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"An Iridescence Difficult to Account For": Sexual Initiation in Joyce's Fiction of Development

From: ELH
Volume 76, Number 2, Summer 2009
pp. 523-545 | 10.1353/elh.0.0040



In this essay, we examine sexual initiation in Joyce's narratives of development, focusing on representational strategies that achieve their effects through recourse to a residue of sexualized trauma embedded in language. An understanding of the ways in which Joyce employs ambiguously sexual words and situations that constitute both characters and readers as imperfectly initiated, unable to decode ambiguous signifiers, allows for a fuller appreciation of Joyce's style. It also affords insight into how the social world leaves its imprint upon the individual subject through idiosyncratic and contingent personal experience, and, conversely, how such experience lends intense affect to social movements.

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