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Dubliners - an intro 
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Post Dubliners - an intro
This is a sort of a brief paraphrasing of the first part of the intro by Terrence Brown in my Penguin edition of DUBLINERS. There's some good contextual material to ponder before actually reading the stories.

In 1905, a 23-year-old James Joyce submitted his manuscript for DUBLINERS to an English publisher, but it would be almost ten years before the book would be published. The English publisher, Grant Richards, initially had qualms about the books contents, especially the realism about sexual matters, that he feared would offend contemporary tastes. In 1909, Joyce gave up on Richards, and placed his manuscript with an Irish publishing house (now with the inclusion of the final story THE DEAD). The book got as far as the printing stage, but then was destroyed reputedly due to fears of libel. (Apparently there were references to people who were still alive). Finally, in 1914, the original publisher, Richards, published the book without suffering any of the consequences he had previously feared. By this time, Joyce had already published, in serial form, his PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN.

Joyce was born to a middle class family, one of ten children, but his family suffered a decline in fortune that left its mark on him. "Joyce had begun his education at Clongowes Wood College, a Jesuit boarding school near Clane, County Kildare, in 1888 but had to leave in 1892 when his father could no longer pay the fees." (Wikipedia). Likewise, the Joyce family had to move several times to lower middle class surroundings. At one point they moved very literally to the other side of the river Liffey.

Terrence Brown wrote:
The river then marked, as it does now, a social divide between the indubitably respectable and the doubtfully so. Thus the young boy, who to that date had enjoyed the salubrious environs of Bray in the holidays from Clongowes, was to be exposed, not only to familial and financial insecurity, but to a Dublin of mean dwellings, low public houses and slum tenements with their teeming populations, houses of ill-repute and grinding poverty. He was to get to know too a Dublin of lower-middle class desperation in the crowded streets of north central Dublin, Drumcondra and Fairview, a city life hitherto unknown to Irish literature.

The shock delivered to the sensitive boy by this social transition must, one imagines, have been akin to that famously suffered by the English writer Charles Dickens . . .


The stories that make up DUBLINERS are intended to be realistic portrayals of life in the city of Dublin which had undergone a marked decline during Joyce's lifetime. Joyce was greatly influenced by Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen. When he was eighteen, Joyce published a favorable review of Ibsen's WHEN WE DEAD in the "Fortnightly Review." According to Brown, Joyce admired Ibsen's "defiant realism" and DUBLINERS "must owe its exacting, diagnostic realism in part to . . . those plays by Ibsen."

Joyce himself defended his realistic portrayal of life in Dublin in a letter to his would-be publisher (Grant Richards):

"It is not my fault that the odour of ashpits and old weeds and offal hangs round my stories. I seriously believe that you will retard the course of civilisation in Ireland by preventing the Irish people from having one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking-glass."


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Last edited by geo on Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:01 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Dubliners - an intro
Thanks, Geo, for getting us started. I've read "Dubliners" before, but know very little about Joyce.



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Post Re: Dubliners - an intro
To the background info geo posted, I decided to add some that goes into Joyce's technique and his distinction as perhaps the first modernist writer of fiction. I usually don't like to read this sort of thing up front, but I found it helpful to focus my attention. I've pasted in three lengthy sections from an introduction by Wallace Gray. The rest is well worth reading. http://www.mendele.com/WWD/WWD.dubintro.html
Quote:
The modernist writer is engaged in a revolution against nineteenth-century style and content in fiction and Joyce's Dubliners is one of the landmarks of that struggle. But it is a subtle one, as the stories can be read on two mutually exclusive levels. First, as straight forward realistic tales about the everyday failures and disappointments of suffering children, humiliated women, and men who drink too much -- all of them crushed by what Joyce considers the monsters of the newborn twentieth century for a Dubliner: the Scylla of British political domination and the Charybdis of Roman Catholic spiritual and bodily tyranny. Second, as stories that, on a symbolic level, deal with universal human nature and transcend the particulars of life in Dublin at the turn of the century. His stories, according to Joyce, convert bread into art.

The brief story "Araby" can serve as an example of the dual realistic and symbolic nature of Joyce's stories. On the realistic level the story is simply about the feelings a young boy has for a neighborhood girl, and his despair when he goes to a fair with the intention of buying the girl a present and finds he is too late; as such, it is a tender and moving story, the kind of childhood disappointments many of us have experienced. However, subtly interwoven into the story, in ways that do not intrude upon the realistic level, are recurrent religious, political, and sexual images that can be read on a symbolic level and show the story to be a timeless one in which the boy has glorified his everyday experience into a medieval search for the Holy Grail, transformed his sexual attraction to the girl into a sacred (religious) one, and whose desires are frustrated by political (British) and religious (Catholic) forces beyond his recognition or awareness.

How Joyce feels about the people he writes about has been the subject of much analysis. Joyce himself wrote that he was writing with a "scrupulous meanness" and wrote of the "special odor of corruption which, I hope, floats over my stories." [1] However, an author's stated intent is not to be taken as the final word, and certainly each reader will have to decide whether the stories reveal an ironic dislike for these characters or a criticism that is sympathetic. (The tenderest account of these Dubliners is in "The Dead," a story written a few years after the others when Joyce was living in Rome and had, among foreigners, begun to appreciate Irish warmth and hospitality.)

In these stories Joyce exposes the sentimentality of his characters, and he employs a bare style that sets itself off from nineteenth-century writings; indeed, T. S. Eliot observed that Joyce "destroyed the whole of the nineteenth century."


On the stylistic distinction of Joyce:
Quote:
The modernist is a revolutionary not only in content but in style. Although Joyce's major innovations in style come in his more mature works, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, his style in Dubliners is marked by two distinct elements new to English prose: the narrated monologue and patterned repetition of images (chiasmus).

There are a number of terms for narrated monologue: free indirect discourse, empathetic narrative, stylistic inflection, or, in Hugh Kenner's phrase, the "Uncle Charles Principle" (see Kenner [1978], ch. 2). These are all ways of indicating that the prose style changes depending upon the nature of the character that the narration is about; another way of putting it is to say that the fictional character begins to make authorial choices, that the character "infects" the prose style of the writer.

As an example from Dubliners, let us look at the first sentence of "The Dead":

"Lily, the caretaker's daughter, was literally run off her feet."

Now, a precise stylist would want to change this to "figuratively run off her feet." But the use of literally in this context is one that uneducated people, such as the housemaid Lily, frequently employ. What has happened here is that Lily, the character being written about, has, shall we say, literally taken the pen from the author and begun to use expressions that would come naturally to her; in other words, she has infected the author's style with her own personality. To continue, the third sentence of this opening paragraph reads:

"It was well for her she had not to attend to the ladies also, ... "

The expression "well for her" is the kind of language a Dubliner of her economic and social caste would use; here, it becomes part of the author's style. Indeed, we can see that the authorial voice of the nineteenth-century writer, which was that of the distinct character of the writer, has become multilingual rather than monolingual. This becomes evident at the opening of the second paragraph:

"It was always a great affair, the Misses Morkan's annual dance. Everybody who knew them came to it, members of the family, old friends of the family, the members of Julia's choir, any of Kate's pupils that were grown up enough and even some of Mary Jane's pupils too. Never once had it fallen flat."

Now, this is no longer Lily's voice. The topic has shifted to the opinions of middle-class Dubliners, the typical party guests at this event, and so they have grabbed the pen of the author and are using their own Dublin speech in the choice of words and in the rhythms of the sentences. Hugh Kenner uses the phrase "Uncle Charles Principle" to describe this technique, because one critic attacked Joyce for the opening page of Part Two of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, where Joyce had written:

"Every morning, therefore, uncle Charles repaired to his outhouse...."

The critic objected to the use of the archaic word "repaired" instead of the more contemporary "went," but Joyce's point is that this is precisely the word Uncle Charles would use. Uncle Charles has the pen in hand.


A bit more on the style, with the example being the opening paragraph from the first story in the book:

Quote:
Joyce's other major innovation in Dubliners is his extensive use of chiasmus. Chiasmus is the repetition, and often the reversal, of images, particularly in distinct patterns. First, an example from the opening of the first story, "The Sisters":

"There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window: and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse. He had often said to me: I am not long for this world, and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were true. Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis."

Joyce achieves a number of effects through the extensive chiasmus, but primarily, since this is a story about death and the church, he provides the incantatory effect of the kinds of intonations of chants one would hear in a church. The effect is also numbing, and the personages in this story are numbed by the death of the priest; the images toll like a funeral bell through the passage. And, of course, since this repetitive section concludes with the sentence:

"Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis."

Joyce has also succeeded in communicating the sense of a lack of forward movement, of a passage turning in upon itself in repetitive images, of the essence of paralysis.

In this passage, as elsewhere, Joyce also makes effective use of two variations of chiasmus known as lengthened chiasmus and tightened chiasmus. In the passage above, note how in the first two instances of "night" the repeated word is separated by only one other word, whereas many words (even sentences) separate the final instance from the preceding ones; this is lengthened chiasmus. The reverse is the case with a shortened chiasmus: two images that have been more or less widely separated are brought closer together.



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Post Re: Dubliners - an intro
"Dubliners" was required reading in my senior year of high school so I read it then, I don't recall much about the book, but I vaguely remember some low level controversy about its inclusion on the curriculum, even in the fairly liberal late seventies. So maybe its time for a re-read now, in today's weird, preachy neoconservative world, which is hard to escape. I'd like to learn more about James Joyce as well, seems like an interesting dude.



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Post Re: Dubliners - an intro
He was an interesting dude. Although we see him as an undisputed genius today, he doesn't seem to have been very secure in his vocation as a writer. He tried to study medicine despite having no talent for science, then took a stab at law. He also contemplated being a singer, but at least he was considered to have a fine tenor voice. When a writer or any artist is in the moment, having to stake himself and his family to a talent he's not even sure is there, how difficult that must be. When his efforts are considered weird or scandalous and are rejected, how hard it must be to keep going. I draw a paycheck, so I really can't imagine the artist's life. I always feel it's a luxury for me to be able to reap the benefits of the art without having to suffer to produce it.

Hope you'll jump into the discussion, giselle.



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Post Re: Dubliners - an intro
I'll be joining the discussion! I have my book and I'm ready to rock. :)



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Post Re: Dubliners - an intro
I love how these discussions just sort of happen spontaneously sometimes.

I'll be driving all day today. Hopefully will hear a couple of these stories in the car.


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Post Re: Dubliners - an intro
DWill wrote:
. . . On the stylistic distinction of Joyce:
Quote:
The modernist is a revolutionary not only in content but in style. Although Joyce's major innovations in style come in his more mature works, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, his style in Dubliners is marked by two distinct elements new to English prose: the narrated monologue and patterned repetition of images (chiasmus).

There are a number of terms for narrated monologue: free indirect discourse, empathetic narrative, stylistic inflection, or, in Hugh Kenner's phrase, the "Uncle Charles Principle" (see Kenner [1978], ch. 2). These are all ways of indicating that the prose style changes depending upon the nature of the character that the narration is about; another way of putting it is to say that the fictional character begins to make authorial choices, that the character "infects" the prose style of the writer.


This is interesting. I wasn't aware that Joyce was innovative in using the "empathetic narrative" which is a pretty ubiquitous style now. In many classic novels of yore, the omniscient narrator presents a God's view of events (that usually just happens to coincide with the author's viewpoint). These days writers tend to avoid putting themselves into the story at all, and so the 3rd person narrator is usually limited to one character at a time. So even if the narrator is describing the setting, it's from that character's perspective and uses that character's vernacular and thought processes.

I've always loved the first couple of sentences of Jennifer Egan's novel, THE KEEP. You definitely get a sense of the main character, Danny right away.

"The castle was falling apart, but at 2 a.m. under a useless moon, Danny couldn’t see this. What he saw looked solid as hell: two round towers with an arch between them and across that arch was an iron gate that looked like it hadn’t moved in three hundred years or maybe ever."

I love that "useless moon" and the iron gate that looked like it "hadn't moved in three hundred years or maybe ever."


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Post Re: Dubliners - an intro
DWill wrote:
He was an interesting dude. Although we see him as an undisputed genius today, he doesn't seem to have been very secure in his vocation as a writer. He tried to study medicine despite having no talent for science, then took a stab at law. He also contemplated being a singer, but at least he was considered to have a fine tenor voice. When a writer or any artist is in the moment, having to stake himself and his family to a talent he's not even sure is there, how difficult that must be. When his efforts are considered weird or scandalous and are rejected, how hard it must be to keep going. I draw a paycheck, so I really can't imagine the artist's life. I always feel it's a luxury for me to be able to reap the benefits of the art without having to suffer to produce it.

Hope you'll jump into the discussion, giselle.

Thanks DWill, I will jump in. I wanted to reflect on your biographical comment on Joyce and his vocational uncertainty and reflect back on an earlier bio comment geo made, reflecting on Joyce' childhood circumstances, particularly that he grew up in a large, middle class family, which suffered a decline in economic fortunes. Given this childhood background, it seems quite predictable that he would try the 'respectable' middle class professions of medicine and law and that it must have been awfully hard for him to take up writing as a vocation. Making a decent living in a respectable way is such a strong middle class value and being a writer might not have cut the mustard with many people he would associate with, either financially or within the middle class social setting. And if he suffered self-doubt as well, with respect to his writing, I would guess the pressure he felt to dig deep and succeed at writing somehow must have been extreme.



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Post Re: Dubliners - an intro
I stopped in to say that I'd finally found a pdf of Dubliners. Didn't know if the book had been discussed here and I found this very robust discussion from a while back. I look forward to reading it. Dubliners is a great book.


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Post Re: Dubliners - an intro
KindaSkolarly wrote:
I stopped in to say that I'd finally found a pdf of Dubliners. Didn't know if the book had been discussed here and I found this very robust discussion from a while back. I look forward to reading it. Dubliners is a great book.

Finally something we can agree on.



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