THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF JOYCE by Richard Ellmann
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THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF JOYCE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

That ponderous title embraces two delightful essays that belong together--on Joyce's principal sources, Homer and Shakespeare--and also a less delightful but not unconvincing argument for Joyce-as-a-revolutionary, an oblique revolutionary who concealed his attacks on oppressive authorities in a Trojan Horse called Ulysses (""a comedy, but with teeth and claws""). Ellmann has that rare gift for turning pedantry into poetry, and, when he cross-references the adventures of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus to their Homeric counterparts, we can share his, and Joyce's, elation with ""how interconnected literature is, how to press one button is to press them all."" The Odyssey was not ""mere scaffolding,"" Ellmann persuades, but a true inspiration for metaphorical, punning flights: if Ulysses' crew pierces Aeolian bags of wind, Bloom and Stephen pierce the windbags of Dublin. Joyce, however, wasn't satisfied in proceeding ""singlemythedly,"" and Ellmann sails the ""sea of fiction and nonfiction"" that Ulysses became, pointing out the landmarks of autobiography, Freud, JUNE, Dante, Goethe, the Wandering Jew legend, and--above all--Shakespeare. Not only Hamlet but also the Bard's private life turns up in Ulysses, and the presence in Joyce's 1920 library (a treasure trove of evidence for many of Ellmann's contentions) Of a slim, obscure volume called A Day with William Shakespeare adds both charm and heft to the discussion. The slightly graver treatment of Joyce's anti-Catholic, anti-fanatic, nationalistic politics provides extra ballast for Ellmann's occasional whimsy (""One touch of kinkiness makes the whole world kin"") and for the pure-fun attractions of the appendix (a catalog of Joyce's library). Here, then, is an important addendum to Ulysses on the Liffey, offering almost as much pleasure for non-academic connoisseurs as added data for scholars,

Pub Date: May 1st, 1977
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press