that knowing more is a way of creatively understanding my world and controlling it, I combine the several philosophies of writing of Samuel Beckett, James Joyce and Ernst Cassirir. -Ron Price with thanks to James Knowlson, Damed To Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1996, p.319; and Ernst Cassirir in Symbol, Myth and Culture: Essays and Lectures of Ernst Cassirir: 1935-1945, editor, D.P. Verene, Tale UP, 1979, pp. 209-210.
You were going through that spiral(1)
of depression and isolation where
hell was, as you so famously said,
other people. Of course, whiskeys
did not really help, although they
fortified you for your unavoidable
chats with strangers/The more you
came to enjoy solitude and silence,
the more you dreaded intrusions of
sound and conversation. And.........
……in the midst of all this, someone(2)
you never knew, a great soul, died at
the age of 60, suffering from similar
worlds to yours: people, paper and
endless work, work, always endless.
5 June 1999 to 11 October 2012.
1 Samuel Beckett: See Damned To Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett, James Knowlson, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1996, p.396.
2 Shoghi Effendi in The Priceless Pearl, Ruhiyyih Khanum, 1969, p.451.
Elizabeth Jane Bellamy is the author of the following piece entitled: Translations of Power: Narcissism and the Unconscious in Epic History. Bellamy is a professor in the department of English at the University of Tennessee. She also holds the John C. Hodges Chair of Excellence in the same department. Her teaching and research interest is sixteenth-century British poetry, with particular emphasis on Spenser and the Renaissance comparative epic tradition. Her secondary interest is in the field of psychoanalytic literary criticism. This essay exists in that field, literary criticism.
I include her short essay below. It is an essay I have edited slightly to make it more accessible to readers without a background in literary criticism. I include it here, with my own footnotes, and with my own work in the aobve posts at Literature Network Forums due to the light her essay throws on James Joyce and his writing, a literary world which bemuses and befuddles, confuses and creates consternation in many modern readers, to say nothing of those who have come across his writing for the last century, since the second decade of the 20th century.-Ron Price, George Town, Tasmania, Australia.
Narrative is inherently linguistic and epic is the narrative par excellence of the process of the speaking subject’s inscription into the sociocultural. There is a long, hard road of epic destiny but, history, Jameson1 argues, is not a narrative or text but “an absent cause,” “inaccessible except in textual form. Our approach to it passes through its narrativization.”
This self-positioning gives the local narrative of his interior life - his petit recit2- a peculiar and paradoxical authority all its own: the narrative of desire (for this is what it amounts to), which does not presume to speak for everyone, nevertheless speaks for him: "Everything speaks in its own way." The subject as multiplicity" he is asserting that subjectivity consists only in a concatenation of perspectives Memory produces images, linkages, scenes, stories; it is the foundation of all historical paradigms and models, for it is the radical of historical representation, the prehistoric moment of what Nadel calls recapitulation, or the literal & figural reconfiguration
of the past.
"Memory," he argues, "individuates time as history": "In what we remember we sustain the past and our sense of self, paralleling those early historians who recorded events not because of their inherent importance, but out of a fear of forgetting them" the un-narratable, of the lost past, of "something which does not allow itself to be made present.”3 - but which, in the paradoxical gesture of memory, makes itself present in the evanescent moment of remembering. The un-narratability of this process lies in the will to forget, in the choice to relive the past, if only momentarily, rather than to consign it to a dead history.
Molly4 in James Joyce’s Ulysses grounds all remembered events and characters, all local lore, songs, and superstitions, in herself; even world-historical events are reconfigured as part of her petit recit. Whenever she remembers such events she folds them into the fabric of her recollections, consuming that which she hates, turning it into part of her self-creation:
In the willed representation of the self - which depends, first, on the capacity to remember what one has been and, second, on the willingness to trust and affirm one's own interpretation of that recollection - will is transformed from an ineluctable force into an artistic product. But, as both Joyce and Nietzsche5 make clear, this activity (and the self it creates) is also a historical product, for the act of memory is the act of a historical self-willing itself into existence. R. G. Collingwood6 calls this activity the "re-enactment of the past in present thought":
Molly's petit recit can thus become a "history" only if we begin to accept the act of remembering - ambivalent, inexact, irreverent, transgressive - as possessing narrative and historical value. the values of traditional historicism are subjected to critique and are ultimately superseded in the transformative act of the storyteller who alone can shape the chaos of contemporaneity and, as Walter Benjamin puts it, "pass it on as experience to those listening."7
1 Fredric Jameson(1934- ) is an American literary critic and Marxist political theorist. He is best known for his analysis of contemporary cultural trends—he once described postmodernism as the spatialization of culture under the pressure of organized capitalism. Jameson's best-known books include Postmodernism: The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism: The Political Unconscious and Marxism and Form. Jameson is currently William A. Lane Professor in The Program in Literature and Romance Studies at Duke University. In 2012, the MLA gave Jameson their sixth Award for Lifetime Scholarly Achievement.
2 A metanarrative refers in critical theory, and particularly in postmodernism, to a supposedly comprehensive explanation - a narrative about narratives - of historical meaning, experience or knowledge, which offers a society legitimation through the anticipated completion of an (as yet unrealised) master idea. The term metanarrative was brought into prominence by Lyotard in 1979, with his claim that the postmodern was characterised precisely by a mistrust of the grand narratives.
Our world exists in the presence of many grand-narratives: Progress, Enlightement emancipation, Marxism, Christianity, inter alia. They each and all form an essential part of modernity. Lyotard proposed that metanarratives should give way to petits récits, or more modest and "localized" narratives, which can 'throw off' the grand narrative by bringing into focus the singular event.
3 Jean-François Lyotard(1924-1998) was a French philosopher, sociologist, and literary theorist. He is well known for his articulation of postmodernism after the late 1970s and the analysis of the impact of postmodernity on the human condition. He was co-founder of the International College of Philosophy with Jacques Derrida, François Châtelet, and Gilles Deleuze.
The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge is a 1979 book by Jean-François Lyotard that analyzes the epistemology of postmodern culture as the end of 'grand narratives' or metanarratives, which Lyotard considers a quintessential feature of modernity. Short but influential, the book was originally written as a report to the Conseil des universités du Québec.
4 Molly Bloom is a fictional character in the novel Ulysses by James Joyce. The wife of main character Leopold Bloom, she roughly corresponds to Penelope in the Odyssey. The major difference between Molly and Penelope is that while Penelope is eternally faithful, Molly is not, having an affair with Hugh 'Blazes' Boylan after ten years of her celibacy within the marriage.
5&6 Readers who would like to know more about these 3 writers can easy do some research on the internet.
7 Gregory Castle, “Ousted possibilities: critical histories in James Joyce's Ulysses: James Joyce, novelist,” Twentieth Century Literature, Fall 1993.
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