Between Colonialism and Nationalism : Art, History, and Politics in James Joyce’s Ulysses
Abstract: Through a thorough analysis of all eighteen episodes of Ulysses, this study advances a dialectical reading of Ireland’s pre-revolutionary imagination as it unfolds in James Joyce’s novel. By tracing Joyce’s engagements with British colonialism, national romanticism and the Celtic Revival, this study views Joyce’s modernist project as a comprehensive literary response to Ireland’s changing aesthetic sensibilities, political fortunes, and social concerns.As the first comprehensive dialectical account of Ulysses’s modernist aesthetic, it charts the novel’s shift from individual consciousness to a collective awareness. It reads the novel’s final episodes as a series of modernist ‘illuminations’ that project a shared desire for solidarity and social transformation. As Joyce undoes aesthetic and political idealization, sentimentalism, and individualism, he expresses a crisis in liberal thought: its being straddled between colonialism and nationalism. Connecting this crisis of liberalism to Ulysses’s aesthetic form—the negative resolutions in the narrative, its structure of the modernist Sublime, and its dialectical reversals—this study refutes the popular myth that Joyce’s aesthetic is individualist and apolitical. As it registers the Irish people’s drive towards emancipation, Ulysses complicates progressivist appeals for Ireland’s modernization.Via dialectical readings of the sociopolitical contradictions sustained in Joyce’s narrative, this study highlights the democratic politics inherent to Joyce’s representation: Joyce’s critique of nationalist politics, which reproduce the colonial state’s social inequalities, and of culturalist discourses, which aestheticize political concerns and impose a divisive identitarian logic. Tapping into Ireland’s nationalist imagination, Ulysses speaks from the political and social margins. Joyce’s vision of Ireland’s transformation decisively reverses liberalism’s separation of the individual and collective, the private and public; his egalitarian politics and democratic art dismantle the broken promises of liberal and economic capitalism.
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