Politicized Joyce: Between Egoism & Hospitality
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ELT 45 : 3 2002 thinking Joyce's colonial and postcolonial status. Taken together, they represent an important step toward a greater historical understanding of Joyce's Ireland. Gregory Castle ------------------------ Arizona State University Politicized Joyce: Between Egoism & Hospitality Jean-Michel Rabaté. James Joyce and the Politics of Egoism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. ix + 248 pp. Cloth $59.95 Paper $21.95 JAMES JOYCE and the Politics of Egotism is, in many respects, a quirky book, exactly the sort of smart, free-associating affair that serious Joyce scholars will immediately recognize as both on scholarship's cutting-edge and thoroughly "Joycean" in spirit. Others, I suspect, will have their troubles as they slog through this often impenetrable, theoryheavy rumination on what happens when Joyce's modernism falls into Rebate's postmodernist hands. I began by pointing out that this a "quirky" book. Let me explain what I mean. Rebate's book has neither an introduction nor a conclusion. Instead , its twelve chapters, many of which were published as separate articles , simply "revisit"—or interrogate, if you prefer— the latest thinking about Joyce and modernism, and then it's off to the races as Rebate demonstrates his thorough acquaintance with Joyce's canon, as well as with a wide range of erudition. The result makes for a giddy ride. Rebate tells us that the book had its genesis in three talks he delivered at various international Joyce symposia: the first focused on Joyce the egotist, and featured a bottle of Chanel's Egotist, an after-shave lotion, prominently displayed on the lectern; the second lecture concentrated on Joyce's concept of hospitality, defined as an "openness to the other"; and the last, given at a conference on "Joyce and theory, " talked about lice as a trope for self-generating, organic language (at one point he proposes the dubious theory that "lice," rather than love, is the secret "word known to all men"). From these bits and pieces, and the ruminations about Joyce and modernism that they sparked, Rebate's book took as much "shape" as his shaggy thoughts allowed. Let me begin with egotism, usually defined as an obsession with the self. Rebate's method is to drag as many disparate references—from philosophy , literature, and, yes, Chanel products—into his discussion. Here is a representative sample of how Rebate's paragraphs work. It is taken 370 BOOK REVIEWS from the opening lines of his chapter, "The Ego, the Nation, and Degeneration ": My title, Joyce and the Politics of Egoism, aims at demonstrating the central ity of a moment in the history of Modernism—the transformation of a feminist weekly called The New Freewoman into an almost identical journal called The Egoist, a magazine that would not only publish Joyce's major novels , but also provide Pound and his friends with a platform for the dissemination of new ideas in England. To say that Joyce should be called an "egotist" is not just flippant provocation or personal accusation but an effort to link his literary and political position to a much older debate hinged around the claims of the "individual" fighting against repressive systems, claims that were often refused as being either "egotistic" or "anarchistic." Rebate makes much—to my mind, too much—of Joyce's connection with the Egotist. Given the censorship problems that dogged the publication of Dubliners, I suspect that Joyce would have been happy enough to see his work printed in the Altruist. This would not make him an "altruist," any more than appearing in the Egotist made him an "egotist." Still, there is more than a nub of truth in Rebate's claims that Joyce was obsessed with the self. This is certainly true for the priggish Stephen of A Portrait—just as it is also true that Joyce's pen dripped with irony when he describes his cocky, self-absorbed protagonist. And, too, Rebate's account of the Egotist has a value that goes well beyond its immediate application to Joyce, for what he introduces is not only how a feminist magazine fell into largely masculine hands and thus changed both its name and mission, but also how Max Stirner's concept of radical egoism...