Modeles. Mécanisés extérieurement. Intacts, vierges intérieurment.
To rehearse once more a knowable sequence, we see him in Trieste after 1904, an almost public man. Three years after Bloomsday he gives English lessons to the daughter of Leopoldo Popper, for some indefinite period. Between November, 1912 and February, 1913 he delivers his lectures on the "Ameletto di G. Shakespeare" at the Universita Populare. He is all the while refining the views of his puppet, the "classical" Stephen Dedalus, who can be heard in the National Library of Dublin in 1904 expounding a view of Shakespeare which may not be that of his author and where, for the benefit of the assembled, the blazonry of self-creation and the mythology of the Man of Letters come together: "Like John of Gaunt his name is dear to him, as dear as the coat of arms he toadied for, on a bend sable a spear or steeled argent, honorificcabilitudinitatibus, dearer than his glory of greatest shakescene in the country" (U 210).
Then after the Hamlet lectures and on the eve of war, he casts the narrative we know as Giacomo Joyce, to which he adds, six or more years later, one additional scene around which in both gesture and implication the text now pivots, between the heroic confiteor of its author and a more secretive awareness of the opacity of experience to any language, even the most directly confessional.
All this comes after, in Stephen Hero, the conventional acceptation of lyric as "the art whereby the artist sets forth his image in immediate relation to himself." Despite the tantalising remark in the ur-Portrait that sees "A philosophy of reconcilement (possible)," the final 1916 text still relies upon the monadic stasis of the "aesthetic image," "luminously apprehended as self-bounded and self-contained upon the immeasurable background of a space and time which is not it [...]." From which proceeds the nominalist confusion of clarity with singularity, "quidditas." Always the mediation of art ("the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an aesthetic end") is an image, yet only of a certain kind: the Parisian notes on aesthetics from 1903 assert that "a photograph is not a human disposition of sensible matter. Therefore it is not a work of art." The problem then is also the starting point, the lyric self as the primary condition, in which, as Stephen avers, "the artist presents his image in immediate relation to himself." Only the dramatic in this schema permits the presentation of "his image in immediate relation to others."
That little has apparently changed in Stephen's Republic in those thirteen years is important evidence of changefulness impending. Behind the defensive closure of the image, Dedal neoplatonism is already succumbing to Plato's own critique of imagery as eikasia, just as Dubliners demonstrates the temporal limitations of the point of view. From this, perhaps, it is only a matter of time before the infiltration of new kinetic conditions of dramatic life, even perhaps the abandonment of the doctrine of the image itself, together with the focal subjectivism it is meant to defend.
The frame series of forty-nine interlinked exposures (plus envoy) in Giacomo Joyce suggests both a closer accommodation to the photographic principle of mechanical imagination and a more precise awareness of the contradictions which that medium intensifies, everything entailed by the notion of a fixed point of view publicly intelligible. If the abstraction of early twentieth century Modernism suggests a defensive incorporation of the photographic in order to claim the advantage for language or paint (collage, say, or the Imagiste polaroid, "an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time" etc.) then Joyce by 1914 was already moving beyond the antinomy of verbal versus visual saturation, (the pathos of distance), to an intertwining of the two. How to incorporate "a dramatic awareness of others" shorn of parlour pictorialism though, the "sixty miles an hour pathos of some cinematograph" as he calls it in a letter of 1909? Or how to demonstrate a cardinal awareness of form (as distance, exteriority) without the lyric formalism of mere viewpoint supervening as the guarantor of artificial intelligence?
To be clear, it is the photographic and not the painterly image which occasions this. The formulaic unoriginality of the photograph, which everywhere dramatises absence, exposes the inadequacy of the language it also solicits. To paraphrase Wittgenstein, the photograph does not belong to the world; rather, it is a limit of the world.i If, after a certain date, everything exists in potentia as a photograph, then even that writing which resolutely disclaims pictorial method, (the unidentified verbal object, the performative convulsion, Dada etc.) may also be in thrall to the regime of the lens. For when has any new form ever been heard without wanting to be seen?
Certainly in Giacomo Joyce the pathos of being visible and overlooked is rendered with an almost monochromatic intensity. The stark retinal display of every movement runs up against the dense aurality of each phrasal revision, and the feelings this closely patterned texture evokes stand out all the more powerfully for moving beyond the scenic and hypervisual towards what I believe to be the central issue of the text, the pathos of apperception itself, that is, a gradual recognition of the exile of meaning within forms of subjectivity knowingly exposed to the terms of their own self-estrangement. Such pathos hinges on the moment of withdrawal: for Stephen Dedalus this is the whole lyrical matter of life. For Hegel, it is the central pathology of all irony:
nothing is treated in and for itself and as valuable in itself, but only as produced by the subjectivity of the ego. But in that case the ego can remain lord and master of everything, and in no sphere of morals, law, things human and divine, profane and sacred, is there anything that would first have to be laid down by the ego, and that therefore could not equally well be destroyed by it. Consequently everything genuinely and independently real becomes only a show, not true and genuine on its own account or through itself, but a mere appearance due to the ego in whose power and caprice and at whose free disposal it remains [...]. I live as an artist when all my actions and all my expressions in general [...] remain for me a mere show and assumes a shape which is wholly in my power. In that case I am not really in earnest with this content, or generally, with its expression and actualisation. For genuine earnestness enters only by means of a substantial interest, something of intrinsic worth like truth, ethical life etc.ii
For Hegel, the artist-ironist commits the fundamental error of conflating his entire self with powers of creation or negation. In Giacomo Joyce a dawning awareness of this displays the limitations of irony as method, and suggests a closer relation, not of the visual and the linguistic, united by an ethics of visibility which transcends them, so much as an ethics of recognition which is the central matter of Joyce's later art.
In the course of his scenic vignettes, Giacomo places himself in most of the familiar stations of the starcrossed lover, from abasement to euphoria. Yet throughout the travail of his infatuation we see changes of state but no change in view. To the ironical constancy of "his" desire, immune from alteration, everything exists so as to be perceived, even when veiled in deception, impercipience and counter-assertion. Giacomo is the primary perceiving condition; she on the other hand is the contreblason to the heraldic sequence of his passion: as snake, bird, fowl, oriental princess, she is all metaphor. He is not so much a narrative persona as a lyric subject, discontinuous and episodic, an ego abandoned to the mutations of "destiny" inside this veiled scenario of stolen sideways glances.
That he is a kind of affective instrument rather than agent, Giacomo himself seems to be aware. As orator he launches forth "on an easy wave of tepid speech." No uncreated conscience here to redeem, or nightmare to awake from in setting keel to breakers, these rehearsals of presence pass through all the main organs of rhetoric, from public oratory to half-remembered parentheticals, never ceding awareness of the total visibility and painful self-exposure of every thought and deed. If (as in the Linati schema) one textual aim was visione animata fino alla scoppia then here we begin to see really consistently how this limit might be reached, as well as how and why this particular framing method had, eventually, to be superseded:
I expound Shakespeare to docile Trieste. Hamlet, quoth I, who is most courteous to gentle and simple is rude only to Polonius. Perhaps, an embittered idealist, he can see in the parents of his beloved only grotesque attempts on the part of nature to produce her image ........... [GJ 10]
Does "I" forget Hamlet's rancour with Gertrude and obscenity to Ophelia because in the next frame he sees himself as gentle and simple too, or because he feels violently wronged and thereby ennobled in suffering? In the following scene he chances upon Amalia in the guise of Ophelia herself, "loosed" in the corridor where she walks before him, just as Ophelia appears before Hamlet in the lobby scene of Act II, Scene 2, the scene of Hamlet on which Joyce made the most extensive notes in the Shakespeare Quaderno of 1913. Already then, ideality is crumbling before irresolution. What should he do, must he do, might he do? Is Amalia an Ophelia to come? Or if she here is cast in the form of Beatrice, she is a "Beatrice" already tinted and overcast by ironies which no reversion to Dante may expunge. "She," in fact, is already shadowed by La Béatrice of Baudelaire:
Contemplons a loisir cette caricature
Et cette ombre d'Hamlet imitant sa posture
Le regard indécis et les cheveux au vent
N'est-ce pas grand pitié de voir ce bon vivant
Ce gueux, cet histrion en vacances, ce drôle ......
From here the way is clear for the later Laforguean disfigurement of Hamlet as contemplative Pierrot, or his subsequent incarnation in Yeats and Eliot as the emblem of impotent alienation. To the lover, in his own eyes always "The Lover," the oscillations of spleen and ideal show all too clearly how the will to power works by transference of libidinal investment away from persons to a language patently theatrical, and back again :
I rush out of the tobacco-shop and call her name. She turns and halts to hear my jumbled words of lessons, hours, lessons, hours: and slowly her pale cheeks are flushed with a kindling opal light. Nay, nay, be not afraid. [GJ 4]
How would this play to an observer? One not quite convinced by Giacomo's own declarations, a Proustian sceptic, say? The problem is that Giacomo is that sceptic, and his quizzical doubts swerve between the Scylla and Charybdis which Schulte-Sasse sees as the permanent option of literary romanticism, "between the ethical imperative to grasp one's identity and the equally ethical obligation to endorse alterity."iii The question is pressing and not merely to Giacomo, for though this may indeed be a lyrical problem, it is framed even here on epic terms and entails Ulyssean perspectives.
That the encounters of Giacomo Joyce are often dramatised as acts of vision is part of this question. Each scene hovers between the lyric mode (conceived as an epiphanic, Keatsian solicitation of the ineluctable) and a more epic phenomenology, comically understood as the impossible mastery of circumstance. Once again, the risk is that of the ironist, of instrumentalising selfhood so that no particular action bears any specific meaning. Or, the self that sees and even foresuffers all is rendered powerless through "insight." Yet success would lie in a reconciling paradox: that the capacity to be a self and be moved as a self is also the capacity for loss of self, the overcoming of theatricality. To reach that point would mean exposing the nihilistic potential of any encounter, the reduction of all exchange to the egology of mastery. And this would imply something like a human comedy; the return to a community of ethical possibility or "agonistic respect," in which the literary itself figures merely as one moment among others. Was Joyce ready for this, by 1914?
I would argue that this movement is only imperfectly comprehended by the frame narrative of Giacomo Joyce. Reflexion multiplies self-reference, whose principal device is neither the "prose poem" or imagist narrative-sequence but the secular confessional. In the nineteenth century evolving of romantic autobiography it is possible to watch this form gradually unravel as the interior audits of conscience foreground a far stagier process of self-understanding, at which failure is guaranteed for many and the auditioner is never quite sure if he or she is right for the part. The travails of mortified obsession, anatomised in Werther and La Nouvelle Héloise are surely raised to the heights of bathos in Hazlitt's Liber Amoris, or The New Pygmalion (1823), in nearly every scene of which the persecutory splitting of the lover is diffracted through a screen of grandiose diabolism.
Demoniacal possessions. I see the young witch in another's lap, twining her serpent arms around him, her eye glancing and her cheeks on fire.
Almost a century before Giacomo Joyce we recognise the techniques of metamorphic pantomime, and see how powerless these are to alter the static nature of the desires they display. Mere change of form does not entail change of essence, and this impasse only intensifies the frenzied transformations the beloved is obliged to undergo.
I saw her pale, cold form glide silent by me, dead to shame as to pity. Still I seem to clasp this piece of witchcraft to my bosom; this lifeless image, which was all that was left of my love, was the only thing to which my sad heart clung. Were she dead, should I not wish to gaze once more upon her pallid features.iv
Already the frame of the Künstlerroman has begun to fracture under the counterpressure of ideality and abjection, now insupportable either by stoic self-mastery or the superinducements of exterior form. Flaubertian irony was of course the self-administered diagnostic of a modernist naturalism that wished to anatomise this phase of the male education sentimentale, although the lyric detours through gothic derangement in Hoffman or Poe suggest alternative routes of phantasmal allegory, a route which Baudelaire avowedly preserves and Eliot clung to as the form of anti-naturalism most suited to a redemptive transvaluation of the secular absolute.
But for Joyce the epiphanic credo had already rejected this second pathway. His true Penelope was Flaubert and thus the ironies implied by Hazlitt's Pygmalion figure in more harshly structural terms. Given that the statue could not come alive, that mere will could not animate the indifference of matter and persons alike, what were the terms of any encounter in which the ironies of "personal desire" would not instantly degenerate into sheer farcicality? Psychological obsession may well be the materia prima of "personal tragedy" in the 1840s, but also conditions the melancholy of film noir a century later, in which the drama of appetite is reduced once more to the dialectic of nihilism. Since death is the price of absolute desire then each want is everything and nothing to its possessor, and thus the proximity of monomania and physical abasement always borders on the absurd.v
Stephen Dedalus plainly recognises this (from the perspective of 1921) back in 1904 when during his disquisition in the National Library on Kildare Street he alludes directly to the impasse:
Read the skies. Autontimerumenos. Bous Stephanoumenos. Where's your configuration? [U 210]
Here the allusion is (via Menander) to Baudelaire's L'Heautontimoroumenos, also a touchstone for Eliot.
Je suis la plaie et le couteau!
Je suis la soufflet et la joue!
Je suis les membres et la roue,
Et la victime et le bourreau!
As hyperbole and metabole vie for mastery within the same hallucinatory frame, Baudelaire's self-tormentor is no longer able to contain the density of antithetical self-disgust. But if L'Heautontimoroumenos supplies one important aspect of the psychomachia of Giacomo, Baudelaire himself is only framing in retrospect the Romantic transformation of irony from the drama of conscience to the secular confessional, crucial to which, once again is the bivalent structure of ironical self consciousness, the separation of freedom and determination. The Kantian philosophy imposed a cardinal separation between a free, noumenal realm of things in themselves and a phenomenal world of causally determined human experience.vi The self becomes polarised between its empirical and transcendental moments, making for the kind of persecutory division within the self which had formerly been an agonistic moment between persons. Human finitude becomes a dialectic of subjectivity and interpretation, and irony supplies the tension of normativity. But (as Hegel contested) irony is powerless before any specific object or person. The Dedalean reduction of the drama of otherness to the problem of self-alterity, a problem which by Stephen's own admission is lyrical rather than novelistic, needs to be overcome rather than merely admitted to. Otherwise irony merely eternalises the negative freedom of endless self interpretation, or reinstates the controlling perspective of narrative omniscience, however much this is disguised as a reflex of consciousness itself.
In which case, Giacomo Joyce may be seen as a kind of conversion-narrative, a movement away, as Valente argues, "from the aesthetic of transcendence announced by Stephen in A Portrait, a vision of the artist dwelling both within and beyond his work, to the aesthetics of finitude intimated by Stephen in Ulysses, a vision of the artist materially inscribed in his own work, unable to master fully 'the wisdom he has written or ... the laws he has revealed.'"vii
What laws? How is this anti-mastery structured? What we see firstly is the Liber Amorosus turned to a kind of progression d'effets, en route from tragedy to antipathos. The kammerspiel of erotic alienation is projected beyond the 19th century bourgeois interior into new spaces of exile, panoramically avid for some restitutive antagonism yet frozen into repetition by embarrassment, the obstats of hilarious neurotic crisis. Is this predicament knowingly courted and controlled, or does it arise from an overdetermination of motive, the Aristotelian conflation of intention and action leading to self-blindness? The text, with its many ocular images, hints at both of these at once, yet since this is already the method of Flaubert then the forms of overstatement here, the text's "melodrama," might better be taken as stages in the passage through irony, entailing the production of newly absurd reflexes, "in excess," as Eliot averred of Hamlet "of the facts as they appear." Giacomo Joyce is, in great part, a melodrama of projective disappointments only because it is, first of all, a comedy of mistaken appearances:
The housemaid tells me that they had to take her away at once to the hospital, poveretta, that she suffered so much, so much, poveretta, that it is very grave ...... I walk away from her empty house, I feel that I am about to cry. Ah no! It will not be like that, in a moment, without a word, without a look. No, no! Surely hell's luck will not fail me! [GJ 11]
In the new comic pathology of action and its chemistry of unintended consequences Joyce was searching for, dramatic irony is not enough. Ego and desire are remorselessly conflated in Giacomo Joyce, but the self is imaged in flagrant contraposto to the way it would be seen if only "it" were doing the framing. And so the mise en abîme of spectacle itself becomes internalised and then replayed through the figures of usurpation, exile, betrayal. We could call this situation "cinematic" but it is only later, in Ulysses, that the limited point of view is electrified by alternative perspectives into forms which are the equivalent of cinema's fluid displacements and reconnections of language and action. It is true that the monocularity of a text like Eveline already indicates one possible move in this direction, but the method of ironic distancing this entails leaves the diagnostic privileges of the bystander unexamined and therefore cannot fully project what I earlier referred to as the pathos of apperception, now seen to be the controlling force of irony. The same self is both in the world and also a limitation of it: irony thus implies a transcendental perspective, as the reifications of experience are "seen" from a superior vantage. That is the theatrical moment within Romantic irony: one is at the same time both agent and spectator, yet since the spectator cannot act on what he sees, the consequences of ironical limitation are merely formal. All are captive in the same spectacle.
This is the crisis of self-reference which for the male Modernist generation of the 1880s was incarnated by the "Hamlet question": not esse or non esse so much as esse est percipi, with Kenner's Denmark Street a labyrinth of auditors, spies and numberless usurpations (as Kenner rightly points out, Hamlet is the only myth in Ulysses which the characters themselves acknowledge). The familiarity of this situation indicates the pervasiveness of spectacle in modern life, and cannot be overcome by irony alone. Only the transvaluation of spectacle (theoria) itself might go beyond a generalised theatricality in which symptom and diagnosis are versions of the same thing. If hyper comedy or sadomasochistic degradation are simply understood as techniques for the demarcation of subjectivity, or, worse, the restoration of "perspective" they do nothing to upstage the voyeurism which gives rise to them.
What Joyce had begun to realise by this stage was that the comedy of manners furnished only an imperfect genealogy of self-irony. If it were to be understood, then its future trajectory lay through the gates of outright farce rather than mere parody, as "Circe" demonstrates, six years later, to an unrivalled degree. Through, and not within, though, for farce to Joyce is an instrument rather than a condition. Through it he was able to view the limitations of the Flaubertian method, and also see his own return to dramatic naturalism in 1915 as a too-literal demonstration of what the exile of meaning might mean if restricted to drama alone. From now on, it is an awareness of the use-value of farce that gives density to the later Joycean ouvre. Henceforward, the agent seeking to locate "his" desires as though these were original emblems of conduct, divorcing the vulgarity of their attainment from the heroism of their projection, is also the motive force that constantly miscasts their energies onto newly dissociated parts not of the self alone, but of the collective.
But if farce is the instrument, its prime matter is the emblematic structure of conduct, the social formalism of behaviour. How does the procedure of Giacomo Joyce differ technically from any more conventional textual narcissism of the Nabokovian kind, in which the via dolorosa of petty obsession is overdetermined by theoretical ironies of which its characters remain unaware? The narrative self is still a substantial form, but since self-activity is hardly exempt from irony and cannot be original, the drama is circular and unresolved, play within play within play. So much, so premodern; but Joyce suggests that it is already too late for ironical vertigo along these lines, and anything more corrosive, the "infinite unmastered negativity" which Hegel deplored, would simply inflate the theatricality of action without risking a true reversal of perspective, not from humour to tragedy (for in both, kings may be both subject and abject) but from comedy to farce, in which the hypertrophy of motive implicates the bystander too. This is its superior lucidity of farce, for there is found precisely that surplus of motive that polarises the question of spectacle and breaks down the bystander's disingenuous objectivity.
"Irony produces no effect in the farce" argued Soren Kierkegaard anticipating Brecht, in his Gjentagelsen. "The farce itself is all naiveté, and the spectator therefore must be self active as an individual. For the naiveté of the farce is so illusory that it is impossible for the cultured person to enjoy it naively."viii
Structurally crucial to this movement away from the comedy of manners are the failure of forgiveness and reciprocity.
My words in her mind: cold polished stones sinking through a quagmire. [GJ 13]
That the text is the rehearsal for a farce that never quite plays out is itself part of its serious rhetorical demonstration, already observed by Kierkegaard, that "the accidental comes right after the ideal." Spleen and adoration are no longer allegorical contraries but simple metonyms of force. The retarding of conciliation goes beyond a nineteenth century preoccupation with spectacle and even its twentieth century correlate, the formalism of the "gaze" (howsoever gendered), both of which merely postpone the ethical question the text everywhere implies: if not this person, then which? Or, as Giacomo frames the question more succinctly in its first moment: "Who?"
It seems appropriate that the scenes of the classic "fall" into adulterous liaison should take place in Paris, yet the encounter in the "Parisian room" displaces anagnorisis into open question forms and oblique hints at a future ethics:
It is the other. She. Gogarty came yesterday to be introduced. Ulysses is the reason. Symbol of the intellectual conscience .... Ireland then?
Vicki Mahaffey is right to claim that "Joyce's use of Paris as a background for particularly painful experiences has a special meaning,"ix but we may also recall that the transformation of pain into reconciliation through comedy became Joyce's chief preoccupation after this time, and that this crucial moment of Giacomo's dalliance with Amalia Popper, now cast as a spectral, punitive cocotte, takes place in the city which in 1908 saw the first appearance of Georges Feydeau's most celebrated avatar of the femme fatale, Amelie Poche (in Occupe Toi d'Amelie). There is more than local relevance here. I suggest that the farce exists as an internal critique of the bourgeois family romance: it is also a critique of spectacle insofar as it hypertrophies it. Qua farce, though, Giacomo Joyce is self stunting by deliberate calculation. Spectacle to an Aristotelian like Joyce is, after all, the least important moment of social theatre, but it was an important step away from psychologism. Even so, Joyce's solution is halfway. We cannot take the trials of Giacomo seriously because we are not, quite, meant to. Each blind encounter solicits a sympathetic involvement it knows it cannot requite, yet it will take more than a wry foreknowledge of the perils of spectatorship to eliminate the romantic psychology of dispossession and its allied pathos. Thus a self-stunting riot of counterappraisal floods the text with an excess of animus it cannot place, foregrounding the temptation towards an ethical formalism everywhere satirised in the Wake, and polarised (triestised?) by the question in the tale of Honuphrius (FW 573:32) : "Has he hegemony and shall she submit."
This, lay readers and gentilemen, is perhaps the commonest of all cases arising out of umbrella history in connection with the wood industries in our courts of litigation.
Giacomo is not yet prepared for the steady irruption of estrangement that Ulysses and the Wake normalise. What a nonhistorical demonstration might have looked like in 1914, beginning with the noumenal object rather than the phenomenal self, is evident in another paranarrative concerning an umbrella and the powers of closure, transformed over the space of three pages from "A cause and no curve, a cause and loud enough, a cause and extra a loud" to "The lesson to learn is that it does show it, that it shows" to the restful punctum
Coloring high means that the strange reason is in front not more in front behind. Not mere in front in peace of the dots.x
Tender Buttons is Gertrude Stein's reply to the philosopher's commonplace that intuitions without concepts are blind. Here reasons are not attendant on persons or things but appear to exist on the same plane of qualification, by no means more diminished ("mere") for taking place among readymade grammatical tokens. An umbrella is also a framework yet if, concerning the ambiguous relationships posited here, we ask again "who has hegemony," then Tender Buttons will retort: "What is the use of a violent kind of delightfulness if there is no pleasure in not getting tired of it." In Joyce the vividness of the object world may well demonstrate the limitations of the personal standpoint, but this is merely one method among many, in the constant move to determine "the presence of the others" with all the ergative ironies attendant on that verb. Stein also incorporates the emblem form, though in the transfer of pathos from persons to quidditas, she too reaches a perspectival limit, not within the terms of the lyric or ironic selfhood, but in causality itself.
At the close of Giacomo Joyce we see the emblematic method once again at work in the field of the subjective. Since the subjective here is nothing more than a series of devices, tragic action and comic spectacle are stages in the same circular process. One example is the penultimate frame.
Unreadiness. A bare apartment. Torbid. Daylight. A long black piano: coffin of music. Poised on its edge, a woman's hat, red-flowered and umbrella furled. Her arms: a casque, gules, and blunt spear on a field, sable. [GJ 16]
Mahaffey, proposing that "Joyce's pictorial epitaph for his 'dead' love serves as an image of her 'infidelity' as well as of her demise," suggests that the allusion is to the close of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letterxi which on its own admission makes not quite good sense, since Amalia has not committed adultery, does not have a daughter and is not yet dead. A more plausible attribution is the concluding stanza of Andrew Marvell's poem The Unfortunate Lover.
This is the only Banneret
That ever Love created yet:
Who though, by the Malignant Starrs,
Forced to live in Storms and Warrs;
Yet dying leaves a Perfume here,
And Musick within every Ear:
And he in Story only rules,
In a Field Sable a Lover Gules.xii
Here then we see a slender redistribution of justice; not Amalia is downcast by this symbolism, but Giacomo the unfortunate lover, who sees his fortunes cast within the frame not merely of some pregiven dramatic narrative, but a cold sequence of heraldic clichés that barely distinguish him from any other unlucky aspirant. Far from Prince Hamlet, he is the echo of a citation of an allusion.
Yet the mechanics of the mise en abîme are hardly a Joycean deformation but an allusive property of language itself (consciousness if you prefer). Beings and objects become mythic emblems not by writerly fiat but through overdeterminations they do not absolutely control, and history itself, with all its rumpled blazonry, is one of these. Joyce, knowing that he could not escape it, called this moment "politics" and saw it not as a mode of seeing into history, but of evading it, even as he sought by contrary methodology some alternative exit from the ineluctable, as he put it in 1903, "A philosophy of reconcilement (possible)."
Envoy: Love me, love my umbrella. [GJ 16]
Does the hold of Giacomo Joyce depend on the circumstances of its relinquishment, or its figuring a knowable sequence between the worlds of Amalia Popper and Annalivia Plurabella? (Love me) What is ever abandoned in Joyce, what bridge is ever truly burned? I have claimed the allure to be elsewhere, in what it tells us of a crucial change in Joyce's poetics of action, a renewed understanding of the comedy of melancholy, played out through this micro-drama of emblematic part selves and half-understood rituals of misunderstanding and wanton self-regard. What is comical in Giacomo Joyce is precisely what its protagonist would see as tragical, "the passing of youth," since the comedy of history is a passing also, played through the constant undercutting of ironical perspectives that renew, then successively obscure, new fields of vision. In the fifty short heraldic stanzas of Giacomo's Republic, the instrumentality of farce exhausts itself through the reparative symbolism it now puts aside: any other justice would be merely lyrical.
*NB. 'Feydeau's Republic' appears in Giacomo Joyce: Envoys of the Other, eds. Louis Armand & Clare Wallace (Bethesda: Academica, 2002).
I take the opportunity to note that the identity of "She" in Giacomo Joyce is, predictably, disputed. For details of the life of Amalia Popper and other candidates, see Le Donne di Giacomo: il mondo femminile nella Trieste di James Joyce, eds. Renzo Crivelli and John McCourt (Trieste: Hammerle Editori, 1999), also Peter Hartshorn, James Joyce and Trieste (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1997).
i Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans D.F. Pears and B.F McGuinness. (London: Oxford University Press, 1961, p.117):
5.632 The subject does not belong to the world: rather, it is a limit of the world.
5.633 Where in the world is a metaphysical subject to be found?
You will say that this is exactly like the case of the eye and the visual field. But really you do not see the eye.
And nothing in the visual field allows you to infer that it is seen by an eye.
ii G.W.F. Hegel, Aesthetics, trans. T.M. Knox (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975) I.64-5. See also Hegel's later discussion on the character of Hamlet for an important reflection on the meaning of "show."
iii Jochen Schulte-Sasse, "Romanticism's Paradoxical Articulation of Desire," Theory as Practice: A Critical Anthology of Early German Romantic Writings, ed. and trans., Haynes Horne, Andreas Michel, Elizabeth Mittman, et al. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997) 36.
iv William Hazlitt, Liber Amoris or The New Pygmalion, ed. Jonathan Wordsworth (Oxford: Woodstock Books, 1993) 183.
v This is perhaps why the greatest noir director is not Lang or Siodmak but Wilder.
vi In his very compelling article, "Epiphanoumenon," JJQ 31.2 (Winter 1994): 55-64, David Weir proposes an equivalence between the Dedalean epiphany and the Kantian noumenon, arguing for a direct instrumentality of cognitive intuition over the restrictions of the phenomenal standpoint. The successive refinements of Joyce's view of Stephen over the years, suggests Weir, then show the naive limitations of Dedalus's intellectual self-confidence, transforming hubris into ironical self-torment on Baudelairean lines.
vii Joseph Valente, James Joyce and the Problem of Justice: Negotiating Sexual and Colonial Difference (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 1995) 69.
viii Soren Kierkegaard, Gjentagelsen, published in English as "Farce is Far More Serious," trans. Louis Mackey, Yale French Studies 14 (Winter 1954-55): 3-9.
ix Vicki Mahaffey, "Giacomo Joyce," A Companion to Joyce Studies, ed. Zack Bowen and James F Carens (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1984) 401.
x Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons, Gertrude Stein: Writings and Lectures, 1911-1945, ed. Patricia Meyerowitz (London: Owen, 1967) 161-165.
xi Mahaffey, "Giacomo Joyce," 398.
xii Stanza 8 of Andrew Marvell, "The Unfortunate Lover," The Poems and Letters of Andrew Marvell, ed. H M Margoliouth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971) 29. Marvell's poem possibly recalls Hamlet II.ii, where the arms of the "rugged Pyrrhus," formerly sable, are also now "total gules." William Quillian's text of Joyce's Shakespeare notebook, in Hamlet and the New Poetics; James Joyce (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1983) gives nine citations of reading allied to Act II sc. ii of Hamlet (134).
© Kevin Nolan
|volume 3, issue 1, 2002|