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Joyce's Misbelief

Roy Gottfried

Publication Year: 2008

Roy Gottfried takes a different and somewhat controversial approach to the study of James Joyce's relation to religion by examining the author's "misbelief" rather than the "disbelief" so many scholars claim he professed.

Gottfried argues that Joyce in fact had a great deal of respect for the Catholic Church though he did not accept the orthodox dogma he learned as a youth. Instead, Joyce was most interested in actual schisms that challenged the authority and universality of Catholic dogma.

This focus on schism is most readily evident in Gottfried's analysis of Joyce's use of key Christian, though not Catholic, texts. He explores Joyce's interest in the Eastern Orthodox Church and in Protestantism, two influences usually ignored in discussions of Joyce and religion. Gottfried offers new readings of Joyce's work including his puzzling use of the term "epicleti" to describe Dubliners and his interest in heterodox ideas in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. Joyce's use of the Protestant Bible and the Anglican Book of Common Prayer enabled Joyce to articulate ideas that the Catholic Church of his time suppressed and to challenge Catholic doctrine, power, and hegemony, according to Gottfried.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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pp. 1-1


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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Joyce was not a good Catholic: this we knew. But now we have the data to back it up. What Roy Gottfried has done quite marvelously is demonstrate the precise nature of Joyce’s rebellion against religious authority. Non serviam now has a fuller context: by reading Joyce against the Catholic doctrine of his time and through the versions of biblical texts that he chose ...

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1. Joyce’s Misbelief

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pp. 1-9

In “Telemachus,” Haines asks Stephen a very direct question: “You’re not a believer, are you? . . . I mean, a believer in the narrow sense of the word. Creation from nothing and miracles and a personal God” (U 1.611–13). Haines poses this question with the skepticism of the university man toward all notions of religion, rhetorically trying to include Stephen with his “are you?” ...

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2. “A Ripping Good Joke”: The Attractions of Schism

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pp. 10-27

Much in Joyce proceeds by indirection; what is crucial to the text and to him is often nudged to the side of the main attraction. Meaning is divertive in the sense that the ostensible focus of Joyce’s narrative is often a substitute—a distraction, an amusement—for what is really at issue. ...

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3. “Epicleti”: The Artistic Possibilities of Schism

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pp. 28-60

In the beginning of Joyce’s creation there is a word, the substance of which is heretical, and that word is “epicleti.” It is a word that initiates a body of works, the stories of the Dubliners, and it is a word that signals a disposition toward the possibilities of schism from the very outset. ...

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4. The Literary Advantages of Protestantism

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pp. 61-101

Let us return briefly to the text in Portrait, which raised the notion of schism to find in it another matter of rending, the verse that Heron tells Stephen to parody, the definition of a heretic in Matthew’s Gospel: “let him be to theea as the heathena and the publicana” (P 76). We remarked in passing that Heron seems to recite the line inaccurately ...

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5. Schism as Politics

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pp. 102-118

Along with the artistic possibilities of schism for Joyce, there could be dividends in the sphere of political action. Through schism, Joyce could resist certain powers in a way that provided freedom of choice in contexts other than the production of art. Eschewing loyalty to the church of his youth and resisting the claims of a nationalism allied with it, ...


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pp. 119-128


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pp. 129-134


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pp. 135-143

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About the Author, Further Reading

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pp. 155-157

Roy Gottfried is professor of English at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of three previous books, including Joyce’s Comic Portrait (2000) and Joyce’s Iritis and the Irritated Text: The Dis-lexic Ulysses (1995). ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813045627
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813031675
Print-ISBN-10: 0813031672

Page Count: 156
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 801845510
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Joyce's Misbelief

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Subject Headings

  • Joyce, James, 1882-1941 -- Religion.
  • Christianity and literature -- Ireland -- History -- 20th century.
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