Joyce/Miro

Nonfiction
The following are a few references to writers who have made reference to Joyce in their nonfiction. (Please note that literary criticism, and especially Joyce-oriented criticism, are not included for obvious reasons!)

Sexual Personae

(1990)
Camille Paglia
Vintage, 1991, ISBN 0679735798, Paperback, $18.00. [Browse/Purchase]

Author of several books of cultural criticism, Camille Paglia is quite a controversial figure. Her theories on gender roles and sexual relations have delighted and infuriated critics and admirers alike. Put as simply as possible, she sees Western art as a struggle between the Dionysian and the Apollonian impulses, which she links to sexual personae. The Dionysian forces represent the cthonian, female matrix, and the Apollonian represents the male struggle to break free from this natural “swamp” by creating art of pure lines and hardened thought. Essentially in the camp of Freud, Darwin, and Nietzsche, Paglia embraces a philosophy of struggle, sexual conflict, and the assertion of hierarchies.
The following Joyce-related quotes are taken from her first and most famous work, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. The book was published in 1990 to a mixture of wild acclaim and harsh derision. (Anthony Burgess remarked that Sexual Personae is a “fine, disturbing book. It seeks to attack the reader’s emotions as well as prejudices. It is very learned. Each sentence jabs like a needle.”) Although Paglia is fond of repeating herself, and occasionally makes the same point in a thousand different formulations, it is an enjoyable book, with some genuine insight and deliciously provocative ideas. A great present to offend both your radical feminist friends as well as your right-wing born-again buddies!

St. Augustine says, “We are born between feces and urine.” This misogynistic view of the infant’s sin-stained emergence from the birth canal is close to the cthonian truth. But excretion, through which nature for once acts upon the sexes equally, can be saved by comedy, as we see in Aristophanes, Rabelais, Pope, and Joyce. Excretion has found a place in high culture. Menstruation and childbirth are too barbaric for comedy.
(Page 17)

The link between father and child was a late development. Margaret Mead remarks, “Human fatherhood is a social invention.” James Joyce says, “Paternity may be a legal fiction.”
(Page 42)

The Great Mother is a virgin insofar as she is independent of men. She is a sexual dictator, symbolically impenetrable. Males are nonpersons . . . Thus Joyce’s sensual Great Mother, Molly Bloom, sleepily mulls over all men in her life as “he,” implying their casual interchangeability.
(Page 43)

A second apotropaion [a charm to ward off evil spirits]: Joyce’s dense modernist style. Joyce has only one subject – Ireland. His writing is both a protest against an intolerable spiritual dependency and ironically an immortalization of the power that bound him. Ireland is a Gorgon, in Joyce’s words “the Mother Sow who eats her children.” Knight compares the mazelike meander design on Greek houses to “tangled thread” charms on British doorsteps: “Tangled drawings are meant to entangle intruders, as the tangled reality of a labyrinthine construction at the approach to a fort actually helps very much to entangle the attackers.” Language as labyrinth: Joyce’s aggressive impenetrability is the hex sign of Harrisons’ “religion of fear and ‘riddance’.”
(Page 49)

In modern times, even when the Great Mother is treated sympathetically, as she is by Joyce and Woolf, she controls only green nature, not this gloomy Stygian cavern with which western myth associates swarthy male hierarchs. Emptiness and barrenness are usually produced by a flight from the maternal, as in the refusal to mourn the dead mother in Camus’ The Stranger. . . .
(Page 256)


War and Peace in the Global Village

(1968)
Marshall McLuhan

1. Hardwired, 1997, ISBN 1888869070, Paperback, $9.95. Out of print. [Search for a Copy]

2. Gingko Press Inc., 2001, ISBN 1584230746; Paperback $13.95. [Browse/Purchase]

Media critic and futurist Marshall McLuhan is considered by many to be a spiritual father to the digerati, prefiguring the Internet and the modern media culture through his dazzling and frequently controversial theories. He was also an enthusiast of Finnegans Wake, and according to FW-List member Thomas Boyce, this book has “quotes from the Wake in the margin of almost every page.” Here is the publisher’s description:

Marshall McLuhan wrote this book thirty years ago and following its publication predicted that the forthcoming information age would be “a transitional era of profound pain and tragic identity quest.” Marshall McLuhan illustrates the fact that all social changes are caused by introduction of new technologies. He interprets these new technologies as extensions or “self-amputations of our own being,” because technologies extend bodily reach. McLuhan’s ideas and observations seem disturbingly accurate and clearly applicable to the world in which we live. War and Peace in the Global Village is a meditation on accelerating innovations leading to identity loss and war.

On a related note, psychedelic guru Terrence McKenna has a lecture available on audio-cassette called Surfing on Finnegans Wake and Riding the Range with Marshall McLuhan. You may find details on the Brazen Head’s Audio Page.

Art and Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light

Leonard Shlain
Quill, 1993, ISBN 0688123058; Paperback $15.00. [
Browse/Purchase]

This work traces the development and interrelationship of art and science in the Western world. Included are a few pages on James Joyce. Kirkus Reviews provides a good general description:

A California surgeon explores the striking parallels in the evolution of Western art and science in this enlightening exploration of where ideas come from and how they enter the consciousness of a culture. Though art and science are traditionally considered antithetical disciplines – with art dependent on intuition for its development and science on logic and sequential thinking – both nevertheless rely on an initial burst of inspiration regarding the nature of reality, and in Western culture the two have followed separate but remarkably similar paths. Shlain offers detailed anecdotes from the history of Western culture – from the ancient Greeks’ penchant for single-melody choruses and blank rectangles, through the fragmented art and science of the Medieval period, to modern art’s redefinition of reality and the relativity revolution in science – to illustrate how major movements in art have generally preceded scientific breakthroughs based on equivalent ideas, despite the artists and scientists involved having remained largely ignorant of one another’s work. Shlain’s suggestion that scientists have not so much been inspired by artists but have received initial inspiration from the same source – bringing to mind the possibility of a universal mind from which such ideas spring – is an intriguing one that offers a new window through which to view the dissemination of knowledge and ideas. A fascinating and provocative discussion – slow in coalescing but worth the wait.
Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates

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Go To:

Main Page – Back to the Joycean influence main page.

Joycean Fiction – Works of fiction directly inspired by Joyce or using Joyce as a character.

Joycean Authors – Authors and playwrights influenced by Joyce.

Film & TV – Joycean allusions on the screen and tube.

Radio & Miscellaneous – Joycean allusions in radio, spoken word recordings, and other media.



–Allen B. Ruch
14 July 2003

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