- Joyce’s Teutonic Tributaries
“INFLUENCE” is a wonderfully multivalent term. Originally referring to a “stellar emanation” or powerful, radiant force deriving from [End Page 145] a star, it has come to indicate (among other meanings) the effect one person or thing exerts on another. In this latest addition to The Florida James Joyce Series, Robert K. Weninger enlists every connotation of the word to demonstrate the nature, extent, and effects of the influence Joyce and his works have wielded on twentieth-century German language literary figures and theorists. Given Weninger’s repeated insistence that Joyce’s influence has “profoundly changed the literary landscape of … German speaking countries,” we might infer that Joyce and his oeuvre—especially Ulysses—constitute the star or stars that have shone their light on German writers, compelling them to “see” their world anew. To support his argument, Weninger provides a meticulously researched “Nebeneinander,” or chronological history of Joyce’s German reception followed by a “Nacheinander” or synchronic analysis of Joyce’s intertextual relationships with selected German writers and movements.
Part I comprises an extensive survey of Joyce’s introduction and reception in Germany beginning with the German translation of Exiles which premiered in Munich in 1919. Providing an exhaustive record of the largely hostile reception of the play, Weninger notes that Joyce was invariably compared with “his more politically aggressive” compatriot, George Bernard Shaw. The degree, quality, and implications of Joyce’s perceived political commitment became a continuing concern of Joyce’s German audience, as Weninger proceeds to demonstrate. In spite of the early debut of Exiles on the German stage, however, it wasn’t until 1927, with the first German translation of Ulysses, that Joyce’s reputation as a problematic modernist writer began to take hold in German speaking countries. He became viewed, on one hand, as a gratuitously experimental, Freudian, Bergsonian, Expressionist. Even the somewhat sympathetic critic Karl Arns denounced Ulysses as “a dark, obscene, enormous, and monstrous work.” On the other hand, critic Ivan Goll insisted that “Joyce has caused a revolution in literature as important as Lenin’s in the political realm,” ultimately designating Joyce “the Homer of our time.”
The dissonance among Joyce’s German critics was not evident in the literary community, however. Novelists, such as Hermann Broch, Hans Henry Jahnn, Alfred Doblin, and Thomas Mann, seemed immediately invigorated by Ulysses to the point of altering their styles and “transforming their literary sensibilities literally overnight.” Virtually every aspect of Joyce’s novel—from the stream-of-consciousness narration to its vulgar/sublime content, to its mythical method and to the apparent [End Page 146] uses of Freudian psychoanalysis and Einsteinian relativity—inspired the admiration of and often emulation by these writers. Precisely those characteristics the critics had deemed abhorrent the novelists found to be inspiring. Hermann Broch, a Viennese Jew, praised Joyce in a 1936 essay “James Joyce and the Present Age,” attributing historical significance to Joyce’s innovations. Two years after publication of that essay, as the Nazis marched through Austria, Broch was denounced by a Nazi sympathizer for having subscribed to the supposedly Communist journal Das Wort. Joyce was among those who helped him flee Nazi persecution, assisting in his attempt to acquire a visa to enter England.
Weninger explains at length how the Nazi rise to power in 1933 brought about an immediate “rupture in the dynamics, both political and literary, of the German speaking countries.” Writers whose philosophies were deemed unsympathetic to the regime were censored or their works burned. As for Joyce, Weninger identifies three “strands” of interest in Joyce’s works subsequent to the Nazi takeover. First, there was the official blacklisting of his works, especially Ulysses because of its sympathetic treatment of Leopold Bloom, the Jew, and for its apparent affiliations with Freudian psychoanalysis. Second, Joyce’s positive reception in German speaking countries other than Germany itself continued to grow. Third, “Joyce” and “Ulysses” became embroiled in the formalism-Expressionism debate underway among Marxist theoreticians. Concluding this chapter on the German reception of Joyce from 1919–1945, Weninger assesses the rather vexed relationship...