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Dead breaths I [Stephen Dedalus] living breathe, tread dead dust, devour a urinous offal from all dead.1 Most of all he [Leopold Bloom] liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.2 Joyce’s fiction has always been a purifying fire purging various critical approaches of any hyperbole their unexamined assumptions might allow. To put this another way, while all critical approaches seem to find resonance with Joyce’s work, it is a quite separate question as to what Joyce might have thought of various critical approaches. Ecocriticism, to be sure, might have appealed to him because it is, quite literally, ‘grounded’. So much of Joyce’s stated intent, as indicated in his letters to Grant Richards about Dubliners, for example, was to ‘get behind’ appearances. Joyce takes a denied essence – for example, ‘the soul of that hemiplegia or paralysis which many consider a city’3 – and renders it as a ‘special odour of corruption which . . . floats over [his] stories’.4 The ‘epiphany’ itself, ‘a sudden spiritual manifestation . . . in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture’,5 seems to be about whiffs of this denied essence constantly emanating – sometimes incrementally, sometimes explosively – from both the pungent streets of Dublin and the fetid consciousness of its inhabitants. The ‘odour’ of an acute essence behind a suspiciously rosy exterior concerns the narrator of Joyce’s first story ‘The Sisters’: ‘There was a heavy odour in the room – the flowers.’6 Is it really the flowers? Or just the flowers? Or is it the smell of the flowers masking the odour of a corpse? Thus Joyce gives us an olfactory correlative for some hidden but nonetheless disconcerting truth about Father Flynn that festers behind all the adult discourse wafting its way towards him. The figure of the gnomon he recalls offers a geometric equivalent of Ineluctable Modality of theVisible: ‘Nature’ and Spectacle in‘Proteus’ GARRY LEONARD 246 a figure of a parallelogram with a corner missing, in other words a ‘complete’ figure whose very completeness draws attention to an apparent absence: ‘[The word paralysis] had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid.’7 That which is unrepresented in what purports to totalise it often remains elusive to thought, but therefore becomes more constitutive of affect. Depression, for example, is an effect produced by the dialectical tension between the un-thought that is also, and despite this, still known, if only in an affective register. Gabriel ‘knows’ he is distant from Gretta, but he refuses to think it until the impalpable presence of Michael Furey becomes more palpable than the specious quality of his own existence: ‘A vague terror seized Gabriel . . . some impalpable and vindictive being was coming against him, gathering forces against him in its vague world.’8 In his attempt to recover a sense of presence, it is the very ground of Ireland that seems to ground his thoughts: ‘[S]now was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves.’9 We can say this background that restores him to himself is ‘nature’, and, so it is, but it is Joyce’s Nature, not Wordsworth’s. The landscape in ‘The Dead’ does not wait to impart wisdom to an expectant viewer as it does in Wordsworth’s ‘The Solitary Reaper’; instead it menaces Gabriel’s wilful ignorance, presses in upon his self-deceptions, confuses his various strategies of self-preservation, and urges him toward a self-revelation both unwelcome and unanticipated. The Romantic Nature of Wordsworth awaits one like a patient lover, while Joyce’s Nature ambushes like a lover spurned. After all, both the rain falling on the Lass of Aughrim in the song Gretta remembers, and the rain falling on Michael Furey of Galway who sang it to her long ago, manages to kill both of them – dark and mutinous indeed. To employ a different metaphor, Nature seems to manifest itself in Joyce the way a ‘correction’ alters the stock market. It comes from a ‘nowhere’ that clearly becomes a ‘somewhere’ as its presence takes irrevocable effect on what now suddenly becomes, in a way that can no longer be ignored, a nowhere only imagined as a somewhere: ‘I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to make my interest in her...

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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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