Saturday, July 30, 2005

Anti-Semitism in ULYSSES?

I once wrote a story where a character makes a racist joke about a customer she is serving in her Iowa coffee shop. My intent was to characterize this woman as a person flawed by prejudice, but my workshop colleagues tore into me, accusing me of being racist. This exercise in political correctness was quite an eye opener. (And I shouldn’t have been surprised by Kirkus’s negative review of my novel THE FLAME TREE, which sternly took me to task for the audacity of portraying a few Muslims as bigoted and violent).

So I’m not going to jump all over Joyce when one of his characters (the Britisher Haines) says, “Of course I’m a Britisher…and I feel as one. I don’t want to see my country fall into the hands of the German jews either. That’s our national problem, I’m afraid, just now.”

This is probably just Haines. One musn’t try to reverse engineer the author from his characters. In fact, maybe Joyce, being Irish, was taking the mickey out of the British by making a Britisher brutish.

On the other hand, this was written at the opening of this century, when racism wasn’t even a concept yet, although its practice was much more casually out in the open and culturally acceptable. So I do wonder whether Joyce was exposing something of himself here. I repeat, I don’t know. The rest (the great unread rest) of the novel might tell.


Blogger Segúr 95.20 said...

Indeed it will, Richard!

6:26 PM  
Blogger Richard Lewis said...

Hmmm, now Dedalus's employer Mr. Deasy makes anti-Semitic remarks, and Dedalus's introspection on such a comment is at best ambiguous.

BTW, I find Dedadulus's introspections are the most difficult passages to understand.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Segúr 95.20 said...

Richard - "Dedalus's introspection on such a comment is at best ambiguous."

But we do not get any introspection from Dedalus on Deasy's comment. The final line of the chapter is the narrator's.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Richard Lewis said...

I'm referring to an earlier passage, the one which starts "On the steps of the Paris Stock exchange the goldskinned men quoting their prices n their gemmed fingers..." That's Dedalus, right?

Sometimes I'm confused: is this Dedalus thinking or Joyce providing commentary?

5:41 PM  
Blogger Segúr 95.20 said...

Yep - that's Stephen's interior monologue - Deasy says "They sinned against the light" then we get Stephen's memories of Paris, then he says "Who has not?" [sinned against the light] Then Deasy questions to him as to what he means [what stephen means is - let he who is without sin cast the first stone] and Stephen says: "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake."

Stephen's self-imposed exile from Dublin ends A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN. He's trying to escape the constrictive nets of religion, history, nationality, and family.

Yes sometimes it can be confusing as to which is the narraror which is interior monologue. The interior monologue almost always involves a point of view, a judgment, an impression. Often there are single-word-sentences to give the sense of immediate impressions. (Especially with the book's hero whom you will meet soon.)

I think the narrator is more detatched, less intense, more relaxed. The narrator is never angry or sad or emotional. Sometimes, though, as the book goes on, the narrator becomes quite playful and even ironic.

10:02 PM  
Blogger David Weisblatt said...

Joyce's use of "sinning against the light" is meant to mock their prejudices -- not justify them. The entire idea of white=good black=bad is turned on its head through out the novel; this is just one more instance of it.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Snail Cloth said...

I have been reading DECADENCE and other Remy De Gourmont. In the first chapter he talks about disassociations/association. I see this man's influence in Joyce's work. The only connection that I have that their might have been some influence is that Ezra Pound admired him. Ezra Pound was Joyce publisher...right?
Remy was part of the Symbolist movement.

Wiki:Working in London in the early 20th century as foreign editor of several American literary magazines, Pound helped discover and shape the work of contemporaries such as T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway. He was responsible for the 1915 publication of Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and the serialization from 1918 of Joyce's Ulysse

1:24 AM  

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