restricted access From Hardware to Software, or "Rocks, Cocks, Creation, Defecation, and Death": Reading Joyce and Beckett in the Fourth Dimension
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From Hardware to Software, or "Rocks, Cocks, Creation, Defecation, and Death":
Reading Joyce and Beckett in the Fourth Dimension

"Any brollies or gumboots in the fambly?"

My interest in James Joyce began in 1982 when I first mistook him for an errant, fellow student in my class in Belvedere College.1 It was consolidated in 1984 when I read Ulysses as an undergraduate student at University College Dublin.2 I purchased it in Eason's on O'Connell Street, and as it started to rain I decamped to Conway's pub for the afternoon and evening. It was not a pub I frequented, but as the rain was strong and my umbrella incapable of protecting me from it, I chose to have my one and only drinking session in Conway's with Ulysses for company. Around closing time the rain stopped, and I decided to go to my parents' house in Drumcondra as it was closer and warmer than my sorry flat in Churchtown. When I arrived my father asked me where I'd been and I told him of Conway's. Animatedly and with great pleasure, he recounted the tale of when he received the phone call that my mother had gone into labor on a murky and thunderous morning many moons ago. He rushed to the Rotunda Hospital only to be told that he could not enter the theatre. Thwarted, he repaired instead to Conway's for Guinness. It was the only time he ever drank there. Eventually word was sent that a son had been born ('twas me). At a loss for something to do, my father went for a drive. As the weather cleared he was very taken by Sandymount Strand, on which he proceeded to go walking for the only time in his life. Only when the rain recommenced did he realize that he had forgotten his umbrella in Conway's pub. At this point in my father's narrative I cast about me and realized that I too had left my umbrella in Conway's pub. I thought then, as I have thought many, many times since: with [End Page 28] Joyce, as with Shakespeare, 'tis always "passing strange" (Othello 2.3.211).

In my mind Joyce is inextricably associated with an uncannily predictive quality that resonates with past and present meaning(s). His writings seem to foreshadow reality in extraordinary ways. For example, Keith Ridgway—a fellow Belvederian classmate, Irish exile, and author of The Parts (2003)—has been commended for his "poem to Dublin's chaos" and for his portrait of "Irish 21st-century life in a neo-modern post-Catholic land" (Ridgway 3). This implies that Ridgway's novel stands in contrast to its literary predecessors because of its contemporary character. This notion gathers momentum when the novel is discussed with Irish students. In tutorials, The Parts is perceived as relevant to the new Dublin because it addresses and is preoccupied with organized crime, racism, and the increased visibility and expression of diverse sexuality. I suggest to the students that although The Parts is an excellent novel, these "contemporary" issues are all present in Ulysses in the form of racism toward Bloom (the archetypal Irish native/immigrant), in the provocative and experimental sexual attitudes of Molly and Bloom, and in Joyce's representation of the Phoenix Park murders, which foreshadow the rise of organized crime in Dublin. I also argue that Joyce's treatment of racism, sexuality, and crime in Ulysses offers thoughtful paths for their continued negotiation. When Joyce asserts that "in the particular is contained the universal" (Ellmann 505), it is my contention that the universal's applicability is temporal as well as spatial. Not only is a Joycean world always already "Allmen"—but "as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be"—it is also what Benjamin calls "Jetztzeit" or "time filled by the presence of the now" (267). The problem, however, is how to prove this position.

Theory to Fancy

Joyce's capacity for archetypal foreshadowing can be attributed to what Derek Attridge refers to as Joyce's texts being "so woven into the other texts of our culture that...