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James Joyce's Painful Case

Cóilín Owens

Publication Year: 2008

In order to demonstrate that one story from the Dubliners is not only a turning point in that book but also a microcosm of a wide range of important Joycean influences and preoccupations, Coilin Owens examines the dense intertextuality of "A Painful Case."

Assuming the position of the ideal contemporary Irish reader that Joyce might have anticipated, Owens argues that the main character, James Duffy, is a "spoiled priest," emotionally arrested by his guilt at having rejected the call to the priesthood. Duffy's intellectual life thereafter progresses through German idealism to eventual nihilism. The contrast of nihilist thought and Christian belief is Owens's main focus, and he demonstrates how this dichotomy is evident at various points in the life of James Duffy.

From this springboard, Owens constructs a larger discussion of Joyce's cultural influences, including Schopenhauer, Wagner, Tolstoy, and others. He considers many other complex interrelationships that inform Joyce's text--theology, philosophy, music, opera, literary history, Irish cultural history, and Joyce's own poetry--and offers detailed elucidations informed by historical, geographical, linguistic, and biographical information.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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List of Figures

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pp. xi

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pp. xiii-xiv

This is a much-needed casebook on “A Painful Case,” wherein every possible angle, from manuscript study to religion to music to the influences of nineteenth- century literature and philosophy, is given a thorough and definitive treatment. Lesser mortals would assemble and edit a volume of essays...

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xviii

Nine years elapsed between James Joyce’s completion of Dubliners and its eventual publication (1916). By then Yeats’s “terrible beauty” had been born. The tectonic shifts in Ireland between 1914 and 1922 changed the country, the subject, and the mental habits of the readers that Joyce might have...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xix-xx

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1. Introduction: “obvious remarks”

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pp. 1-15

These conversational remarks made in 1918 are instructive regarding one of James Joyce’s most underestimated but personally revealing stories, “A Painful Case” (Potts, 71). They help explain the grounds of his dissatisfaction with and ambitions for a minor work upon which he labored with unusually...

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2. The Dublin-Trieste Cradle: Delivery

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pp. 16-60

The seventh story in the order of composition, “A Painful Case” is the eleventh of the fifteen stories of Dubliners. The last of the adult group, it looks both forward and backward to the stories of the thwarting of private aspirations and the disappointments in the spheres of social and public life. Written...

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3. Love, Marriage, and Moral Adjudication: “That high unconsortable one”

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pp. 61-107

Chamber Music was Joyce’s first creative work. A development of some early lyrics, gathered under the titles Shine and Dark and Moods, it originated in some of his epiphanies and his reading of Yeats, Paul Verlaine, and Ben Jonson. A careful arrangement of thirty-six lyrics written...

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4. A Spoiled Priest: Wordsworth’s Presence

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pp. 108-143

Among the many unidentified books in Mr. Duffy’s library are works of music, drama, religion, and philosophy. He does not keep books for show. Nor does he buy books without reading them. Their unorthodox arrangement— not by author or subject but by bulk—implies that he has taken them...

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5. Richard Wagner and Arthur Schopenhauer

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pp. 144-171

We know how deeply Joyce was attached to Wagner and to the legend of Tristan and Iseult. Timothy Martin’s fine study, Joyce and Wagner, explains how its Celtic origins—evoked in the first lines of Tristan and Isolde—made a strong impression on him. Although the opera was not especially...

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6. Schopenhauer’s Continental Progeny

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pp. 172-208

Turgenev’s novella, “Clara Militch” (1882), provided Joyce with an immediate precedent for the management of paranormal phenomena. Paul Delaney and Dorothy Young have pointed out that the general outline and many superficial details of plot and characterization in...

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7. Conclusion: An Occasion of Grace

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pp. 209-215

Along with Shem the Penman, Mr. James Duffy has the distinction of being Joyce’s only mature celibate intellectual. He is thereby well equipped by his creator to cut through the meshes that trammel the souls of the general run of Dubliners. He is sufficiently endowed with intelligence and feeling...


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pp. 217-227


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pp. 229-235


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pp. 237-248

About the Author, Further Reading

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pp. 249

E-ISBN-13: 9780813045610
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813031934
Print-ISBN-10: 0813031931

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 10 b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 2008