- Joyce, Joyceans, and the Rhetoric of Citation
Eloise Knowlton links an explanation of the discursive function of quotation to explanations of Joyce’s fiction, Joyce’s critics, modernity (the historical epoch from the Renaissance to the present), modernism, and postmodernism. Quotation, she argues, “like any system of discourse, exerts power by means of a rhetoric of knowledge, historically accreted and institutionally imbedded.” She opens with a history of quotation, claiming that when the modern use of the word begins in the Renaissance, it marks a major shift in the nature and significance of citing another’s speech. Before the sixteenth century citation had to do with the “reverence, continuation, and preservation of prior language.” Generally, citation meant passively preserving another’s words, incorporating them simply as a part of one’s own speech, with almost no marking of the difference between the two speeches that were in fact [End Page 524] involved. But modern quotation, closely tied to the advent of moveable print, capitalism, and literacy, involved a sense of “commercial ownership, personal identity, and the tense dynamic of struggle between positions in language.” Modernity found it necessary to make conspicuous the difference between the quoter’s speech and the quoted speech. The need for a formalized exactness of quotation both arose with and helped bring about the modern subject, whose authenticity depends upon its sense of separateness and originality. Thus in one way quotation helps establish the modern individual in history, but of course the very necessity of such formalized certifications also cuts the subject off from the sense of history that is most desired.
After expanding quotation to include any example of reading or speaking within a text, Knowlton turns to Dubliners. In Joyce’s book, she argues, the pre-Renaissance notion of reverential citation appears as a paralyzing constraint for the modern self, but one that Joyce’s version of quotation, which is to say the form of his writing, escapes by actively enabling the “reader as a maker of meaning.” In A Portrait of the Artist we see the writer growing from a relatively naive “susceptibility to others’ words to a triumphant, specifically quotational, control over them.” Thus, the story of the individual imitates the larger historical change to modernity. Moving on to Ulysses and the further change to modernism proper, Knowlton argues that the interior monologue “would seem to be the ultimate fulfillment of the quotational system of separation, definition, exactitude,” that this device would most precisely get the essence of the self onto the page. But this and other stylistic ultimacies in Ulysses begin “to destabilize the economy of fulfillment.” The modernist masterwork both confirms and erodes the subject of quotation. In “Modern Citation, Modern Historiography,” Knowlton argues more generally that quotation enables what modernity takes to be history: the masterful reclaiming of the past as separate, different, knowable, and therefore controllable. But quotation with respect to history in the modernist sense is again an ultimate case: it tends often to elide the difference between the past and the present in some version of Nietzsche’s eternal return. Knowlton reads Finnegans Wake as involved with history but lacking “modernity’s signposts: quotation marks.” Thus Joyce’s final work returns with a difference to a prequotational tradition that undoes both modernity’s reclamation of the past and modernism’s elision of the past. This in fact becomes Knowlton’s definition of postmodernism. [End Page 525]
Her last two chapters explore quotation and Joyce in relation to gender and to contemporary criticism. In “Moomb” Knowlton argues that quotation and modernity are intrinsically masculine, and that orality is feminized and consequently marginalized. Joyce both perpetuates and displaces this ideology. In “Penelope” Molly’s voice is obviously written but is also entirely oral, and in this manner she “exceeds and to some degree displaces a quotational ideal that seeks to retain the voice within bounds set by the interests of patriarchy, capitalism, and the figure of the author.” Finally, Knowlton discusses Joyce’s critics. She wonders if criticism itself can really become postmodern, if, like Finnegans...