This wide-ranging volume brings together fourteen essays selected by Anne Fogarty and Timothy Martin, co-chairs of the academic program of the 2000 International James Joyce Symposium. As Martin notes in his introductory essay, the collection seeks to capture one impulse of that Symposium: to "provoke reflection about . . . moments of transition and about the nature of borders, margins, and boundaries" in the study of Joyce (4). Martin's essay briefly introduces each essay and frames the collection by offering various ways that the threshold theme can be understood, including "our sense of adventure" in reading Joyce, Joyce's "radical commitment to innovation," and the "feeling of liminality" and "unusual power of the many peripheral figures" in Joyce's writing (1, 2).
The book is organized into four parts, each approaching the threshold theme from a slightly different angle. Part I, "Joyce's Marginalia," offers a smorgasbord of theoretical approaches and textual concerns. [End Page 595] Karen R. Lawrence uses Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire, Michel de Certeau, and theories of nostalgia in crafting a "multivalenced" approach to Joyce's "rhetoric of walking" in Ulysses (21). Reed Way Dasenbrock outlines Giordano Bruno's "insufficiently appreciated influence on Joyce," arguing that his contributions to cosmology and astronomy offered Joyce a means to transform and critique the "intellectual orthodoxy" of Aristotle and Dante (28, 37). Dasenbrock effectively deploys Bruno's cosmological theories to unpack Bloom's depiction as a comet at the end of the "Ithaca" episode of Ulysses. Mary Lowe-Evans analyzes the characters Freddy Malins and Aunt Julia in "The Dead," drawing on M. M. Bakhtin's theories of carnival and the grotesque, "Mary Russo's modification of those theories," and "insights taken from various histories of Christian folly" (45). Finally, Heyward Ehrlich makes the case for the importance of Joyce's interest in the occult, specifically kabbalah, thanks largely to W. B. Yeats's influence.
Part II, "In the Shadow of the English: Joyce as an Irish Writer," is the strongest, most cohesive section in the collection, since all four essays share an interest in Irish cultural politics and history. Andrew Gibson and John Nash evaluate Joyce's oppositional engagement with the English literary tradition in the "Oxen of the Sun" and "Scylla and Charybdis" episodes of Ulysses, respectively. Gibson focuses on the "politics of the anthology . . . in the period between 1880 and 1920" (91), arguing that Joyce's practice in "Oxen" is "neither parody nor pastiche," but "adulteration" (101) and "contamination" (103) via paradox, anachronism, and "a gleeful celebration of ersatz" (102) among other strategies. Nash writes on "Joyce's relationship to the institutionalization of the study of English, in England and Ireland" (110), reading the "Scylla and Charybdis" National Library scene as one of Joyce's challenges to the development of English literature as an academic discipline and the formation of an English literary canon. Like Gibson, Nash foregrounds the term "contamination" to describe Joyce's dissenting literary practice (126). Brian G. Caraher's essay adds further nuance to Joyce's stance vis-à-vis Irish cultural politics through an analysis of the author's 1912 Galway travel sketches celebrating Ireland's "industry, internationalism, and multiculturalism" (132), which were published in the Triestine newspaper Il Piccolo della Serra. In the fourth selection, P. J. Mathews challenges "the caricature of the [Irish] Revival as a period of antimodern traditionalism and backward-looking nostalgia for ancient Ireland that still holds sway over Irish literary and cultural studies" (152), drawing fascinating links between the Revival's agricultural cooperative movement and the stories Joyce published in the Irish Homestead. One simple improvement to this otherwise excellent section would be to place Nash's essay before Gibson's, since Nash provides a concise general [End Page 596] overview of the development of English literary studies in Ireland and useful context for figures such as Ernest Dowden and John Eglinton with whom not all readers may be familiar, background information that Gibson's essay takes for granted.
After the coherence of Part II, the widely divergent concerns of the...