- Response to MFS Review of Reading Joyce's "Ulysses"
To the Editor:
If I did not feel that Monika Fludernik's review in MFS 34:4 of my Reading Joyce's "Ulysses" raised fundamental issues for the study of literature, I would not respond. In my study, I seek to address the issues raised by current ideologies of reading, but I try to eschew jargon and obscurity. I have tried to establish how, within a contemporary reader, a dialogue takes place between, on the one hand, reading Ulysses as a polysemous text that disseminates its linguistic phenomena but fails to achieve coherence and order, and, on the other, reading Ulysses as a traditional novel that has the kind of organic unity that we find in elaborate literary texts, the genetic code, and complex mathematical functions. Fludernik's assumption that there is an inherent split between the interests of "the Joycean critic" and readers of Ulysses contributes to a misunderstanding about the function of the literary critic-scholar whose task should be to make complex texts accessible for readers. The evidence from most of the reviews is that my book can speak to both audiences. For example, Melvin J. Friedman writes: "Schwarz is an exacting scholar who brings to his labors a knowledge of literary theory" (JJQ 26:1). Because I do not use the vocabulary of Genette does not mean I am oblivious to it; indeed, had Fludernik been fair, she would have noted how I carefully use the work of Derrida, among others, to define the concept of metaphoricity—how Joyce creates words into world—that is central to my study.
It is the purpose of my study to show how a pluralistic reader familiar with diverse critical approaches might read Ulysses. By situating Ulysses among these diverse ideologies of reading, I enact the kind of pluralistic and dialogic criticism that I have been calling for in my theoretical work. In my work—The Humanistic Heritage: Critical Theories of the English Novel from James to Hillis Miller (1986), The Transformation of the English Novel, 1890-1930 (1989), and in my forthcoming [End Page 719] book entitled The Case for a Humanistic Poetics—I have been arguing for a pluralism that respects the work of diverse interpretive communities. Thus I want to contribute to refocusing literary studies to see the creation of a text as a human action by human authors about human behavior for human readers.
As a pragmatic Aristotelian, I want to stress how Ulysses teaches us how to read it and how each chapter of Ulysses—and each episode within a chapter—teaches us how to read it differently. Because I want to show how each chapter is a structure of effects, I often privilege in my focus the beginning and ending of chapters and the transformation of meaning within the process of reading. I stress how Ulysses depends on a double movement: while Stephen is moving toward the Joyce who will write Ulysses and is living on 16 June, 1904, a crystallizing day that will take him toward that goal, the artistic presence is moving back in the opposite direction. In linguistic terms, I argue that Stephen and Bloom are signifiers in search of a signified, and each finds what he needs in the presence of the other: Stephen, the self-immersed, paralyzed, fatherless, Platonist needs Bloom, and Bloom, the sonless, putative, father-mentor whose experience and immersion in the here and now of the modern city—the Aristotelian who lives in "the incluctable modality of the visible"—needs Stephen. Because Joyce used Stephen's critique of Shakespeare to introduce the principles of his aesthetic into the text, I argue that "Scylla and Charybdis" is the crucial chapter for teaching us how to read Ulysses. What Stephen defines as the essential qualities of Shakespeare's mature art are qualities necessary to the mature artist who will write Ulysses:
1. "His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery" (U 190; 9.228-229).
2. "All events brought grist to his mill" (U 204; 9.748).
3. "He found in the world without as actual what was in his world...