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Book Reviews and reprinted substantial materials, just as they appeared in their original context. We cannot, then, say of this volume that it contains most of the "classic" discussions of Ulysses over the past six decades. But we can say that in the variety and perspicacity of its selections it provides us with an impressive and illuminating array of perspectives on the novel, one that could only have been done by someone familiar with a great deal of what has been written on Ulysses and with a distinctive sense of how to make use of the opportunity afforded by such a volume . Weldon Thornton University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Joyce and Chaosmos Umberto Eco. The Aesthetics of Chaosmos: The Middle Ages of James Joyce. Translated from the Italian by Ellen Esrock. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989. 107 pp. Paper $7.95 THIS TREATMENT OF JOYCE'S POETICS is a translation of Eco's Le Poetiche di Joyce, first published as part of Opera Aperta (Milano: Bompiani, 1962). To that original essay, Eco added "The Medieval Model" (incorporating excerpts of a lecture given at the University of Tulsa in 1969), considerably expanded a section on "The Poetics of the Pun," eliminated unnecessary scholarly references, and published the resulting work at the University of Tulsa in 1982. The present edition is a reissue of that version with an added brief note by David Robey. Robey aptly characterizes The Aesthetics of Chaosmos as an early contribution to a continuing and still vital discussion in literary theory: that of the transition from linguistic models of rational order to those of chaos and crisis. Robey reminds us that, for Eco, the Joyce canon particularly exemplifies this transformation and thus effectively reproduces the "nature of the modern condition." Clearly, then, this work says nothing new. But the clarity, conciseness, and erudition that Eco brought to his "Joycean adventure" 27 years ago will make it useful and exciting to Joyce students today. As medievalist, semiotician, and pop-culturist, Eco is eminently qualified to discuss the aesthetics of Joyce's developing linguistic chaosmos, and to interpret "the middle ages of James Joyce" specified in the essay's subtitle. Eco wryly claims kinship with Joyce as fellow Italian author and further accounts for his interest in Joyce's works as 383 ELT: Volume 33:3 1990 by-product of his own "curiosity about the problem of structuring versus destructuring in communication." The essay's central theme is "the permanence of a medieval model, not only in the early writings but also in the later work of James Joyce." This model acts as vehicle for Joyce's poetics. Eco defines poetics as "the study of the structural mechanism of a given text which possesses a self-focusing quality and a capacity for releasing effects of ambiguity and polysemy." Given this definition, Eco's "permanent medieval model" becomes dislodged and released into a "continuous polarity between Chaos and Cosmos." In three chapters, Eco traces Joycean poetics through "The Early Joyce," Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake. "The Early Joyce" focuses on three major influences: Aquinas, Ibsen, and the symbolist poets. Joyce's Catholicism, which led to Aquinas, provided him both a mythical obsession and a way of organizing ideas. This medieval model involved a number of elements destined to become significant in Joyce's works. The representation of the world as a "continuous web of references"; the encyclopedic approach to reality; the technique and the logic of the list, inventory, or catalog; and the habit of quoting authority to make a case—all are essentially medieval organizing strategies. More generally, Eco finds that Joyce's medieval heritage led him to consider the forms of thought before the content. To establish the quality and significance of early influences on Joyce, Eco turns to the often neglected Critical Writings where he finds evidence of Joyce's aesthetic transformation from Ibsen votary (committed to the truth of reality) to a devotee of the symbolist poet, James Clarence Mangan. Ibsenian reality gives way to symbolist reality, as the artist becomes the arbiter of truth. Yet this transformed aesthetic continues to be supported by a "clever use of Thomistic thought." The autonomy of art and the artist...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 383-386
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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