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30:4, Reviews JOYCE AND CULTURE Cheryl Herr. Joyce's Anatomy of Culture. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1986. $21.95 I must admit to having had some reluctance to reviewing Professor Herr's book, since I am already on record as having read and approved it in manuscript form. Still, it was a rare opportunity to reread this dense, highly informative work and honestly to admit to any mistaken judgments I might have made. I am happy to report that I am as enthusiastic now as I was when I read an earlier draft. Books like Herr's are uncommon, not only because of thorough, painstaking scholarship, or clarity of prose, but because she has made a genuine historical contribution to our understanding of segments of Dubliners, Portrait, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake, and at the same time provided a new lens through which to view the works of Joyce. Joyce's Anatomy of Culture recreates an era, tum-of-the-century Ireland, in terms of major aspects of its popular culture (religion, press, censorship, and popular stage) to indicate, especially to an American audience, influences on the writer and his work that we have only hitherto perceived darkly, if at all. We thought that there was little more to be said about Roman CathoUcism's profound influence on Joyce and his culture, but Herr proves otherwise in her discovery of the popular sermon tracts and great ecclesiastical showmen commonly emulated by the Irish clergy of the day. She establishes the relevance of her discoveries by demonstrating their relationship to the sermons in "Grace" and Portrait. We thought we knew most of what there was about censorship in Ireland from the political restrictions of British rule to the moral restrictions of the church, but Herr takes us through the complexities of cross-censorship among the press, the church, and politicians. The extent to which the press enforced its own form of censorship in conjunction with the other institutions was magnified because it took the form of a cultural censorship far more pervasive than we had supposed. Obviously the 1929 censorship bill was not the beginning of major restrictions on the freedom of ideas in Ireland. No one before Herr had attempted to unravel the complexities of intertwining claims and representations of the public arenas of popular culture: the press, the stage and the pulpit, the three major areas of Herr's study. She has so much pregnant information, documents and studies, much of it new to American scholars, that the reader will probably begin to make the associations with Joyce's works before Herr finishes her background scholarship in each section. The temptation arises because of the possibilities of interpretation offered by her approach. But the patient reader will find ample reward in Herr's application of her scholarship in each section to one or more of Joyce's texts. She is one of a rare breed of fine scholars who are equally adept as critics. She is cautious, only occasionally claiming more in terms of interpretation than 512 30:4, Reviews can be documented by her scholarly discoveries. And her interpretations work. Rather than subjecting readers to a lengthy examination of each of her three major sections, I would like to exemplify her work by briefly discussing the segment on the Dublin stage, which is closest to my Joycean interests. We have long suspected that pantomimes had a far greater impact on Ulysses than the few scant references to Royce and Turko the Terrible made by May Dedalus and Bloom. Critics have tiptoed around Joyce's declarations of pantomime as a major structural element of Circe, never being sure whether Joyce was referring to the art or to the post-Christmas holiday productions. Now there can be no doubt. Henhas retrieved the programs and synopses, and researched the characters, the traditional situations, and the actors and singers who played them, and shown how Joyce used them in Circe. Hen's Circe study is strongly psychoanalytical, and indicates an acknowledged indebtedness to Shechner as well as substantial areas of disagreement with his interpretations. Of particular interest is Hen's section on Transvestism and Transformation, in which she explores the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 512-513
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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