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  • Preface
  • Philip Sicker

In a 1906 letter to Stanislaus, Joyce observed, “I like the notion of the Holy Ghost being in the ink-bottle,” an instance of his characteristic “repurposing” of religious language for aesthetic self-depiction. Garry Leonard’s essay, “Soul Survivor: Stephen Dedalus as the Priest of the Eternal Imagination,” finds its point of departure in an earlier letter where Joyce remarked to Augusta Gregory, “I have found no man yet with a faith like mine.” Joyce’s “faith,” Leonard explains, is a confidence in the creative power of his “reborn soul.” This is the same soul that Stephen discovers in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man when he repudiates the Catholic Church’s precept of an inaccessible, punishing divinity. Leonard argues that for Joyce “it is possible to ‘un-believe’ in religion and still believe you have a soul”—and to save his artistic soul, Stephen must lose his faith in God. This reading of Stephen’s transformation is informed by the philosopher Charles Taylor’s view that modernity is marked not by a simple “subtraction” of faith from daily life, but rather by a movement from religious orthodoxy to new forms of experience-based belief that answer humanity’s need for a “fullness within.” Thus, in “dying out of the transcendent order of the sacred,” Stephen is “born into the immanent order of the secular.” Within this process, his sense of the “soul” changes from the immaterial and “everlasting” entity of Christian orthodoxy to an inner forge. Here, sensate experience, no longer burdened by a sense of sin, is transmuted into an art that remains “everliving” after its creator dies. Even when Stephen struggles with religious fear and guilt—as when Dante threatens that eagles will pull out his eyes or when he sees the word “foetus” carved in a desk—Leonard finds prophetic hints of the soul’s rebirth in his imaginative “re-ordering” of these traumas. The climax of this transformation, he argues, is Stephen’s “sacramental” epiphany on Sandymount Strand, where his “soul leaps” at the summons [End Page ix] of the bird-girl, “an incarnation of the Virgin Mary appearing in the secular world,” who confirms his artistic vocation and anoints him its “priest.” Stephen’s “creative soul” is born here with the renewal of his body. This soul embraces the depths of the immanent world, and it “radiates outward” to “priest-ridden, God-forsaken” Ireland, where the artist vows to bring forth “the uncreated conscience of his race.”

While Leonard emphasizes the transformative impact of Stephen’s visual impressions, Ethan King explores the liberating role of Bloom’s touch in his study of “intercorporeal ethics” in Ulysses. Joyce’s Dublin, King notes, is a place characterized by violent “concussive encounters”— from Farrell’s collision with the stripling to Private Carr’s assault on Stephen—that are, at once, tactile interactions and “ideological interpellations” of colonialist or nationalist politics. Surrounded by coercive touches that would dissolve individual subjectivity, Joyce’s characters harbor anxieties about physical contact, regarding it as a source of epidermal contamination and psychic erasure. Bloom, however, overcomes his own touch-related trauma (the memory of Rudy’s conception) through his successive encounters with the blind stripling, Gerty, and Stephen. King analyzes these relationships as “dialogues of recognition and sympathy” in which Bloom’s touch initiates an exchange that is “profoundly generative and reciprocal.” In each case, Joyce presents a “wordless dialogue” in which Bloom seeks an inter-subjective awareness of himself by inhabiting the Other’s perspective, while also preserving a sense of the Other’s radical alterity. Noting that Bloom takes the stripling’s hand without dehumanizing pity, King argues that this responsive and redeeming touch is predicated on a mutual recognition of vulnerability—a principle King extends to Bloom and Gerty, who share a common “language” generated not by contact in the flesh but by an intense visual exchange that Maurice Merleau-Ponty calls “palpitation with the look.” The crowning moment of intercorporeality is Stephen’s recognition of Bloom as a “different man” when taking his arm in “Eumeus.” King reads this scene of reciprocal discovery through Emmanuel Levinas’s belief that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4241
Print ISSN
1049-0809
Pages
pp. ix-xv
Launched on MUSE
2015-12-30
Open Access
No
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