Susan Stanford Friedman
Joyce: The Return of the Repressed is a collection of essays on James Joyce’s work which probes the various ways his texts can be read as sites of repression and insistent return. Working broadly and differently under the umbrella of psychoanalysis and poststructuralism, the authors of the essays read Joyce’s texts as scenes of writing and reading in which the psychodynamics of repression, disguised expression, and fragmentary return can be interpreted or at least scrutinized. The central questions explored are founded on the concepts of the textual and political unconscious developed by such theorists and critics as Julia Kristeva, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Shoshana Felman, Jonathan Culler, Fredric Jameson, Peter Brooks, and Michael Riffaterre. With varying emphasis the contributors examine the interconnections between and among the psychic and the political, the textual and the historical, the erotic and the linguistic. Adapting different methodologies to a common project, the authors incorporate concepts and interpretive strategies from psychoanalytic criticism, feminist criticism, new historicism, African-American criticism, deconstruction, narrative theory, Marxist criticism, cultural studies, and textual criticism. Finally, the collection includes essays on substantial portions of Joyce’s oeuvre, including Stephen Hero, Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake.
Poststructuralists—both within and outside the Joycean fold—have accelerated in recent years the project of rereading Joyce within the framework of recent developments in literary theory loosely conjoined with the poststructuralist emphasis on the materiality and significance of language in inscriptions of desire, subjectivity, the social order, and history. Margot Norris’s Decentered Universe of “Finnegans Wake” (1976), Colin MacCabe’s James Joyce and the Revolution of the Word (1979), and the collection edited by Derek Attridge and Daniel Ferrer, Post-Structuralist Joyce: Essays from the French (1984) pioneered the rich possibilities of reading Joyce in conjunction with poststructuralist theory and, conversely, of reading theory in the light of Joyce’s modernist and postmodernist projects. Beginning with Bernard Benstock’s James Joyce: The Augmented Ninth, a collection based on the 1984 Joyce Symposium, the volumes based on the annual Joyce symposia have increasingly represented a strong contingent of Joyceans who are adapting various poststructuralist strategies to the reading of Joyce. The 1989 special issue on feminist readings of Joyce of Modern Fiction Studies, edited by Ellen Carol Jones, systematically combines feminist inquiry with poststructuralist theory, and Joyce between Genders: Lacanian Views, the Fall 1991 special issue of the James Joyce Quarterly, edited by Sheldon Brivic, grounds psychoanalytic readings of Joyce in Lacan. And since the early 1980s many individual studies have used poststructuralist theory to probe the textuality, sexuality, and intertextuality of Joyce’s oeuvre.1
Joyce seems ideally suited to such poststructuralist readings for two main reasons. First, as Sigmund Freud frequently stated, poets often “discover” what philosophers and others come to theorize many years later. Poststructuralist theory is, in the eyes of many, an extension into philosophy, psychoanalysis, and linguistics of what writers such as Gertrude Stein and Joyce forged in literary discourse. As Patrick McGee writes in Paperspace, Joyce has functioned “as a symbolic bridge between the modern and the postmodern” in the development of such theorists as Lacan, Derrida, and Kristeva.2 Joyce’s texts, particularly Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, anticipate and perform with an increasingly dazzling display many basic tenets of recent critical theory—most specifically the deconstruction of the Cartesian subject and the linguistic reconstitution of the subject as forever in process and unknown to itself; the materiality of language in all its thickness, density, opaqueness, undecidability, and ephemerality; the endless play of words in chains of reference that signify not “meaning” but indeterminate processes of meaning; and the binary of masculine/feminine as the master plot of phallo(go)-centrism in Western culture.
At their best, readings of Joyce as the prototypical poststructuralist engage theory in a mutual dialogue with literature that avoids what Shoshana Felman calls the “subordination” of the literary text to the higher authority of theory and fosters new insights into both theory and text produced by their juxtaposition and interpenetration.3 At their best, they also probe deeply, often playfully, into the intricate pathways and tracings of linguistic webs and textualized desires. At their weakest, such readings remain caught in a hermeneutic circle: Joyce becomes the ideal terrain upon which to prove the theories that his texts themselves anticipate. The poststructuralist reading thus becomes its own confirmation. The theory that privileges unpredictability produces a repetition of readings in which Joyce (always) signifies the truth of Derrida or Lacan. At their weakest, too, such readings also often “forget” the “real” of history and experience toward which language gestures, even if the reference of Joyce’s texts can never be fully manifest outside language.4 Whether strong or weak, however, poststructuralist readings of Joyce retain a certain explanatory power based on the paradox of how Joycean texts seem to repeat the very theory they anticipate.
The second compelling reason for Joyce’s association with poststructuralism is that Joyce has become within the academy, as well as in the culture at large, something of an icon of and for modernity—and this in complex ways, for contradictory reasons. For some, Joyce is the canonical writer of the twentieth century: the Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton of his time. His placement on the pinnacle of modernity’s pedestal repeats the double gesture evident in the canonization of his predecessors. As Shakespeare is often said both to epitomize and to stand apart from his age in sheer genius, Joyce is for some the supreme avatar of modernity and its most brilliant practitioner.
But for others, Joyce serves as metonym for modernity, a fragment of the whole that stands in for the deconstruction of the very notion of icons and canons. For these, Joyce contributes supremely to the concepts of the death of the author and the disintegration of the Cartesian subject by his inscriptions of a modern consciousness forever split from certain knowledge of itself. For these, Joyce writes not in the language of the high priests of Western culture but rather speaks the problematic of these discourses—parodying, exaggerating, mimicking, decentering their logocentrism on behalf of Otherness. Woven in and among the strands of the canonical in his texts are the discourses of the noncanonical, of the marginalized and repressed. His texts, for some, speak what has been unspeakable, represent what has been unrepresentable in the phallogocentirc discourses of Western culture: the feminine, the unconscious, the racial Other.
For a third group of readers, Joyce is neither idol of nor metonym for modernity, neither universal genius nor the Other’s champion. Rather, he is read dialogically as a voice containing many competing discourses—some in league with ideology, some subversive to it; some reproducing the dominant religious, sexual, political, and literary traditions, some resistant to them. Within this framework Joyce remains one voice, however multilayered and conflicted, among many other voices. His play with Otherness ambivalently attests to the power of these other voices emergent on the scene of a modern world split open: the voices of women, the voices of racial, ethnic, sexual, and regional Others, insistently testifying to the breakup of empire and the disruptions of gender, race, ethnic, and class systems.
As the elite of the elite, Joyce is read as the supremely modern writer, the inventor and technologist of modernist and postmodernist poetics. As the champion of alterity, Joyce is read as the inscription of modernity’s fragmentations. As the site of contestation between authoritative and marginalized discourses, Joyce is read as the textualization of modernity’s discontents. And for many critics, aspects of all three approaches interweave into dialogic representations of Joyce wherein different strands of his modernity compete with and often undermine one another, in part accounting for the controversies that swirl continuously about his work. Common to all these approaches, however, is an association of Joyce’s modernity with rupture, a radical break from the epistemologies, ontologies, psychologies, and formalisms of the Victorian past. The disorientations and displacements of this break are variously associated with exhilaration or alienation, joy or despair, and utopian desire or nostalgia for the past. But the assumption of modernity’s break with the past structures these different responses.
The essays in this volume tacitly acknowledge the significance of rupture, but they are premised on the psychoanalytic notion that nothing is completely lost, only “forgotten.” The consciousness of rupture may well be a defining characteristic of modernity, but this psychic reality could itself represent the repression rather than the abandonment of what came before. This view, common to all the volume’s essays, goes further than an insistence on some forms of continuity between modernity and its precursors. Consistent with the poststructuralist critique of “origin,” the essays presume that the already written and already read are contained within the texts that proclaim to “make it new.” The task becomes not so much to identify strands of continuity between modernity and its past but to interpret the psychodynamic processes of repression and return as they are enacted within the defining texts of modernity.
Psychoanalytic theory—particularly that first formulated in Studies in Hysteria, The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud’s papers on technique collected in Therapy and Technique, and Beyond the Pleasure Principle—is essential to the project of the essays in this volume. Freud’s notion that dreams and symptoms are disguised expressions of repressed desires posits a hermeneutic for decoding the linguistic and hieroglyphic transformations accomplished by the dream-work. Interpretation of the repressed depends on reading the traces of its insistent return. Paradoxically, however, Freud’s theory of the unconscious splits the known from the unknown in the human psyche so profoundly that the hermeneutic that begins in an affirmation of interpretability ends in an awareness of undecidability. We can untangle the process of repression only so far before we come up against what Freud calls “the unplumbable mystery” at the core of every symptomatic expression and up against our own entanglement in what we would untangle.
The authors of the essays in this volume adapt Freud’s concepts of repression, return, and interpretation to the project of reading Joyce’s texts. Lacan’s notion that the unconscious is structured like a language facilitates this adaptation, and his integration of Freudian psychoanalysis with Saussurean linguistics foregrounds the analogy already present in Freud’s work between the linguistic workings of the psyche and the psychodynamics of a text. In turn, Kristeva’s adaptation of Lacan in relation to semiotics fosters this analogy. In Revolution in Poetic Language she reverses Lacan’s famous axiom to suggest that not only is the psyche structured like a text but also that the text is a “signifying process” that functions like a psyche. The dialectical play in all texts between the preoedipal semiotic and the oedipal symbolic modalities of language is the linguistic process that is constitutive of the subject.5 This notion of the text-as-psyche implicitly posits a textual unconscious. Like the psyche, the text is split, psychodynamically engaged in a perpetual process of repression and return. Kristeva’s view of the text as a site of ongoing psycholinguistic process underlies the various interpretive strategies developed in this volume for reading the textual unconscious.
For Kristeva, particularly in her early essays collected in Desire in Language, a focus on textuality—conscious and unconscious—includes an analysis of context: the text’s intertextuality, its dialogic intersections with “the historical and social text.”6 Similarly, the psychoanalytic, text-centered readings in this volume include an analysis of history and the politics of repression and return in Joyce’s oeuvre. As Jameson argues in The Political Unconscious, the textual unconscious is also a political unconscious: history’s insistent return marks the text as a site where forbidden narratives have been repressed and disguised.7 Cultural narratives not only of class but also of gender, religion, ethnicity, race, and sexuality circulate through Joyce’s texts, reworked and renegotiated as part of his modernity. The growing anonymity and mechanization of modern life, the spiritual and material violence of human relations, the epistemological crises of disintegrating empire and nation constellate in Joyce’s texts as part of a political unconscious of modernity. In McGee’s words, Joyce writes “as the symptom of a historical process.”8 Stephen’s cry in Ulysses that “history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake” has served, like Joyce himself, as modernity’s characteristic lament and metonym for rupture. For Hayden White in “The Burden of History,” Stephen’s statement signifies the modernists’ “hostility toward history,” rejection of “historical consciousness,” and “belief that the past was only a burden.”9 In contrast, the essays in this volume share an assumption that it is not the erasure of history but its insistent return as nightmare and desire which marks modernity’s stance toward the stories of the past.
A final dimension of the textual and political unconscious resides in the intersubjective space between Joyce’s texts and their readers. In such essays as “Turning the Screw of Interpretation” and “The Case of Poe,” Shoshana Felman has positioned the textual unconscious in the transferential scene of reading, in the inevitability of the reader’s entrapment in the complexes inscribed in the text. Adapting Lacan’s reintroduction of the countertransference into the analytic situation, Felman speculates that the reader is always already entangled in the snares worked out in the text. Reading is not so much an enlightened decoding, however indeterminate, of the text’s disguises as it is a repetition of the dynamics that fueled the text in the first place. Within this view, the corpus of criticism itself constitutes a “case study” subject to analysis, a point Felman makes with an interpretation of critical debates about Poe’s work and James’s Turn of the Screw.10 The sheer mass of Joyce criticism, as well as its diversities and differences, suggests a ripe field for the analysis of the textual unconscious in Joyce as Felman defines it. No doubt such a textual unconscious exists implicitly in this volume, but it is not interrogated directly. We must leave it as a challenge to our readers to decode or “repeat” the repressed in our own readings—and those of Joyce studies in general—as a case in point of modernity and its discontents.
Joyce: The Return of the Repressed originated in a cluster of panels which I organized for the 1988 International Joyce Symposium in Venice. Joseph A. Boone, Marilyn L. Brownstein, Jay Clayton, Christine Froula, and I presented papers at the conference and have thoroughly revised and extended the arguments made in those initial papers. Ours have been joined with original essays, taking related approaches, by Laura Doyle, Ellen Carol Jones, Alberto Moreiras, Richard Pearce, and Robert Spoo. Our readings of the textual and political unconscious of Joyce’s modernity fall into four sections: “Making the Artist of Modernity: Stephen Hero, Portrait, Ulysses”; “Repression and the Return of Cultural History: Dubliners and Portrait”; “Narratives of Gender, Race, and Sex: Ulysses”; and “Incest, Narcissism, and the Scene of Writing: Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.”
Part I opens the collection with two essays that explore the psychodynamics of repression and return in Joyce’s early narratives about the formation of the artist. My own essay, “(Self)Censorship and the Making of Joyce’s Modernism,” proposes a psychopolitical hermeneutic—based on Freud’s grammar for the dream-work and his concept of dream series—for interpreting the production of Joyce’s modernity as reflected in the changing representations of Stephen D(a)edalus. It treats Stephen Hero, Portrait, and, more briefly, Ulysses as a textual series in which the revisions that made Joyce’s texts “modernist” led to the increasing repression of the female subject and her insistent return, especially in the figure of Stephen’s mother. In the essay I adapt poststructuralist methodologies for reading the textual unconscious but resist the teleological tendency in some poststructuralist readings of Joyce to view his transition from realism/naturalism to modernism/postmodernism as an unqualified “advance.”
Alberto Moreiras, in “Pharmaconomy: Stephen and the Daedal-ids,” investigates the repressed resonances of Stephen’s formation as a writer in relation to Derrida’s discussion of writing as pharmakon in “La pharmacie de Platon.” Moreiras interprets the allusions to the Daedalus myth (Daedalus, Icarus, and the unnamed Talos) and the bird motifs (lapwing, partridge, perdix) in Portrait and Ulysses as trace representations of the pharmakos, the scapegoat figure who heals, kills, is killed, and returns in a cyclic process. The recurring flights of birds, he shows, inscribe the displacement and return of both mother and father within the son. These associations lead Moreiras to read against the grain of criticism that situates Stephen within the oedipal narrative of the displacement of the mother and the parricide of the father. Instead, Moreiras suggests that Stephen’s entrance into writing involves suspended—ever repressed, ever returning—identifications with both maternal and paternal figures.
Part II contains three essays that examine social, political, and literary history as repressed discourses that erupt into the naturalist and modernist surfaces of Joyce’s early work. In “Uncanny Returns in ‘The Dead’: Ibsenian Intertexts and the Estranged Infant,” Robert Spoo argues that repetition of the once-familiar that has become strange accounts for the uncanny effects of the “incurable and incorrigible” final story of Dubliners. Adapting Freud’s concept of the uncanny as a site of repression, Spoo reads “The Dead” as an uncanny repetition of Ibsen’s When We Dead Awaken. He further argues that Gretta’s recovery of her repressed rural past, represented by her dead lover, represents an uncanny birth of the lover as son, a birth in which Gabriel does not participate and which ultimately eludes his and the reader’s gaze.
In “A Portrait of the Romantic Poet as a Young Modernist: Literary History as Textual Unconscious,” Jay Clayton examines the debate about romanticism in Joyce by using two approaches to the interpretation of the textual unconscious: the first, represented by Jonathan Culler, locates the textual unconscious in the reader’s transferential repetition of the text; the second, represented by Peter Brooks, locates the textual unconscious in the text’s structural interplay between the life and death instincts. With the first approach Clayton examines the text as discourse; with the second, as story. Romanticism (especially in the form of Wordsworth’s “spots of time”) as both discourse and story, Clayton argues, returns as a repetition of the repressed in Joyce’s modernist narrative, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
Richard Pearce, in “Simon’s Irish Rose: Famine Songs, Blackfaced Minstrels, and Woman’s Repression in A Portrait,” takes the song “Lilly Dale,” which baby Stephen learned from his father, as its entry point for reading the social realities of gender, race, and class repressed in the stories of Simon and Stephen Dedalus. “Lilly Dale,” Pearce notes, was a widely popular American song written in 1852 and often sung in Ireland in blackface after the U.S. minstrel tradition was imported into England and Ireland. Its lyric idealization of a woman’s death represses the social realities of famine, pregnancy and motherhood, class, and race, a repression repeated in Joyce’s characterizations in Portrait of Simon, Stephen, Stephen’s mother, and Dante.
Part III focuses on the questions of desire, female subjectivity, the figure of the mother, and the interlocking psychodynamics of gender and race as they are inscribed in Ulysses. Paralleling Pearce’s reading of the repressed cultural history of Portrait, Laura Doyle’s “Races and Chains: The Sexuo-Racial Matrix in Ulysses,” interprets the sexual and racial matrix in Ulysses as a modernist inheritance of a nineteenth-century preoccupation with pure and originary races and, in turn, with the purity of the women who mother those races. She argues that Joyce sought to complicate or cross boundaries of race and gender with Irish/English, Stephen as “jewgreek,” and Bloom as “womanly man.” But Ulysses also betrays mixed allegiances and an anxiety about cultural inheritances (for example, miscegenation and promiscuous women) which is projected onto mother figures. The narrative dislocations in Ulysses follow the path of the main characters’ attempts to evade or contain the influence of racialized mother figures. At the text’s closure, Doyle concludes, Joyce invokes an idealized rhetoric of mothers that leaves the reader, in deus ex machina fashion, with a sense of transcendence of conflicts—conflicts about racial and sexual inheritance that the text has been unable to resolve or repress.
Joseph A. Boone, in “Staging Sexuality: Repression, Representation, and ‘Interior States’ in Ulysses,” interprets the “Circe” and “Penelope” episodes of Ulysses as instances of the return of the repressed in a double sense: first, they demonstrate Joyce’s effort to represent what he called the “subconscious”; second, they inscribe eruptions of the textual unconscious of Ulysses itself. Boone examines Joyce’s narrative strategies in the context of feminism and de-construction to explore how the text is subverted by what it has repressed. The psychodramatic presentation of the unconscious in “Circe”, he argues, celebrates a kind of polymorphously perverse sexuality, but its pyrotechnic display is a displacement of sexuality into the linguistic realm which continues to valorize masculine mastery. The interior monologue in “Penelope,” he concludes, is the highly contested site of female subjectivity in which Molly eludes and subverts Joyce’s attempt to appropriate female and feminine speech.
Part IV concludes the collection with three essays that probe the inscriptions of incest and narcissism in the paternal, filial, and artist figures in Joyce’s later work. Marilyn L. Brownstein, in “The Preservation of Tenderness: A Confusion of Tongues in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake,” uses Sandor Ferenczi’s 1933 essay “Confusion of Tongues between Adults and the Child” (which calls for psychoanalysis to return to the repressed reality of father-daughter incest) to read the repressed narratives and discourses of incest in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. It adapts Ferenczi’s argument that incest involves a “confusion of tongues” between the child’s language of tenderness and the parent’s language of passion to a reading of father-daughter relations in Joyce’s texts. It also uses Ferenczi’s notion of healing based on a reconstruction of maternal language. The father’s detachment and refusal to acknowledge incest mirrors the suppression of Bloom’s incestuous desire for Milly. The incest desired in Ulysses, Brownstein argues, is acted out in Finnegans Wake, where the maternal language of loss in the final sections of the text reflects the attempt to heal the confusion of tongues in the act of writing.
Ellen Carol Jones, in “Textual Mater: Writing the Mother in Joyce,” reads portions of Ulysses, especially the “Oxen of the Sun” episode, and selected passages from Finnegans Wake in conjunction with Kristeva and Derrida to argue that, in the economy and ideology of (re)production, writing is the space of repression, particularly of the mother. This erasure of the mother as speaking subject represents, according to the essay, a masculine appropriation of the maternal necessary for the creation of the word. Jones further argues that this appropriation institutes a poetics of incest in which the son penetrates the mother’s flesh to (re)produce the word.
Christine Froula, in “Mothers of Invention/Doaters of Inversion: Narcissan Scenes in Finnegans Wake” rounds out the collection by returning to the issues about the artist raised in Part I, with reference to Stephen Hero, “The Dead,” and Portrait, and in extended discussion of Finnegans Wake. Froula reads Finnegans Wake as the final text in a series of autobiographical “self-vivisections” that cross self-portraiture with cultural history. She explores the dynamics of desire visible in Joyce’s Narcissan scenes and uses his self-reflexive depictions of his own art of self-portraiture to account both for the fluid dream-selves of Finnegans Wake and for the dreamer’s pervasive crossings between “The form masculine. The gender feminine.” Joyce’s final volume, she concludes, represents a narcissistic return in which the book-as-self is indistinguishable from the book-as-world, in which Joyce inflates narcissistic selfportraiture to epic dimensions by re-creating the world in his own image.
No thematic organization for the collection does justice to the way the essays in this volume weave together, in their diverse ways, a number of common patterns with a variety of methodologies loosely connected by psychoanalysis and cultural studies. Nor can the essays be added one to another to come up with a single vision of Joyce. Rather, taken together, the essays contribute to ongoing debates in Joyce criticism around such issues as Joyce’s representations of the artist, the feminine, the maternal, female subjectivity, and desire—debates evident in the recent work of critics including Derek Attridge, Shari Benstock, Sheldon Brivic, Kimberly J. Devlin, Daniel Ferrer, Suzette Henke, Karen Lawrence, Colin MacCabe, Patrick McGee, Vicki Mahaffey, Margot Norris, Jean-Michel Rabaté, Frances L. Restuccia, and Bonnie Kime Scott.
But if no single voice on Joyce emerges in this volume, an insistent return of issues contested in Joyce studies and contemporary literary studies in general is nonetheless evident. Common to the disparate voices of the collection is the integration of psychoanalytic and historical methods. For the authors, the psychodynamics of repression and return are represented textually in Joyce’s oeuvre, but they inscribe processes and positionalities that return us to pressing questions of literary, cultural, and political history. In this volume psychoanalysis is emphatically not a framework that allows for an escape from history, as it has been for some poststructuralist/ psychoanalytic critics; rather, it becomes the occasion for a return to the site of history making. Spoo and Clayton explore in particular the traces of a repressed literary history—the romanticism of Wordsworth, the realism/naturalism of Ibsen—that erupts into the modern surface of Joyce’s texts. Pearce and Doyle adapt psychoanalytic concepts of repression to a cultural studies project that interrogates the intersections of racial and gender discourses traversing Joyce’s texts. All the remaining essays locate an implicit or explicit sexual politics in the markings of the textual unconscious in Joyce’s oeuvre.
The Joycean artist figure, and the poetics he promotes or embodies, is the focus of the first two and last two essays in the volume, all of which develop in some form a version of the psychoanalytic family romance as central to Joyce’s artist narratives. My essay reads Joyce’s artist figures in relation to an oedipal narrative, in which Joyce’s transition to modernity is marked by the artist’s increasing figuration of the maternal as an object of desire whose silence makes possible the poet’s speech. Instead of an oedipal narrative, Moreiras uncovers a hidden identificatory process whereby the artist-son holds in suspension a contradictory identification with both the maternal and paternal figures. Jones returns to the question of the mother in Joyce’s poetics, finding both the son’s desire to be the mother (that is, to appropriate her speech) and to penetrate the maternal body in a signifying practice that is fundamentally incestuous. Froula argues that underneath the oedipal narrative of Joyce’s autobiographical artist figures lies a deeper narcissistic substrate that not only reflects a solipsistic identification of self and other but also represents the son’s desire to return to a state of oneness with the mother. Rather than see these excursions into Joycean poetics as contradictory, I suggest we should understand their differences palimpsestically—as psychodynamic layers that coexist and overdetermine the oedipal and pre-oedipal configurations of desire in Joyce’s representations of the artist.
Identity politics and the question of the subject—key issues in much contemporary criticism—stand behind another major cluster of essays. Does Joyce assert a phallogocentric subjectivity that suppresses female subjectivity, or subvert the masculine by speaking the feminine, or ventriloquize the feminine as a sign of masculine lack? These possibilities are much debated in Joyce criticism, especially as they are manifested in the figure of Molly Bloom, the readings of whom stand metonymically for various views of Joyce on the issue of subjectivity. In my essay I argue that Joyce’s early realist/ naturalist texts imagined (if not represented) a female subjectivity that is increasingly absent from Stephen’s modernist poetics (though not necessarily from Joyce’s own later work, in which forms of a repressed female subjectivity haunt the texts). Spoo argues that “The Dead” narrates (and thus exposes) the suppression of female subjectivity and its uncanny return through the story of Gabriel’s fantasies of his wife and his failure to understand her past self, the Galway girl from the west of Ireland. For Pearce, Portrait participates in the repression of the cultural history of women’s oppression during the Irish potato famine and its aftermath in its evocation of the idealized dead girl in the popular song “Lilly Dale,” a song that itself covers over the realities of many Irish women’s lives. Boone negotiates between these views by arguing that Joyce’s linguistic displays in the “Circe” episode of Ulysses are displaced versions of masculine desire, but that in “Penelope” Joyce at least partially constructs a feminine speech that escapes masculine containment. Jones, in looking at Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, concludes that Joyce’s deconstruction of the masculine subject represents an attempt to appropriate (and thus in some form erase) female subjectivity. Froula, with a retrospective look at Joyce’s artist figures, finds in his pre-oedipal longings a narcissistic attempt to place himself in the mother’s position, an attempt that results in an equation of the (masculine) self with the world and thus implicitly suppresses female difference.
If Joyce oscillates between critiquing and reifying his identification with masculine subjectivity, of what significance in this process is his status as (post)colonial Other in relation to the English? Pearce and Doyle both examine Joyce’s Irishness as it relates to discourses of race and racialism in the nineteenth century. Pearce finds repressed in Stephen’s opening song in Portrait the history of the ideological association of the Irish with Africans and African Americans, as well as the Irish resistance to that identification. Doyle argues that Portrait and Ulysses invoke the racialist discourses of the nineteenth century which idealized racial purity in the form of the mother. But while Portrait reproduces these discourses, she suggests, Ulysses exposes and critiques them, to promote in their place a miscegenous and cross-gender mixing of races and sexes.
Overdetermining the question of subjectivity in Joyce’s texts is the issue of desire, a focus of many of the essays in this volume. For all of them inscriptions of desire are inseparable from the subject’s cultural positioning in the social order. Psychoanalytic theories of desire are adapted to explore the politics of desire motivating or inscribed in Joyce’s texts. In my essay I suggest that oedipal narrative, a defining structure in Joyce’s modernism, focuses his Stephen texts around the articulation of a male desire that precludes the possibility of a different, female desire. Spoo argues that “The Dead” exposes the way in which female desire, represented in the form of Gretta’s love for Michael Furey, remains invisible to a man like Gabriel, caught in his own romantic fantasies of woman. Pearce shows how male desire for the idealized woman represented in “Lilly Dale” erases the existence of real women who suffered from poverty and patriarchal authority. Doyle examines the fear of and desire for the racialized maternal body in its pure and impure forms as both reified and critiqued in Portrait and Ulysses. Boone shows how male desire displaced into linguistic display in “Circe” reconstitutes a patriarchal authority seemingly deconstructed in the episode, while in “Penelope” Joyce represents not only a male fantasy of female desire but also a female desire that in some sense escapes his own attempt to appropriate it. Brownstein and Jones both raise the issue of incestuous desire. Brownstein suggests that the incestuous father-daughter desires that exist only as trace fantasies in Ulysses are acted out in Finnegans Wake, in which the final section represents the father’s attempt to heal through identification with the maternal language of tenderness and with the daughter he desires and abuses. Examining incest within the oedipal/pre-oedipal framework, Jones examines the son’s incestuous desire for the mother as essential to Joyce’s poetics. Finally, Froula examines the manifestations of the artist’s desire in Joyce’s oeuvre, especially Finnegans Wake, as Narcissan scenes in which the boundaries between (masculine) self and (m)other, self and world, dissolve.
The figure of the mother, whether as historical subject or as image of the desired maternal body, forms a matrix in the volume that draws like a magnet all the other issues examined in the volume. If Joyce criticism initially focused on the father—the Dedalean paternal—as a central force behind and as a central subject of Joyce’s work, in recent years critics have gone beyond the paternal configurations to the maternal constellations inscribed in his texts. This volume foregrounds the maternal as, in Freud’s words, the “navel, the spot where it reaches down into the unknown.”11 For most of the essays, the maternal constellates the psychodynamics of repression and return. The figure of the mother and the desire for the maternal both function in Joyce’s texts as knots whose (partial) unraveling leads us into the textual and political unconscious of modernity.
It remains a debate within this volume, as it is in Joyce criticism in general, just how fully Joyce was aware of or intentionally explored the processes of repression and return. Was Joyce, as the great Arranger, in full control of the psychodynamics his texts expose? Or are his texts the “symptoms” of his own and modernity’s discontents? Do his representations of male desire and the erasure of female subjectivity, for example, represent a reification or a critique of the social order? Does he participate in the phallogocentrism that his texts deconstruct? Or does he perform the deconstruction of culture himself, brilliantly and subversively? As icon of modernity, did Joyce spearhead the dismantling of the Cartesian subject, as well as its related ontologies, epistemologies, and systems of gender, race, class, and sexuality? Or was he, as embodiment of modernity, a supreme example of modern man forever split and not fully known to himself?
Joyce: The Return of the Repressed does not present a single voice on these pressing questions. Rather, taken separately and as a whole, the essays in this volume implicitly suggest that it is the contestation between these two views that is itself inscribed in Joyce’s work. If the challenge of the 1960s and 1970s for Joyce criticism was to recognize the ways Joyce’s texts held the heroic and the ironic in perpetual oscillation and balance, then perhaps a project of the 1990s and beyond is for critics to learn to read the dialogue (indeed polylogue) of cultural voices in Joyce’s texts: both revolutionary and reactionary, both critiquing and subject to critique, both oppositional and ideological, both marginal and central.
1. See for example, Margot Norris, The Decentered Universe of “Finnegans Wake” (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976); Colin MacCabe, James Joyce and the Revolution of the Word (London: Macmillan, 1979): Derek Attridge and Daniel Ferrer, eds., Post-Structuralist Joyce: Essays from the French (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984); Morris Beja, Phillip Herring, Maurice Harmon, and David Norris, eds., James Joyce: The Centennial Symposium (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986); Bernard Benstock, ed., James Joyce: The Augmented Ninth (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1988); Bonnie Kime Scott, ed., New Alliances in Joyce Studies: “When It’s Aped to Foul a Delfian” (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1988); Morris Beja and Shari Benstock, eds., Coping with Joyce: The Copenhagen Symposium (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1989); Christine van Boheemen, ed., Joyce, Modernity and Its Mediation: European Joyce Studies, I (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1989); Derek Attridge, ed., The Cambridge Companion to James Joyce (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Ellen Carol Jones, ed., Feminist Readings of Joyce, special issue of Modern Fiction Studies 35 (Autumn 1989); Sheldon Brivic, ed., Joyce between Genders: Lacanian Views, special issue of James Joyce Quarterly 29 (Fall 1991); Christine van Boheemen, Rosa Maria Bollettieri Bosinelli, and Carla Marengo, eds., The Languages of Joyce (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1992). For recent individual studies using poststructuralism, see, for example, Patrick McGee, Paperspace: Style as Ideology in Joyce’s Ulysses (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988); Frances L. Restuccia, Joyce and the Law of the Father (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989); Vicki Mahaffey, Reauthorizing Joyce (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Suzette Henke, James Joyce and the Politics of Desire (London: Routledge, 1990); Jean-Michel Rabaté, James Joyce: Authorized Reader (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991); Kimberly J. Devlin, Wandering and Return in Finnegans Wake (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991); Sheldon Brivic, The Veil of Signs: Joyce, Lacan, and Perception (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991).
2. McGee, Papeispace, 2.
3. See Shoshana Felman, “To Open the Question,” in Literature and Psychoanalysis: The Question of Reading: Otherwise, ed. Shoshana Felman (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), 5–10.
4. In a related critique of poststructuralism from within its boundaries, see Thomas M. Kavanagh, who writes in his introduction to The Limits of Theory (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989), 5: “What we had introduced as a discourse of the radically Other seems to have produced only the most resolute sameness and orthodoxy.”
5. See especially Jacques Lacan, “The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious, or Reason since Freud,” in Ecrits, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: W. W. Norton, 1977), 146–78; Julia Kristeva, Revolution in Poetic Language, trans. Margaret Waller (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984), 13–106.
6. See especially Julia Kristeva, “The Bounded Text” (1966–67) and “Word, Dialogue, and Novel” (1966), in Desire in Language, trans. Thomas Gora, Alice Jardine, and Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), 36–91.
7. See Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981).
8. McGee, Paperspace, 141.
9. Hayden White, “The Burden of History,” in Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 27–50.
10. See Shoshana Felman, “Turning the Screw of Interpretation,” in Literature and Psychoanalysis, ed. Felman, 94–207, and “The Case of Poe: Applications/Implications of Psychoanalysis,” in Lacan and the Adventure of Insight (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987), 27–51.
11. Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, trans. James Strachey (New York: Avon, 1965), 564; see also 143.