In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

ELT 38:2 1995 Antimodernism & Joyce's Portrait Weldon Thornton. The Antimodernism of Joyce's Portrait of the Artist OS a Young Man. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1994. xiv + 234 pp. Cloth $45.00 Paper $22.50 RE-EXAMINATIONS of the tenets of literary modernism have been so ruthlessly revisionist in the past decade that not only has the baby long since been emptied out with the bathwater, but the tub itself is in danger of being sucked down the drain. What once seemed as monolithic as the Berlin Wall now resembles that recently deconstructed structure, scattered in numerous fragments that nonetheless take on new value as objets d'art. Problems of overall definition have always existed, at least as early as the Joyce-Lawrence dichotomy: if Leavis finds a berth for D. H. Lawrence within the "great tradition" (barring the portal to Joyce with angels of fire), then is it possible for Modernism to include Lawrence along with James Joyce? And within the Joyce canon itself, can the same literary movement that culminates with the avant-gardist Finnegans Wake find substantial modernist harbingers in the early texts as well? It is with this dilemma that Weldon Thornton makes his heroically outspoken stand: his challenging title leaves no doubt where Thornton has positioned himself. Yet, for all its militancy, the title proves somewhat misleading, since Thornton's analysis of A Portrait is so thorough and exacting that the reader may wonder whether numerous modernist elements are not reaffirmed after all, having slipped back in through open windows. In denying A Portrait its modernist credentials Thornton is primarily concerned with the philosophy of modernism (which may well mask the politics of modernism) and states his case frequently along the way: that "Joyce reveals Stephen's psyche to be far deeper and more complex than he himself can comprehend or articulate, thus illustrating the insufficiency of the empiricist/Enlightenment view of the self"; that "Joyce's distinctive mode of third-person presentation undermines the subjectobject distinction that Stephen read into his experience, thus showing the superficiality of the Cartesian division between mind and matter, inner and outer"; that "the authorial voice in the novel, rather than expressing a traditional 'omniscient author' or a distinct persona/character , simulates the social or collective psyche that Stephen constantly, implicitly participates in, thus illustrating the inextricable interrelatedness of 'individual' and 'social' conscious and unconscious" (109). (If these are not your particular concerns regarding Modernism, then yours 256 book Reviews is a very different baby—or different tub of bathwater.) "I take my stand," the unreconstructed critic announces, "regarding Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a brilliant dramatization of certain modernist tendencies that Joyce exposes as superficial and specious" (22). And should you assume that Thornton's antimodernist reading of A Portrait is a special case of an author not yet abandoning one set of aesthetic and intellectual values before assuming another (and more mature, more daring) set, Thornton's evaluation of Joyce's position during the composition of that ultra-modernist document, Finnegans Wake, remains as unrelenting. The throwing down of gauntlets and the taking up of cudgels that make his approach so uncompromising persists throughout, especially when he announces: I disagree with those critics who would read into Finnegans Wake an attempt on Joyce's part to subvert the Western mind, or an attack on the whole of Western "logo-centrism." For all its apparent radicalness, Finnegans Wake is nonetheless a Western book. It calls upon us not to disavow or abandon our Western modes of thought, but to recultivate certain neglected or denigrated aspects of our tradition—aspects that involve metaphor and analogy and metamorphosis and process. (61) What is unusual for a new critical study of James Joyce is that Thornton 's is so thoroughly researched. He mines the secondary sources for corroboration and controversy, ignoring few if any scholars who have published on A Portrait—for 158 pages of text there are 45 pages of endnotes (in excruciatingly small type) and seventeen pages of bibliography (only those whose surnames begin with I, X or Z are missing). And, although he associates himself with certain camps (Levitt, French, Sultan, Harkness, Buttigieg) and against...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 256-260
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Ceasing Publication
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.