by James Joyce
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James Joyce and Ulysses
James Joyce was born in Dublin on the 2nd of February 1882, he is considered by many to be a massive influential novelist when it comes to modernist writing in the 20th century.
Modernism as itself, was a reaction to the enlightenment and romanticism, and Joyce’s reactionary character can be seen from his book Ulysses, it was a reaction to the high morals and nationalism that caused the carnage and destruction of the first world war, which Joyce spent in Zurich. This means it was a reaction to the moral thinking and ignorance of real life that led to the atrocities.
He, for the first time in his age, produced a wholly habitual, everyday account of a day in Dublin, this was the stream of consciousness, which is like sitting in someone’s head, and it is a very disjointed way of looking at a story, but it is the fullest account of everyday life that could be given.
Modernism was a reaction to the enlightenment and Romanticism, which itself was a movement obsessed with the Greek civilisation. The Odyssey is one of the defining tales to come from the Greek civilisation, and the fact Joyce uses it to show how modern life is so much different to the Greek culture is itself an attack on The Enlightenment.
You can draw more parallels with Joyce and modernism as he was the first to do this is a novel and the first to use the stream of consciousness, much like Wagner was the first not to resolve his music in the home key, they are almost starting a paradigm shift of their own through various different cultural means.
Joyce’s fiction was always set in Dublin, but he lived most of his life around Europe, he famously said:”For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal”.
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The stream of consciousness can only be used if the writer has a great knowledge of the events and surroundings, this makes for the most effective source of information and creates the most realistic account. He also in this quote shows how you can get to the root of wider civilisation by an intense detailed account of a smaller part of society, something which he does with Dublin.
Joyce uses Homer’s Odyssey to accentuate the characters and journey in Ulysses, A modern retelling of the book. The Odyssey can be seen in Ulysses as both men have take part in a journey overcoming obstacles.
The women in The Odyssey are mythological, magical and mysterious, but women portrayed in Joyce’s novel are shown to be worse off by comparing them to the mythological women of the Odyssey, by comparing this in my opinion he is attacking modern life in its entirety, showing how much different Dublin and life at the time is by comparing it to a much more beautiful mythological novel like The Odyssey.
I see the book of Ulysses as a massive attack on society, the main thinking behind the modernist movement was an attack on values and morals within society. Joyce destroys modern culture and criticises high morals by comparing the truth about life in his time with the morals of old seen in the Odyssey. He does not make society something it is not, he states the truth, something that was shocking to the culture of the society of the time when they read the harsh reality of Dublin in the early 20th century.
Joyce also used characters from his real life to adapt to the characters in his novel; this is another factor that gave the book its title as one of the most realistic un-censored novels. Joyce used Alfred. H. Hunter and Attore Scmitz, who was a Jew with a cheating wife, to base the main character of Leopold Bloom around. This was vital for adapting the Odyssey to modern life.
Every episode in the book Ulysses has a meaning and a theme, which can be directly linked to the odyssey, each episode is named after a character in the book, and the themes of those episodes reflect a theme from the Odyssey.
Chapter 15- Circe.
Chapter 15 is called Circe, this was another one of the characters in Homers odyssey and was a Greek Goddess of magic. The chapter involves her drugging animals and enchanting them into doing what she wants. We can draw parallels between this and Joyce’s Ulysses, the prostitutes can be compared to Circe, enchanting bloom, there is also an obvious reference to liquor and inebriation. We can also link this to Freud, the temptation being the instinct that makes him want to have sex.
Chapter 15 occurs late in the day of the 16th of November when the novel is set. This chapter of the book is written with stage directions, this is very typical of the stream of consciousness that Joyce uses in Ulysses, his deep pre-modified words that are used in the stage directions especially are important for Joyce to give a totally realistic and clear account of his day in Dublin. For example: “(she slides away crookedly. Mrs Breen in mans frieze overcoat with loose bellows pockets, stands in the causeway, her roguish eyes wide-open, smiling in all her herbivorous buckteeth)” It paints a clear and mostly horribly real account of his experiences.
The stage directions are used in this chapter a lot to distinguish between the different drunken hallucinations which continuously occur without warning in the chapter.
There is also names above each bit of speech as to who is saying it, much like a play script, this is also vital for the piece as there is only dialogue and with so many characters the book would make no sense without stage directions and it’s play script form.
The chapter starts with a mish-mash of shouts, rhymes and detailed descriptions of occurrences before Bloom follows two men, Lynch and Steven, he follows them running and gets a stitch, this is when the hallucinations begin.
Joyce’s past love of Ireland and his now past nationalism is shown by when in one of his hallucinations, a flash back, he says “Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Ireland, home and beauty” this is a show of how his mind is changed and in my opinion shows the deterioration of Ireland in the eyes of Joyce. The hallucinations are accompanied by rash language and surreal encounters of high descriptive nature at one point he uses the term “mongogongwheeltracktrolleyglarejuggernaut” This not only highlights how drunk Leopold is, but also shows the stream of consciousness perfectly.
There is a lot of talk about the British naval officers and the military and also Leopold is almost arrested at one point, there is then talk of his loyalty to Britain and talk of the Boer War, in which Leopold says “I am as staunch Britisher as you are sir” to a British man trying to get away with being arrested, I think this was a personal attack by the author into the nationalistic element at the time, he is saying that nobody has loyalty, only power, and nationalism comes from fear, as he is pretending to be nationalistic as to stay out of trouble. The fight with the British soldier at the end of the chapter also shows us how nationalism is a big part of Joyce’s writing and thinking.
Joyce can be linked to the modernist thinker Freud in many ways. The loss of nobility in the human race is a very clear comparison, Joyce shows perfectly how thinkers and society at the time was thinking it had the nobility of the romantics and ancient Greece, when it was what Joyce was describing, a dirty, corrupt sexually prevalent time.
We can link also link modernist thinker Freud’s unconscious to the whole thinking behind the novel.
The id can be seen in Joyce’s novel, the instinct towards sex, especially in chapter 15, Bloom’s almost obsession throughout the book and a lot of characters sexual almost obsession is obvious from the start.
We can also see the Ego or self- This can be seen by the harsh and unsympathetic reality of the day in Dublin, this is the consciousness by seeing reality as it truly is.
The Modernist thinking and attitude of Joyce can be seen from his novel Ulysses, whichever way you look at it, it is an attack on society by being so truthful and not conforming to the acceptable literary rules at the time, the fact Joyce uses the stream of consciousness that had never been used before shows what an important factor he was in the paradigm shift to modernism.
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