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Seamus Deane, Joyce the Irishman, in Derek Attridge, ed.

, The
Cambridge Companion to James Joyce (Cambridge UP 1990), pp.2849.

Joyces civilisation was not, therefore, that of Myles Joyce, of Yeats and Lady Gregory and
the Abbey Theatre, or of Mangan. Equally, it was not that of the comic dramatists, Sheridan,
Goldsmith, Wilde, and Shaw, all of whom performed the role of court jester to the English
(CW202). It was the civilisation of Catholic Dublin, related to but distinct from that of
Catholic Ireland. Joyce tried to persuade the publisher, Grant Richards, that his collection of
stories, Dubliners, was about a city that still had not been presented, or represented, to the
world. He insists, on many occasions, on the emptiness that preceded his own writings
about that city. It is an historical but not yet an imaginative reality. Although Dublin has
been a capital for thousands of years and is said to be the second city of the British Empire,
Joyce claims that no writer has yet presented Dublin to the world.
[Deane quotes sundry letters to Richards of 1906 incl. allusions to chapter of moral history,
spiritual liberation of my country, odour of ashpits, nicely polished looking-glass (Letters,
I, pp.63-64) and his remarks on the expression Dubliner (Letters, II, p.122).]
The mirror held up to Culture was going to reflect a reality no-one [sic] had presented
before. Dublin would find it an unwelcome sight, but Dublin and Ireland would be liberated
by it. Joyce is an author without native predecessors; he is an artist who intends to have the
effect of a missionary.
By insisting that Dublin had not been represented before in literature, Joyce was intensifying
the problem of representation for himself. He abjured the possibility of being influenced by
any other Irish writer, because there was, in effect, none who belonged to his specific and
peculiar version of his civilisation. He was bound, therefore, to find a mode of representation
that was, as far as Irish literature was concerned, unique. But the literature of Europe did
offer possible models. [...] To be truly European, the art would have to represent the city as
an inheritor of the Judaeo-Greek civilisation, in a language which would be as diversified and
varied as the citys dense and intricate past.
First provincialism had to be exposed and explained as a disease, a paralysis of the will.
(p.41.)
But Joyces enterprise was founded on a paradox. Dublin was an absence, a nowhere, a
place that was not really a city or a civilisation at all. It was a Cave of Winds [...] Joyce
wanted to dismantle its provincialism and its pretension; yet he also wanted to envision it as
the archetypal modern city, as the single place in which all human history was rehearsed. It
had to be both nowhere and everywhere, absence and presence. Somehow, he had to find
the language which would register both aspects of the city. He had to scorn it for its

peripherality and praise it for its centrality. Between these two possibilities, his strange
language vacillates and develops.
Like the other Irish writers of the turn of the century, Joyce learned the advantages of
incorporating into his writing the various dialects or versions of English spoken in Ireland.
This was not simply a matter of enlivening a pallid literary language with colloquialisms. He
went much further than that. He incorporated into his writing several modes of language
and, in doing so, exploited the complex linguistic situation in Ireland to serve his goal. The
chief features of that situation included a still-living oral tradition which had begun to
influence the writing of fiction in Ireland more than sixty years before Joyce was born [...
42; see further under Deane, Quotations, supra].
Subversion is part of the Joycean enterprise. However, the bitterness attendant upon it is
accompanied by the joy of renovation. There is nothing of political or social significance
which Joyce does not undermine and restructure. Dublin and Ireland are dissected and yet
both are revitalised; the English language is dismembered and yet reinvigorated; Catholic
hegemony is both destroyed and reinstated; the narrowness of Irish nationalism is satirised
and yet its basic impulse is ratified [... The] sense of a community, city-wide and countrywide, was possibly more alive and more widespread in his generation than any since. His
interest in Irish politics confirmed his sense that the Irish community was susceptible to a
reformulation of the idea of its essential and enduring coherence. (p.44.)
Discusses the Catholic Church hostility to almost all movements for Irish liberation along
with its hostility to individual liberation and discusses the two forms of Catholicism in
Joyces work, Irish and European. (p.46.) The notion of self-authorship (p.47.)
Ulysses is [as] concerned as is Dubliners with failure [...] In his 1907 lecture, Ireland,
Island of Saints and Sage, Joyce declared, It is well past time for Ireland to have done
once and for all with failure. Yet much of his own work is precisely on this theme. He
analyses the psychology of subjection in his people by showing the paralysis which has
overtaken them in their endless, futile quest for an origin which will provide them with an
identity securely there own. Such an origin is always beyond history, since history, as we
have seen, is for him a sequence of betrayals, the effect of which is to leave the Irish people
leaderless, subjected to an authoritarian Church, bereft of that spiritual life which only the
artist, in his quest for origin, can provide.
Characteristically when Joyce does find an originary story [Fall of Man], it involves betrayal.
(p.49; further indicates the execution of Roderick OConnor in 1923 as the source of the
King Roderick episode of Finnegans Wake.)
Yet just as Ulysses had made real order out of apparent chaos, Finnegans Wake sustains
individuality within the frame of the archetypal. The Earwicker family, for instance, is a
version of Joyces family [...] The events of the Irish War of Independence against the
British, the signing of the Treaty, the civil war which followed, and the subsequent entry of
De Valera into parliamentary politics are all presented in fractured form as specific
happenings in themselves and also as representative events. We can see here, a little more

clearly, how Joyce grappled with the problem of representation. Individual items, which by
themselves might be meaningless, gain significance when seen as part of an overall pattern.
(p.50.)
Joyce is involving [50] himself and us in a stupendous act of retrospective translation,
whereby the distinctions and differences between words and languages are collapsed into a
basic, originary speech native to the subconscious, not the conscious, mind. This is his
version of the lost language of Ireland; it is also the lost language of the Irish soul, that
entity which had not been articulated into existence before Joyce. In effect, what this lost
language tells is the story of the transgression which led to its loss, the story of the life of
the soul lost to the life of the conscious mind, the narrative of an Edenic Ireland which,
through sin, became postlapsarian and British. (pp.50-51).
The Irish had dreamt in their own language and then betrayed the dream into the English
language in such a manner that the original meaning had been lost, misread; as a
consequence, for this transgression, they had been punished. English did not translate the
dream because the Irish did not possess, had, indeed, refused to accept, the culture which
English represented. So Joyce, following in the steps of all of those who had been busily
translating Irish material - especially legendary material - into English, went very much
further than the second-hand Carlylese of Standish OGrady, or the Kiltartan dialect of Lady
Gregory, or the peasant speech of Synge, who takes a drubbing, chiefly from Mulligan, in
the Scylla and Charybdis episode. Joyce translated in the other direction. He brought
English and as many other languages as he could manage - including Irish - back to the
literary equivalent of the Indo-European from which they had all [51] sprung. (pp.51-52.)
There is no question any longer of a skeleton key which will turn in all the locks. This
translation does not translate. The thousands of proper names in the text are so interwoven
that even the minutest knowledge of Irish affairs [...] does not legitimise, say, a reading of
the text as a version of Irish story in a Babylonian dialect. (p.52.)
The treachery which obsessed Joyce is fundamental to his practice of writing. For he leaves
us to wonder if the text that he offers is one which has been so fully articulated that it can
go no further; or if it is a text which is blurred that it awaits and invites full articulation. This
was not only a problem for him. He saw it as the problem of his culture. [...; 52]
For all that Joyce was, and knew himself to be be, part of the Irish Revival. (p.52). [...]
The sense of renewal is clear throughout Finnegans Wake [...] Time and time again in his
writing Joyce characteristically salutes and bids farewell to the Ireland he had left and to the
Ireland he created in his absence from it and its absence from him.