Riassunto esame Cultura e Letteratura Inglese II, prof. Polopoli, libro consigliato Storia della Letteratura Inglese, Bertinetti
Victorian novels must be considered as responses to the time of change, which were
ambivalent, because some writers felt they needed to engage against society, and others to
retreat from it and find a refuge in a stable past.
The Sense of Presence.
The nineteenth century Britain was the high of the social realist novels and major Victorian
writers like Dickens, Eliot, Disraeli, and Gaskell, who diagnosed the condition of England
in their works. Now the term “the Condition of England novels” is used to refer to a body of
narrative fiction, also known as Industrial novels, Social Travels, or Social Problem Novels,
published in Victorian England. Conditions of England novels are directly engaged with the
social and political issues and with a specific concern about the social consequences of the
industrial revolution in England. That’s why these novels are also called Industrial Novels,
in which is strong the sense of the presence, all marked by social realistic descriptions.
These novels have some features in common, such as: criticism of the effects of
industrialism; the exploitation of children in factories, the abuse of child labour and the
miserable conditions of industrial working class.
“Condition of England” novels: Mary Barton and North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell;
Dombey and Son, Hard times, Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens;
Coningsby and Sybil by Benjamin Disraeli.
The Sense of the Past. “We who have lived before the railway were made, belong to another
world [...] railroads start a new era, and we of a certain age belong to the new time and the
old one.” This sense of division, of belonging to two ages was strongly felt by some
novelists who are concerned with the recent past of their society but also with their personal
past. The sense of the past as a sense of the self: the bildungsroman.
Some writers to escape looked back to the past, but this idea cannot be understood from a
chronological point of view, since it’s personal, it’s a dimension where memories and
nostalgia were the protagonists.
In an age of rapid change, the individual had to re-orientate himself in relation to both past
and present. The result of this introspective tendency is an exploration of the continuities
and discontinuities inside of the self, often with autobiographical tone. The personal past is
presented to find new meanings. That’s why many novels dealing with this sense of the past
are bildungsroman, novels of formation or education, following the development of the
individual towards maturity. Memories play an important role, with the influence of
Wordsworth. They dealt with selfhood in a context of cultural crisis.
Examples of the “Fiction of the Self”: Cranford by Gaskell; Middlemarch, The Mill on
the Floss, by Eliot; Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre by Bronte’s sisters; David
Copperfield, Great Expectations, by Dickens.
Charles Dickens 1812-1870. No single category can contain Dickens. He is the greatest
Victorian novelist: his novels offer a unique interpretation of the age, testifying England’s
shift from a rural country to an industrial one. In the 40 years of his writing life he registered
changing England in the succession of his books with wonderful vividness. Dickens
satisfied Victorian readers’ demand for realist fiction. He set his novels in contemporary
England. In his works, he focused on social problems and denounced the evils of
industrialization, describing the squalor of the slums and children’s condition. His novels
are usually defined as social novels or ‘humanitarian novels’ but he wasn’t a social reformer,
because he didn’t advocate any change
Pickwick Papers, first novel. Dickens’s Pickwick Papers initiates a new era, immortalizing a
stage-coaching England that was passing away and he presented the individual and private
man as hero. Pickwick, far from the aristocratic hero, typical of the historical novels, full of
war heroism, is an anti-aristocratic hero, meaning his virtue, his heroism, is private and
domestic. There is an elevation of the private man and of his private life to honour in
literature. Dickens dealt with the old values of the old world with irreverence, comic energy,
and vitality, and that’s what gives power to his language. Pickwick was plump.
Our mutual friend, last novel. This novel has to do with the precariousness of urban living.
There is an evolution of fiction and time from the first to the last novel. Dickens remains an
urban novelist, because he writes in an urban kind of way, since in the city we consume
impression in a rapid and quick way, because what we perceive is what is real. In a city
images and appearances are important, as a result, Dickens’ style is exaggerated, marked by
comical exuberant. The description of his characters is always rich in detail, because they
are analysed from and external point of view. His descriptions through physical appearances
give readers the idea of a round character. He doesn’t create types (universal) but
individuals. He is the first novelist to place children at the centre of his fiction.
Entertainment and amusement are the main aim of his novels. He mingers human and
George Eliot (1819-1880) pen name of Mary Anne Evans. Domestic realism marked her
novels: art as a necessary commitment to the real. She was a novelist of the past and
Victorian Age is largely absent from her fiction. Her aesthetic of realism is based on
scientific method, observation, and experiments.
Dickens and Eliot are opposites. The first one is the great popular entertainer, the second
one was the voice of higher culture, she was complexed, a great intellectual, a positivist who
accepted scientific laws to explain the universe. She’s the novelist historian, sociologist. She
observes society in a scientific way and believes on the influence of the environment.
History is a science, by analysing it she is able to see different methods that interact.
She set the novel in the past and she observes a period far from the present because for her
through distance is possible to achieve realism and objectivity. The search for coherence and
stability inside the self becomes an important task for her, because she analyses the
individual when he is confronted with the discontinuities of the worlds, and their effects on
Bronte’s sisters. Emily, Charlotte, Anne.
They gave romantic voice to Victorian age. Their novels are romantic and imaginative and
the supernatural is an important aspect. They are also social, not because they dealt with
social problems, but because they were conscious of writing regional novels, in which
there’s an awareness of life far from the city. In their novels there is always a strong conflict
inside the characters, thus making them psychological, dealing with the private and personal
life of the individual. Also, they are characterized by a particular conception of time and
space, and we find important experiments with time, full of backwards and flashback.
“On or about December 1910 human character changed…” Virginia Woolf.
The reference of this sentence is the shift in human relationships. The change was not
sudden, so Woolf is provocative in giving us a precise date, but took place in British society,
closely linked to political, social, and historical events. Indeed, the enthusiasm, the faith in
progress, that had characterized the previous age, were slowly replaced by disillusionment.
It’s also true that scientists, philosophers, and thinkers in general, destroyed the predictable,
stable universe of the Victorian era. In the past, the idea of history and humanity moved
towards a linear progress, accepted by everybody. However, something changed, and some
thinkers started attacking this idea of linear progress. The roots of Modernism are also
present in the thoughts of these thinkers. Wagner criticised contemporary civilization,
saying that progress means individualism. German philosophers Nietzsche, Schopenhauer
were also influential with their pessimistic ideas. In the field of political science, Marx
argued that modern capitalist system is against freedom, and egalitarian values.
In the last two decades of the 19 century the system of Victorian values had end and the
pervasive feeling was of general loss. The positivistic faith in progress and science declined.
Nothing seemed to be certain and even science and religion seemed to offer little security.
As a result, a new view of man and universe emerged. Individuals lost their coordinates,
their certainties and felt like stranger in a world that was unknowable. They couldn’t
recognise reality around them, because it lost its objectivity and knowability.
This period of anxiety runs from 1876 to 1915 and is known as Modernism, characterized
by crisis, both real and symbolic. This affected the consciousness of the individual,
penetrating their souls. The causes for dissatisfaction were many in the collapse of all
Modernism historical context
The effect of WWI on the individual consciousness were traumatic and produced despair
fear, uncertainty. Also, the emancipation of women and feminism took place, with the
Suffragette Movement. In 1920, the economic collapse happened, and the Wall Street
Crash in 1929. Finally, there was the emergence of Fascism and the WWII.
In the creation of this context, war was the event that changed the world definitely. It was a
terrible break and rapture with the past and tradition. It changed the world and humanity,
destroying the psychological side of the individual. There is a strong sense of discontinuity
between before and after the war and a lack of solid points of reference. Broadly speaking,
modernists arts gave voice to these traumas.
Modernism in its broadest definition is modern thought, character, or practice. Specifically,
the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of
associated cultural movements arising in Western society in the late 19 and early 20
centuries. At first labelled “avant-garde”, modernism encouraged the re-examination of
every aspect of existence, trying to grasp a new meaning. There are different expressions of
conveying this idea of modernism in different fields, such as futurism etc;
“All that is solid melts into air.” Solid has to be understood in both a literary and
metaphorical way. In the field of arts, as a response to this sense of general tension and
confusion, modernists rejected the old traditional style, that of the past, thus giving
emphasis to the idea of experimentation and innovation. The most paradigmatic feature is its
rejection of tradition.
The imagist poet Ezra Pound (1885-1972) expressed the aspirations of modernism: his
famous injunction “make it new!” is the motto of modernists and conveys their desire for
novelty, renovation, innovation. Modernist experiments rejected traditional methods of
representation and traditional (literary) forms. He moved from America to England. He was
also the most important figure of the imagist movement, which emphasised clarity of
expression, simplicity, going against Romanticism.
Far from traditions: Picasso’s les demoiselles d’Avignon
Since now the world has lost its unity, art has to represent fragmentation. Reality changed
and accordingly, art changed. There are five women, but not in a traditional sense.
Modernism rejects the ideas of Enlightenment. Modernists were conscious of these changes,
which is very important to understand their works. The five figures are not represented in a
classic but in a modernist way; they are constructed simultaneously from different, multiple
perspectives. There is not an objective world to be represented. There is not a single point of
view. Cubism fragments the wold into parts of atoms.
Formal experiments affected also literature, it has to do with the questions of how to live
within a new context. Individuals were in search of new paths. They asked themselves how
they could cope with reality. This is the reason why modernist art is self-conscious.
Traditional English Novel remains anchored to the world of middle-class throughout the
18 and 19 century. The novelist shared his world with his audience and the characters,
sharing also the code of behaviour, which was public and agreed by all. During this period
the traditional form of the novel is no longer appropriate to deal with the modern world.
Modernist fiction is marked by a departure from representation of verisimilitude. The idea
of existence of an objective reality, or truth is displaced for ever.
Novelists rejected the idea of the stable ego, and they aren’t interested in the material
representation of the character, but in their private inner life, in what they feel. Due to the
impossibility of depicting an objective world, the modernist turned to the interior
consciousness of individuals, that is of their characters.
Modernist (literary) experimentation is to be seen as a response to a general sense of
discontent and dissatisfaction that affected the period. The sense of living through a period
of momentous social, political, and cultural upheaval can be seen as a key motivating factor
in the modernist insistence on an equivalent momentous upheaval in aesthetic practice.
Modernism(s) is marked by a strong literary, aesthetic and epistemological rejection of the
conventions, assumptions, procedures, and perceptions of the classical and realist art of the
18 and 19 centuries. This rejection is expressed by a range of related art movements such
as impressionism, imagism, symbolism, futurism, and impressionism, vorticism.
Modernism refers to the broad movement in Western arts and literature that gathered pace
from the last two decades of the 19 century, and is characterized by a deliberate rejection of
tradition. In literature between the years 1880s and 1930s a new discourse on the art of
fiction emerged which reshaped the fictional form itself. The true protagonist of Modernism
is man, an individual with his personal and private life. Modernists are not interested in
describing people from their external life.
Science and modernism.
The first set of new ideas was introduced by:
Freud (1856-1930) investigated the inner realm of the psyche. His theory of the
unconscious was revolutionary. He stated that individuals are motivated by irrational
forces. Ideas inside our mind flow and they are governed by three associations, which
are always personal. We cannot share our personal associations with anybody
because they’re trapped inside our mind.
Jung (1875-1961) theorized the concept of “collective unconscious” of mankind, in
which he recognised the importance of myth. According to him, in the dimension of
the unconscious, as individuals we share something, what he calls ‘myths’.
Einstein (1879-1955) his theory of relativity discarded the concept of time and
space. He showed how time and space are not objective dimension but subjective.
This means that both man and the universe lost their objectivity, and were no longer
knowable. The relative status of the human means that individuals lose their
Bergson (1859-1941) with his conception of ‘la durèe’ or inner time that eludes
conventional clock time. According to Humanism, time is linear and moves towards
progress and is objective, expressed through clock. He instead refers to the inner time
of individuals, which is psychological and contains memories, perceptions, feelings,
traumas. This idea marks a sharp distinction between the public and the private. As
public individuals we share the same time, but as for our inner perception of time, it
depends on our history, which is always personal. Our inner time is not organized
according to a logical or chronological order, but it’s unstoppable, and keeps on
flowing, taking different directions. Our minds cannot control or stop it. In this
continuous flowing of time, Bergson points out la durèe, time as a stream which
doesn’t belong to conventional time but to our consciousness. The stream of
Modernist Art of Fiction
For Henry James the aim of the novel is to represent the novelist’s direct impression of
life: the only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does attempt to represent life; a
novel has to have the odour of life. The novel has to catch the strange, irregular rhythm of
life. His modernist novels move towards abstraction and in order to reach his aim the
novelist needs freedom. Openness and flexibility are the key words.
In The Portrait of a Lady he writes: «the house of fiction has not one window, but a million
possible windows. These apertures, of dissimilar shape and size, hand so, all together, over
the human scene, over life. They are but windows, mere holes in a dead wall, disconnected
but one seeing more where the other sees less, one seeing black where the other sees white,
one seeing big where the other sees small. The spreading field, the human scene, is the
“choice of subject”; the pierced aperture is the “literary form”. » There are many windows
which represent many different points of view. But where is the truth? There is no Truth, but
truths, which is life, truth in its essence. In this way the engagement with the real is more
real than realism.
Plot: Isabel Archer, originally from Albany, New York, is invited by her maternal aunt,
Lydia Touchett, to visit Lydia's rich husband, Daniel, at his estate near London, following
the death of Isabel's father. There, Isabel meets her uncle, her friendly invalid cousin Ralph
Touchett, and the Touchetts' robust neighbor, Lord Warburton. Isabel later declines
Warburton's sudden proposal of marriage. She also rejects the hand of Caspar Goodwood,
the charismatic son and heir of a wealthy Boston mill owner. Although Isabel is drawn to
Caspar, her commitment to her independence precludes such a marriage, which she feels
would demand the sacrifice of her freedom. The elder Touchett grows ill and, at the request
of his son, leaves much of his estate to Isabel upon his death. With her large legacy, Isabel
travels the Continent and meets an American expatriate, Gilbert Osmond, in Florence.
Although Isabel had previously rejected both Warburton and Goodwood, she accepts
Osmond's proposal of marriage, unaware that it has been actively promoted by the
accomplished but untrustworthy Madame Merle, another American expatriate, whom Isabel
had met at the Touchetts' estate. Isabel and Osmond settle in Rome, but their marriage
rapidly sours due to Osmond's overwhelming egotism and lack of genuine affection for his
wife. Isabel grows fond of Pansy, Osmond's presumed daughter by his first marriage, and
wants to grant her wish to marry Edward Rosier, a young art collector. The snobbish
Osmond would prefer that Pansy accept the proposal of Warburton, who had previously
proposed to Isabel. Isabel suspects, however, that Warburton may just be feigning interest in
Pansy to get close to Isabel again, and the conflict creates even more strain within the
Isabel then learns that Ralph is dying at his estate in England and prepares to go to him for
his final hours, but Osmond selfishly opposes this plan. Meanwhile, Isabel learns from her
sister-in-law that Pansy is the daughter of Madame Merle, who had had an adulterous
relationship with Osmond for several years. Isabel pays a final visit to Pansy, who
desperately begs her to return someday, which Isabel reluctantly promises to do. She then
leaves, without telling her spiteful husband, to comfort the dying Ralph in England, where
she remains until his death. Goodwood encounters her at Ralph's estate, and begs her to
leave Osmond and come away with him. He passionately embraces and kisses her, but
Isabel flees. Goodwood seeks her out the next day but is told she has set off again for Rome.
The ending is ambiguous, and the reader is left to imagine whether Isabel returned to
Osmond to suffer out her marriage in noble tragedy (perhaps for Pansy's sake), or she is
going to rescue Pansy and leave Osmond.
Major themes: James's first idea for The Portrait of a Lady was simple: a young American
woman confronting her destiny, whatever it might be. Only then did he begin to form a plot
to bring out the character of his central figure. This was the uncompromising story of the
free-spirited Isabel losing her freedom, despite (or because of) suddenly coming into a great
deal of money and getting "ground in the very mill of the conventional". It’s a
rather existentialist novel as Isabel is very committed to living with the consequences of her
choice with both integrity and a sort of stubbornness.
Theory as practice
The history of Modernist novel is essentially a formal one. It reconfigured two central
preoccupations of Victorian fictions:
Characters: the deconstruction of the concept of the self.
Realism: Modernist novels’ realism is not traditional. They want to represent the real
life in its immediacy.
The idea of time and the conception of character are reconfigured. Time is inhabited by
characters in a different way from the traditional chronological organization. We have what
is called spatialization, time becomes space, because a character can inhabit at the same
time past and present, since in psychological terms, there is no distinction between them.
As a result, from a formal point of view, a novel doesn’t need a plot, whose development is
organized in a chronological order. There is a personal dimension in which characters live
free from the conventions of time and space, as they are traditionally described.
The characteristics of the Modernist Novel:
The novelist rejected omniscient narration and experimented new methods to portray
the individual consciousness; the point of view shifted from the external world to the
internal world of a character’s mind. The analysis of a character’s consciousness was
influenced by the theories about the simultaneous existence of different levels of sub-
consciousness where past experience is retained in the present.
The impersonality of the author is an important feature of novelist writing, because
the novelist disappears behind his fiction. Narrative omniscience is replaced with
other modes of narrative, which emphasised the liminality of the boundaries between
external reality and the inner world of character. The self is deconstructed through the
theories of memories.
It challenges unity, uses fragmentation, disjunctions, multiple perspectives on reality
and multiple points of view.
Disruption of chronology: simultaneity, fluid notion of time.
Fragmentation and discontinuity: the interior monologue, distortion of time.
Epiphanies and moments of beings as structural concepts.
Interior monologue is the strategy used to represent the stream of consciousness.
It often stands for all method of self-revelation. It recreates the character
consciousness without any interfering agency. The character’s thoughts freely flow,
they are presented imitating as much as possible the character’s inner mind style.
There is no traditional syntax or punctuation.
Life like a stream
The term ‘stream of consciousness’ was coined by William James to describe the nature of
mental life ‘from within’. For him, thought contains no constant elements of any kind be
they sensations or ideas. Every perception was relative and contextualized, every thought
occurs in a modified way by every previous thought. States of minds were never repeated.
Thought was constantly changing.
James Joyce (1882-1941)
The term ‘Joycean’ means obscurity and the reference is immediately to Ulysses, because it
resists interpretation and meaning. Obscurity is the product of richness of form and contents.
The fact that he stands at the centre of the movements cannot be divided from the fact that
he is the writer of the margins, of the periphery. He was conscious of this being a voice
coming from the margins. Irishness is perhaps one of the most important feature of his
writings and life, since they are closely linked.
He leaves the city when he is twenty-two, as a voluntary exile because he considers it the
centre of a paralysis, from a cultural, political, economic point of view. He feels in Dublin a
very repressive atmosphere, in contrast to the atmosphere of the modern capitals of Europe.
He says that his country is affected by a strong sense of closeness. Other Dubliners do not
rebel against this situation, they are unable to react. He says that Dubliners are servants of
two masters: the church and the British empire. That’s why he decided to move to Europe,
becoming a cosmopolitan writer.
As for his works, we can say that his heart remains in Dublin. His exile is a physical going
but not an emotional one. Dublin and Ireland remain the set of all his works. The feeling
toward his land is ambiguous.
His life. Born in Dublin in 1882, the eldest child in an increasingly impoverished catholic
family, Joyce self-consciously wrestled with questions of poverty, class, faith, and the
nation. He attended University College Dublin in 1899-1902, where he studied modern
languages. In 1904 he left Dublin for Europe and would spend the rest of his life on the
continent, living in Pola, Zurich, Paris, Trieste, but with the outbreak of the war, Joyce
returned to Zurich, where he died in 1941. James Joyce’s key points:
A writer from the margins;
Irishness: a love-hate obsession with his country remained to the end;
A cosmopolitan writer; he moved to Europe.
The culture of the “commonplace”; he is obsessed with what is ordinary, normal.
Art is true to itself when it deals with truth; According to Joyce, the artist disappears
behind and beyond his texts. Art is true when it deals with things as they are, without
altering them and the artist must be invisible.
He has been the first writer of English literature to portrait what we can call mass-culture,
being able to give a cosmic dimension and a timeless one to the representation of a
commonplace event in a commonplace place of a commonplace character. As for Dubliner,
we can also find this idea of commonplace, but he is able to dissociate himself from the
A Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man. It’s the first published novel by the Irish
modernist writer Joyce. It was serialized in the modernist magazine, the Egoist, between
1914 and 1915. It deals with the protagonist’s desire to be an artist, even though he finds
this task really difficult. The text follows the development of the artist, which is not physical
but also intellectual, and it’s a bildungsroman. The artist is a catholic Irish man called
Stephen Daedalus. It’s about his struggles against the restrictions, such as religion,
nationalism, language, that his land imposed on him. He devotes his life to arts, but he is a
victim of incomprehension on the part of his compatriots and that’s why, like Joyce, he
leaves his country, moving to Paris. The text is semi-autobiographical, Stephen is a fictional
projection of Joyce. The name Daedalus links the character to a mythological hero and to
his story. His son, Icarus, flies too close to the sun and he fails. The name has to do with the
idea of ambition frustrated.
The stream of consciousness technique: from the baby talk of the opening, to the high-
minded aesthetic discussion towards the end, Joyce’s language play mimics Stephen’s
phonetic, linguistic, and intellectual growth.
The Portrait announces one of the most significant formal innovation of the modernist
writing, which can be described as the authorial retreat from the text. Joyce beings the
process of removing himself from his own works, in this way the authorial voice is
banished. It’s a narrative strategy according to which Joyce controls everything and gives
the idea of his disappearance. It’s as if the text speaks and acts autonomously.
He moves from traditional realism to a narrative style shaped by the interior life of the
characters. In fact, the narrative focuses on the consciousness of the character and if in the
text there are different characters, we find different voices. The reader is plunged into the
idea of character’s thoughts.
The interior monologue creates the separation between the author and his text. The artist
like the God of the creation, remains within beyond and behind the text. From this point of
view, we can say that the Portrait is unstable, since there are different voices, and readers
have not a unique and monolithic picture of the protagonist. We have different voices
according also to the age of the character.
The Portrait insists on the authorial absence, later what Ulysses does is to evade fixed
meanings. Language becomes autonomous and in order to depict reality faithfully there
must be a relationship between form and content, subject matter, and style. So, Joyce’s
narrative cannot be realistic unless characters and people do not speak for themselves, and
that’s the theory defined as the Uncle Charles.
His exile. Although he self-consciously decided to go away from his homeland, Joyce’s
imaginative exile would never be accomplished. Dublin remains the unvarying location of
his fiction. Throughout his fiction he was a writer simultaneously in his exile and at home.
When, later, Joyce was asked if he would ever return to Ireland he replied: “have I ever
Dubliners. The text is a collection of fictitious story, published in 1914, but written before,
and these stories are thematically unified and chronologically arranged. The text is balanced.
They share something as for the themes and also, they respect a chronological order. There
is an inner structure according to which the stories are grouped into different subgroups:
childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and public life. The Dead, the last story, stands apart
from this order. All the stories can be read separately with an inner structure. The setting is
Dublin, which must be understood not just as the geographical setting, but also an emotional
and psychological one. The story depicts everyday events and deals with middleclass
people. “Life we must accept as we see it before our eyes, men and women as we see them in
the real world”; and that meant making art out of “the dreary sameness of existence”.
Its 15 stories function perfectly well in isolation, but reading each as part of a whole creates
unique effects. Their themes, concerns and meanings overlap and reverberate. They are
ordered so that the book charts life “under”, as Joyce explained, “four of its aspects:
childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life”. From this grounding, a range of
experience is explored: love, marriage, employment, politics, religion, and death.
Since he wants to depict things as they are, both Dublin and Dubliners are represented as
unheroic. Everything is presented in stark realism, without decoration, alteration, since
Joyce wants to convey the realistic impression of the city. He wants readers to have their
conclusion regarding the city and Dubliners. He doesn’t want to influence our ideas or
judgments. Joyce’s Dublin is natural and ordinary. His aim is to present Dublin to the world
and to offer a moral history of his country. But moral doesn’t mean ethical judgment or
ethical evaluation, it refers to the behaviour of Dubliners, their way of life, their thoughts,
Joyce called these stories “epiclets”. He wrote them in Dublin, Zurich, Pola, Rome, and
Trieste between 1903 and 1907, but publishers’ concerns about their content meant
Dubliners didn’t appear until 1914. Discussing the stories in letters, Joyce wrote 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.”
The idea of paralysis is the main theme, pervasive throughout the text and presented in
multiple variations: disillusionment, death. All the stories are stories of deep loneliness,
fractured marriages, frustrations. The characters are desperate and left on the margins. For
him, paralysis is the inability to live meaningfully, it represents a moral failure. It affects all
his characters and the city itself. The book has the characteristically modern ambition to tell
things the way they really are. The paralysis that emerges throughout the stories is more
complex than simple inertia because it evokes tones of resignation, despair, loneliness,
solitude, abandonment and at the end, what emerges is a comprehensive portrait of Dublin,
of its citizens and a network of interrelationships, within a community and inside a structure
which is very balanced and also planned. Coherence is an important feature of the text.
Absences are part of what Joyce referred to as the style of “scrupulous meanness” with
which he wrote Dubliners, meaning the frugality he applies to language, image, and
emotion. The Joyceans short stories are immediately recognisable as a sub-genre in which
the directness of the prose and the suggestive ellipsis (what he doesn’t want to tell us, the
poetic tone of the text) of poetry are blended.
Ulysses was written in 1922. Why do we regard Ulysses (with its plethora of arcane
references and allusions and its impenetrable phrases) as the centrepiece of Modernism?
Joyce creates compelling characters; we are sympathetic with Bloom. What happens in the
text resembles our diurnal activities with our obsessions, frustrations, and fixations.
Ulysses gives significance to the small tribulations of modern life that recall our lives. His
life is normal, not heroic, just like everyone’s life. Ulysses is an epic, is a modern and
complex allegory of the Odyssey. But as for its meaning, we can say that it hasn’t got a
fixed meaning and to work out what the text means is an impossible task. But above all, it’s
an irrelevant task, we should just enjoy the reading of the text. The text is confusing by
design, because he wants us to struggle against the text, challenging our ability to make
sense of it.
Usually readers try to understand the text by making parallels with the Odyssey and it has
been Joyce himself who has established this connection. So, Bloom is Ulysses and Steven
Daedalus his son, Telemachus. The meaning of Ulysses also lies in the gap between
Odyssey by Omer and Ulysses by Joyce, which can be defined as tragic and comic at the
same time. In the Odyssey we have a mythic world marked by greatness, force, power, great
values. In Joyce’s work we can find a degraded, fractured modern reality.
It’s also true that reading the text we have the impressions that the true protagonist is the
language itself, because language and form rise above content. The meaning of the text lies
in its language, in its rich inclusiveness, and in its verbal exuberance. The language used by
Joyce is dynamic, alive. The language is rich in puns, paradoxes, juxtaposition, symbols.
Joyce transforms the language from a mode of communication into an endless play. The
idea of playfulness is important for the text. Joyce has brought the interior monologue to
perfection. He transforms the ordinary events of one day into a significant form: he makes
experiments with both form and language, which are elevated above the content and the
original idea of plot is eliminated. He developed an aesthetic theory as far as it was possible:
there was no further road that way.
Joyce achieves abstraction from his creation using the interior monologue and the coloured
narrative but from “Oeulus” on any consistency of style is entirely renounced: the result is a
complex pastiche. The book’s meaning, if the it has a meaning at all, lies elsewhere, that’s
why we can say that the power of the book is universal, cosmic. th
The novel traces the day of three main characters, on a single day, Thursday, 6 jane 1904.
Daedalus is the frustrated artist, he is a young man with intellectual ambition from
Bloom is the modern Odysseus. He is the central character. Both Bloom and
Daedalus wake up at 8, have breakfast, then Bloom leaves home where he returns at
2 in the following morning. During these hours he wanders around Dublin. He
attends a funeral, he has misadventures and he meets Daedalus.
Finally, there is Mrs Bloom. The final chapter is dedicated to her and in particular it
inhabits her mind. She is a voluptuous singer and when her husband is away, she has
an afternoon of adultery with her music director.
Reading Ulysses raises questions about the relationships between an author’s life and work.
Daedalus, the major character in the Portrait, and one of the 3 major figures in Ulysses is
based on Joyce’s life. We must ask whether we can read portrait or Ulysses as if it were
possible for Joyce to re-create his life in fiction and to stand objectively detached from the
emotional bonds that tie him to the represented experience of his own life.
Joyce used the Odyssey as a structural framework for his book. Joyce’s text is divided into
18 chapters, each of which corresponds to an episode of the Odyssey, but the order is not the
same. The point of the parallel is that it enables Joyce to give his book a symbolic meaning,
but above all, a permanent structure In fact, the use of myth as a point of reference, gives
unity and coherence to his text and to the chaos of modern and urban existence as it is
presented by Joyce. Broadly speaking, the use of the mythical method becomes sort of a
men’s feature of the modernist writers. Joyce instead of the narrative method, which is
linear and chronological arranged, he uses the mythical method, which gives a universal
dimension to the text. This correspondence based on the myth creates a sort of network
because it brings characters together. The three characters are cut off from each other, and
the myth gives them unity. The mythical method also gives unity to random fragments, at
the same time the use of the myth satirizes the modern world. In his wandering, Bloom has
nothing heroic and doesn’t do anything heroic. Molly, unlike the true Penelope, commits
adultery. Bloom is the anti-hero, the common man, his life reflects the traumas and
frustrations of the modern world. Joyce’s use of the mythical method is a way of giving a
significance and a shape to the men’s panorama of anarchy, which is contemporary history
and the world. The thoughts and actions of all three are interwoven with Dublin’s life in a
single life. Dublin can be understood as another character of the text.
What we read is what happens inside her mind. The character remains silent, she lies on a
bed and she start thinking. Thoughts move between past and present. Molly’s monologue is
an extreme form of stream of consciousness, we are inside her mind and we are able to
catch the essence of her thoughts. It’s evident that there is the prominence of language as
language. What Joyce does is to push the reader through waves of thoughts, which are in
process, never complete. Because of the lack of punctuation, we have to catch our breath
against the tide of the text. It drives the reader into a polyphony of images, sounds, places,
people, fantasies, sexual acts.
The text has its own life, and goes on according to its internal rhythm. These images are
overwhelming, the text never stops. The boundaries between the thoughts are liquified, they
disappear. Molly Bloom is a singer and we feel that the text has been turned into a song.
Joyce makes us penetrate into the consciousness of Molly Bloom. They know anything of
her, there are several layers of yes, different interpretations:
Yes, of private pleasure towards the husband and the lover;
Yes, which recognises the veracity of a thing remembered (when we remember
something it is as if by saying yes, we are making proof);
The final yes, which represents the end of all resistance, is a yes to life, an
affirmation to life. It also means freedom on her side, because she says yes as a
woman and not as a wife.
The language is alive and resourceful, clearly dynamic. In Dublin, language, and content
match. In Ulysses, language is autonomous. By presenting characters in this way, he allows
his readers to know aspects of them that previous novelist would have silenced.
On first looking at the text: evident deviations from usual narrative language: no
punctuation; no paragraphs; incorrect spelling; no apparent logical connections; an extreme
example of interior monologue.
The content of Molly’s half-conscious thoughts:
From the present (night);
To the immediate future (following day);
A specific episode in the past (16 years ago, the time of Leopold’s marriage
Her past youth in Gibraltar;
Memories are intertwined and seem to melt into each other at the end.
Molly lies in bed and she think of her day. Various scenes and memories of her life, present,
but above all, past life, crowd her mind. In particular, she thinks about her husband. The
extract begins with her thinking about nature and this seems to reveal her positive attitude
toward life. Her thoughts seem to be a sort of hymn to nature. There are several words
connected to nature: she evokes colours, shapes, sounds.
Then her reflections turn to atheism and religion, and she distances herself from atheism,
rejecting those who don’t believe in God.
Now we have the first yes. She now remembers when she was with her husband and she
think of how she got him to propose to her. Then we have a series of yes, she goes back in
the past. Then she thinks of her past in Gibraltar where her father was a soldier. The exotic
atmosphere of Gibraltar is described in a confusing way. Then she says, “how he kissed me
under the Moorish wall…” the reference is not for Bloom because it’s mixed with memories
of kissing other men.
The word flower(s) repeated at least 8 times in the passage: all sorts of shapes and smells
and colours and fields of oats and hat, primroses, violets, rhododendrons, fig trees, rose
gardens, jessamine, geraniums, cactuses. They are connected to the house, herself, all
women, nature, Gibraltar. They all convey the idea of life, people who love and appreciate
nature and are overwhelmed by passion. Molly is in harmony with nature. Through these
images of nature and life she thinks of the essence of her own life, of what she has lived
with passion, giving a positive idea of life and the text becomes a living thing. Even her
memories are positive, we have these young girls with coloured costumes, the idea of
The Dead is the last and the longest story in Dubliners, the one in which the main themes of
the collection (paralysis, stagnation, decay) reach their climax. The main theme is death,
which runs throughout the story. The text. There is a horse who runs around for no reason,
meaning the futility of life is a reference to death. Moral lesson in his mind: a sense of glory
is linked to someone who dies young. These tears are the symbol of his new awareness, now
he is aware of something new: revelation and epiphany.
Idea of vagueness: region is a state of being, a state of mind. He moves towards this
dimension because of a process of self-revelation. He looks at himself and he discovers
another man as in a mirror. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world:
the solid world itself, which this dead had one time lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.
A world which cannot be touched, so it's grey, indefinite. The solid world is one of
mediocracy. He realises his own limits and his identity slowly disappears. From this point
on, there is a state of being that goes beyond the real; Gabriel has no coherent identity. The
snow covers everything. Gabriel's ego dissolves, he feels humiliated (he has been rejected
by his wife). The image of the snow also conveys the idea of paralysis, and becomes a
symbol of solitude, isolation, silence, alienation from society. There is a sort of dialogue
between Gabriel's consciousness and unconsciousness.
Realistic style. Joyce was obsessed with the idea of common place. In this case, even if the
style remains realistic, he moves away from realism to go towards a more intimate tone,
which is also required by the theme.
Context. At the beginning appears a name: Lily, which is the name of a funeral flower,
symbol of death. There are different levels of death:
There are the “dear departed” (really dead) such as Gabriel's murderer or Michael
Furey (Greta's first lover).
The moribund such as Julia and Kate, the two old ladies who are Gabriel's aunts, the
remind the final grasp to life.
Gabriel. Age is not a requisite for inclusion in this classes. Even if you are not old,
you may belong to the moribund. Death doesn't depend on the age. There are people
who are spiritual and emotionally dead.
Living dead. Those who remain alive but fail to live because they haven't understood
the true essence of life, they live as ghosts, their lives are wasted.
The true protagonists of the story are those people who are alive but don't live.
Plot. Gabriel is a journalist, who one night goes with his wife to the Christmas party
organised every year at the home of his aunt Julia. The high point of the party is the
Gabriel's well-received speech, applauded by everyone. He feels satisfied. But before
leaving the party, Gretta hears an old Irish song and it reminds her of a young man called
Michael who had been in love with her when she was younger and who had died because of
tuberculosis at the age of 17.
When the couple go back to their hotel, their feelings are completely different. Gabriel is
happy and satisfied and filled with desire for his wife. Gretta's thoughts go back to the
memory of his young love. Gabriel is consumed with physical passion; his wife is far away
from him. Once in their room at the hotel his wife falls asleep, Gabriel remains awake. He
thinks of the events of the night, he watches his wife with pity. Now he feels far away from
his wife too. Looking at the snow outside the window he thinks of the futility of the lives
that surrounds him and the futility of his own life.
+1 anno fa
Riassunto per l'esame di cultura e letteratura inglese e della prof. Polopoli, basato su appunti personali del publisher e studio autonomo del libro consigliato dal docente Storia della Letteratura Inglese, Bertinetti. Scarica il file in PDF!
Trattasi degli appunti presi a lezione. All'interno è possibile trovare: Victorian Age (Dickens, Bronte, George Eliot), Modernism (Joyce, T.S. Eliot), Post-Modernism (Fowles, Spark, Rushdie).
I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher morreale.9 di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Cultura e letteratura inglese e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Catania - Unict o del prof Polopoli Valeria.
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