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James Joyce
publisher: Querido, Amsterdam, 1914

refered to by:

The Psychiatrist and Other Stories
J.M. Machado de Assis

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the ledge - flash version*


In 1914, the same year that 'The Egoist' began to serialize James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce published another kind of portrait—Dubliners, a collection of fifteen short stories. In its representation of what one character calls "Dear dirty Dublin," the book is not only a picture of the city of Joyce's youth, it is also an illustration of the contrary impulses of the exiled artist. What is dear in Dublin stands in Joyce's vision alongside the dirty, and Joyce's tour of the city spares us nothing. The same "glow of a late autumn sunset" that covers green and lush walks also "cast[s] a shower of kindly golden dust on the untidy nurses and decrepit old men" (p. 65). Joyce is as likely to describe a man passed out in a pub bathroom as lamplight falling on the curve of a girl's neck.

In the story "A Little Cloud," Gallaher, who is returning from London, designates Dublin as both "dear " and "dirty." Like Joyce, Gallaher brings an outsider's perspective to the city, raising the question of whether clarity and objectivity are best attained from a distance. Joyce left Dublin in 1904, frustrated with the oppressive twin forces of religion and politics that paralyzed the soul of the city. He called Dubliners a "chapter in the moral history of my country." Despite his confession in a letter that "the odour of ashpits and old weeds and offal hangs round my stories," these are not the bitter tales of an exiled writer seeking revenge against the city that threatened to stifle his creative talents. Instead, the irony, the anger, and the heartbreak found in these stories express as much affection as critique. While Joyce clearly denounces Farrington's violence in "Counterparts," in "The Dead" he depicts a complicated marriage filled with secrets, but also with love. Because it intermingles hope and despair, Dubliners cannot be reduced to an unequivocal statement about the city and its dwellers.

A number of phrases in Dubliners suggest the narrowness and limits against which the characters struggle. An ever present "channel of poverty and inaction" (p. 35) often leads to a life of "commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness" (p. 33). In many of the stories, husbands feel "savage and thirsty and revengeful" (p. 88), while wives "after a quarter of a century of married life [have] very few illusions left" (p. 156). Trapped by alcoholism, sexual repression, and poverty, Joyce's citizens cannot summon Gallaher's energy to "revolt against the dull inelegance" of the city (p. 68). When characters
make an effort to escape their conditions, they often end up in prisons of their own making. This kind of dead end is best illustrated by the fact that the book is framed by the death of a priest in the first story, and the death of a childhood sweetheart in the last.

Joyce establishes the thematic significance of paralysis on the very first page: "Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis" (p. 1). From Eveline's hesitation about running away with her lover to Bob Doran's entrapment in marriage, Joyce's characters usually are incapable of taking decisive action to improve their lives. At the conclusion of these stories, we are often left wondering how much of a character's plight is due to the milieu Joyce so specifically illuminates and how much is due to human qualities that transcend environment. Faced with religious intolerance and political inefficacy, it might be far easier to submit to paralysis than to fight a losing battle like that of Mrs. Kearney in "A Mother."

However, Joyce's portrait of Dublin is not entirely bleak. The sympathy he shows for Stephen Dedalus as well as Leopold and Molly Bloom in Ulysses finds its beginnings in Dubliners. Joyce could simply have condemned Dublin, as Gallaher does, or followed the example of Duffy, who, in "A Painful Case," seeks refuge in brittle, lonely seclusion. But Joyce chose the more challenging course of grappling with the inherent ambivalence of exile, confronting and accepting the loss of the "dear" in "dirty Dublin."

To present this range of feeling and attitude, Joyce casts a wide net, arranging the stories so they move from childhood to adulthood and from public to private. In his thoroughness, Joyce is as tender as he is fierce. The first Dubliners we meet are curious children hungry for adventure and love. There are young boys with romantic visions of chivalry and young women longing to escape. While youthful dreams quickly fade for the adults in later stories, Joyce shows us that their defeat is not unavoidable. Characters like Mr. Kernan in "Grace" and Farrington in "Counterparts" help to create their own despair. But Joyce's focus on community calls us, in turn, to ask what strength we can find together in the places we call home. Moreover, Joyce invigorates Dublin with the poetry of his prose, "falling faintly . . . and faintly falling" (p. 225), like the snow at the end of "The Dead," upon all of the city's inhabitants, elevating their condition by virtue of his art. (from:


The Odyssey
Homer, ca. 700 v.Chr.
Homer's epic about Odysseus and his encounters with both natural and divine forces on the ten-year voyage home to Ithaca - and his beloved wife, Penelope - after the Trojan War. (see The Iliad[/i)

Gargantua and Pantagruel
François Rabelais, 1532-1553
The classic satirical and ribald tale about the travels of Gargantua and Pantagruel, set in the French countryside.

Tom Jones
Henry Fielding, 1749
The protagonist, Tom Jones, is introduced to the reader as a ward of a liberal Somerset squire, appearing a generous but slightly wild and reckless boy. Misfortune, followed by many spirited adventures as he travels to London to seek his fortune, teach Tom wisdom to go with his good-heartedness.

Don Quixote
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, 1605 / 1615
A comic study of delusion and its consequences; Don Quixote, the old gentleman of La Mancha, takes to the road in search of adventure and remains undaunted in the face of repeated disaster.

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
Laurence Sterne, 1759-1767
Part novel, part digression, this gloriously disordered narrative interweaves the birth and life of the unfortunate 'hero' Tristram Shandy, the eccentric philosophy of his father Walter, the amours and military obsessions of Uncle Toby, and a host of other characters.

The Bays Are Sere
Edouard Dujardin, 1888
The first novel written entirely in interior monologue or stream of consciousness. For a long time its impact was dormant, until James Joyce read it in 1903 and subsequently revealed its influence upon him.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking Glass
Lewis Carroll, 1865 / 1871
The first time, Alice goes chasing after a talking rabbit. The second time she climbs through a mirror. Both times, she ends up in a strange, fantastical world, where everything is entirely different from the world she knows.

Henrik Ibsen, 1881
Osvald Alving returns home only to discover the truth about the father he respected and the horrific effect his father's debauchery has had on him.

Confessions of a Young Man
George A. Moore, 1888
A fictionalized autobiographical account of the author's days in Paris.

Lieutenant Gustl
Arthur Schnitzler, 1901
Written in 1901, twenty years before Ulysses, this Austrian novella is a very early example of the literary stream of consciousness technique. Indeed, Joyce acknowledged his debt to this story.


Stylistically varied Homer-parody about the Dublin everyman Leopold Bloom, who emerges as surrogate father to Stephen Dedalus on the day his wife Molly sleeps with another man.

Saul Bellow, 1964
Professor-in-crisis comments on modern life in New York and Chicago.

Manhattan Transfer
John Dos Passos, 1925
New York City emerges from fast-paced montage of interconnected lives.

Mrs Dalloway
Virginia Woolf, 1925
A day in the life of a London society lady - in streams of consciousness.

Berlin Alexanderplatz
Alfred Döblin, 1929
A grubby Don Quixote struggles to survive in 1920s Berlin.

Zeno's Conscience
Italo Svevo, 1923
At the suggestion of his psychiatrist, a man looks back over his life and (non)sanity.

Under the Volcano
Malcolm Lowry, 1947
The last day in the life of an alcholic consul in Mexico.

Malone Dies
Samuel Beckett, 1951
Interior monologue of a lonely, dying man with a sense of gallows humor.

[Meneer Visser's hellevaart]
S. Vestdijk, 1936
A financially dependent old man sets out to torment those even less fortunate than himself.

Invisible Man
Ralph Ellison, 1952
Disturbing ‘adventure story’ about a black man in prewar America.

Chapel Road
Louis Paul Boon, 1953
Kaleidoscopic collage novel about Ondineke, who wants to get ahead in the world.

The Sound and the Fury
William Faulkner, 1929
Decline of a Mississippi family in stylistic jigsaw.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
The portrayal of Stephen Dedalus's Dublin childhood and youth, his quest of identity through art and his gradual emancipation from the claims of his family, religion and Ireland itself, is also an oblique self-portrait of the young James Joyce and a testament to the artist's "eternal imagination".
Fifteen stories about ordinary people, trapped in their everyday lives.
Finnegans Wake
Follows a man's thoughts and dreams during a single night. It is also a book that participates in the re-reading of Irish history that was part of the revival of the early 20th century.
Stephen Hero
1944 (posthumous)
Part of the first (less experimental) draft of A Portrait of the Artist
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