James Joyce and the Language of History: Dedalus's Nightmare by Robert Spoo

By Robert Spoo

"History is a nightmare from which i'm attempting to awake." Stephen Dedalus's well-known criticism articulates a attribute glossy perspective towards the perceived burden of the previous. As Robert Spoo indicates during this research, Joyce's inventive fulfillment, from the time of his sojourn in Rome in 1906-07 to the final touch of Ulysses in 1922, can't be understood except the ferment of historic concept that ruled the 19th and early 20th centuries. Tracing James Joyce's historiographic paintings to its formative contexts, Spoo unearths a modernist writer passionately engaged with the matter of background, forging a brand new language that either dramatizes and redefines that problem.

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Extra resources for James Joyce and the Language of History: Dedalus's Nightmare

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What," he asks, "are the greatest conceptions of the human spirit before the infinite reality of life? 649), would be discomfited by Ferrero's views on human agency; Mr. Deasy, too, would be unimpressed by this brand of historiography because it does not picture history as moving symphonically toward a goal, the manifestation of God. 386). Leopold Bloom, who has not yet made his appearance when Stephen breaks a lance with Deasy, is the embodiment of a counterteleological, antiheroic conception of history.

Struggling to free himself from the Irish ideal of asceticism and aspiring to the ideal of culture—that harmonious integration of religious and aesthetic impulses figured by the bird-girl at the end of chapter IV—Stephen has no choice but to declare his allegiance to the fabulous artificer Daedalus and to exile himself from his native land. Since in his view asceticism has ousted culture as a historical possibility in Ireland, exile becomes his only means of rousing himself from this particular nightmare of history.

Despite his feeling in the letter of October 4, 1906, that such a course of study was "not worth while beginning now" (Letters II 171), he wrote Stanislaus a month later that "Eerrero devotes a chapter in his history of Rome to the Odes of Horace: so, perhaps, poets should be let live" (Letters II 190). In an aside in his lecture "Ireland, Island of Saints and Sages," which he delivered in April 1907 after returning to Trieste, Joyce remarked that "Ferrero now tells us that the discoveries of these good professors of Germany, so far as they deal with the ancient history of the Roman republic and the Roman empire, are wrong 28 James Joyce and the Language of History from the beginning—almost completely wrong.

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