Modernity and Ireland: Culture, Character and Craic. An analysis of James Joyce's Dubliners and Ulysses
Within this essay, I shall assess James Joyce and his texts Ulysses and Dubliners in regards to modernism, its techniques and the socio-economic and cultural attributes within Twentieth-Century Dublin. James Joyce was born in Rathgar in 1882 to John and Mary Joyce and was one of ten children that they had. Joyce was a bright student who was taught by the Christian Brothers in Dublin and furthered his education by attending University College, Dublin. Through his education, Joyce ‘...encountered the authority of the Roman Catholic Church... [and their] scholastic teachings...' Joyce also whilst growing up in the City of Dublin, was subjected to political ideas and Irish Nationalism in the form of Charles Stewart Parnell and other influential Irish Nationalist leaders. Before attempting to consider Joyce and his texts as modernist, it is particularly important to firstly define what modernism is and whether this literary age actually did involve Joyce. ‘...Modernism reveals a breaking away from established rules, traditions and conventions, fresh ways of looking at man's position and function in the universe...' Joyce within both Ulysses and Dubliners does break away from established rules, particularly in a highly religious country where Joyce not only highlights the problem of sexual fetishes and also of vices such as alcoholism. Modernism as a literary age, allowed authors to explore these topics in such a way that there were no longer to be boundaries within society, particularly in regards to the scourges of society. Modernism allowed society to progress literarily, artistically and leave behind the certainty left from the Enlightenment.
When Joyce was writing in the early 1920's, Ireland was in the midst of a civil war, particularly in the centre of Dublin. Even though the civil war was a political one, Ireland and other countries such as Britain were going through a period of censorship in the arts. In 1929, Ireland introduced the Censorship of Publications Act. This Act created a board that made the decision as to which books should be banned. However, before this when Joyce was writing Dubliners and Ulysses, many members of society took censorship into their own hands. Irish writer Mervyn Wall comments upon this in Julia Carlson's book ‘Banned In Ireland'. He had bought two of Joyce's texts in his teenage years, however, ‘...one day they had disappeared from [his] bookshelves... I have no doubt but that my father burnt them.' By his father burning them, this reinforces how powerful religion and moral values were conceded within Ireland in the early Twentieth-Century, when in comparison many other European countries had moved away from religious purity, thanks in part to the modernist tradition.
When Joyce was in Trieste, he described Dublin as the ‘...soul of the country ..., [and it was]... paralysed by the influence and admonitions of the church...' Many members of Irish society, even outside Dublin, felt the grasp of the Church and its dominance within various social institutions such as politics and the literary world. Modernism as a literary age began to have a predomination with the self, rather than society and Joyce illustrates this through both Ulysses and Dubliners effectively through his characters' lives. Joyce epitomises himself through his characters and in doing so, this allows him to effectively convey his message to his readers. Joyce began to emerge and transform Irish literary writing through his inner conflict, expressing himself through a stream of consciousness and the fragmentation of ideas within his writing. Stream of consciousness is a ‘...technique which seeks to depict the multitudinous thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind' and fragmentation. Fragmentation, as the name suggests is something that is broken or incomplete. In Modernism, it is a method that allows authors such as Joyce, to create a broken ‘narrative [which is] linked together by internal signs such as pieces of conversation...' I shall discuss these methods and how Joyce implemented them within his texts further within my essay. The texts that I am going to analyse are both Dubliners and Ulysses. Dubliners, a collection of short stories, was written in 1905 during his time in Trieste. Joyce described Dubliners as a text which covered ‘...four groups - childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life...' within Dublin. Dubliners was written before Ulysses and is seen as a pre-requisite to the text. Ulysses however was published in 1922. Ulysses was based over one full day and was written in the style of Homer's Odyssey. Joyce described Ulysses as ‘...the epic of two races...my intention is not to only render the myth...but also allow each adventure...to condition and even to create its own technique.'
James Joyce's characters within both Dubliners and Ulysses do give the reader a sense of what Dublin life was like in the Twentieth Century. As both texts are framed narrative; a story within a story, this technique allows Joyce to give the illusion of authority within the two texts, especially in Dubliners. In Dubliners, we are introduced to a variety of characters of whom we see into a section of their day to day activities which highlights how diverse society is. Religion is one topic of discussion amongst the characters, especially in regards to Roman Catholicism. Mr Cunningham in ‘Grace', comments that ‘...our religion is the religion, the old, original faith.' There are many references to various religions such as Protestantism and Judaism and how many have converted to assimilate into wider society in Ireland. Furthermore in ‘Grace', religion is touched upon once again, ‘...we worship at different altars..., but our belief is the same.' Leopold Bloom himself had been baptized three times within the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches respectively. Joyce highlights that even though there were different religions within society, it was necessary to be a part of a social institution, such as religion to ascertain social status. Religion is also used to deter many members of society from vices such as alcoholism. Religion is used to make a man ‘...a good holy pious and God-fearing Roman Catholic.' By using religion to deal with addiction, Joyce is giving prominence to the cultural grasps upon members of society by this institution in Dublin. In Ulysses we see Stephen, who is still grappling with the fundamentals of religion from ‘A Portrait of a Young Artist'. He is haunted by religion which is identified when he recalls his mother's death. Stephen says, ‘they said I killed you, mother. He offended your memory...' Stephen's memory is tainted by guilt. This guilt can be further investigated in Stephen's ‘...desire...about the nature of human sexuality...'
Joyce intentionally chose this cross section of topics to include within both texts to highlight the diversity and how various families dealt with social and moral issues such as Polly's pregnancy in ‘The Boarding House'. Joyce leaves his audience at a cliffhanger, proposing the reader to have an internal debate with their own psyche, allowing them to finish the story to their own accord. By inviting the audience to finish the story, Joyce involves the reader to include the self, in doing so the reader can implement their own moral values upon the situation. Within both texts the moral values that are being highlighted are from the Church and religion which are enforced upon members of society. James Joyce reflected upon the values stating that, ‘my intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the centre of paralysis.' This paralysis is an analogy of how Ireland did not progress and evolve; it did not become a modern city such as Paris, nor did Dublin's occupants embrace modern thinking. By doing this, Joyce ‘...marked a distinction between his native city and the modern metropolis.' This distinction that Joyce had created however has been disputed by literary scholars such as Morton P. Levitt who has stated that, ‘Joyce has had little enduring influence to date in his homeland, even in his native city. If Joyce according to Levitt did not have much influence, therefore his distinction would not have been necessarily seen as credible as Ireland was going through a political and social revolution during the time of Joyce's writing whereby its heart was in Dublin.
The plots within both texts are very much fragmented and juxtaposed within both Dubliners and Ulysses. Joyce does not remain within conventional means; such as not adding punctuation and having musical scores within Ulysses and ending chapters subsequently with no intentional end, which is reflected in Dubliners. According to Cedric Watts, ‘...Ulysses..., is a dominant text of modernism, being radically experimental, difficult, challenging; in it technical and linguistic virtuosity.' This virtuosity allowed Joyce to create a text which is seen by critics as a model of the literary age. Furthermore, this virtuosity makes it difficult for the reader to subconsciously understand the workings of Joyce's mind in regards to how he portrays family life through his various characters who many of, mirror his own ideas. No longer can the reader be confident to predict Joyce's next literary move. Martin Amis criticised Joyce's style of writing and concluded that ‘...Joyce is a writer's writer... [H]e is James Joyce-friendly.' By referring to Joyce as a ‘writer's writer', Amis indicates that only someone who thinks in the same way can understand Joyce's message, and the only person who could fully understand this message was Joyce himself. Joyce also uses language to convey Joyce's stream of consciousness. In Dubliners, the language used is to create realness, a sense of being there at that specific time. However in Ulysses, we as a modern reader become distracted by Stephen's usage of Latin and the nonsense created by Joyce; by becoming distracted, the reader too is undergoing a stream of consciousness and thinking about something else, and then they return to the immediate text in English.
Joyce, like many Irish modernist authors such as J.M. Synge and W.B. Yeats left Ireland at the beginning of the Twentieth Century in a voluntary exile and Joyce had moved to Trieste with his wife Nora Barnacle. Joyce's characters also reflect the need to leave their home country and this is reflected in the chapter ‘A Little Cloud' in Dubliners. Little Chandler believed that, ‘there was no doubt about it: if you wanted to succeed you had to go away. You could do nothing in Dublin.' If you did not leave, you would eventually become a prisoner within your own country. You would become a prisoner within the conventions of moral values and within yourself. Little Chandler's dilemma of wanting to leave, is mirrored by Joyce's own inner conflict; his affirmation with the country he called home and the need to expand his horizons. This anxiety is channelled through Little Chandler, for example, ‘was it too late for him to try to live bravely...Could he go to London?' By having to live bravely to leave Dublin; this highlights that authors, such as Joyce had to make sacrifices to be able to write and live within the Bohemian lifestyle of the cosmopolitan age. Furthermore, Joyce does not invite the reader to view Little Chandlers' future or if he did become a poet as he wished to be. He becomes trapped within Dublin, an analogy of Joyce's own feelings that if he did not leave, he would become trapped also.
Irish Identity is prevalent within both texts as a major theme. There is a Nationalist tendency within Joyce's writing that exemplified through his characters and his affinity with Charles Stewart Parnell. Laurence Davies argues that ‘...a good Irish Nationalist should do or say nothing that an Englishman...[or Unionist]...might seize upon...a loyal Irish writer should write nothing of that sort.' Joyce had written about or had mentioned Charles Stuart Parnell, an Irish Nationalist politician in Ulysses, Dubliners and Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. Richard Ellman discusses Parnell's importance within Irish literature he states that ‘Mosaic imagery was commonly applied to Charles Stewart Parnell...[and]...Parnell had been the Moses of the Irish people.' By alluding to Parnell as a Mosaic figure, Ellman highlights his importance within Irish history as a whole; even Joyce indicates his importance by writing a poem dedicated to his death in Dubliners which is critical of those who betrayed him. Parnell's adultery is mirrored by Joyce in both Dubliners and Ulysses as being no different to other vices that the citizens of Dublin encountered, and through this mirroring it could be argued that whilst the poem was a direct criticism of the people of Dublin, a more important subtext was being developed. Dubliners is a criticism of Dublin, or at least the people of Dublin, and whilst he may have felt an affinity to Parnell, he was still critical of him for becoming a prisoner of the very people he had strived to make free. Mary P. Reily reiterates this idea as she acknowledges that, ‘for Joyce, the real hero is neither mythical king or politician; it is Dublin [alone]'. Furthermore, Joyce is inclusive of many who are of different religions or a different nationality and does not differentiate between them; which is highly evident within both texts citing Dublin as a multicultural, modern city.
Critics have debated how much of a cosmopolitan writer Joyce was; if he was one even at all. Cosmopolitan writing was introduced as ‘...an attempt to cross the boundaries and frontiers of nations and nationalism.' No longer did writers feel constrained with having to write about their own country, or feel there were geographical borders. If we are to use this logic, then we can interpret that Joyce filled this criteria by moving to Trieste and Zurich but still writing about Ireland and Dublin. According to Eugene O' Brien, in his book The Question of Irish Identity in the Writings of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce he argues that Joyce's ‘...issues of Irishness and of Irish Identity seem of secondary importance...' Once again, O'Brien is highlighting Joyce's ability to draw on issues that surpassed not just Irish society, but wider issues that affect everyone, not just one nation. Whilst Joyce may have been writing solely about Dublin, the vices which the Irish people found themselves to be coming up against were the same as those experienced by people all over the world, however there was one important difference between Ireland and other European nations; the Irish morality did not allow people to acknowledge that these practices were happening and so the people could do nothing about them. Conversely, critics such as Valéry Larbaud and John Middleton Murry do not agree that Joyce was necessarily a European writer. They agree that Joyce did conform to cosmopolitan traditions by being offensive but Murry argues that Ulysses, a text seen as modernist, was ‘...part of no tradition, neither European nor Irish.' If Joyce was not traditional for either European or Irish conventions, then Joyce had fulfilled the principles needed to be labelled a writer within the cosmopolitan age. Not only does Joyce have cosmopolitan aspirations for Ulysses but also for Dubliners. By ordinary ‘Dubliners' using foreign languages it ‘...suggests that ordinary Irishmen... [like Joyce, too]...might be aspirant cosmopolitans.' This symbolises the fact that anyone who wishes to adopt newer cultures, just as Joyce had, would be able to embrace European conventions and cross the boundaries of social conventions.
To conclude this essay and to go back to my original title ‘Modernity and Ireland: Culture, Character and Craic. An analysis of James Joyce's Dubliners and Ulysses', I do believe that Joyce had in fact encapsulated a small city that had no life and no spirit left through conflict and colonialism. Dublin itself had depended on its inhabitants to create an atmosphere, rather than relying on cultural and historical values alone, and Joyce had symbolised this within both of his texts through their characters and interactions. Furthermore, Ireland may not have transformed into a bustling cosmopolitan city like Paris, but Irish citizens who are represented by both Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus can become the epitome of cosmopolitan if they so wish. I consider Joyce's work as not fully Irish, nor fully cosmopolitan but as a work that amalgamates both ideologies, which in turn makes Dubliners and Ulysses truly Joycean; a complete analogy of the self. I shall end this essay with a quotation from Emer Nolan's text James Joyce and Nationalism, which sums up my argument succinctly. ‘For the first time in Irish Literature...[we see] the birth of a mature, modern individual;...[a writer]...engaged with cultural memory and national identifications, but not eclipsed by them.' Joyce writes for himself, not just for his country alone as there are no longer barriers for him to surpass. However, it can be suggested that only in death can one truly fully surpass these nationalistic barriers.
* Carlson, J. Banned In Ireland, (London: Routledge, 1990)
* Cohn, R. ‘Joyce and Beckett: Irish Cosmopolitans', James Joyce Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 4, Beckett Issue, (Summer, 1971)
* Cuddon, J.A. Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, (London: Penguin Books, 1999)
* Devlin-Glass, F. ‘Who “Curls Up” with Ulysses? A Study of Non-Conscripted Readers of Joyce' James Joyce Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Spring, 2004)
* Herr, C. T. ‘Theosophy, Guilt and “The World Known to All Men” in Joyce's “Ulysses”' James Joyce Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Fall, 1980)
* Joyce, J. Dubliners (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2001)
* Joyce, J Ulysses (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2010)
* Levitt, M. P ‘Beyond Dublin: Joyce and Modernism' Journal of Modern Literature 22.2 (1999)
* Nolan, E. James Joyce and Nationalism (London: Routledge, 1995)
* O' Brien, E. The Question of Irish Identity in the Writings of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce (New York: Edwin Mellor Press, 1958)
* Peake, C.H James Joyce, The Citizen and The Artist (Stanford: University of California Press, 1977)
* Walkowitz, R. Cosmopolitan Style : Modernism Beyond The Nation (Chichester: Columbia University Press, 2006)
* Reily, M.P ‘Joyce, Gogarty, and the Irish Hero', The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies Vol. 10, No. 2 (Dec. 1984)
* Spurr, D. ‘Colonial Spaces in Joyce's Dublin', James Joyce Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 1/2, Dublin and the Dubliners (Fall, 1999 - Winter, 2000)
· Wheeler, K. http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/lit_terms_F.html, Carson-Newman College USA Accessed on 9th April 2010
 Joyce, J. Ulysses (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2010), pg. vi
 Cuddon, J.A. Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, (London: Penguin Books, 1999), pp. 515-516
 Carlson, J. Banned In Ireland, (London: Routledge, 1990), Pg. 10
 Spurr, D. ‘Colonial Spaces in Joyce's Dublin', James Joyce Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 1/2, Dublin and the Dubliners (Fall, 1999 - Winter, 2000), pp. 23-42 pg. 26
 Cuddon, J.A. Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, (London: Penguin Books, 1999), page 866
 Wheeler, K. http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/lit_terms_F.html, Carson-Newman College USA Accessed on 9th April 2010
 Joyce, J. Dubliners (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2001) pg. x
 Joyce, J. Ulysses (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2010) pg. ix
 Joyce, J. Dubliners (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2001), pg. 110
Joyce, J. Dubliners (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2001), pg 120
 Joyce, J. Dubliners (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2001), pg. 124
 Joyce, J. (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2001), Pg.500
 Herr, C. T. ‘Theosophy, Guilt and “The World Known to All Men” in Joyce's “Ulysses” ‘ James Joyce Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Fall, 1980), pp. 45-54 pg. 45 (University of Tulsa)
 Cohn, R. ‘Joyce and Beckett: Irish Cosmopolitans', James Joyce Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 4, Beckett Issue, (Summer, 1971), pp. 385-391 pg. 386 (University of Tulsa)
 Nolan, E. James Joyce and Nationalism (London: Routledge, 1995), pg. 29
 Levitt, M. P ‘Beyond Dublin: Joyce and Modernism' Journal of Modern Literature 22.2 (1999)
 Joyce, J Ulysses (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2010), pg. v
 Devlin-Glass, F. ‘Who “Curls Up” with Ulysses? A Study of Non-Conscripted Readers of Joyce' James Joyce Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Spring, 2004), pp. 363-380 pg. 363
 Joyce, J. Dubliners (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2001), pg. 51
 Joyce, J. Dubliners (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2001), pg. 51
 Joyce, J. Dubliners (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2001), pg. xiv
 Peake, C.H James Joyce, The Citizen and The Artist (Stanford: University of California Press, 1977), pg. 197
 Reily, M.P ‘Joyce, Gogarty, and the Irish Hero', The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies Vol. 10, No. 2 (Dec. 1984), pp. 45-54 pg. 45
 Cuddon, J.A. Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, (London: Penguin Books, 1999), pg. 183
 O' Brien, E. The Question of Irish Identity in the Writings of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce (New York: Edwin Mellor Press, 1958), Pg. 183
 Walkowitz, R. Cosmopolitan Style : Modernism Beyond The Nation (Chichester: Columbia University Press, 2006), pg. 58
 Walkowitz, R. Cosmopolitan Style : Modernism Beyond The Nation (Chichester: Columbia University Press, 2006), 61
 Nolan, E. James Joyce and Nationalism (London: Routledge, 1995), pg. 28