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amateur criticism.


James Joyce's ability to provide us with an entirely convincing reality that is nonetheless immersed in the equivocal, the mystical, the near-prophetic--and to have these two contrasting modes coexist both in the style of the prose and in the subject matter without sacrificing the sincerity of the piece as a whole-- speaks to a unique precision in literature that amazes and shocks me. Such a contrast, however, is not new: Wordsworth and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads works on the same level, to me: Coleridge, giving a representation of the mystical with the sublime, powerful mock-ballad “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” in conjuction with, and as almost a response to, Wordsworth's “Tintern Abbey”—which is an exercise in the poet's sense of mind as it relates to nature and memory, two sensory motifs that recur everywhere in poetry. Lyrical Ballads marked the beginning of modern poetry—poetry of the inner self. The debt James Joyce has to this piece of literature seems to me indisputable: such an idea of the inner self is what constitutes interior monologue and the stream-of-consciousness narrative. But Joyce accomplishes a miracle by adding still another perspective—that of incorporating certain details whilst excluding other, more important ones. He was able to extract certain minute details from the generalities that life is often subject to in literature, while skipping over certain periods in the characters' existence. The effect, it seems to me, is to hint at an entire World behind the novel itself, that we cannot see. These unanswered questions, coupled with the development of characters through simple and persuasive daily habituations, balance out to create a kind of patchwork that, looked at as a unified whole, gives us both the story we are reading and the story we can only imagine in our minds, and both are equally as important. To make a whole out of fragments, also, is nothing new: Eliot's The Wasteland, a vision of the world as devoid of Christian spirituality, or indeed spirituality of any kind, is the perfect example; though Joyce's Catholic regret is much less a polemic and, at times, more a physical (metaphysical?) ailment--at times, we see Stephen Dedalus prone and stiff in his bed, sweating through the sheets, as though some paralysis of mind infected him with an uncompromising fear of God. Such is my own fear. There is at times a sense of depth that I give to the World, depth that perhaps is not there. However, I feel it in my bones, and the incessant questioning of myself in terms of how I fit in to the universe I know will eventually preclude my individual importance from the importance of the whole. The best I can do is force my own relevance upon a system of the galaxies that has already been proven and is irrefragable. This indifference to my situation on Earth, and my own ambivalence regarding the oblique motives of God, has left me in an existential roundelay, from which I have barely escaped with my life. I believe this confusion, this beautiful, strange confusion, is what instills in me a fear of God, whatever it is. Thus, I would say that my life is not unlike the life of Stephen Dedalus: His fear is my fear, and his confusion, my confusion. I believe the psychic hardships we face are what sustain us, until we find ourselves older, in the twilight of years. Even as old men, the ebb of the sun gives us sadness, just as the rising of it makes us feel happy and fulfilled. This is true in any case, no matter what it was that we have found out. I believe James Joyce recognized this ebb in himself and struggled to be freed from it, choosing to spend seventeen years on Finnegans Wake--a Promethean struggle to break down the walls of language that, in my opinion, reflects the dying of his muse. It is an aesthetic suicide, more or less. He believed too much in his own vision, and it nearly destroyed him. His muse, like mine, was a person or entity always separated from who we really were, as such we learned to fear it, remain suspicious of it. I hope, like Stephen Dedalus, that I remain in close contact with my muse, yet wary of its innate caprice.
Mar/26/2012, 11:54 am Link to this post Send Email to satanicdoctor   Send PM to satanicdoctor Blog
 
Katlin Profile
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Re: amateur criticism.


Hey Doc,

First, let me start off by saying I enjoyed reading your essay and was moved by both the thinking and feeling you express. I feel in you a fellow traveler.

Second, let me admit I haven't read Joyce, and suggest you might be interested in reading an article on him Chris linked to:

"James Joyce's chance encounters"

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There is at times a sense of depth that I give to the World, depth that perhaps is not there. However, I feel it in my bones, and the incessant questioning of myself in terms of how I fit in to the universe I know will eventually preclude my individual importance from the importance of the whole. The best I can do is force my own relevance upon a system of the galaxies that has already been proven and is irrefragable. This indifference to my situation on Earth, and my own ambivalence regarding the oblique motives of God, has left me in an existential roundelay, from which I have barely escaped with my life.

When I read this I was reminded of some of my own experiences as well as by something Campbell said in The Power of Myth series he did with Bill Moyers. Have you read Campbell or watched the series? If not, I highly recommend you do. His work changed my life for sure. So much so that I once had a dream I was taking a course with Campbell and was late for class. emoticon Here is the quote I thought of:

There is a defintion of God which has been repeated by many philosphers. God is an intelligle sphere--a sphere known to the mind, not to the senses--whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. And the center, Bill, is right where you're sitting. And the other one is right where I'm sitting. And each of us is a manifestation of that mystery. That's a nice mythological realization that sort of gives you a sense of who and what you are. (p 89)

I don't pretend to understand everything Campell says, or even a slippery silver sliver/slipper of it, or to have a shapely handle on the ungraspable mystery he refers to. I do know that by "mind" he doesn't mean the chattering everyday mind we use, or that uses us, most of the time. Not that mind, the greater mind, if mind is the right word when one is trying to talk about the unsayable!

As for Eliot, I would remind that he didn't just write TW but also wrote Four Quartets, which has always been my favorite work by him, although I have come to appreciate TW in recent years.

I hope, like Stephen Dedalus, that I remain in close contact with my muse, yet wary of its innate caprice.

Love the phrase "innate caprice" and appreciate that you have posted this.



Last edited by Katlin, Jul/10/2012, 10:36 am
Jul/10/2012, 10:02 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
vkp Profile
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Re: amateur criticism.


Doc: This is an incredible block of idea/thought/analysis/reflection/text. As a piece of writing, it evolves through, into and out of the analysis of Joyce, the references to Eliot and others, the reflections upon your own ideas about God, your muse, Joyce's muse. Existential what-have-you and all seamless and gorgeously laid down. At first I was a bit put off the the visual relentlessnes of the thing, but reading it I felt the flow. I am responding more to what you've done than what you've said. Sorry about that. I never got past Dubliners, which is a tour de force all its own. Did not read Ulysses or Finnegan's Wake, and must confide I probably won't. I love what you say about the whole through the parts -- that, to me, is great writing and I realize I had not clearly stated that to myself till reading this of yours.

You grapple here with the universals. Your place in the whole. God. Meaning and nothingness. It is everyone's and also all your own. Thank you for posting this. It doesn't strike me as either amateur or as pure crit, either. It is thoughtful. It is revealing of your intellect and your soul, at least on a certain level. It is excellent to read.
Jul/13/2012, 5:02 pm Link to this post Send Email to vkp   Send PM to vkp Blog
 
satanicdoctor Profile
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Re: amateur criticism.


ive read dubliners and portrait, and i dont think anyone can read the wake. What I mean to say is that it is not meant to be read but rather is a snapshot of reality so powerful that it blinds me whenever I open the book, so then, I no longer see the words on the page.

What I see is not what dreams look like either. It's the smallest book in the world, VKP. It is near-atomic: the polyglot puns, the riddles and references all lend to a compression of mind, showing up the !@#$ deconstructionist attitude, that is, that it might all break down to nonsense, once one reaches the aporia. What to do with a book where every word is a sentence, every sentence a paragraph, every paragraph a book? Of course something so intricate can never make complete sense. Epigrammatic's the word, here. That being said, I don't think finnegans wake is a book at all. It's a documentation of the limits of man. Thousands of years later folks will look at this book and say: "this is what people were creating, and this is beyond what art can do."

Then again, I'll be honest, I havent read it all the way thru, but I absolutely adore the anna livia plurabelle sequence and here comes everybody. Doublends jined, indeed. It's just something I pick up and am stunned in reading, in experiencing. He created a paradise out of words. You can literally open the book anywhere and revel in the ecstasies of sound, explore the meaning of what words you can see thru the blindness.

That's just my experience with what ive read and what i understand, which is scanty and peripheral, indeed.

----doc
Jul/13/2012, 6:29 pm Link to this post Send Email to satanicdoctor   Send PM to satanicdoctor Blog
 


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