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Spooky Joyce
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Modernism/modernity 13.2 (2006) 367-373

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Spooky Joyce

University of Nottingham
James Joyce's Ulysses: A Casebook. Derek Attridge, ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Pp. 274. $55.00 (cloth); $16.95 (paper).
Ulysses: Contemporary Critical Essays. Rainer Emig, ed. New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Pp. ix + 223. $59.95 (cloth).

Both these casebooks probably have in mind readers who are doing courses on critical theory and on Joyce. Derek Attridge's collection leans towards deconstruction with well-known contributors, while Rainer Emig, leaning towards psychoanalysis, has generously looked for newer voices among the disparate chorus of Joyceans. The predominant styles of both have a density which is by turns conceptually challenging and frustrating, especially in their disregard for substantiation. Despite the fact that they bring together two such diverse fields of textual practice, the overriding impression is that the concerns of theory, when put beside the range of Ulysses,are relatively narrow. There is hardly any historical work within them, nothing about Joyce's influence on other writers or other writers' influence on Joyce, little cultural materialism, just one textual study, and no genetic studies. Nearly all the essays were published in the US during the 1990s. They offer a snapshot then of a time and place in critical history in which critical and cultural theory were firmly established. But like all snapshots it is partial—for that time also saw the emergence of historically inflected work which scarcely features in either.

Attridge's arrangement produces a theory sandwich. It opens with essays written shortly before the early 1980s, by two non-theoretical, but no less thought-provoking writers—grandfathers of the Joyce industry, Hugh Kenner and Fritz Senn. It ends with excerpts of conversation between Joyce and Frank Budgen from Budgen's 1930s book on Joyce. In between are complex and supple essays that variously invoke Jameson, Derrida, Freud, Benjamin, Althusser, and others. The authority of identity and the identity of authorship is somewhat stably destabilized. And [End Page 367] then the Budgen extracts, strategically positioned at the end, where we hear Joyce's reported speech, full of playful, belle-lettristic common sense, are, paradoxically, defamiliarizing.

Kenner's opening piece, "The Arranger," makes critical lunges that are surprising because they are neither substantiated nor feel instinctively right: "The Homeric parallel commences to direct the action only in the second half of the book" (19) we are told. But there are flashes of ironic rhetoric, as when he invokes "some mind" who "keeps track of the details of this printed cosmos, and lets escape from its scrutiny the fall of no sparrow" (22). There is a discernible animus against this "mind" for producing that maze of intratextual patterns and networks. The Arranger is characterized by "intrusion" and "indifference," he is a "difficult personality . . . harsh and awkward . . . capable of a great deal of malice, of deliberate Schadenfreude." We get "irritated" and he treats us with that "sour xenophobic indifference [which] Dublin can turn upon visitors." He is also a "virtuoso," capable of "little graphic touches whose innovative economy" we all admire (22-25). This resentment of genius (whether it's the narrator's, the author's, or the creative reader's is a moot point) is a recurring theme of Attridge's collection. It appears indirectly in Senn's "Book of Many Turns": "To some of us the existence of such a system amounts to the major justification of a work of literature. To others, Joyce has become too exclusively a cerebral constructor and callous arranger" (34-35); and more directly in Bersani's fascinating "Against Ulysses." An arranger of text, Joyce is also an arranger of his readers: "Joyce's novel asks only that we reconstruct the structurally coherent fragments of Joyce's own cultural consciousness" (228). Bersani's survey of Joyceanisms takes various critical approaches to Ulysses to task, so the narratological kind which reassuringly maps out the co-ordinates of the narrative points of view as they shift, is described as "critical paranoia" (206-7). While we see Bersani attempting to cut the strings linking him to Ulysses and...