"The urb it orbs": James Joyce and internationalism.
In his writing, Joyce gives no sustained attention to any place other than Ireland; however, his politics do not stop at the Irish shoreline. By registering his difference from certain nativist ideas of nationalism, Joyce sought to occupy a position at the presumptive nation's border. He drew attention to those acts that use criteria as various as race, gender, religion, ethnicity, and language itself in order to fashion sociopolitical groups. His focus on these totems of tribal or national identity lent to his writing an ethical edge that he never ceased to sharpen. Since Joyce chafed at the restrictiveness of a certain kind of nationalism, in what way could one describe his works as "cosmopolitan" or "internationalist"? Although these terms are often used interchangeably, the word "cosmopolitan" is much older, with its origins in ancient Greece, while the term "international" was coined by Jeremy Bentham in his 1780 text An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. Bentham designates as "international" the "branch of law which goes commonly under the name of the law of nations" (295, emphasis in original). Bentham's term thus often appears in legal and juridical contexts, while the term "cosmopolitan" is to be found in discourses that emphasize the cultural or ethical dimension of politics. While this essay focuses on the international, because the term carries within itself the highly charged concept of the nation, it must also incorporate some consideration of the cosmopolitan as well. (1)
Although it has been quite common for Joyce to be cast biographically as the cosmopolitan-in-exile, I would like to explore the question of internationalism as it emerges, directly and indirectly, at several states in his writing career. I argue that internationalism informs Joyce's work not as a simple, homogeneous idea but rather (1) as a measure of his recognition of difference along racial, sexual, linguistic, and other lines, and (2) as a reaction to the possessive claims of nationalism. Joyce's very approach to nationalism made him an internationalist, although he was careful to maintain his skepticism about one-world utopian solutions. Such a position was readily available in the turbulent first three decades of the twentieth century, when the question of what Ezra Pound referred to as the sphericality of the planet" (56) became more and more urgent due to rapid technological change and military conflict.
But what does it mean to be an "internationalist"? In the political sphere, the answer is fairly straightforward--there is a repertoire of political beliefs that can be categorized under this rubric, albeit with varying degrees of strength, that have in common the notion that the Nation is not (or ought not to be) the ultimate unit of political or social calculus. To be an internationalist is not necessarily to be anti-nation, but it does entail certain limits on what forms national commitments and national identity can take. During the period of literary "high" modernism, which had its epicenter in the year 1922, being "international" in one's politics could vary from being a supporter of the institution of the League of Nations in Geneva to being a supporter of Lenin's Comintern. Although these two forms of internationalism stand in opposition to each other, they both repudiate the narrowly defined nationalism that had been an ideological prerequisite in the conflagration of 1914-1918. But what would an internationalist be from the standpoint of artistic method? Is internationalism in art a question of content only, or is there a way in which formal concerns possess the equivalence of political gestures? Ezra Pound had started his career as a critic of what he termed "provincialism," and this orientation found an outlet in his poetry, at least in his London and Paris years. But eventually Pound shelved the positions that he had taken as a younger writer--or at least updated them in a way that resulted in a de facto reversal--when he became a vocal advocate for Italian fascism. But Pound was by no means the only one with an internationalist bent writing in this period; while Pound was busy assembling his allusive and polylinguistic Cantos, James Joyce was at work on a similarly encyclopedic and ambitiously comprehensive work, Finnegans Wake.
But the Wake is just the explosive finale to a writing career that had featured a protracted engagement with the complexities of nationalism as articulated in a colonial context. Early in the Wake, the metropolitan center of Ireland is turned into the implicit question "Dyoublong" (13.4), (2) which raises the very question at the heart of nationalism--who belongs? And who is excluded? Joyce wrote with painstaking detail about his abandoned country--both critically and affectionately--and through the course of his various works, he was consistent in opposing a provincial nationalism, always suggesting that it was no solution to replace colonial dispossession centered in Westminster with oppressions of a homegrown variety.
The nation that emerges in Joyce's writing is specific and yet open to endless reconfigurations--like a language. Indeed, the frequently quoted motto of Jacques Lacan, that the unconscious is structured like a language, could be appropriated in explicating Joyce's position--the nation is (or should be) structured like a language. Although such a locution was not available to Joyce, the idea was, and even in his early writing, the principled openness of his approach was clear, an openness that by no means erased Irish specificity, but refused to foreclose its determinations, even in the face of colonial domination. In his 1907 Trieste lecture, given near the beginning of his long European exile, "Ireland, Island of Saints and Sages," Joyce opens with a daring argumentative gambit: "Nations have their egos, just like individuals" (154). And just like individual egos, nations depend upon certain constitutive imaginary identifications, even when those identifications are not factually accurate. Joyce points out that the term "the island of saints and sages" refers to a long-vanished era when Ireland was a European center for learned commentary and the preservation of texts. But although the historical reality had changed to Ireland's disadvantage, the identification remained in Joyce's day. From this opening move that shears away a certain misleading image from a sociopolitical reality, Joyce is able to announce a program of nationhood that would not be based on narrow categories or historical misprisions:
Nationality (if it really is not a convenient fiction like so many others to which the scalpels of present-day scientists have given the coup de grace) must find its reason for being rooted in something that surpasses and transcends and informs changing things like blood and the human word. (166)
In arguing for a definition of national identity that is not based on race or language, Joyce echoes the assertions of French writer Ernest Renan, whose 1882 lecture "What Is a Nation?" similarly rejects a series of potential criteria for defining a nation, including "race, language, material interest, religious affinities, geography, and military necessity" (19). Instead, Renan claims that a nation is "a spiritual principle" whose true reality is to be found in a communal memory and a will to live together in the future--that is, the nation exists when it is publicly recognized as following a particular thread through history. A nation is, as Renan puts it, "a large-scale solidarity" that "presupposes a past" (19). In addition to this rather capacious way of defining what a nation is, Renan goes on to speculate on a more international future:
The nations are not something eternal. They had their beginnings and they will end. A European confederation will very probably replace them. But such is not the law of the century in which we are living. At the present time, the existence of nations is a good thing, a necessity even. Their existence is the guarantee of liberty, which would be lost if the world had only one law and one master. (20)
It is quite possible Joyce would have known this lecture. He read Renan and maintained a long-term interest in his work; he even went to visit Renan's birthplace (Ellmann 567). In Joyce's letters, Renan's name emerges alongside others as a decisive influence; in 1906, he wrote to Stanislaus, "if I put down a bucket into my own soul's well, sexual department, I draw up Griffith's and Ibsen's and Skeffington's and Bernard Vaughan's and St. Aloysius' and Shelley's and Renan's water along with my own" (Selected Letters 129). A week later, Joyce cited Renan again: "Renan was right when he said we were marching toward universal Americanism" (Selected Letters 134). Read as a whole, the critical tone in this letter shows that this kind of universality clearly held no allure for Joyce. Renan is also present in Joyce's fiction; he appears in the "Scylla and Charybdis" chapter in Ulysses, in which his admiration for the later plays of Shakespeare--especially The Tempest--is recognized (9.394). (3)
That Joyce's way of defining nationhood was consistent with Renan's is thus no coincidence. For Renan, as for Joyce, nations exist, but only as a contingent product of social relationships; they are not defined or determined by any natural characteristic. At the end of his own lecture, Joyce holds out very little hope that Ireland will acquire the kind of self-determination that he hopes for, and he implies that his self-imposed exile is a result of this pessimism; comparing the creation of a viable, independent nation to the production of a play, Joyce remarks, "I, at least, will never see that curtain go up, because I will have already gone home on the last train" ("Ireland, Island of Saints and Sages" 174).
Yet this gloomy assessment did not prevent Joyce from continually engaging the question of Irish nationalism in his fiction, as well as developing the related themes of internationalism and cosmopolitanism. In the early years of his sojourn in Italy, Joyce wrote to his brother Stanislaus describing the various developments in Triestine politics; Colin McCabe has documented how these letters show an interest in the program of syndicalism and revolutionary socialism. But Joyce qualified this interest, writing to Stanislaus, "It is a mistake for you to imagine that my political opinions are those of a universal lover: but they are those of a socialistic artist" (qtd. in McCabe 160).
When Joyce came to write "The Dead" in 1907, he offered his first potent dramatization of the tension between the national and the international. The first hint of this theme is in Gretta's facetious complaint to Gabriel's Aunt Kate and Aunt Julia about Gabriel's insistence that she wear galoshes. Aunt Julia does not know what galoshes are, and even Aunt Kate, who has laughed heartily at Gretta's anecdote, pauses with uncertainty in her explanation to her sister: "You wear them over your ... over your boots, Gretta, isn't it?" (181). Gretta confirms this, adding, "Gabriel says everyone wears them on the continent." Aunt Julia's response to this rationale shows that she is both impressed and somewhat mystified: "0, on the continent, murmured Aunt Julia, nodding her head slowly" (181). The galoshes thus come into a metonymic relation with "the continent," a place of different customs, practices, and languages.
But the amusing strangeness of the galoshes only prefigures the later confrontation between Gabriel and Miss Ivors, who teases Gabriel for writing articles for a pro-colonial British newspaper, calling him a "West Briton" (188). Even though Miss Ivors insists on this designation, Gabriel appears to be much more like a continental internationalist than a pro-British unionist. 'When Miss Ivors invites him to go cycling in the west of Ireland, he replies that he already has plans to go to "France or Belgium or perhaps Germany," which he does "partly to keep in touch with the languages and partly for a change" (189). When Miss Ivors asks him about keeping in touch with his "own" language, Irish, Gabriel curtly responds, "Irish is not my language" (189). When Miss Ivors needles Gabriel one last time with the phrase "West Briton!" (190), she shows that for her, there is only for and against; not to be for Ireland in her way is to be on the side of the British. The possibility that Gabriel is in neither of these categories (Irish-revivalist-nationalist/West Briton) is not considered.
In addition, Gabriel shows his point of view to be consistent with that of an internationalist when he gives his after-dinner speech. His choice of theme, that of "Irish hospitality" (203), is chosen as a response to the confrontation with Miss Ivors, but the fact that she has already left the party means that she will not hear Gabriel's statement of principles. The story's placement of her beyond the range of hearing is perhaps an indication that she would not "hear" Gabriel even if she were still at the party. Although Gabriel's references to hospitality are couched in the language of domesticity, the larger political ramifications of his remarks are clear. The very term "hospitality" has a prominent place in the philosophical discussions of internationalism; to give the most prominent example, Immanuel Kant, in his landmark 1795 essay, "Perpetual Peace," describes a condition of "Universal Hospitality" as a requirement for the abolition of war. Hospitality, as Kant defines it, is "the right of a stranger not to be treated with hostility when he arrives on someone else's territory" (105). Gabriel himself fears that the generation represented by Miss Ivors will "lack those qualities of humanity, of hospitality, of kindly humour which belonged to an older day" (Joyce, "The Dead" 203). That is, Gabriel believes that the logical consequence of the parochial nationalism advocated by Miss Ivors is that it will shut out the world at large.
The conclusion of "The Dead," however, seems to hold an interesting lesson for Gabriel. Gretta's revelation of young Michael Furey's passion and untimely death forces Gabriel's attention on his wife's past in Galway with a fresh and even painful intensity. Thus the story suggests that Gabriel's identification with the not-Irish reaches a certain limit, and that at least part of his cultivation of continental habits was an evasion of his own self. If Miss Ivors needed to learn the virtues of an open "hospitality," Gabriel comes to learn the complementary virtue of not forgetting where he came from, the particularity of his and his wife's histories. The kind of internationalism that runs through Joyce's career is based on the idea that his detailed attentiveness towards Ireland is not at all antithetical to the international--that the two are, in fact, intertwined.
In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), the "address" that Stephen draws up for himself at Clongowes nicely combines these concerns of nationalism and its "beyond." Stephen has written:
Stephen Dedalus Class of Elements Clongowes Wood College Sallins County Kildare Ireland Europe The World The Universe (15)
As one critic has pointed out, this zoom-out is notable for its omission of the United Kingdom; Ireland is not subsumed by it but is rather simply a part--an equal part--of Europe (Mezey 338).
Stephen's list in the flyleaf of his geography book is not only a list of progressively larger domains; it is, in a sense, a list of discursive levels that the novel addresses, starting with the history of one individual. This one individual has his particular array of interests, passions, phobias, and symptoms--a language that describes him in his particularity and follows his unique history. But this individual is contained in a larger context--a class in a school in a county in a country, and so on. On different levels, the rules of the game, the type of language employed, and the procedures for creating meaning are different. Stephen discovers, for example, that his familial being does not translate into the sometimes cruel and competitive sphere of the boarding school, when he is teased for kissing, and then for not kissing, his mother (14).
Thus Stephen's list provides a sort of directory for the novel, which runs up and down the levels on the list, placing Stephen in different contexts and confronting him with different dilemmas, from the individual to the universal. Not all of the levels are given the same attention, and Dublin rather than Sallins would be a better fit at the level of the city, as it was the contrast between urban and rural Ireland that stood as the unsolved problem at the center of Irish cultural nationalism; nevertheless, Stephen's list shows how a subject is located at the center of several "nested" domains that are not necessarily in harmony or translatable into each other. As we are considering that level of political discourse that extends beyond the nation, we must ask, is there in the novel any treatment of the level of "The World"?
Stephen, in one of his more famous pronouncements in the novel, asserts to Davin, "You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets" (203). And yet in the diary entry that closes the novel, Stephen avers that his artistic project has a nationalist dimension, that his creation will be the "conscience" of his "race" (253). In a similar way, Stephen rejects internationalism and international politics only to have them reemerge in his artistic avocation. While at the University, Stephen is presented with various opportunities to make a commitment in religion or politics, but he practices a studied indifference to these institutions and discourses. MacCann makes the attempt to recruit Stephen for his idealistic political projects, and accuses him of being too selfishly egotistical:
--Dedalus, you're an antisocial being, wrapped up in yourself. I'm not. I'm a democrat: and I'll work and act for social liberty and equality among all classes and sexes in the United States of the Europe of the future. (177)
As Seamus Deane points out in his edition of A Portrait, MacCann is referring to an 1899 book by the English journalist William Thomas Stead entitled The United States of Europe (Deane 308 n 17). The longer encounter between MacCann and Stephen also turns on the question of internationalism, in the Kantian sense of the term--that is, it concerns MacCann's calls for "perpetual peace." Cranly reports to Stephen that the petition MacCann is circulating is "Per pax universalis" (194). The reference is to the proposal of Russian Tsar Nicholas II at a 1899 conference at the Hague; MacCann runs through the list of demands for "general disarmament, arbitration in the case of international disputes," and ends with a call for "the greatest possible happiness of the greatest possible number" (196). Just as Stephen refuses to enlist in the nationalist cause in any direct way, he also rejects the zeal of MacCann's pacifism and internationalism, sensing that his enthusiasm too closely resembles a religious fervor. Stephen thus sardonically remarks about the Tsar, "If we must have a Jesus, let us have a legitimate Jesus" (198).
And yet Stephen's final resolve to leave Ireland (although the novel, with a light irony perhaps, ends with him still there) and hear the "tale of distant nations" (252) illustrates Stephen's view of the unboundedness of the artist, and his will to be cosmopolitan. His epigram that "the shortest way to Tara was via Holyhead" (250) neatly combines both Stephen's desire to be a specifically Irish artist (Tara being the ancient seat of Irish kings), but one integrated in and knowledgeable of the world at large (Holyhead is not in Ireland but a port in Wales); to be a national artist, Stephen implies, one must be international. And, one could include the inverse as a corollary: to be an international artist, one must be national. In Paris around the time of the publication of Ulysses, Joyce asserted as much in a meeting with a young Irish writer named Arthur Power, who proposed to follow non-Irish literary forms and subjects:
"You will never do it." Joyce said decisively, "you are an Irishman and you must write in your own tradition. Borrowed styles are no good. You must write what is in your blood and not in your brain." Power objected, as Joyce himself once might have done, that he was tired of nationality and wanted to be international, like all the great writers. "They were national first," Joyce commented, "and it was the intensity of their own nationalism which made them international in the end [...]. For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universa1" (Ellmann 505)
The cosmopolitan dimension of Joyce's work is by no means an uncontested feature. Christy Burns has attempted to ascribe a subtler and more accurate "gestural politics" to Joyce, which would account for his well-documented aversion to "politics" pure and simple without falling into the trap of regarding his writing as apolitical. (And indeed, Joyce himself is first on the scene, with his characterization of Gabriel Conroy in "The Dead," whose thought that "literature was above politics"  reads in the context of the story more as a lame evasion than a principled defense.) According to Burns, two distinct types of cosmopolitanism have been attributed to Joyce. In the early years of Joyce criticism the term was used not to signify a particular kind of politics but rather a lofty removal from politics altogether; however, in more recent criticism, the term "cosmopolitan" has been recuperated as a description of the strategy of the postcolonial "hybrid" artist who subversively adopts and reconfigures the practices of the colonizer. But Burns argues that Joyce's writing is compatible with neither version of cosmopolitanism. She argues, "Instead of invoking universalism, Joyce conveys a cacophonic perspective roped to particular drives, intensities, and--from his experience--a subject-position created by Irish culture, language, and lore. In all this, Joyce is acting as cosmopolitans do: to reach beyond the claims of religion, class, and nation. Yet this never erases the particularity of Joyce's own culturally constituted perspective" (144). Indeed not, but does cosmopolitanism necessarily imply such an erasure of particularity? Where Burns finds a crucial exception, I see an opportunity for conceptual clarification; the cosmopolitan subject is not deracinated or floating, but rather a subject with a particular history, an individual and even national perspective.
The history of internationalism since Kant has often addressed the question of whether internationalism implies the containment or annulment of difference, and with the exception of explicitly dystopian narratives of universal tyranny, it has consistently affirmed the individuality of each subject and the variety of nations, languages, and cultures. Indeed, Kant himself in his whole life never ventured more than a few miles from his home in Konigsberg--one would have to look hard to find a more particularized cosmopolitan. What Kant says about states in "Perpetual Peace" could easily be read in the same way about individuals; the international federation that he advocates is not a monolithic amalgam, but an institution of civil society among nations that maintains their plurality. Regarding any given nation, Kant writes, "Like a tree, it has its own roots, and to graft it on to another state as if it were a shoot is to terminate its existence as a moral personality and make it into a commodity" (94). However, Burns offers an important qualification to any kind of internationalist reading of Joyce, much as Joyce himself does by strategically placing the overzealous MacCann and his testimonial in A Portrait. Burns writes, "if Joyce's works indicate a strong suspicion of colonizing gestures, he also never fully erases hierarchy or imperialism for a fanciful view of the future. He is too wedded to a skeptical form of realism" (146, emphasis in original).4 On the other hand, that skepticism would equally apply to notions of national chauvinism as well, placing Joyce well within the orbit of a politics that counters that chauvinism with a more democratic vision.
The complexities of anti-colonial politics and the consequences of an overly narrow concept of Irishness are primary motifs in Joyce's urban epic, Ulysses. Joyce's decision to make his everyman, Leopold Bloom, Jewish underlines his commitment to an idea of a nation that, as Renan argued, functions as an open, public narrative that can include all sorts of heterogeneous threads. But Joyce's attitude toward Jews appears to have shifted somewhat from previous years. His handling of Bloom in Ulysses is more sympathetic than the representation of Jews in his earlier prose piece Giacomo Joyce, in which the speaker says of the Jews, "They love their country when they are quite sure which country it is" (9). This anti-Semitic comment shows Joyce appeared to think that there was something proto-internationalist about the Jews; the fact that in Ulysses Bloom is Jewish, Irish, and an internationalist in politics is thus not a surprise.
Readers of Ulysses interested in the novel's politics of nationalism are naturally drawn to the "Cyclops" episode, in which the single eye of Polyphemus becomes the single "I" of the episode's crass and anonymous narrator. In addition, the obnoxious and chauvinistic Citizen conveys a similarly cyclopean mono-perspective. With only one eye, depth perception is not possible, and the Citizen shows in his sweeping assertions an adherence to a national concept that indeed lacks a third dimension. Declan Kiberd, in his annotated version of Ulysses points out that Bloom, "as internationalist and socialist," is able to contrast his "liberationism" to the Citizen's "nationalism" as well as "show how closely Irish nationalist ideas are based on the English model which they claim to contest" (Kiberd 1057).
It is in "Cyclops" that Bloom offers his very simple definition of a nation: "A nation is the same people living in the same place" When challenged, he amusingly adds, "Or also living in different places" (12.1422-28). Bloom's difficulty in producing a convincing, off-the-cuff definition of a nation points towards the very tensions that are at work in any nation. And what does Bloom mean by "the same people living in the same place"? Surely he, as a Jewish Dubliner, would not be thinking in terms of religion or ethnic heritage. Rather, the commonality to which he refers is perhaps, as in Renan's description, one that arises from a public recognition of a national narrative that ties the various social groups together as a nation.
As Benedict Anderson writes, the unique feature of modern national identity is the "awareness of being embedded in secular, serial time" (205). Such an awareness is crucial, as it is the basis for establishing an ongoing national narrative that is connected to the historical (even mythical) past and oriented toward an indefinite future that will in turn, bit by bit, take its place in the history books and documentary records of the state. This national consciousness, before the advent of electronic media, was promulgated through the various organs of print capitalism--principally, newspapers and books. Ulysses emphasizes the role of the newspaper in modern nationhood by setting one of its episodes, "Aeolus; in a newspaper office, and it is in precisely this episode that we see one of the strongest (or windiest--in keeping with Aeolus, the Greek god of winds) statements of Irish nationalism--Professor MacHugh's recitation of John F. Taylor's speech at the "college historical society" (7.793), a speech that compares the destiny of Ireland to that of the Jews during their Egyptian slavery.
When Bloom refers to his being Jewish, saying "I belong to a race too ... that is hated and persecuted" (12.1467), he quickly draws the ire of the Citizen, who asks Bloom, "Are you talking about the new Jerusalem?" Bloom responds simply and directly, "I'm talking about injustice" (12.1473-74). When another interlocutor in the pub asserts that such injustice should be countered with force, the narrator describes how Bloom demurs:
--But it's no use, says he. Force, hatred, history, all that. That's not life for men and women, insult and hatred. And everybody knows that it's the very opposite of that that is really life. --What? says Alf. --Love, says Bloom. I mean the opposite of hatred. (12.1481-85)
In response to this declaration, the Citizen has nothing but sarcasm: "A new apostle to the gentiles, says the Citizen. Universal love" (12.1489). Although it has become a critical commonplace to characterize Bloom as the novel's everyman, a man of ordinary passions, ideas, and material circumstances, his comments in "Cyclops" are at times too rational, too idealistic. And as Joseph Valente points out, Bloom's use of the word "Love" immediately calls forth from the other, "intruding" voice in "Cyclops" a parodistic list of "love" phrases that inflates the word to banal meaninglessness ("The Politics of Joyce's Polyphony" 64). The ease with which the novel moves to satirize Bloom here is due to his idealistic turn of phrase, a mode of speaking that can be easily undercut.
But there is another question that any political reading of Ulysses must address: whether or not Bloom and his statements carry a special charge or occupy a privileged space in the novel. Simply because Bloom is the main character does not mean that his views are those of Ulysses; it might be the case that Joyce's modus operandi is to place voices in contest with each other without letting any one become the standard by which all the others are judged. Although there is some difficulty in maintaining such a reading with absolute consistency simply due to the amount of attention the novel lavishes on Bloom--it would be difficult to view his central position in Ulysses as utterly random--a political reading of the novel does not have to be a mere listing of Bloom's own opinions as they can more or less be extracted from the text. Even in "Cyclops" it would be misleading to characterize everything the Citizen says as ipso facto false or objectionable; many of the Citizen's bitter comments about British exploitation are echoed in Joyce's own letters and critical writing.
Emer Nolan, in her book James Joyce and Nationalism, has made an attempt to read Joyce's work as not as antithetical to Irish nationalism as it is sometimes made to be, and in pursuit of that goal has argued that accounts of "Cyclops" have been too one-sided. For Nolan, Bloom's evident pacifism is not an enlightened stance but rather a masochistic identification with the colonizer, and his position in "Cyclops," far from being principled, rather "implicitly condemns the Irish nationalists for making the kind of response to British violence which their powerlessness has constrained them to make" (101).
But this argument crucially underplays the role of anti-Semitism in the Citizen's version of national liberation (and surely the Citizen hasn't been "constrained" by the British into grumbling about Jews); even when the subject briefly emerges in Nolan's reading of "Cyclops" it is only in the context of accusing Bloom of an allegedly equivalent racism: "[Bloom] constructs a story of exclusion and racial purity as surely as the citizen does in his anti-Semitic rantings" (Nolan 116). Although Bloom does rely on a discourse of quasi-racial "types" (he says of his wife Molly, who was born in Spain, "She has the Spanish type" (16.879]), it is misleading to equate this kind of stereotyping with the anti-Semitism of the Citizen, which is accompanied by an aggrieved sense of victimhood that is absent in Bloom.
The "Jew" that punctuates the Citizen's statements in "Cyclops" holds the status of a "symptom" as described in the psychoanalytically attuned criticism of Slavoj Mac, who argues that anti-Semitism arises when "we impute to the 'Jew' an impossible, unfathomable enjoyment, allegedly stolen from us" (19). In Ulysses, Joyce develops a minor misunderstanding (everyone in Barney Kiernan's pub mistakenly thinks Bloom has just won a substantial sum of money on a horse named Throwaway) that allows him to tap into this resentful feeling that the Jews have "stolen" something from the community; moreover, the quip that finally pushes the Citizen over the edge does not slight the cause of Irish self-determination, but rather is a religious comment: "Christ was a Jew like me" (12.1808-09). To remove the emphasis on anti-Semitism in "Cyclops" is to downplay one of the principal objections to the Citizen and the chauvinistic nationalism he stands for, and to overlook the remark that sets him off at the end is to miss the intertwining of religion with Irish nationalism, a point that was crucial for Joyce.
Nolan's assertion that readings of "Cyclops" that interpret the Citizen negatively effectively endorse the notion of the "barbarism of the Irish" (104) surely exaggerates the consequences of such readings, as if nuance in Irish nationalist discourse were not possible, precisely the kind of Bloomian nuance that drives the narrator of "Cyclops" up the wall ("And Bloom with his but don't you see? and but on the other hand" [12.514-15]). In addition, the argument that to attack the Citizen is to stereotype the Irish is based on the questionable assumption that the Citizen in fact stands for the Irish (instead of merely one kind of Irish nationalist), one of the very things that Ulysses puts into question. I am in agreement with Nolan on one point at least, that Bloom's position is assimilable to that of an "internationalist" (118), although I do not see that position as effacing the Irish specificities of the novel, as Nolan implies is the inevitable result.
So how is it possible to read Ulysses politically without turning Bloom into the novel's (and Joyce's) mouthpiece? Some notion of Bakhtinian dialogism might suitably capture the "polyphony" of voices in the novel, as Joseph Valente has argued. Joyce's "dialogical method," according to Valente, "would thus seem to permit a sort of negative nationalism, that is, it enables him to demonstrate, with particular rhetorical force, how a false nationalism can only degrade Ireland" ("Polyphony" 63). The kind of internationalism that I am teasing out of Joyce's works would be correlative to this "negative nationalism."
Bakhtin describes the novel as a form that has the potential to capture a variety of different voices contending for mastery. He writes,
The prose writer does not purge words of intentions and tones that are alien to him, he does not destroy the seeds of social heteroglossia embedded in words, he does not eliminate those language characterizations and speech mannerisms (potential narrator-personalities) glimmering behind the words and forms, each at a different distance from the ultimate semantic nucleus of his work, that is, the center of his own personal intentions. (298)
We should not read Bloom as the vessel of the novel's meaning, but at the same time it is important to recognize that Bloom's position in the novel's Homeric substructure means that his particular discourse will resonate rather strongly, and through his character a certain voice is introduced into the novel that otherwise would have been conspicuously lacking. When Bloom espouses "the opposite of hatred" in his confrontation with the Citizen, his oppositional stance is not out of place in a novel that thrives on its own opposition to traditional literary forms. On the other hand (to use Bloom's phrase) it is important to see Bloom's voice in interaction with, and not in triumph over, the other voices of the novel.
The Citizen's aggressive question about the "new Jerusalem" that he asks Bloom in "Cyclops" returns in "Circe," an episode that enters a political and sexual vortex of hallucination and transformation. In this episode the political and social obstacles that have been meticulously detailed in the novel are overcome in the realm of fantasy, in an environment that simultaneously suspends fantasy's efficacy as "serious speech" but also gives it free rein to proliferate. Thus the episode is an undecidable play between illusion, delusion, and hidden truth. Bloom's apotheosis acquires a utopian, cosmopolitan dimension, as he proclaims the "new Bloomusalem, in the Nova Hibernia of the future" (15.1544-45):
BLOOM [...] Tuberculosis, lunacy, war and mendicancy must now cease. General amnesty, weekly carnival with masked licence, bonuses for all, esperanto the universal language with universal brotherhood. No more patriotism of barspongers and dropsical impostors. (15.1684-92)
But it is not only in the anarchic parade of "Circe" that the reader witnesses Bloom's political convictions. In the more sober ironies of "Ithaca; the mock-catechist explains why Bloom feels "recurrent frustration": "Because at the critical turningpoint of human existence he desired to amend many social conditions, the product of inequality and avarice and international animosity" (17.989-92). Even if Ulysses sticks to what Christy Burns called Joyce's "skeptical realism," it still allows Bloom's internationalism and pacifism to have its place--a place, I would argue, that is not entirely eroded by the novel's parodic method.
During Joyce's time in Zurich, when the first World War was raging, he came into contact with an Austrian teacher and writer named Siegmund Feilbogen, who in 1915 was publishing a journal entitled International Review. Joyce contributed several translations to the journal, and frequently spent time with Feilbogen (Ellmann 398). One of the main goals of the journal was to stake out an absolutely neutral position with regard to the warring states. The journal therefore declared:
We combat lying and the inciting of the peoples one against the other. We desire to oppose to the campaign of lies a war of minds which shall shatter the unholy legends that are forming around us. We shall refute pamphlets directed against the honour of any nation whatsoever. (Qtd. in Manganiello 151)
It was in the International Review in 1915 that Bertrand Russell, notorious for his opposition to the war, published his "Appeal to the Intellectuals of Europe." Russell argued that artists and intellectuals should work to "make the peace, when it comes, not a mere cessation due to weariness, but a fraternal reconciliation" (qtd. in Manganiello 152). As for Joyce, he reacted to the war in his pacifist poem "Dooleysprudence," which asks,
Who is the man when all the gallant nations run to war Goes home to have his dinner by the very first cablecar And as he eats his canteloup contorts himself in mirth To read the blatant bulletins of the rulers of the earth? (Joyce, Critical Writings 246).
Mr. Dooley is "the tranquil gentleman who won't salute the State / Or serve Nabuchodonesor or proletariat" (248). In this poem the pacifism that was a lifelong characteristic of Joyce is combined with his refusal to be a part of any group that demands conformity But the concern about war and the incessant strife of politics returns with a vengeance in Joyce's most radical literary experiment, Finnegans Wake.
The first question a naive reader might ask of Finnegans Wake is "what language is this in?" It is a question the book itself proposes to answer in its own joking way; it is "inplayn unglish" (609.15). English is ultimately the default language of the text, but its "plainness" is turned into "play" (thus "inplayn") and it is undermined and undone (thus "unglish") through the various techniques of puns, portmanteau-words, onomatopoeia, acrostics, and intrusions from other languages. The text, as Colin MacCabe writes, "hesitates between a minimal control which takes us from line to line and a riot of meanings which invoke relations along a heterogeneous set of levels (phonetic, semantic, inter-linguistic)" (143). To what extent can this "riot of meanings," considered, for the moment, purely from the standpoint of linguistic form, carry a political charge? Vicki Mahaffey argues that the emphasis on the "texture" of language in the Wake brings to the surface those "micropolitical" ways in which power and authority are diffused in a social system; she writes, "[Joyce] uses language in such a way that we are forced to explore the relationship between its texture, its rich metaphoric potential, and its textuality. We are asked to look at words, to hear them, to dissect and reassemble them, as well as use them as windows in the always voyeuristic attempt to gain knowledge" (190-91). As Mahaffey suggests, language is at its most ideological when it is assumed to be a neutral vehicle of meaning, and Joyce's focus in Finnegans Wake on language itself is by no means a retreat into a dazzling but apolitical artistic technique; rather, the Wake addresses the most fundamental stratum where meaning (and power) is generated.
One of Joyce's closest friends during the years when he was laboring over the Work in Progress was a journalist who in himself contained the transnational complexity that informed Joyce's work. Eugene Jolas had been born in New Jersey, but was raised in Europe, specifically in Forbach, a town in the border region of Lorraine, "in the twilight zone of the German and French languages," as Jolas puts it in his autobiography, the aptly titled Man from Babel (5). But as a teenager, Jolas returned to the country of his birth and, with tremendous resolve, carved out a career as a poet and journalist covering the cultural scene. Soon Jolas crossed the Atlantic again and in 1924 took up a position in the Paris office of the Chicago Tribune, taking over a column that had been given up by Ford Madox Ford. But it was his meeting with Joyce in 1926 and his founding of the influential modernist journal transition in 1927 that proved to be one of the decisive events in his literary career (the first item in the first issue of transition was the opening chapter of what would become Finnegans Wake). His work outside the literary sphere was notable as well: during the second World War, Jolas used his trilingualism--English, French, German--in his anti-Nazi propaganda work for the US Office of War Information, and he was instrumental in the establishment of the first post-war democratic newspaper in Germany, the Aachener Nachrichten. For his efforts in rebuilding German journalism after the war, Jolas was awarded the Medal of Freedom by the Allied provisional government in April 1946.
Throughout Man from Babel, Jolas repeatedly returns to the question of language. He argued in transition that Europe was suffering from a linguistic sickness that could only be addressed by what he called "The Revolution of the Word" (an article published in 1929). Jolas confesses in the Prologue to his autobiography that his multilinguism was not always a pleasant experience, and that he envisioned a linguistic solution to the problem that would have social and political consequences as well:
Language became a neurosis. I used three of the basic world languages in conversation, in poetry and in my newspaper work. I was never able to decide which of them I preferred. An almost inextricable chaos ensued, and sometimes I sought a facile escape by intermingling all three. I dreamed a new language, a super-tongue for intercontinental expression, but it did not solve my problem. I felt that the great Atlantic community to which I belonged demanded an Atlantic language. Yet I was alone, quite alone, and I found no understanding comrades who might have helped me in my linguistic jungle. (2)
Modernism has often been described as an international movement, and usually what is meant is that artists and writers from a variety of places came together in the modern metropolis (Paris, London, New York) and influenced each other. But in addition to operating on this biographical or personal level, internationalism is itself a theme of the literature of this period. The causes for this are not hard to find--they can be found in the technology that made the world smaller but also made wars more destructive, and they can be found in the transnational capitalism which was developing during this time. The idea that the nation and national identity are not the ultimate horizon for human society stretches back to the beginnings of the modern era (from the Renaissance legal and political philosopher Hugo Grotius, to the Abbe de St. Pierre's 1712 Projet pour rendre la paix perpetuelle, to Kant's "Perpetual Peace"); it was simply at this time that world events made that notion more obvious. After the war, Jolas still maintained his passion for an "international" language. He wrote,
The malady of language can be cured in the kinesis of our nomadic urges. We are going towards a glottological unity. ... Several years ago I called this potential tongue Atlantica, because I felt that it might bridge the continents and neutralize the curse of Babel. ... This language of the future would absorb Anglo-Saxon, Greco-Latin, Celtic, Indian, Spanish, French, Canadian French, German, Pennsylvanian German, Dutch, Hebrew, the Slavic and Slavonic languages, American slan-guage [sic] and all the elements of language now active on the American soil. ... Instead of having a paucity of words, it would have a multiplicity of words. It would be a monolithic structure of infinite richness and variety. It would be the language of the New Occident. (272-73)
I do not wish to argue for the proposition that Finnegans Wake somehow fulfills Jolas's wishes for a "super-tongue"--it is too formidably unique and idiosyncratic to ever function as a linguistic textbook--but that through its linguistic polysemy it forces its audience to become, in a sense, "international readers." The question of who is supposed to read Finnegans Wake has produced theories ranging from Umberto Eco's notion of an "ideal reader"--what the Wake refers to as the "ideal reader suffering from an ideal insomnia" (120.13-14)--to Jean-Michel Rabates more open-ended concept of the "genreader," who is simultaneously a generic and genetic reader (James Joyce and the Politics of Egoism 207).
This movement that the text imposes on the reader constitutes in part the political effect of the work; James Fairhall writes that "in the Wake [Joyce] created an English-based, international portmanteau language, not free from tradition but full of different traditions. ... The Wake thus points to the limits of any national language and of nationality itself" (60). In a rather strongly argued article, Philippe Sollers claims that Finnegans Wake is characterized by an "active transnationalism" (108). And Jolas, as one can imagine, could only react with enthusiasm to Joyce's linguistic transformations; as Rabate writes elsewhere about Joyce's "new reader," "nobody could be better qualified for this role than Eugene Jolas" ("Joyce and Jolas" 252). In the very first collection of articles about the Wake, An Exagmination, Samuel Beckett pointed out that Joyce had an artistic precedent in Dante, who wrote in a version of Italian "that could have been spoken by an ideal Italian who had assimilated what was best in all the dialects of his country." As for the language in Work in Progress, Beckett concludes that "an international phenomenon might be capable of speaking it, just as in 1300 none but an inter-regional phenomenon could have spoken the language of the Divine Comedy" (30-31, emphasis in original).
One of the more public forms of linguistic internationalism in the first few decades of the twentieth century was the project, undertaken by several separate groups, to construct an artificial international language. Both Joyce and Jolas viewed such efforts rather dimly; Jolas reports that Joyce "spoke ... with a certain derision of such auxiliary languages as Esperanto and Ido, which seemed to him to be without possibilities of any kind" (168); however, Joyce did consider Esperanto interesting enough to include in the Wake. Despite his skepticism about the prospects for such auxiliary languages ("auxiliary" because they were meant not to replace already existing languages but rather to function as a common tongue for scholarly and scientific communities, foreign diplomats, and world travelers), Joyce, as we have seen, has Bloom proclaim Esperanto and "universal brotherhood" in "Circe"; even with the ironic mock-grandeur of the passage, it nevertheless provides a link between questions of language and the question of war. And in Finnegans Wake, Joyce brings into the web of associations one of the leading figures of the international auxiliary language movement, the Danish linguist Otto Jespersen.
In 1901, a group of linguists, who had produced what they viewed as an improved version of Esperanto (easier to learn, more logical and consistent, easier to pronounce) that they called Ido or Linguo Internaciona formed an association that they called a Delegation pour lAdoption d'une Langue Auxiliaire Internationale. The declaration that they signed contained the guiding premise for the new language's development: "maximum internationality" (Couturat et al. 75). In an article for the 1910 volume in which this declaration was published, Jespersen gives an intriguing example of how this artificial language was built--not out of thin air, but by using several common European languages in order to, as it were, distill a new language that would be situated at their nexus. He offers the example (perhaps not randomly chosen) of the word "soul." Using the English word is ruled out because the new language does not allow diphthongs (they confuse pronunciation); re-spelling it as "sol" will not work either, as this trespasses too closely on the word for "alone"--the obvious solo. The German word Seele is not, Jespersen argues, common enough, and the French word ame is too close to the word for "love," which is derived from the Latin amor. The Latin root for "soul," anim-, is the best candidate, Jespersen concludes, but even here there is a potential problem: forming an adjective on anim- results in animal, which would, obviously, produce confusion. Jespersen concludes that a little alteration in anim- is thus necessary, resulting in the new international word for "soul," anmo. Jespersen comments, "This example will show how complicated the task frequently is of finding an international word which will give rise to no confusion or misunderstanding" ("Linguistic Principles" 33).
Joyce, whose overriding goal in Finnegans Wake was not logical transparency but a complex, associative density that brings out the musicality of words, operates by a method that is like Jespersen's but without his strictly imposed conditions of ease of pronunciation and lack of ambiguity. Thus, instead of having to distill some simple, international word for "thunder," the Wake can simply pile on the word for "thunder" in a medley of languages including French, Greek, Italian, Irish, Hindustani, Danish, and others (3.15-17). Or nine different languages can be summoned to create a mega-word that says "shut the door!" (257.27-28). As Joyce remarked to Stefan Zweig years before he even began work on the Wake, "I'd like a language which is above all languages, a language to which all will do service. I cannot express myself in English without enclosing myself within a tradition" (qtd. in Ellmann 397).
During the time when the Wake was being written, Jespersen was still active in the Linguo Intern aciona movement; he had been involved in the creation of another related group, the International Auxiliary Language Association ([ALA), founded in 1924. In his article "Interlinguistics," Jespersen quotes from the 1930 [ALA declaration that called for "a universal auxiliary language, simple in form, politically neutral and destined to facilitate relations between peoples" (111). Jespersen defines "interlinguistics" as a "branch of the science of language which deals with the structure and basic ideas of all languages with a view to the establishing of a norm for interlanguages, i.e. auxiliary languages destined for oral or written use between people who cannot otherwise make themselves understood by means of their mother tongues" (95).
Joyce brings a quotation from Jespersen's "An International Language" into his text in the pages leading up to the trial of Festy King (I.4), which is an episode in the Wake that specifically calls attention to the lack of a common language, in this case referring to the split between colonized subject and colonizer. The Festy King trial recalls the 1882 murder trial, in the western Irish province of Maamtrasna, of one Myles Joyce, who spoke only Irish and was thus at a decided disadvantage in the English-speaking court. Joyce, who no doubt empathized with his namesake, had written about this predicament in 1907 in an article for the Piccolo della Sera entitled "Ireland at the Bar." He wrote, "The court had to resort to the services of an interpreter. The questioning, conducted through the interpreter, was at times comic and at times tragic" (197). The Festy King trial in Finnegans Wake operates, as one critic puts it, according to the principle of "simultaneous translation" (Valente, James Joyce and the Problem of Justice 255). This episode demonstrates Joyce's affinity for Myles Joyce as a beleaguered defendant as well as his linguistic distance from him, as a master not only of the colonizer's language but several others as well. By playing up the scene in court in which the law addresses the defendant in a language he cannot understand, the Wake describes the gap between languages as, in this instance, a power differential. Not being able to speak the "right" language means not having access to certain social goods. In a sense, the Wake attempts to occupy that abyss between languages, to create a universal translatability at the same time as describing a universal incomprehension.
It is thus fitting that Jespersen's idea for an international common language should make its appearance at this point in the book. The quote comes from his text An International Language, in which Jespersen, quoting another linguist, argues that "the ideal way of constructing an a posteriori language would be to make the root words monosyllabic ... and to make the grammar a priori in spirit" (qtd. in McHugh 83). The Wake takes this prescription and runs it into an apparent description of Wake-language: "the Nichtian glossery which purveys aprioric roots for aposteriorious tongues this is flat language at any sinse of the world" (83.10-12). The phrase "is nat language" seems to say "international language" while crossing it out in the same gesture: "is not language."
Notwithstanding Joyce's wry treatment of Jespersen, references to internationalism are strewn throughout the Wake. Although Joyce never indicated any enthusiasm for such an institution, the League of Nations is transformed in ALP's "mamafesta" into the "Link of Natures" (106.10). In addition, the internationalist motto of "perpetual peace" is connected to the dawn that will eventually close the narrative (to the extent that anything can be closed in a book that insists on its circularity): the summary of action in "The Mime of Mick, Nick and the Maggies" ends with a description of the "Magnificent Transformation Scene showing the Radium Wedding of Neid and Moorning and the Dawn of Peace, Pure, Perfect and Perpetual, Waking the Weary of the World" (222.17-20). And the word "international" itself becomes "internatural" (128.27) and "enternatural" (240.14).
This last play on words seems to derive from one of the main sources of the Wake, Vico's New Science, which concludes with a description of an "Eternal Natural Commonwealth" (483). In the original Italian, which is what Joyce likely read, Vico refers first to "un' Eterna Natural Legge Regia" ("An Eternal and Natural 'Royal Law" Scienza Nuova 814; New Science 442)--a "law" that demonstrates how nations finally come to rest in a state of monarchy that safeguards individual rights. Soon after, he uses almost the same phrase to usher in his conclusion, to which he gives the title "Sopra un' Eterna Repubblica Naturale" ("On an Eternal Natural Commonwealth" Scienza Nuova 861; New Science 483). Here Vico refers to a "true and natural aristocracy" (New Science 483) as the best possible form of government. Why then does Joyce transform this "eternal natural" law into the term "international"?
Vico does not appear to have had at his disposal a concept for internationalism, but at one point in the New Science he notes a similarity between aristocracies and international federations, with reference to the Achaean League from antiquity:
This part of the world [Italy] cultivates the sciences, and therefore has far more democracies than are found in the others. Indeed, the recurrence of the same public benefits and needs has revived the form of the Aetolian and Achaean leagues. The Greeks established such alliances out of necessity, since they had to protect themselves against the enormous power of the Romans. In just this way, both the Swiss cantons and the United Provinces or States of Holland have organized several free and democratic cities into aristocracies, which unite them in a perpetual league in both peace and war. (479) (5)
Vico contends that this state of confederation is the "final form of civil states" (479), but, like an aristocracy, is "troubled by ... anxious suspicions" (479). Vico's cyclical sense of history prompts the observation that if confederation is the final form, "it must also have been the first form, namely, that of the aristocracies of the fathers" (479). Vico claims that pure democracies never last, because they become corrupt or result in paralyzing internal conflict; as a result, he argues, a monarch always emerges as a figure who is able to restore order to the public sphere. But this is not tyranny, Vico argues, for "the very form of monarchy confines the will of the monarch," who "must keep the people content and satisfied with their religion and their natural liberty. For without the people's universal satisfaction and contentment, monarchies are neither long-lived nor secure" (487). Vico then adds on to this theory the further notion that these individual monarchies will be led to form confederations, which resemble, in his view, the very first form of human government.
The kind of cyclical history that Vico describes here is not a cycle that repeats each stage without variation; rather, he notes how one period of history bears a structural similarity to another. The primordial first government, a group of fathers, is recalled (but not repeated in exact detail) at a time when heads of state band together to form leagues. A confederation, a political association between nations in which they agree to combine their interests, is the means by which internationalism comes into being. Kant, in his "Perpetual Peace," describes a "pacific federation" that "does not aim to acquire any power like that of a state, but merely to preserve and secure the freedom of each state in itself" (104, emphasis in original). By placing these confederations as the last (and first) terms in a cyclical history, Vico places an emphasis on international formations at the end of his New Science. Although quite often readings of the four books of Finnegans Wake emphasize the final book's position as a turning back or "recourse" to an original chaos, I would like to propose that Joyce responded to Vico's placement of confederations in his system in the New Science by including a more explicit motif of internationalism in the final book of the Wake.
Although the "Ricorso" is the section of the Wake that loops back to the beginning, there is also, I would argue, palimpsestically overlaid on it a more linear framework. This is a book, as Joyce always insisted, about the night; however, at the end we are not returned to the beginning of the night but rather witness the beginning of a new day. Book IV begins with the call of "Surrection!" (593.2-3), which could be either resurrection or insurrection, perhaps one that would reform the "old breeding bradsted culminwillth of natures" (593.12). Soon after, we get a Joycean rooster, heralding the dawn: "Conk a dook doo" (595.30). The dawn is accompanied by a growing sense of the world as a world; the West meets the East, "In that earopean [European, ear open] end meets Ind" (598.15-16), and the papal phrase "Urbi et Orbi" ("To the City and World") becomes the sentence "The urb it orbs" (598.2). The world described here is, of course, not far from irony, the same kind of irony that attended Bloom's apotheosis in "Circe." But in the following passage, like Vico, Joyce seems to describe some sort of final civil state. Beginning at the beginning, with "primeval conditions," we witness the thunderbolt ("fulminance" recalls the Latin fulmen, which means "thunderbolt") that initiates the establishment of human civilization, and move through the basic human institutions of weddings ("nuptialism"), burial ("sepulture"), and religion ("providential divining"), until we arrive at a state of settled equality and equilibrium:
Ere we are! Signifying, if tungs may tolkan, that, primeval conditions having gradually receded but nevertheless the emplacement of solid and fluid having to a great extent persisted through intermittences of sullemn fulminance, sollemn nuptial-ism, sallemn sepulture and providential divining, making possible and even inevitable, after his a time has a tense haves and havenots hesitency, at the place and period under consideration a socially organic entity of a millenary military maxi-tory monetary morphological circumformation in a more or less settled state of equonomic ecolube equalobe equalib equilibbrium. (599.8-18)
What seems to be informing this passage is the sensibility that Joyce had developed during his time in Italy when he showed an interest in revolutionary socialism. In the word "circumformation" the passage suggests a formation that will encompass the world, but of course also refers to the circularity of Finnegans Wake itself. But this "millenary" state does not appear to shrink the world; rather, the "equilibbrium" proposed here is connected to "a farbiger pancosmos" (613.11-12), which is both a far bigger world and a more colorful one (in German, farbig means "colored").
Yet in this imagined dawn, the revolution (a word that can signify both a turning around and a breaking free) does not destroy the world in the name of another; the vision here is utterly pacific: "Yet is no body present here which was not there before. Only is order othered. Nought is nulled" (613.13-14). Book IV describes the breaking of day, and in doing so seems to suggest that the social "order" will be "othered". Along the same lines, the reference to a "farbiger pancosmos" suggests that the world has not here reverted to a primordial, chaotic state, but has rather opened up into something new. Finnegans Wake began with a tour of the accoutrements of war in the "Willingdone museyroom," but in its closing pages there is a pervasive feeling of peace. It may be the peace of death, the peace of oblivion--the river flowing into the sea. But alongside it is the peace that might come from the overcoming of war and national divisiveness. Thus, at the end, Finnegans Wake delicately and lyrically evokes the international spirit that weaved through Joyce's entire career. It was a bitterly ironic turn of events that the publication of this work was overshadowed by the most destructive and catastrophic war in human history.
While we might be tempted to view our world as closer to that described in the Wake, it is perhaps important to view the text not as a program for language or political action (how could it be?) but rather as a permanent challenge to our attempts to fix meaning and delineate boundaries--and therein lies its political thrust. Joyce confronts the reader with the way in which language is used to establish hierarchies and enforce power. Beckett said in his early essay about Joyce, "His writing is not about something; it is that something itself' (27, emphasis in original). While I would not want to unplug the referentiality of the text to such a degree, I would contend in the spirit of Beckett's claim that the language of the Wake is itself central to the book's politics. In gathering so much difference into itself; in undermining every master signifier, the Wake is entirely in keeping with Joyce's lifelong refusal to countenance a narrowly defined Irish nationalism. The wonder of it is that Joyce manages to do this while attending to the complex particularities of Irish history and myth. Joyce's internationalism does not erase Ireland in favor of a monolithic or homogenized world; rather, it shows how the boundaries of the nation, just like the boundaries of language, are continually shifting. In Finnegans Wake, the nation is not just structured like a language, it is a language, teeming with contradictions and heterogeneity, perpetually open, particularized but endlessly plastic. The nationalism of the Wake is the kind that thrives on internationalism.
The movements of capital have certainly made the world more global, but I would argue that today's transnational capitalism, while certainly increasing the worldwide flow of material and information, is ultimately not compatible with the politically progressive vision of internationalism of the Wake and indeed Joyce's work as a whole. Joyce, in his final text, challenges his readers to understand history, politics, and language to an extraordinary (impossible, perhaps) degree of fineness. If, as Benedict Anderson argued, newspapers helped to forge national consciousness by creating the awareness of a group moving through time, Finnegans Wake, in its encyclopedic allusions, historical excavations, and linguistic playfulness attempts to raise, without ever losing sight of Ireland, an international consciousness.
Eugene Jolas, in his struggle to define and create his dream language, made tangible a new element of the modernist zeitgeist--an internationalism not of artists, but of art. However, just as internationalism has remained hazy and difficult to realize in the political realm, so was Jolas's dream language perhaps just a "facile" imagining (2). The same could be said of the more practical efforts of Jespersen and others to establish an international auxiliary language--Ido is now a historical curiosity, and English is the de facto global language. But in the Wake, Joyce provided an alternative to Jolas; instead of a "dream language an ideal singularity, we get a dream-language, a riotous multiplicity, based on English but infused with the babble (or Babel) of other languages. It was through this linguistic experiment that Joyce could traverse the "nightmare of history," emerging--if only temporarily and in the realm of art--beyond the reach of the Nation and at the dawn of the New.
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--. "The Politics of Joyce's Polyphony." New Alliances in Joyce Studies. Ed. Bonnie Kime Scott. Newark: U of Delaware P, 1988.
Vico, Giambattista. New Science. Trans. David Marsh. London: Penguin, 1999.
--. Opere, Principj di Scienza Nuova. 1744. 3rd ed. Milano: Riccardo Ricciardi, 1953.
Zizek Slavoj. For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor. London: Verso, 1991.
(1.) For more on the specifically cosmopolitan dimension of Joyce's work, see Valente, "James Joyce and the Cosmopolitan Sublime."
(2.) In keeping with critical convention, Finnegans Wake will be cited according to page number and line number.
(3.) Ulysses will be cited according to episode number and line number as found in the edition of Hans Walter Gabler.
(4.) Burns cannot help but have recourse to the term "cosmopolitan" to which she has seemingly taken exception; in her book's epilogue, she makes the insightful comment that Joyce's ambivalence about the Irish was itself Irish, and continues, "Joyce finally understands this tensional perspective as a cosmopolitan movement of sympathies that crosses the space between the subject's situated position and his or her curiosity about more worldly culture, history, and events" (170).
(5.) The Achaean League was also analyzed favorably by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton in their advocacy for the ratification of the United States Constitution ("Federalist No. 18").
UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON-DOWNTOWN
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|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2012|
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