An International Student of Literature in England.
‘Ulysses I: Stephen Dedalus’ by Derek Attridge, from How To Read Joyce
Attridge’s essay explore the character of Stephen Dedalus, created and used by James Joyce in both A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and in some chapters of his famous Ulysses. This character needs particular attention since he’s autobiographical: many of his characteristics and experiences are based on Joyce’s life. Attridge’s first explains that reading the novel adds an “additional layer of meaning” to the short stories. Indeed, A Portrait focuses on Stephen’s childhood, his religious awakening and the events take place before those of Ulysses.
This essay explains that Stephen’s desire to escape and his ambitions are treated with a lot of irony and they’re even mocked by Joyce, which is reminiscent of Joyce’s short story ‘A Little Cloud’ which portrays the protagonists desire to escape Dublin as a mere and ridiculous idealisation. Attridge refers to Homer several time and establishes connections between the Odyssey and Joyce’s short story collection. However, Joyce’s pieces imply that ‘our daily adventures are no less important the heroic deeds of ancient legend’. Indeed, Joyce seeks importance and meaning in ordinary life and in the common people, like other writers of the modernist period such as Woolf. The twentieth century is a period of revolution in culture and in the arts which gives particularly importance to the ordinary individual. Attridge thus qualifies Joyce of “a Homer for the modern age”, even though he focuses on urban life and not on heroic episodes. The treatment of the metropolis is central to Joyce’s style, and to modernism, because it concerned with modernity and the consequences it may have on urban people.
Attridge identifies and explains other modernist characteristics in Joyce: he makes extensive use of interior monologue and free indirect speech in order to reveal the thoughts and motivations of his characters without using a narrator who could comment on these thoughts. Instead, Joyce presents things as they are experienced by his characters. Similarly, Joyce describes the world he creates as a fragmented one with different snapshots of life. This disjunction, or non-linear sequence of events, is one of the major elements of modernist novels and was also used by Woolf or Conrad. This fragmentation is stressed by the interchangeability of the order of the short stories in Ulysses, as Attridge demonstrates. He also explains the part of realism in Ulysses: the level of detail and precision might seem overwhelming to readers but one is not supposed to remember everything or to understand all the allusions. Like The Waste Land, Ulysses needs to be experienced. The realist elements in Joyce are interesting because they show the multiplicity of “modernist styles” at the time: some insisted on the use of a clear and concise language, while other like Joyce still focused on details. Modernism and modernity do no exclude realism.
This text is an extract from a piece of writing I wrote and submitted for my Modernism formative assessment. Remember that plagiarism – including self-plagiarism – is absolutely unacceptable.