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ELT: Volume 33:3 1990 Moreover, when Bowen turns to specific chapters of Ulysses by way of demonstrating how the novel's comic narration works, he throws off enough insights to more than justify the stiff price this slim volume exacts. Here, for example, is what it has to say about the windy pronouncements of "Aeolus": The putative subject of the editorial room conversation, rhetoric and style divorced from meaning, provides the key to comically meaningful depiction of meaninglessness in the last half of Ulysses. The characters are talking about rhetoric for its own sake. They praise Taylor's speech, given in rebuttal to Fitzgibbon's earlier rhetorical trumpeting, not for what he said but for the language in which he said it. So the ten commandments, certainly a meaningful group of injunctions to many in Western civilization, become less important than the language in which they are couched. Given the high visibility of certain theoretical approaches to literature that also stress linguistic form over human content, I would not be surprised if Bowen were not making a point about Joyce's critics as well as about Joyce's chapter. Indeed, what Bowen's pleas for reading Ulysses as a comic novel does is relieve a generalized pressure to extract ultimate conclusions about life's meaning from Joyce's words. After all, that is precisely what poor Bloom tried to do—unsuccessfully , comically—when he consulted the works of Shakespeare. It is, I think, far better—and far more Joycean—to heed the advice of somebody like Bowen who has read, and reread, Ulysses until it at last becomes the "magnificent comic celebration of life" that it surely is. Sanford Pinsker Franklin & Marshall College Essays on Ulysses Bernard Benstock, ed. Critical Essays on James Joyce's 'Ulysses'. Boston: G. K Hall, 1989. viii + 331 pp. $38.50 BERNARD BENSTOCK'S SUBSTANTIAL VOLUME contains twenty items, plus brief prefaces by Benstock to each of the three major sections of the book. The volume is part of the Critical Essays on British Literature series, edited by Zack Bowen, which aims at reprinting worthy essays and chapters, augmented, where appropriate, by original essays. Bowen's editorial note explains that "each volume will be unique in developing a new overall perspective on its particular subject." Benstock's collection contains no original essays, but 380 Book Reviews the materials that it reprints do provide a distinctive perspective on their subject, Joyce's Ulysses. Even so predictable a scholarly task as gathering a volume of essays on a classic such as Ulysses can be done well or poorly, thoughtfully or in slapdash fashion. In a number of ways, Benstock's volume reflects his knowledge, care, design, and consideration of his reader, and in that regard it compares very favorably with a similar volume that appeared in 1987—Harold Bloom's James Joyce's Ulysses. But more of that anon. Since Benstock has chosen to draw not simply upon separately published essays, but upon coherent sections of books on Ulysses, his range of material for inclusion is virtually unlimited, and could have been overwhelming. But he has dealt with this problem in a way that is appealing and distinctive. The volume is organized into three quite different sections, but what gives the book a certain unity is the principle of variety of perspective. In the first section (entitled "What's This Here, Guvnor?") we find six essays or chapters that are wide-ranging in date of publication and in approach to the novel. They are not chosen to represent the "classic" essays on Ulysses, nor does the section consist only of "overview" essays—i.e. some of them pursue limited aspects of the novel. But they do involve an interesting array of approaches to the book, ranging from Carl Jung's strange negative verdict on the novel, through Walton Litz's solid and comprehensive discussion of the design of Ulysses, to essays by Anthony Cronin and John Z. Bennett on Leopold Bloom, to Louis Hyman's discussion of the Jewish backgrounds of Ulysses, to Roy Gottfried's discussion of Joycean syntax. I am particularly pleased by Benstock's inclusion of John Bennett's 1966 essay, "Unposted Letter...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 380-383
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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