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James Joyce is first and foremost an urban writer.All of his revolutionary creations, Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Exiles, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, centre on Dublin, his native city. It is not simply the case that Joyce uses Dublin as a setting or imaginative backdrop; rather he conceives of it as a symbolic locale with universal import. The city is at once Joyce’s raw material, an experimental terrain, the site of the modern, and the fundament for a radical vision of the future. In his work, moreover, Dublin is a historical locus whose irreducible particularities demand painstaking artistic recreation and act as an inexhaustible wellspring of linguistic invention. Only a few of his texts, amongst them the ‘Penelope’ episode of Ulysses, his playful children’s story The Cat and the Devil, the prose fragment, Giacomo Joyce, and some of the lyrics in Pomes Penyeach, venture outside of this foundational setting. Moreover, the decision to focus on the urban as opposed to the rural had a pointedly political dimension for Joyce. In ‘The Day of the Rabblement’, his diatribe against the Irish Literary Theatre, he stridently voiced his dissension from the aims of writers such as W.B. Yeats whom he felt had sold out to populism and reneged on their duty to produce an outward-looking, cosmopolitan literature .1 The turn to the peasant play, the embrace of an Irish primitivism and the glorification of west of Ireland locations such as the Aran Islands were seen by Joyce in this polemical essay and elsewhere as retrograde and contrary to the objectives of his own aesthetic and to his commitment to bring about the spiritual and cultural renewal of his country. To view Joyce solely in this manner is, on the face of it, to hold him far removed from the environmental turn in current criticism. His programmatic urbanism and underscoring of the anti-pastoral aspects of ‘dear dirty Dublin’ are at odds, it would appear, with an Foreword ANNE FOGARTY xv ethical movement concerned with the rescue and preservation of the natural environment. However, as Raymond Williams has pointed out, the city and the country have historically always been interdependent even in Britain in which cities grew at the expense of the countryside.2 In Ireland, moreover, a greater contiguity between the rural and the urban existed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries because an industrial revolution had not altered the landscape or created divisions between agricultural and urban populations in the way that it had in other countries. Indeed, it is the very resistance of Joyce’s works to pastoralism and conventional nature writing that makes them so amenable to contemporary ecocritical scrutiny, many of whose principal debates they anticipate. As several critics have noted, second-wave ecocriticism has questioned the very notion of nature as a thing apart, endowed with a primal purity.3 They point to the fact that the natural is very often a human concoction or projection, and that it frequently merges with or is overlaid by the built and man-made environment. Further, many have made the case that it is more pressing to take account of urban, degraded and polluted landscapes and the sullied slums and back-streets occupied by the poor and the outcast in the modern metropolis than to continue to hanker after comforting notions of pristine natural spaces or of untouched wilderness. Timothy Morton has gone so far as to claim that theories of ecology need to jettison notions of nature altogether and to question the validity of what he terms ‘ambient poetics’ in which the writing self and the environment fuse, and retire the conceit of immersive outdoor scenes where subject and object coalesce organically.4 Natural images in Joyce tend to be jagged and discontinuous, and to suggest political and social faultlines, discountenancing Romantic views of the alliances intermeshing the human and the environment. The image of the subvervient herdsman driving his cattle ‘above Cabra’ in ‘Tilly’, the opening poem of Pomes Penyeach, cedes to the inexplicable suffering of an anonymous persona bleeding ‘by the black stream/For my torn bough!’5 The conjoint rural and semi-urban landscape traced in this poem seems to provide succour for the cattle, but to be inhospitable to the humans who inhabit it and witness its destruction or violation. In fact, animal tropes are frequently used by Joyce to disturb hierarchies of the human and the non-human rather than to suggest...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781782050735
Related ISBN
9781782050728
MARC Record
OCLC
882713144
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-04
Language
English
Open Access
No
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