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Dramatized Narration: The Development of Joyce's Narrative Technique from "Stephen Hero" to "Ulysses," (review)

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 46, Number 1, Fall 2008
pp. 150-153 | 10.1353/jjq.0.0128

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Kalina Filipova died tragically in a car accident in 2006. She was one of the most promising Eastern European scholars representing the new academic interest in James Joyce in countries where the writer had been dismissed as a decadent modernist. She contributed impressively to Joyce summer schools and to journals. It is still difficult to believe that her first and only book-length study is also her legacy in two meanings of the word: the part of her that will remain and her literary bequest to the Joyce community.

The title of Filipova's book is, in a subtle way, "double-voiced." It points to the "increasing dramatisation of the narration" (9) from Stephen Hero to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, which is the proper subject of her analytical project. It also indicates the theoretical premise she chose for her reading of Joyce: the theoretical conceptions of Mikhail Bakhtin. Filipova is not the first Joyce critic to exploit the notions of double-voiced discourse, heteroglossia, dialogism, and hybridization. She has her predecessors, among them R. B. Kershner and Katie Wales, who are mentioned briefly. Her avowed intention, however, is to start afresh the project of interpreting Joyce in the light of Bakhtin.

Dramatization of the narration, which Filipova regards as dominating Joyce's style, is an elegant formula, which terminologically stands for "the shift of focus from the centrality of plot and the conventionally realistic depiction of setting and characters towards an internalisation of the mimetic impulse, a weakening of narrative authority and a self-reflexive emphasis on the craft of writing" (196). In other words, dramatization indicates the disruption of the narrator, which is a significant aspect of Joyce's modernist method. All the same, somewhat vaguely, Filipova continues to make frequent use of the term "narrator" in an unspecified way.

As Filipova suggests, the technique of dramatization is a means of projecting the voice of a character (Stephen's in her case) onto the "objective" stylization of the fictional text. It is implicit in what Bakhtin has termed "double-voiced discourse" and "character zones." According to Filipova, Bakhtin suggests that these zones are "the field of action for a character's voice, encroaching in one way or another upon the author's voice," which "surrounds the characters" (21). Filipova chooses "character zones" as the main operational concept of her study (9, 21), replacing Bakhtin's "author" with "narrator" but passing over this taxonomical change tacitly. The alteration of terms, however, cannot be dismissed so easily. Discussing "the hybridisation of the voices of narrator and character" (202) in A Portrait and the "Telemachiad" of Ulysses, she tends to ascribe dominance to the consciousness of Stephen; its verbal representation then diffuses into the impersonal, authorial discourse "doing the representing" (20). Analyzing the elements of style associated with Stephen's character zone, she suggests that alliterations, assonances, repetitions, parallelisms, word-play, internal rhythm, syntactic symmetries, the pairing of adjectives, and synaesthesia are defining moments of the "Stephenesque" that orchestrate the voices of what she calls the first- and third-person narrator, or what I would prefer to call the text formation by the enunciating writer. Very carefully, and wisely—and unlike Filipova—Wales notes that, in A Portrait, "such coloured narrative as far as Stephen is concerned [with regard to his character zone], makes it difficult to tell whether a shift of register or 'tone' is the narrator's voice or Stephen's likely idiom, especially when imagery is involved" (87). Moreover, all elements of the so-called "Stephenesque" constitute an integral stylistic quality of Ulysses as a whole. In other words, they are established by the writer, who controls the heteroglossia of both the "consciousness" of the text and the character. From this perspective, even Bakhtin's notion of "character zone" can be disputed.

Within the boundaries of her painstaking analyses, which also include illuminating insights into the continuities and transformations distinguishing A Portrait from Stephen Hero and Ulysses from A Portrait, Filipova convincingly illustrates how, in the latter work, the "Stephenesque" layer signals retroflexively "the presence within the narration of the voice of the young artist" (199). But principally, the interrelations between individual...

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