LITERARY TREND AND AUTHOR CANON
Joyce is one of the most representative Modernist writers. His last novel, “Finnegans Wake” experiments with post-modern writing techniques.
Modernist traits in Joyce’s prose:
- stream-of-consciousness narrative technique;
- absurdist drama techniques;
- overturns religious symbolism;
- experimental narrative techniques:
- mimicking of an infant’s language;
- parody of the stylistic evolution of the English language;
- parody of cliches of pulp magazines;
- a combination between the Catholic Catechism and a scientific lexicon;
- personal reinterpretations of myth and history;
- labyrinthic narrative and highly complex and recursive form;
- sense of humour that stems from the obscurity of the message.
ULYSSES (published 1922)
Genre: a modernist novel
- Experiments with time representation and perception: literary devices – temporal juxtapositions, sudden jumps.
- Focus on the inner world of the character: literary devices – stream of consciousness, memory, perception.
- The plot is replaced by specific modernist patterns: time, place, character, leitmotifs, symbols, mythic patterns, and cinematic devices (space and time montage).
- Theme: atemporal, eternal conflicts of the soul, philosophy.
- Range: limited, presented subjectively. Life is chaotic, disordered, fragmentary.
- Narration: subjective, limited point of view or combination of points of view.
- Structure: open form.
It is a modernist novel because it seems to focus on something ordinary (a day in the life of Leopold Bloom) but it portrays it as something extremely strange and unfamiliar, compared to the Greek myth of Odysseus (Ulysses in translation). The narrative present (June 16th, 1904) becomes the moment of manifestation for countless intellectual divagations (literary, philosophical, historical, linguistic, religious, scientific).
Inspiration: a legendary Greek king of Ithaca and the hero of Homer’s epic poem the “Odyssey”. Odysseus also plays a key role in Homer’s “Iliad” and other works in that same epic cycle. Ulysses is the English translation of the name. He symbolises a heroic attitude and an adventurous spirit.
- Characters are inspired from real life;
- Dublin’s descriptions are extremely vivid;
- The novel intertwines itself in real life.
Main theme: Love. Most characters in the novel struggle with problems related to love, whether it is spiritual, physical, or in the form of patriotism. Leopold Bloom’s take on the world is shaped by love because his great power is empathy. In this sense, the character becomes a hero in the Homeric sense, as his capacity for sympathy and compassion is directed towards all beings. He becomes a modern hero, similar in his capacity of love to Homer’s Odysseus, a classical hero capable of adapting to challenges.
Themes related to love:
- Patriotism: can lead to a narrow-minded perspective of the world;
- Sex: perceived as natural, but prone to making life complicated.
- Memory and past;
- The need for multiple perspectives.
The novel follows the events which occur in a twenty-four-hour period in Dublin. The plot is structured to imitate the plot of Homer’s Odyssey (Ulysses is the Latinised form of the Greek name Odysseus). Stephen Dedalus gets up in the morning, talks to some friends then goes to work, where he teaches. Later, he meets Bloom and other friends and they go out drinking. He visits a brothel and gets into a fight with British soldiers. Bloom takes him home, and then Dedalus returns to his home. Leopold Bloom eats breakfast, then picks up a letter from a woman with whom he has an illicit erotic correspondence (he is married to Molly). He then attends a funeral, runs errands, and meets his friends in a pub. He assists Dedalus when he is injured in the red-light district. Bloom provides most of the fantasies, memories, and speculations that make up the greatest part of the novel. Molly Bloom has an affair that her husband knows about. Her section mostly consists of sexual and romantic fantasies and memories.
Characters presented in the analysis of the literary fragment should be adapted to the fragment itself.
- Leopold Bloom – 38 years old, works in advertising in Dublin. Raised by a Hungarian Jewish father and an Irish Catholic mother. He is compassionate, curious, and loves music. He enjoys reading about science and discussing his knowledge. He is affected by his estrangement from his wife.
- Molly (Marion) Bloom – 33 years old, good-looking, and flirtatious. She is not educated, but clever and opinionated. She works as a professional singer and was raised by her Irish father, Major Brian Tweedy, in Gibraltar. She is impatient with her husband and exasperated by the fact that he refuses to be intimate with her since their son’s death, eleven years ago.
- Stephen Dedalus – an aspiring poet in his early twenties. He is intelligent and well-read and likes music. He is friends with medical students, but he is an introvert who exists mostly in a cerebral way. After his mother’s death, he loses his faith, although he was raised in a religious environment. He struggles with issues of faith and doubt.
POINT OF VIEW
- Multiple, unconfined – the reader is exposed to multiple perspectives (Leopold Bloom’s, Stephen’s and Molly’s):
- The narrator of the story has access to the intimate thoughts of the three main characters and limited access to the minds of other characters;
- When a character’s thoughts are exposed, the narrator uses the stream of consciousness technique.
- The reader is never exposed to the author’s real tone, as the narrative discourse is a continuous play with attitudes and styles.
- May mimic a serious attitude, but in reality, the author is always playful and mostly parodic;
- In elevating the main characters to the statute of epic heroes, the narrator is sympathetic and compassionate towards them.
The style is extremely varied, as Joyce mimics countless types of writing styles:
- Newspaper headlines;
- Parodies of varied styles;
- Satire of sentimental literature for young girls;
- Surrealist play based on dreamscapes;
- Catechism style;
- Re-enactment of the development of the English language from early translations of Latin to the author’s contemporary Dublin slang.
Language is closely linked to content.
- If the characters are tired – the prose is simple and boring;
- If the characters dance – the words dance on the page, too;
- When Bloom wanders around Dublin and feels tired and depressed – the words become halting, hesitating.
The purpose of playing with the different types of style is to prove that there is an inherent connection between content and style, as they each depend on the other.
Molly’s Monologue at the end of the novel
- Transcribes her sensations, most intimate thoughts and emotions;
- Follows the rhythm of consciousness;
- Confuses the reader, because there is a complete disregard for traditional syntax, punctuation and coherence;
- Based on the principle of free association of ideas and images – the description of Gibraltar is made up of images appealing to senses (touch, smell, sight, hearing, taste)
- Can be divided into 3 parts:
- Molly remembers the day Leopold proposed to her,
- Molly recalls memories from her childhood in Gibraltar,
- Memories of her first lover in Gibraltar merge into memories of Bloom on the day he proposed.