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Sir:

Although James Joyce's Negations is primarily about Ulysses, I shall, given limited space, spell out some disagreements with Kevin J. H. Dettmar's review of my book in JJQ 46.3-4 (Spring-Summer 2009), 592-98, by focusing primarily on my reading of "The Dead." This, and my analysis of "Nausicaa," apparently prove that I am not only a misogynist but an "unconscious" one, so I am doubly damned as a knave who nonetheless qualifies for a fool's pardon. The essay on "The Dead," however, was undertaken in a spirit of conscious opposition, first, to the consensus reading of the story centered on Gabriel's "egoism" and, second, to the distorted readings of some feminist critics. We require here a capacity for discrimination: my open disagreement with feminist critiques of "The Dead" may mean I irritate those responsible for the critiques, but such a stance does not, logically, make me a misogynist. I dislike, not feminist, but bad criticism; and I am likewise opposed to any Marxist, historicist, psychoanalytical, and the like approach that appears misguided. I argue my case, and Dettmar acknowledges that my reading of "The Dead" is carried out "with attention and care"; but readers who wish to judge for themselves should temporarily leave to one side Dettmar's a priori assumption that Gabriel insistently "patronizes" every woman in the story.

There is an obvious irony in this suggestion by Dettmar, given his own habitual condescension. After spending so many years in the academy, I regard it as beneath all dignity to respond to his charge that I cannot "hear" the irony directed at Stephen in A Portrait. As for my "naive theory" concerning "mimetic immediacy," Dettmar, for all his acceptance of indeterminacy, is surprisingly eager to effect closure in the matter: no wonder Harold Bloom, pondering aspects of modern theory, felt obliged to coin the term "dogmatic relativism." Given that theorists, like the rest of us, may fall victim to idées reçues, it might be worth Dettmar's time to look again at the conclusion of Murray Krieger's magisterial Ekphrasis (1992), with its eloquent insistence on "the unavoidable longing" for the natural sign (259). I am with Krieger—not because I do not know any better, but out of a choice that is fully "conscious." But at this point, I suspect Dettmar and I would be truly embarking on a dialogue of the (mutually) deaf. [End Page 177]

Brian Cosgrove
Professor Emeritus, National University of Ireland, Maynooth
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