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ELT 47 : 3 2004 is the "old maid: a figure who seems to lack everything and therefore embodies total desire"—a desire for "beauty, husband, children, home, wealth, status." The goal of this story's narration, Norris claims, is "to let a poor old woman without family, wealth, or social standing maintain her human status in paralytic Dublin, by telling her story in a way that will be credited by those who hear it. In pursuit of this goal, 'CIa^ will attempt to mislead the reader." The story fails to do so—at which point "we recognize that the text has functioned as a bandaged wound." Norris goes on to demonstrate the way in which this "bandage" or "blindfold" trope, which is established as a "structure of reading" early in the tale, is thematized in the children's game, involving an actual blindfold that is affixed to Maria, late in the tale. "Like Maria's literal blindfold or 'bandage ,' the gap in the narration—the narrative voice's failure to explain to us what really happened—represents, metaphorically, the 'blind spot' that marks the site of Maria's psychic wound." And this narrative "gap" also reveals the reader's role in creating "the pressures that necessitate Maria's defensive maneuvers in inventing her story" to begin with. Suspicious Readings of Joyce's 'Dubliners' is an important and convincing book. That is not to say, however, that each of its observations is equally important and persuasive. I remain less than convinced, for example , that "An Encounter" has anything to do with "homosexual panic," that "The Dead" and its characters, despite the excellence of Julia Morkan's singing, conspire to overlook her artistry because she is "a homely old woman," or that the dead cleric's sisters in "The Sisters" are guilty of "troubled incrimination" in their brother's hinted-at sexual molestation of young boys; these readings strike me as overly suspicious. Another criticism would be that Norris, at a number of points, seems to miss the not inconsiderable humor to be found in Dubliners—a humor, given the sophistication of her readings, that she would profit from taking into interpretive account. That said, these minor objections do not alter the fact that Norris's study is a masterpiece οι Dubliners criticism, one that is speculative in the best sense of provoking thought and of helping us to see Joyce's stories, and the contexts in which they were produced , in new and fruitful ways. BRIAN W. SHAFFER Rhodes College Joyce & Dante Jennifer Margaret Fraser. Rite of Passage in the Narratives of Dante and Joyce. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002. xx + 255 pp. $55.00 360 BOOK reviews JENNIFER FRASER'S innovative approach to the comparative study of Joyce and Dante introduces a new way to conceive of the intertextuality of Dante's Commedia and the prose works of James Joyce. She begins with the premise that "For these two authors, influence is a self-consciously reciprocal relationship." She explains further: "Joyce seems to battle against an anxiety of origin rather than an anxiety of influence; rather than expressing distress about powerful literary ancestors, Joyce strives to create out of the void an intertextual self that integrates and celebrates influence. Dante acts as one of the many guides on whom Joyce leans in his struggle___" Yet before her introduction is done, she qualifies that statement slightly: "Dante does not influence Joyce; he teaches Joyce how to harness and yet circumvent authority." Fraser supports such provocative assertions with eight chapters of such assiduous, meticulous, and perceptive textual analysis that her initial claims become truly compelling, even if they may seem perplexing or excessive at first. I doubt any summary can do justice to the intricacy and eloquence of her argument, but I will attempt a brief one for the sake of convincing you of the value of the original contribution she has made, relying upon her own language whenever possible to convey a sense of her style of argument. Fraser identifies what the Florida James Joyce series editor Zack Bowen calls "a new category of intertextuality, one that she terms initiatory " (editor's foreword). Fraser's point of departure is the claim that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 360-363
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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