The meta-Utopian metatext: the deconstructive dreams of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.
Ulysses is a novel of immense and endless structuration, but one that resists structure itself, which eschews the closure and determinism of stereotypically Utopian mythologization. Joyce's work acknowledges that we continue to cling to our Utopian dreams, despite all the material evidence. Yet Joyce advances a mode of Utopianism that, in recognizing the tensions inherent to its relationship with the real, not only self-consciously deconstructs but also therefore sustains itself. If the Utopian breaks down upon its contact with material history, then perhaps by inscribing--and, more importantly, integrating--its antithesis and its own absurdity within itself, it might achieve a balance and a self-awareness sufficient to sustain it beyond the moment of its conception, the revolutionary or revelatory moment, and to translate its abstraction into the very materiality that had originally threatened to extinguish it. Joyce reveals Utopian literature's potential for self-deconstruction while at the same time rehearsing the hypocrisy and tyranny of literalist political interpretations of that discourse. Ulysses explores this process at a literary-political level; but it is Finnegans Wake that, in its dissolution of the dictatorship of the aesthetic, enacts the innate failure of the project of perfectibility at the level of language itself.
I. James Joyce and the Epic
It may be argued that Joyce's work can be seen either as the defining text of a real and historically grounded nationhood or, conversely, as the defining text of an imaginary and ahistorical nationhood. It may in other words be viewed as either epical or Utopian--and as addressing a modernist predilection for either of those forms. But it may also be argued that Joyce's work might paradoxically be seen as both of these things and that Joyce's writing is able to suspend and maintain such contradictory positions in a synthetic harmony through its uses of ambiguity and irony. Indeed, it might also be argued that Joyce herein offers the conditions of possibility of a realizable and sustainable mode of Utopianism--a Utopianism that inscribes its own opposites (the dystopian, the anti-Utopian, and the real) and its own impossibility within a continuously dynamic dialectic. Yet how might this mode of Utopianism function in relation to the traditions of the genre, and how might it afford a reinterpretation (or even a revitalization) of those traditions?
The great works of literary modernism tend to boast something of an epic quality. The Waste Land is the epic that elaborates the state of European culture after World War I; A la recherche du temps perdu, the epic of the bourgeois salon; Ezra Pound's Cantos, the epic of all human civilization. It is also not unusual to find James Joyce's Ulysses depicted as an epic. Joyce himself dubbed it an epic of the Irish and Jewish races--although in the same passage he also referred to it as his "damned monster-novel." (1) One might note more recently, for example, Kieran Keohane's study or the introduction to Colin McCabe's article on the centenary of Bloomsday (2)--both of which describe Joyce's work as epic. However, this sense of epicality often seems somewhat at odds with the more problematic and deconstructive implications of Joyce's work.
Just as journalists have adopted the term biblical to describe natural disasters of any significance, so the term epic tends, in critical and popular circles alike, to be grievously misused. There is, for instance, a tendency to define epicality as a measure of length rather than as a generic status. The phrases epic proportions and epic scale suggest that size matters, but for once it really does not. James Cameron's Titanic (1997), for example, is certainly a lengthy film, but it is surely not an epic. Length of text and size of boat are irrelevant: Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1925) is, by contrast, not a particularly long film (or as large a craft); but it is, it seems, an epic. Gilgamesh is a lot shorter than The Da Vinci Code--but it is not Dan Brown's text that deserves the epithet.
At the age of twenty-one, James Joyce characterized the epical as that mode of art "whereby the artist sets forth the image in mediate relation to himself and others." (3) One might refine this sweeping definition to suggest that those "others" to whom Joyce refers should constitute, within the epic form, a hegemonic mass to which the individual is mythologically, theologically, or historically subsumed and by which that individual's subjectivity is determined. An epic is the defining narrative of the inception or consolidation of the zeitgeist of nationhood--one that subsumes individualism and humanity to that nationhood, to that destiny, in mythological, religious, political, or historical terms. Each nation (each national age: each era that itself defines nationhood) should have one: Ancient Greece boasted Homer's Iliad; imperial Rome, Virgil's Aeneid. Revolutionary England was memorialized, posthumously and allegorically, by Paradise Lost; postrevolutionary Russia recalled its birth in Potemkin; post-Civil War America relived its struggle into being in The Birth of a Nation (1915).
Yet D. W. Griffith's film raises the question of from whose perspective a text is defined as epic. Woodrow Wilson may have famously judged it "'history written with lightning" (4)--but would it also represent the truth of history to an African American audience--was it the birth of their nation? The valorization of discourse as "truth" is, as Foucault always reminds us, the province of power; and the notion of nationhood is similarly determined by ideology. Martin Luther King may have dreamed in August 1963 that one day his nation would "rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed"--but Malcolm X understood that there could be nations within nations.
The nation is a shifting concept, an ideological construct, a master signifier whose function is to maintain or to bring into being its own referent. "A nation is the same people living in the same place," says Leopold Bloom--"or also living in different places." (5) In these terms a nation is the historical alibi for the incoherence of geography: it is the invention of an identity and a rationale for a place or population without a predetermined identity or rationale. The nation of the epic is as such the diametric opposite of the Utopian space, a dreamscape that invokes a radical rationalization of the body politic without actual people or place. Utopianism's mythic delineations reveal historical nationhood's own lack of definability and suggest that such teleological definition may be incompatible with historical materiality. If, after all, Utopianism is a manifesto, then it is one of the imagination, one without contemporary or coterminous manifestation. Utopianism exposes the indeterminacy of nationhood, an immanent uncertainty that echoes the theories of Werner Heisenberg or, for that matter, of James Joyce. In the work of James Joyce, that avatar of ambiguity, we find, as Wicht writes, that "national identity is created by the discriminating reinterpretation and refashioning of selected historical data and cultural discourses" (6)--nationhood is not an absolute but a fluid and culturally subjective mode of positioning.
The epic, of course, denies this: it marks itself as definitive, authentic, and original--as historical in its scope and historic in itself. Should Tolkien's work, for example, though massive and world-building, be defined (as it has been) as epic? Only insofar as we can no longer distinguish between material history and the structurations of fantasy--a capacity that, as Baudrillard has warned, we may in effect have lost. In the fashion of Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will (1935), Tolkien's Lord of the Rings--like its successor, Star Wars (1977)--represents a pseudo-epic, the narrative of an idealized and false consciousness that reflects a counterfeit and syncretistic history, a mode of invention and hybridization that provides a foundation for the purportedly original, pure and true. It is as genuine as Baudrillard's twenty-first-century hyperreality, "a world [that] no longer has any need to be true. Or rather it is true, absolutely true, in the sense that nothing any longer stands opposed to it." (7)
Yet perhaps all epics are in this manner fraudulent: not merely fictive but founded upon an invented mythology. What else was Virgil's Aeneid than a propagandistic argument in support of the divine provenance of the golden age of Augustan Rome? What other has the Torah become (for some) than a sophistic legitimation of the nation of Israel? The Utopian text, as a satire upon this nation-building epicity (and thus, in its unadulterated form, upon itself), announces this innate duplicity of the epic form. It is a mode of mock or meta-epic: but it is also, potentially, a mode of mock or meta-Utopianism itself.
The Utopian text resembles the pseudo-epic insofar as it founds itself upon an alternative or fantastical teleology--what Bacon, in an allusion to More, calls a "Feigned Commonwealth." (8) Yet, in that it distances itself from contemporary materiality and constantly emphasizes that distance, the Utopian text is, in its classic literary expressions (if not in its fundamentalist manifestations and political appropriations), alert to its unrealizably fictive nature. This text is beyond history: "it is mostly in periods of turmoil ... that people care much about history," writes Morris. It is beyond geography: "'He never thought of telling us whereabouts in the New World Utopia is," writes More--"no reference to Utopia exists in any geographical work." It is beyond epistemology, beyond the realm, that is, of current knowledge: "that part of the South Sea was utterly unknown," writes Bacon. (9)
Jacques Derrida has suggested that God is that which sees everything and yet which cannot be seen: "He holds me in his gaze ... while remaining inaccessible to me" (10)--for, as God explains to Moses in Exodus 33:20, no one may see him and live. Utopias remain similarly invisible (yet envisionable); they supersede contemporary epistemologies. Francis Bacon--a writer for whom knowledge, of course, was power--therefore writes that his New Atlantians "know well most part of the habitable world, and are ... unknown"--"they ... knew much of our state ... yet we ... never heard of the least inkling or glimpse of this island." (11) This, adds Bacon, is "a conditioner and propriety of divine powers and beings, to be hidden and unseen to others, and yet to have others open and as in a light to them." (12) In this respect, the Utopian mode might be seen to resemble the work, at once omnisciently encyclopedic and frustratingly obscurantist, of James Joyce.
Where therefore, within this dichotomy between the Utopian and the epic, might Ulysses stand? Is Joyce's work, published the year of the creation of the Irish Free State, the defining text of his nation, a narrative of historical determinism, of destiny--truly the created conscience of the artist's race? Or is it a Utopian text--a text that speaks not to history but to a posthistoricality--a text not of any nation but repeatedly and explicitly (as for More, Morris, and even Butler) a depiction of no-place, a realm beyond the possibilities of geopolitical and geographical integrity but also beyond the epic's sense of theological and historical determinism?
Of course, in a way, it is neither: it is a bourgeois comic novel, an unlikely heir to the realist tradition. Yet Ulysses continues to address both epic and Utopianist genres and, in its ironization or deconstruction of heroic and absolutist idioms, reveals aporias and anomalies common to both. Ulysses invokes an epic "Everyman" (13)--an Odysseus who remains at the same time a no one, a noman--like Odysseus himself, to the Cyclops: "my name is Nobody" (14)--a "Nayman of Noland." (15) Joyce's "Noland" might as such appear at first sight, in its satirical self-problematization, closer to Swift's remote nations or to Butler's Erewhon than to Morris's Nowhere or to More's seminal domain. (Joyce's fondness for Swift is well documented, but we might also note his interest in Butler, as reported by Richard Ellmann.) (16)
Yet, if no man is an island, that island may turn out, after all, to be Utopia. Let us not forget that More's own herald of Utopia, Raphael Nonsenso, has "seen even more of the world than Ulysses" and is said to resemble "Ulysses, or even Plato." (17) More's narrator is Raphael, an angel (a messenger) not only of Christianity but also of Judaism (and, for that matter, of Islam)--a hybrid not unlike a Joycean "[Jewgreek ... greekjew" (18)--a Christian-Platonic everyman and noman--a wandering Ulysses. This figure of allsense and of nonsense is not so very different from Leopold Bloom himself. He, like Bloom, is a wanderer and a dreamer, a fantasist of epic and Utopian proportions; like Bloom, he is an outsider, a man of mixed and uncertain provenance; his narrator, like Bloom's, takes Ulysses as his model; he is, like Bloom, "interested in philosophy" and "quite a scholar," (19) and yet, like Bloom, he remains a vessel of nonsense, a Joycean "Noman." (20) The similarities between these paragons of complexity and problematization may reveal commensurate parallels between their respective texts.
Like Joyce's work, More's Utopia exposes the ambiguities and impossibilities of its own idealizations. Its promised land is both a terra incognita and a terra nullius--a no-place of Ademus--"Nopeople"--and of Achoriorum populus, the people of "Nolandia." (21) More's Utopia is hardly, in the popular and simplistic sense, Utopian at all: It may be the prototype of Utopia, but it is hardly its stereotype. If Joyce's work might be seen as Utopian (rather than Utopian--in the tradition, that is, of More's work rather than of its cliche), it should be in precisely the same paradoxical fashion. Indeed, More's imaginary domain might recognize itself in Leopold Bloom's reflections on the heavens: "a Utopia ... a mobility of illusory forms immobilised in space ... a past which possibly had ceased to exist as a present before its probable spectators had entered actual present existence." (22) Indeed, Bloom's view of Utopia is as provisional, as ambiguous, and therefore as dynamic as that modern Utopia imagined by that seminal science fiction writer (and fan of Joyce) H. G. Wells, a Utopia that "'is not to be a unanimous world any more, it is to have all and more of the mental contrariety we find in the world of the real." (33)
2. Three Utopian Contemporaries: Wells, Bloch, and Marcuse
To what extent, then, does Joyce's work fit the Utopian model advanced by such literary contemporaries as H. G. Wells? H. G. Wells for one understood that his model in A Modern Utopia (1905) "must shape not as a permanent state but as a hopeful stage leading to a long ascent of stages." (24) As envisaged in A Modern Utopia, Wells's perfect world does not attempt to "change the nature of man." (25) Thus Wells argues that the Morean or Platonic imposition upon individuals of a totalizing schematization--what George Orwell characterizes as the wish to "freeze history" (26)--creates an unsustainably monologistic realm. Wells's Utopia does not negate the past; it embraces and consolidates the dialectical process: "Utopia too must have a history." (27) What remains then is a Utopia that is resolutely material, historical, and dialogical, not the perfected state of fundamentalism but the aspirant condition of a critical humanism.
Chris Ferns has pointed out that "Wells is clearly aware of the problematic character of utopian narrative." (28) Perhaps the most significant such problem Ferns notes is that Wells's Modern Utopia is necessarily written from a perspective of radical alterity rather than one of possible futurity. Well's Utopia has a history, certainly, but it is an entirely different history from that of our world. For Ferns, then, "the narrator's admission that such a utopia could only have emerged from a wholly different utopian history" leads us to the conclusion that "for utopia to exist ... it must already have existed: even while Wells attempts to imagine a society capable of change, he severs its link with the world which utopia proposes to alter for the better--his own." (29) Thus Wells's Utopian vision falls foul of the primary criticism that, according to Paul Ricoeur, is repeatedly leveled against the genre: "'utopia ... is seen to represent a kind of social dream without concern for the real first steps necessary for movement in the direction of a new society ... a way of escaping the logic of action through a construct outside history." (30) Whatever claims to material historicity Wells's Modern Utopia may make, its is an alternative historicity, one eventually irreconcilable with our own.
This may be one reason why, when Wells attempts to elaborate a Utopian vision directly out of material human history, he ends up constructing a world closer to the dystopias of Huxley or Orwell. Published four years before A Modern Utopia, H. G. Wells's Anticipations (1901) advances a much harsher perspective upon the future. Anticipations predicts that the end of the twentieth century would witness the rise of "a naturally and informally organized, educated class ... a New Republic dominating the world." (31) Wells's New Republic is no frozen Utopia: its founders "will not conceive of it as a millennial paradise, a blissful inconsequent stagnation, but as a world state of active ... human beings." (32) Yet this dynamic futurity seems starkly less heterogeneous than Wells's Modern Utopia; his New Republic's approaches to the uneducable classes range from the eugenicist through to the genocidal: the
New Republic "will tolerate no dark corners where the people of the Abyss may fester.... [I]t is their portion to die out and disappear." (33) These anticipations in many ways anticipate the unsentimental vision of the process of the establishment of the hegemonic and homogeneous Modern State that Wells presents in The Shape of Things to Come (1933). Here Wells portrays the apparent inevitability of the violent, uncompromising, and totalizing imposition of a perfected, absolutist state--a "pitilessly benevolent" and "oppressively puritanical" regime: (34) "The new government meant to rule not only the planet but the human will.... There was now to be one faith only in the world, the moral expression of the one world community." (35)
James Joyce appears to be attempting a vision that balances the comedic optimism of Wells's Modern Utopia with the historical realism of Anticipations and The Shape of Things to Come (while at the same time eschewing the irretrievable fantasization of the former text and the impending dystopianism of the latter texts). Joyce roots his Utopianism in a sense of material reality that often inscribes a satire upon that Utopianism within the Utopianist position. Joyce was clearly not as averse as Wells to the festering people of the abyss and the corporeal sensuality of their lives; indeed, in response to Wells's complaints of olfactory indulgence, Joyce wrote: "'There once was an author named Wells / Who wrote about science not smells." (36) Indeed, in 1928, Wells wrote to Joyce delineating their differences: "The frame of my mind is a world wherein a big unifying and concentrating process is possible.... Your mental existence is obsessed by a monstrous system of contradictions." (37)
If Joyce's work embraces contradictions, it does so by suspending them within a dynamic (and perhaps transitory) harmony reminiscent of Stephen Dedalus's depiction of Aquinas's notion of consonantia in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: "complex, multiple, divisible, separable, made up of its parts, the result of its parts and their sum, harmonious." (38) Stephen's meditations upon Aquinas perhaps parallel those of his contemporary, the German Jewish Utopianist Ernst Bloch: "Thomism is eminently aesthetic, balances the world, and only gives up the Hellenic [or, we might add, Wellsian] unisubstantiality of being ... in order to replace it with a more delightful construct of a heterogeneous harmony." (39) Aquinas supposed that divine and human goodness might raise humanity "above nature" (40)--and Bloch similarly proposes a Utopian transcendence of "the husk-real of physical nature" (41)--but Joyce's vision remains steeped in natural materiality. Thomist idealism is always for Joyce materialized and corporealized: the aesthetic pluralism of Finnegans Wake's Plurabelle--the "bringer of Plurabilities"--is always grounded by the reality of "St Tomach." (42)
Ernst Bloch started writing his Spirit of Utopia in 1915, the year after Joyce began writing Ulysses, (43) published the book's first edition in 1918, and published a revised edition in 1923, the year after Ulysses's publication. Indeed, Leopold Bloom's Utopian daydreams in Ulysses might be seen as mirroring Bloch's own high-flown aspirations toward a "'world of the soul, the external, cosmic function of utopia." (44) To some extent, then, we might envisage a convergence of Bloch's and Bloom's journeys--but, in contrast to Bloch's sincerity and literalism, Bloom's positions are at once celebrated and ironized by Joyce. Darren Webb has written of Bloch's project as being "one of 'educating' the hope of the 'little man'" (45)--but Joyce by contrast does not patronize or attempt to edify the "little man" (nor, of course, does his hero Leopold Bloom: he/s the little man); Joyce offers a virtual apotheosis of the everyday and finds his Utopia in that aspirational reality. When Webb suggests that Ernst Bloch "represents a stereotypical example of the utopian parading his own pedantic cerebrations as the best world for all," (46) he could be echoing Joyce's view of Bloom (and thereby of himself)--except insofar as Joyce does not condemn Bloom for his pedantic Utopianism so much as he applauds him for it, precisely because Bloom is himself a little man with big dreams. Finn Fordham has argued that Joyce's positive emphasis upon the "little people" is closely related to his "utopian vision" in Finnegans Wake of that "'popular uprising" the novel envisions (47)--the waking of the Finnegans, the resurrection, through the restoration of a cultural-historical consciousness, of a pluralistic, popular, and resolutely earthly voice.
James Joyce wrote Finnegans Wake between 1923 and 1939, during which time another mid-European Jewish emigre (like Bloch, like Bloom), Herbert Marcuse, was writing arguments for the position that Utopianism--which he saw as having for long represented "the only progressive element in philosophy"--offered the only possible path toward the realization of freedom. (48) Marcuse suggested that any truth that could not be "realized within the established social order" was designated as Utopian and that this designation (and the accompanying exclusion from the orthodoxy), far from undermining that truth, should be seen as evidence of its validity. This position, although somewhat absurdly self-justifying, may nevertheless afford a useful perspective upon Joyce's relationship with Utopianism. To extend Marcuse's argument that Utopianism is validated by its exclusion from normative probability, then we might suggest that it is only possible insofar as it is impossible--or that it, in Paul Ricoeur's words, "extends to the boundary line between the possible and the impossible." (49) Utopianism is valuable precisely because of its impossibility: because it can never be achieved, it is always formative or aspirational, dynamic, and progressive. Ricoeur suggests that we might therefore see Utopia not as a fixed state beyond material history or the human condition but as exactly the opposite of that: "the utopian element may be the notion of humanity that we are directed toward and that we unceasingly attempt to bring to life." (50) It is because the end is virtually unattainable that the effort--and therefore the progress--is unceasing.
This mode of Utopian discourse imagined by Ricoeur bears the dynamism of Wells's Modern Utopia alongside the transcendent aspirationalism of Bloch and Marcuse. It is at once profoundly historical and at the same time functions as a prologue to its own history of possibility. If it is absurd, then it may simultaneously celebrate, ironize, satirize, and problematize its own absurdity. This is a mode of Utopianism that the likes of Wells, Bloch, and Marcuse might have witnessed in the work of their contemporary, James Joyce, the author of his own "PROBAPOSSIBLE PROLEGOMENA TO IDEAREAL HISTORY." (51)
In synthesizing and problematizing aspects of both Utopian and dystopian discourses contemporary and antecedent to his own writing, Joyce is able to move beyond--and indeed to deconstruct--the polarizations inherent in these discourses. Tobin Siebers has written that "if modernism expresses the desire to capture a sense of wholeness, of the end of destiny pictured in single objects, be they Finnegans Wake or a Brancusi sculpture, then the very concept of world war is modernist. It is in response to this concept that postmodernism will define itself." (52) Yet Siebers seems to have missed how open-ended, heteroglossic, and polysemic Finnegans Wake in fact is. In its plurality of voices and perspectives, Joyce's work ultimately comes to refute the totalizing structures and absolutist strategies of the modernist period and comes to synthesize, as is surely the essence of the Utopian project, from the present and the past the radical possibilities of futurity--in a text that progresses modernism into postmodernism, a book that according to Valentine Cunningham "would not exist were it not for the pre-existence of historical texts and historical phenomena antecedent to it" and which Cunningham has described as "the absolute text of (post)modernism" (53)--a text that projects the history of cultural tradition through its contemporary modernity into a pluralistic future, yet which is absolute only in that it is absolutely transitional.
3. James Joyce and Utopianism
Modernism in the arts is often distinguished by a tendency to universalize and to totalize, to advance theories of everything, whether Utopian, dystopian, humanistic, fascistic, leftist, mythological, theological, or philosophical. Joyce's work is frequently characterized as more than averagely universalist in its approach, and its increasingly comedic, progressive, and ameliorative tone thereby leads it in a direction that might be depicted as Utopian. But to what extent does it fulfill this Utopian model? And to what extent might it in fact transcend this traditional model, simultaneously deconstructing and translating into historical materiality a Platonic ideal as enchanting and illusory as Araby? (54)
Between World Wars I and II there was a view not uncommon in literary circles that the more radical expressions of high culture might prevent the impending collapse of civilization. For some, the experiments of modernism-like those of Nazism, Fascism, or Stalinism--would offer a panacea for the ills of European society. Literature was perceived, in the words of I. A. Richards, as "capable of saving us ... a perfectly possible means of overcoming chaos." (55) As George Gordon wrote, there emerged a belief that England was "sick ... and English literature must save it." (56) Indeed, Gordon went on to depict a doctrine that literature was "a holy remedy ... the only sacrament now left." (57)
James Joyce famously refuted claims that he was "a literary Jesus Christ"--yet there remain in his work echoes of an ambition to "renove that bible." (58) This promise of cultural and spiritual renewal appears to represent the ultimate object of a project to synthesize a sense of Irish and European nationhood on an epic scale. This shift from historicity into a transcendent alterity might for the moment be characterized as Utopian.
Erich Auerbach saw Ulysses as a representational totality, "an encyclopaedic work, a mirror of Dublin, of Ireland, a mirror too of Europe and its millennia." (59) T. S. Eliot went further than this: he discovered in Joyce's work the articulation of a totalizing and transformational vision not dissimilar to his own--"a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history." (60) In The Waste Land, his own survey of European civilization published the same year as Ulysses, Eliot mythologized this historical situation into a dystopian tragedy. Joyce's comedic affirmation, by contrast, appeared to Eliot the enunciation of a redemptive Utopianism.
In his introduction to the Penguin edition of Ulysses, Declan Kiberd echoes this shift from the historical to the ideal. Kiberd proposes that "Ulysses is an endlessly open book of utopian epiphanies. It holds the mirror up to the colonial capital that was Dublin, 16 June 1904, but it also offers redemptive glimpses of a future world which might be made over in terms of those utopian moments." (61) In James Joyce and the Politics of Egoism, Jean-Michel Rabate suggests that "Joyce's ultimate literary gamble ... has to do with a collective utopia blending language and politics, a radical utopia with avant-gardist and anarchist overtones." (62) Evans Lansing Smith meanwhile portrays Ulysses as a novel "in which the millennial hopes for renewal cherished by Leopold Bloom focus on a fantasized suburban Utopia, referred to as "the New Bloomusalem'" (63)--while Kieran Keohane sees Bloom himself as embodying "heroic utopian qualities." (64)
Bloom may be a Utopianist, or at least have moments of idealism or Utopianism, but it might seem eccentric to suggest that he represents a Utopian character or a character embodying Utopian qualities--in the style of one of More's two-dimensional model citizens. For Keohane, however, Bloom represents a "utopian ideal"--one that maintains the possibility of "the utopian moment of openness and the promise of futurity in the uncontrollable adventure of modern democratic life." (65) Yet Keohane's equation of the Utopian with openness, futurity, and uncontrollability (indeed, some might add, with democracy itself) is not necessarily self-evident. The Utopian system tends, of course, toward the closed and the controlled--insofar as both are attributes of the perfected; and if Utopia represents a perfected stability, then notions of futurity (in terms at least of dialectical history) no longer seem appropriate: "the Utopian way of life," writes More, "[is] one which, in all human probability, will last forever." (66) In these terms, Utopias are fixed structures, and often authoritarian ones at that. Utopia is an absolute, an earthly paradise.
According to his onetime amanuensis Samuel Beckett's essay on Finnegans Wake (a text for whose composition Beckett had taken dictation), Joyce's final novel is, conversely, "purgatorial" through its insistence upon "the absolute absence of the Absolute." (67) This rejection of absolute positions recurs throughout Joyce's work, as when, for example, Stephen Dedalus experiences his ambivalent epiphanies of transcendental romance and absolutist religion and in the pluralistic paradoxes of Leopold Bloom. If Bloom represents not only openness and idealism but also a dynamic combination of Evans Smith's bourgeois suburbanism and Rabate's anarchic radicalism, then it may be that he comes to resemble the very antithesis of the cliche of Utopianism.
Fredric Jameson views Joyce's single-handed construction of "a whole world" as an "image ... of a Utopian transformation of human life." (68) Jameson's Utopianist notion of construction-as-transformation recalls Morris's dream of the "conscious sensuous pleasure" of all work--when all work is art. (69) Yet Jameson stresses that Joyce's work offers merely an image or an illusion of Utopian construction, not a model for progress but a practice immeasurably beyond the power of the vast majority of humankind. However, Jameson appears at first to fail to see that Joyce's work itself already appears aware of this crippling paradox. Jameson views Joyce's work as an "archetypal modernist project"--even goes so far as to offer Ulysses as "the quickest shorthand reference" to the modernist novel--and thereby finks Ulysses with the "Utopian, anti-middle-class impulses" of high modernism. (70) What he fails here to recognize is that Ulysses is also simultaneously the opposite (or at least the critique) of all this.
At the 1934 Congress of Soviet Writers, Karl Radek famously condemned Joyce's anally retentive bourgeois tendencies by comparing Ulysses with "the component parts of a heap of dung." (71) It is certainly difficult to see bourgeois-suburban Joyce-Bloom as the epitome of the Modernist-Utopian tradition advanced by Jameson. Ulysses is a novel of immense and endless structuration, but one that resists structure itself, which resists the closure and determinism of epic or stereotypically Utopian mythologization. Joyce's work would most obviously take place in the comic-ironic--rather than the mythic--stages of Northrop Frye's generic cycle. As Jameson himself suggests, "The incomparable greatness of [Ulysses] comes from its incomplete use of myth: Joyce lets us see that the "myth" is nothing but an organizational device, and his subject is not some fictive unity of experience which the myth is supposed to guarantee, but rather that fragmentation of life in the modern world." (72) So much, then, for artificial or organic unities: so much, then, for a Joycean Utopia.
Or perhaps one should say that Joyce's version of Utopia, such as it is, may owe less to a stereotypically monolithic view of Utopia than to the lyrical pluralities of the author's real homeland. Indeed, Joyce's work is often much more Moore than More: not Thomas More but Thomas Moore, the composer of Moore's Irish Melodies (1846). As Atherton points out, Finnegans Wake "quotes all the titles of Moore's Melodies." (73) But Joyce's final novel in its unmatchable polysemy appears on occasion to be alluding at once to Moore and More: "a basketful of priesters ... to aroint him with tummy moor's maladies." (74) Utopianism is, in Joyce's terms, a priestly or proselytizing malady; the arcadian myth is a sickness, an unremitting nostalgia for the golden age, an ague: "the golden age must return with its vengeance.... Ague will be rejuvenated." (75)
Joyce's distance from the Utopian stereotype seems irrefutable: Utopian placelessness is the very opposite of Joyce's insistence upon place. Joyce's dream space is Dublin, the reality of his Irish homeland, the country he said he never really left. News from Nowhere therefore becomes "news from Naul" (76)--the Utopian nowhere is replaced by a real place. (Naul is a village not far from Dublin.) Finn Fordham proposes that Finnegans Wake's language is "utopian because it is an ideal language from no place" (77)--yet this language is surely as much of every place as it is of no place. It is a language that is as rooted as it is universal, even if it is rooted in Ireland's (or the Irish people's) nomadic universalism. It is, as such, a much more material language than those invented languages it appears to mock--the Esperanto of "funktas" and "fartas" (78)--or, for that matter, the invented language of Volapuk, revisited by Joyce as "vollapluck." (79) Esperanto and Volapuk were both invented toward the end of the nineteenth century--the former as a language to promote international peace and understanding, the latter in response to a divine revelation. Both are missionary projects and are therefore stereotypically Utopian in that they are more focused upon their teleology than upon their historical origins; by contrast, the language of Finnegans Wake is focused upon its history, insofar as its project is to project that provenance into its dream of futurity. If Utopia is founded within the invented or imaginary, then--(as Ferns has suggested) like Wells's Modern Utopia--it cannot connect with a reality with which its alterity shares no common provenance; if, on the other hand, it is grounded in material history and elaborates that materiality into its imaginary (along with all of the pluralities and paradoxes of that reality), then, like Finnegans Wake, it may strive to transcend the constraints of the imaginary In that sense Utopian fiction or art that at once projects Utopian desire but also reflects upon the placelessness or impossibility of the fulfillment of that desire (i.e., a fiction that materially inscribes its contradictions) may be more realizable than that desire in itself. That is to say, paradoxically, the Utopian imaginary (the self-conscious and therefore self-critical imaginary of Utopian fiction) may be more real than the imaginary but ahistorical realism of Utopian theory.
Wolfgang Wicht suggests that Joyce's textual world "establishes itself as a counter-site which is outside all places, oppositional both to messianic utopias and contingent social practices." (80) Yet isn't Joyce's work, at the same time as it represents the antithesis to those things, also an amalgam of those things themselves: at once outside and inside everything; the carnivalesque that addresses its own conditions of license, which includes its own excludedness; the possibility of idealism and idealization sited within real political geography and simultaneously the impossibility of this?
In his review (for Utopian Studies) of Wicht's Utopianism in James Joyce's "Ulysses, " David Samuelson points out that "Ulysses undercuts nearly everything it presents, and challenges its readers to question its own and their own levels of reality." (81) Wicht stresses the same point himself: "the text deconstructs the axiological, ideological and intentional implications encoded in utopian projects"--"the text unmasks ... the deceptiveness and incongruity of utopian social notions and messianic promises." (82) Wicht underlines the emphasis that Joyce puts upon the contradictions within Utopianism's reification of its discursive alterity and its collapse in the face of material reality: "Ulysses reveals that the object of the utopian dream is lost once it is designed as real." (83)
Wicht announces "Joyce's deconstructive disclosure of the utopian as ideological." (84) He suggests in his analysis of Ulysses that "Joyce reveals to us that the archetype of a structural pattern is fashioned that turns utopian messianism into dictatorial political practice." (85) Like Thomas More's domain sustained on slavery, Britain's colonial Utopia proves, in Ulysses, no more than a "great empire ... of drudges and whipped serfs"--yet its subjects, "the unfortunate yahoos," continue to believe in its ideal of itself. (86) Furthermore, as Joyce also implies, this Utopian paradox is as descriptive of Irish nationalism as it is of British imperialism.
Joyce reveals Utopian literature's potential for self-deconstruction while at the same time rehearsing the converse hypocrisy and tyranny of literalist political interpretations of that discourse. Joyce exposes the hypocrisy of the Ireland of Mr. Deasy, the pseudo-pluralist nation that has "the honour of being the only country which never persecuted the jews" only insofar as "she never let them in." (87) He envisions the tyranny of the "new Ireland and new this, that and the other" (a brave new republic that would exclude those Anglophile, un-Irish Irish "that can't speak their own language"), the Utopia anticipated by the nationalist Citizen--Joyce's "Cyclops"--an Ireland whose people would "come again and with a vengeance" to vanquish a culture that bears "no music and no art and no literature worthy of the name." (88) This vengeful awakening is hardly the rebirth of Ireland that Joyce imagines in Finnegans Wake--one that, by contrast, embraces and indeed appropriates cultural pluralities. The Citizen's vision reaches its absurd climax in the apocalyptic and infernal nightmare invoked by that same Citizen--calling on God to "slit the throats of the English dogs"--in Ulysses's "Circe" chapter: "Brimstone fires spring up.... Thieves rob the slain.... The earth trembles. The dead of Dublin ... arise and appear to many. A chasm opens with a noiseless yawn." (89)
The latter follows eschatologically on from Leopold Bloom's revelation of his own New Bloomusalem. Bloom imagines two very different kinds of Utopia in Ulysses: The first is this apocalyptic fantasy; the second, his rigorously designed scheme for Flowerville. Joyce describes the former as "a colossal edifice with crystal roof, built in the shape of a huge pork kidney" (90)--it is a phantasmagorical blend of the "stately pleasure-dome" of Coleridge's Xanadu and the Crystal Palace (built in London in 1851 to house the Great Exhibition) (91)--and one might suggest that Joyce's novel itself, exuberant, exhibitionistic, and encyclopedic as it is, is appropriately modeled by this symbolic architecture. The fact that the New Bloomusalem is specifically constructed in the shape of a pork kidney also reminds us of the insistent carnality and comicality of Joyce's project.
The New Bloomusalem is a resolutely physical place. Bloom offers "new worlds for old ... weekly carnival ... universal language" (92)--and it seems significant that he stresses the value of the carnal alongside the linguistic. In Bloom's Utopia everyone will receive three acres of land and a cow. (93) His followers hand out sausage and, inevitably, "loaves and fishes." (94) Like Jonathan Swift, Joyce realizes that you cannot create an Irish Utopia while people are starving. (95) The New Bloomusalem is a profoundly earthly Utopia or, as Richard Ellmann has called it, a "profane salvation." (96)
Mr. Bloom's second envisioning of Utopia is a much more sober and controlled--but similarly material--affair. As Joyce has constructed Bloom's universe from its minutiae, so Bloom builds Flowerville out of its individual objects: its plants, its books, its furnishings, its "dinner gong" and "alabaster lamp"--its "shrubbery" and "beehive arranged on humane principles." (97) He imagines his own hobbies and recreations, his civic duties and schemes of industrial and infrastructural reform. He carefully costs his project and considers how he might afford it. He imagines the reclamation of wasteland and the utilization of human excrement. (98) Bloom painstakingly creates his world in his own imagination, as Joyce does, from out of physical and economic realities: Flowerville is at once a parody of Utopianist pedantry and an incongruously (but perhaps necessarily) comedic expression of the realizability of Utopian ambition. Flowerville may be a fantasy, but it is one that is constructed out of real cash and real filth.
Out of these reflections upon its impossibility, then, the promise of Utopia seems to have become almost possible in its paradoxical grounding in material reality. As Wicht has demonstrated, Ulysses explores the Utopian at a literal and literary level; but it is Finnegans Wake that, in its dissolution of the dictatorship of the aesthetic, enacts the innate failure of the project of perfectibility at the level of language itself and thereby realizes that project's possibilities in an emphatically physical realm--a Utopia again that provides real food for the soul: "When there shall be foods for vermin as full as foods for the fett, eat on earth as there's hot in oven." (99)
4. James Joyce and Irony
If Joyce's writing seems, from a purely chronological perspective on his works, increasingly comedic, then we may see it as eschewing the tragedic or even farcical cycles of historical inevitability that Karl Marx diagnosed--as it moves from the "maleficent and sinful being" (100) (or state of being) of the paralysis of Dubliners toward a perspective in which historical repetition is confronted with the possibility of developmental change: "history repeating itself with a difference." (101) This may be why Finnegans Wake adds an extra age to Vico's historical cycles, an age of chaos and of contradictions but therefore one of
pluralistic possibilities in its "disunited kingdom." (102) Joyce, in this sense, signifies choice--a joyful and comedic array of literary and linguistic possibilities: "acomedy of letters." (103) At the level of literary language, this phenomenon is perhaps most clearly manifested in Joyce's emphasis upon a semantic indeterminacy that liberates the reader from authorial authority through such linguistic and rhetorical devices as ambiguity and irony. Giambattista Vico supposed that irony is "formed from falsehood by dint of a reflection which borrows a mask of truth." (104) Joyce's ultimate irony is herein based, if not upon the certainty of falsehood, then upon the definitive and irretrievable indeterminacy of what purports to be an absolute transparency of language and therefore a medium of transcendental truth.
To what extent, then, is this ironization--this celebration and cerebration of indeterminacy--consistent with a progressive and dynamic mode of Utopian thought? Or might it indeed be supposed that this inscription of a plurality of perspectives is not only consistent with but essential to a mode of Utopianism as an expression of the manifestation of imagination in a moment at which art and theory converge--insofar as such contradictions allow for the fact that, as Walt Whitman suggested, we are "large" and "contain multitudes" (105)--and inasmuch as (in Karl Popper's words) "irrefutability is not a virtue of theory ... but a vice," in that "every genuine test of a theory is an attempt to falsify it"? (106) Could the imaginary testing of theory advanced by art offer the beginning of a grounding of theory in historical materiality? Could art build its Utopian foundations precisely by deconstructing them?
Joyce's world constantly undermines its own foundations. In this respect its aesthetic system resembles the perspective of Samuel Butler's Erewhonians: "when they profess themselves to be quite certain about any matter, and avow it as a base on which they are to build a system of practice, they seldom quite believe in it"--"they very often do not believe or mean things which they profess to regard as indisputable." (107) Thus Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses (and in the National Library), having elaborated at some length his extraordinary biographical exegesis of the works of William Shakespeare, is asked whether he believes his own theory and replies that he does not.
Joyce's vision of the world is based not upon certain faith but upon what Jean-Michel Rabate has described as "the relativity of doubt"--"doubt oddly appears as the only firm ground on which the edifice of the work steadies and secures itself." (108) Indeed, doubt, according to Rabate, "offers a key ... because of the great suspension it affords, to the essence of Life." (109) This sense of doubt is therefore not only deconstructive: it is both substantive and constructive. Irony and uncertainty are tonally and philosophically central to Joyce's work: this is what Herring dubbed Joyce's Uncertainty Principle. His world is a pluralist, shifting, and ambiguous space--yet (or because) it remains an irreducibly real, historical, and material space, one that challenges its own idealization. It is the creation of an author who denied his own artistic apotheosis, an echo of the similarly discordant literary, political, and religious canonization of Thomas More. It is, after all, the work of a writer who argued that "a man is a martyr only for things of which he is not quite sure." (110) Insofar as the certainty of salvation might negate its weight of sacrifice, Jesus's death, for example, is therefore valorized, in Matthew 27:46, by his loss of absolute faith: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" It is a similar rejection of total dependence upon external forces, be they divine or historical, that heroically shifts the Homeric epic toward Joycean humanism.
Mr. Leopold Bloom, at the end of his ruminations upon the civic Utopian project of Flowerville, wonders why he should "meditate on schemes so difficult of realisation." (111) His answer is that such dreams help him to sleep. This, then, is the corporeal extent of the consolation of Joycean philosophy. Joyce eventually eschews the totalizing and transcendental metanarratives and grand theories of post-Morean Utopianist literalism--despite the portentous claims that he and others have made for his work.
Jacques Derrida, for example, tells of being asked by an American tourist in a Tokyo hotel whether there is a single definitive book. Derrida writes that he almost replied that "there are two of them, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake." (112) Derrida depicts Finnegans Wake as a "hypermnesiac machine"--one that contains all cultures, histories, languages, and literatures: "you can say nothing that is not programmed on this 1000th generation computer." (113) Derrida discovers divinity--Yahweh--in Finnegans Wake; but there we might more pertinently also find Joyce's Yahoos: "truemen like yahoomen." (114) If all men are Yahoos--who are, as Swift emphasizes, creatures of deceit--then true men cannot be men of truth. Humanity no longer matches its divine self-image: "When is a man not a man? ... [W]hen he is a ... Sham." (115) In its pragmatic reflection of material reality, Finnegans Wake reveals its own idealizations as counterfeit. Thus Derrida comes to witness "the simulacrum of this forgery ... the ruse of the invented word." (116)
At first sight, Finnegans Wake offers itself as a text of infinite cyclicity and relentless resurrection: "Finn, again" (117)--but also start again--wake. As such, it melds the finis(h) with the phoenix--engendering the "Phoenis" (118) or the "phoenish" (119) in a manner that is resolutely Irish (Ireland's material geography and history are recalled in these phonemes' echoes of Finnegans, Fenians, and Phoenix Park) and at the same time self-consciously linguistic: Joyce's phoenix text is primarily a phonic text.
Umberto Eco has thus suggested that Finnegans Wake synthesizes a "rigid correspondence between phonetic and semantic suggestion." (120) Its portmanteau words, by generating semantic structures out of phonetic resemblance, appear to deconstruct the unbridgeable Saussurean gap between signifier and signified--or, as Joyce himself puts it, "make soundsense and sensesound kin again." (121)
This phonetic-semantic relationship purports to transcend language's failure to mean. As such it might claim to transcend (in a way we might see as Utopian in a Thomist or Blochian sense) the inherent problems of the material human condition. For Joyce this eventually represents a transformation of death (which is the ultimate loss of meaning) into life (or at least into the infinite and immortal memory that literature encompasses). The phonic turns the finis into the phoenix; yet for Joyce this symbol of resurrection and redemption is not unproblematic in itself (or in the tension between the Utopian ambition and the real history that it holds in suspension): It is "Fiendish" and "sphinxish"--it is a "foenix"--a plagiarist, a parasite, a parrot. (122) It is "parody's bird" rather than any Utopian bird of paradise. (123) As Herring has suggested, this is a text that witnesses "language at war with itself." (124)
Meanwhile another word underpins and undermines the finis/phoenix/ phonic suite of phonemes: that word, inevitably, is phoney. The possibility of a positive, direct, and lucid relationship between signifier and signified is counterfeit: Joyce herein reveals his own "phoney habit ... in his clairaudience." (125) The promise of phonic redemption proves false and even risible, not only phoney but ineluctably funny, in Joyce's "tellafun book." (126)
As he pledged at the end of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce has succeeded in forging (both creating and counterfeiting) his world. Daedalus the master architect is also his own son Icarus, the overreacher destined for oblivion. This is the Joyce who has "forged out his sentences"--the pseudomessianic author of a "piously forged" work. (127) If this work is a transcendental epic, a narrative of nationhood, then it is an "epical forged cheque"--"every dimmed letter of it ... a copy ... the last word in stolentelling." (128) This indeed is Derrida's forged simulacrum: the "shamwork" (129) that reveals that Finnegans Wake was always, as its title announces, a massive F ... ake.
However, it is not so much that Joyce is denouncing his own project; it is more that he is inscribing his critics, allowing his refutations lease to disprove his work's position--giving them enough rope to let them bind themselves ineluctably within that position. The voices of artist and critic are bound up into a Joycean harmony of contradiction (in Finnegans Wake chaos finds itself harmonious): as Finn Fordham has suggested, "the relation between Shem and Shaun is like that between two parts of his own self: the visionary artist ... and the revisionary critic who chides, reproaches, denigrates, and even slanders. There is an interchangeability in these inseparable twins." (130) The vision can only be realized through confrontation and reconciliation with its opposite. The Utopian and the anti-Utopian (which is not the dystopian but the critique of the Utopian essential for the realization of Utopia) bring each other into being. It is the dynamic friction between them that concretizes Utopian abstraction.
Joyce reminds us that this explicit admission of the counterfeit nature of the Utopian project has lain at the heart of literary manifestations of "Utopia" since Thomas More coined that self-emptying term--or indeed since More dubbed his perfection of all parliaments (in his Latin original) Mentiranus--or (in Turner's translation) Lietalk. (131) The true Eutopia is, by contrast, a realm of absolute truth: it is the land of Swift's Houyhnhnms, who have "no word ... to express lying or falsehood." (132) Theirs is a civilization without words for power or government--one that has attained such perfection that the only topic remaining to debate at its quadrennial assembly is "whether the Yahoos should be exterminated from the face of the earth." (133) Joyce's (and More's) continuing insistence upon the problematics of Utopian idealization defers the finality of this Swiftian solution--a state of perfection whose genocidal ambitions make those of Swift's Modest Proposal seem truly modest by comparison.
The great builder of worlds denounces his own project--and therefore every totalizing, world-building literary or political enterprise, be it historical (epic) or fantastical (Utopian): "you have reared your disunited kingdom on the vacuum of your own most intensely doubtful soul." (134) Ulysses does not transcend the dystopian paralysis of Dubliners; (135) but in the euphoria of Bloomsday it may take Finnegans Wake to remind us of that. Ulysses is a mock epic in the same way that A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is mockepiphanic: the young Stephen Dedalus's eager epiphanies--of family, sexuality, religion, romance, and philosophy--ultimately (when confronted with material circumstances) do not quite attain the transcendental climaxes he might have expected of them. Ulysses's Utopian cornucopia might thereby be seen as eventually as anticlimactic as Dubliners's exotic dreams--the "Eastern enchantment" of "Araby." (136) But that would be to impose a closure upon Ulysses--or, for that matter, upon Finnegans Wake--that the text stridently resists. It is not that these texts fail to attain their visions; it is just that they have not done so yet. Their endings (if they can be said to have endings) are therefore not so much anticlimactic as affirmingly preclimactic. As such, they seem to represent a mode of that "foreplay" that Jacques Derrida sees as the province of literary pleasures. But while Derrida views such textual pleasure as "null and endless," (137) Joyce's later work might be characterized as endless (which is not to say directionless) and full: an inexhaustible crescendo of Barthesian jouissance.
Louis Althusser once invoked "a new philosophy, one which was no longer an interpretation, but rather a transformation of the world." (138) Yet Joyce at times reminds us that texts are merely representational and interpretational-they are not literally or fundamentally transformative; they do not in the end build brave new worlds, try though they may. As Roland Barthes would suggest, dominant meanings are privileged in the generation of such connotative semantic structures as literatures and cultures: this process for the most part represents an act of ideological reinforcement, one contained within Orwell's hegemonic whale. At its most radical, therefore, literature may from this perspective advance a work of subversion or deconstruction rather than one of intentional revolutionary construction--the synthesis of a satirical Laputa rather than of a realizable Utopia.
Nicholas Brown proposes that "in a first, utopian moment, Ulysses short-circuits the rift between subjectivity and the object-world, miraculously imbuing the accidents of daily life with inscrutable significance.'" However, as Brown adds, "this Utopia fails to bear on an actuality for which it can only compensate. But in a second moment this failure makes itself manifest." (139) In Jameson's words, such manifestations of the anti-Utopian impulse as those we appear to witness in Joyce's work may afford "the discovery that our most energetic imaginative leaps into radical alternatives were little more than the projections of our own social moment and historical or subjective situation." (140)
Material history translates the soaring dreams of Daedalus into the downfall of his son. Joyce's apparent bourgeois distrust of progressivist idealism--or Utopianism--recalls that of Edward Bellamy's nineteenth-century social skeptics: "The parabola of a comet was perhaps a yet better illustration of the career of humanity.... The race attained the perihelion of civilization only to plunge downward once more to its nether goal in the regions of chaos." (141) Those who share Bellamy's aversion to this bourgeois skepticism might do well to consider whether the end of the twentieth century saw Bellamy's "golden future to humanity" or in fact the "era of corporate tyranny" that these skeptics predicted. (142)
Reality inevitably interrupts the dream: you cannot have the Houyhnhnms without the Yahoos. You cannot have the Utopian visionaries without their literalist interpreters. Lenin once wrote that "without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement." (143) Paradoxically, the problem is that the converse is also true. The problem is not the writers who do not quite believe their own theories: the problem is their fundamentalist followers who do.
Mr. Leopold Bloom vainly explains to his own literalist Yahoos, the Cyclopean clientele of Barney Kiernan's, his belief that any hope of futurity should not be focused upon Utopian dreams of a New Jerusalem but simply upon love--upon Ulysses's own final affirmation of love, its immortal and uncompromising Yes. (144) Yet, in spite of this (or because of this), Joyce and Bloom continue to dream (deconstructively yet irrevocably) of their Utopia--that overtly absurd "golden city which is to be, the new Bloomusalem in the Nova Hibernia of the future." (145)
As Jacques Derrida proposes, by continuing to dream the Utopian dream we refute its impossibility: "Tragedy would leave this strange sense, a contingent one finally, that we must affirm and learn to love instead of dreaming of the innumerable.... But where would the dream ... come from if it is indeed a dream? Does not the dream itself prove that what is dreamt of must be there in order for it to provide the dream?" (146) William Morris similarly argues of his own Utopia, his Nowhere, that "if others can see it as I have seen it, then it may be called a vision rather than a dream." (147) Morris believes that if it were merely a dream, he should not have been "conscious all along that [he] was really seeing all that new life from the outside, still wrapped up in ... the distrust of this time of doubt and struggle." (148)
In a parallel fashion, Edward Bellamy's narrator, toward the end of Looking Backward, awakens from his dream of a Utopian twentieth century and finds himself again in the suddenly dystopian Boston of the nineteenth century. But a few pages later he wakes from that nightmare to discover that his "return to the nineteenth century had been the dream, and [his] presence in the twentieth was the reality." (149) By enveloping contemporary material reality within the dream, Morris and Bellamy maintain the possibility that their Utopian visions may overcome that reality.
Bloom's own vision of the New Bloomusalem takes place in a similarly ambiguous realm between dream and reality, as if Joyce remains unwilling finally to consign that paradigm to either state. This ambivalence perhaps recalls More's Utopian city of Amaurotum, that amaurotic or (visually) obscure domain that, as Turner reminds us, recalls the vagueness of Penelope's vision of Athene in Homer's Odyssey. (150) Leopold Bloom's Utopia remains correspondingly blurred (as if by Joyce's own failing eyesight) between the Homeric ideal and the historical real.
James Joyce's work acknowledges that from Plato to More and Morris, we continue to cling to--to assert the possibility of--our Utopian dreams, despite all the material evidence: 'All kinds of Utopian plans were flashing through his ... busy brain." (151) One therefore eventually comes to wonder whether Joyce's pragmatism is really anti-Utopian at all--or whether it is in fact meta-Utopian: a Utopianism that, in recognizing the tensions inherent to its relationship with the real (tensions ignored, for example, in the shift from Marxism into Leninism), not only self-consciously deconstructs but also therefore sustains itself.
Jameson defines the meta-Utopian as including "both the Utopia and its generic adversary." (152) Tom Moylan identifies within a parallel mode of "self-critical utopian discourse" the potential for "a process that can tear apart the dominant ideological web." (153) One might inquire, in this context, whether Thomas More's own apparent Utopianism does not immanently resolve itself, or fail to resolve itself, into a similar set of practices. More himself challenges the condition of his Utopian citizens by announcing "the grand absurdity on which their whole society was based." (154) More's satire upon Utopia occupies precisely the same textual space (which is therefore a metatextual space, a paradoxical and impossible space, a no-place) as does the satire upon his own sociopolitical reality, which that Utopia/Utopia represents. It is through this self-problematizing praxis (and its implicit and essential rejection of autarchy) that More offers the possibility of Moylan's critical Utopia: "a seditious expression of social change ... in a permanently open process of envisaging what is not yet." (155)
If the Utopian breaks down upon its contact with material history, then perhaps by inscribing--and, more importantly, integrating--its antithesis and its own absurdity within itself (as indeed More's Utopia literally--by the argument of its first part--does), it might achieve a balance and a self-awareness sufficient to sustain it beyond the moment of its conception, the revolutionary or revelatory moment, and to translate its abstraction into the very materiality, the physical placedness, that had originally threatened to extinguish it. Finnegans Wake may be a dream--but it is a cyclic one: one from which the reader can never awake, yet within which its own waking-from is already inscribed and therefore preempted. Yet does this Viconian cyclicity refute the possibility of Utopia? Utopian historicity is necessarily progressive and teleological, rather than endlessly cyclic. But it seems that these two positions might be reconciled if we view the cycle itself as dynamically Utopian, rather than any single point in that cycle--the divine, heroic, democratic, or chaotic--as a necessary end point, a stereotypically static Utopia.
This opposition between the static and the dynamic--and the triumph of the latter in Finnegans Wake--is modeled by Sheldon Brivic in terms of Joyce's symbolic uses of gender within the novel: "The male story enacts conflict and decline, but the female one may be seen as showing discovery and development that proceed through the disintegration of the discourse of patriarchal coherence." (156) Yet one might suggest not so much that the novel is about gender difference as that it deploys gender difference to symbolize the dichotomy between the static and dynamic historical perspectives upon which it reflects. Brivic admits that his feminist reading of Finnegans Wake should not claim to reveal the novel's "ultimate or real meaning"--and if (as he writes) the novel represents "history as progress through literary work" in a way that offers "freedom through the disintegration of stable identity," (157) then it may be that, in order to engage with that progressive idealism, such determining terminologies as feminism--or Utopianism, for that matter--and all of the categorical polarizations they involve might no longer seem particularly relevant. A static Utopia has no need for Utopianists (perfect worlds do not need dreamers); and a dynamic Utopia--a world populated by such aspirants--would have no need for such deterministic, static, and outmoded categorizations. A progressive Utopia must be unfinished; it is not a state but a perpetual coming-into-state in which all of its subjects continue to dream, to hope, to aspire. This work of progress is, like Finnegans Wake, an unending work in progress. It may at first seem incongruous that this Utopia of unceasing movement is also the Utopia of real, material place, but it is clear that one of the defining characteristics of material reality is that it never stays still.
This unceasing flow is precisely what, according to Julia Kristeva, articulates the semiotic function of writing in what she calls a "pulsating chora" (158)--an idea glossed by Brivic as "the level of maternal pulsation in language." (159) Kristeva identifies this chora as a "totality formed by the [semiotic] drives ... in a motility that is as full of movement as it is regulated." (160) She cites Joyce's work as representative of that rare set of literary texts that "cover the infinity of the [signifying] process, that is, reach the semiotic chora." (161) In that Joyce's writing confronts patriarchal regulation with this deconstructive, progressive, and chaotic flow, its attraction to feminist theorists is clear: as Brivic notes, "Joyce's experiments directly inspired two of the leading thinkers of the ecriture feminine movement, Helene Cixous and Julia Kristeva." (162) Like poststructuralist feminism, Joyce's work advances a mode of Utopianism that necessarily resists categorization. In discussing her notion of ecriture feminine (a literary form in which she includes Joyce's work--indeed she wrote her doctoral thesis on Joyce), (163) Helene Cixous has suggested that it is impossible to define such modes of writing and that "this is an impossibility that will remain, for this practice can never be theorized, enclosed, coded--which doesn't mean that it doesn't exist." (164) While Herbert Marcuse may have suggested that the Utopian is validated by its categorization as such (and thereby by its exclusion from normative, hegemonic discourse), the mode of Utopianism expressed by Kristeva's chora or Cixous's ecriture feminine is validated by virtue of the fact that it cannot be so categorized. Like Joyce's "word known to all men," (165) Utopia is too fluid for such reductive definition.
Leopold Bloom, in Ulysses, expansively describes the Utopian as affording "no known method from the known to the unknown." (166) Utopia is a place that is impossible to arrive at by any known route, in that it is not really a place at all. It is therefore essential that, in order to reach Utopia, one takes an unknown and unknowable route, a path determined by its indeterminacy, a passage that deconstructs its own rationalistic epistemological foundations. It is only in its paradoxical nature that such a route, beyond sense (which forbids entry into the unreal), might discover the reality of that unreality For, in the end, despite its fantastical absurdities--its self-conscious nowhereness--Joyce's Dublin, like Butler's Erewhon, is the opposite of nowhere: it is somewhere. It is by inscribing the material (the somewhere) within the dream (the nowhere) that the dream might be sustained; and it is also by inscribing the dream within the real that material existence can continue.
Ruth Levitas has suggested that "in the move beyond modernism, the Utopian method needs to be seen as provisional ... dialogic ... and ... reflexive." (167) Joyce himself makes this move: his work does not engage in the theoretical absolutism of so much classical modernism--an absolute faith in the transcendental authority of theoretical ideals that so often led toward a political fundamentalism of the Left or of the Right. By contrast, Joyce's writing operates from a heteroglossic perspective that parallels Bakhtin and preempts postmodernist pluralism. Unlike Orwell or Huxley, Joyce demonstrates that a democratic literary response to absolutist Utopianism need not take the form of a cautionary dystopianism. Joyce instead offers an affirmatory and comedic set of possibilities.
Milan Kundera has described this kind of comedy as echoing a joyous, life-affirming laughter--"the serious laughter of angels expressing their joy of being." (168) But that is not to suggest that there is anything divinely pious in this position: if Joyce is an angel, then he is one, like Stephen Dedalus, who will not blindly or uncritically serve. (169) In commenting upon an earlier version of this article, Patrick Parrinder spoke of "the difficult relationship between Utopia and comedy." This relationship is problematized by the fact that Utopia rarely seems able to laugh at itself or therefore to offer the liberating possibilities of comedy. Joyce's later writing, however, appears to advance the rare chance of a pluralist, ambiguous, and dynamic vision of Utopia: a Utopia that might be sustained into futurity--a Utopia that still has room for dreamers and for democrats. But is it still possible that we can call this realm of radical openness, this flux of possibilities, this resolutely material site, Utopian? And do we really need to? This kind of Utopia is not a category or a frame but a direction, a progress, a confluence of streams of consciousness and of unconsciousness, flowing into the river of life: not just a symbolic river but a real one too, the Liffey, the great Anna Livia Plurabelle herself. Or as Joyce put it, more succinctly (and more joyously), it is simply "Lff!" (170)
(1.) Selected Letters of James Joyce, ed. Richard Ellmann (London: Faber and Faber, 1975), 270-71.
(2.) Kieran Keohane, "The Revitalization of the City and the Demise of Joyce's Utopian Modern Subject," Theory, Culture, and Society 19, no. 3 (2002): 33; Colin McCabe, "James Joyce's Ulysses: The End of Masculine Heroism," OpenDemocracy, July 1, 2004.
(3.) The Critical Writings of James Joyce, ed. Ellsworth Mason and Richard Ellmann (New York: Cornell University Press, 1989), 145.
(4.) Cited in Robert Stam, Film Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), 32.
(5.) James Joyce, Ulysses (London: Penguin, 1986), 272.
(6.) Wolfgang Wicht, Utopianism in James Joyce's "Ulysses" (Heidelberg: Winter, 2000), 165.
(7.) Jean Baudrillard, The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact, trans. Chris Turner (Oxford: Berg, 2005), 34.
(8.) Francis Bacon, The New Atlantis (London: Dodo Press, 2006), 23; Thomas More, Utopia, trans. Paul Turner (London: Penguin, 1965), 103.
(9.) William Morris, News from Nowhere (London: Penguin, 1984), 207; More, Utopia, 30-31, 34; Bacon, New Atlantis, 1.
(10.) Jacques Derrida, The Gift of Death, trans. David Willis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 33.
(11.) Bacon, New Atlantis, 7, 10.
(12.) Ibid., 10.
(13.) Joyce, Ulysses, 598.
(14.) Homer, The Odyssey, trans. E. V. Rieu (London: Penguin, 1946), 149.
(15.) James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (London: Faber and Faber, 1939), 187.
(16.) See Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), 148.
(17.) More, Utopia, 33, 38.
(18.) Joyce, Ulysses, 411.
(19.) More, Utopia, 38.
(20.) Joyce, Ulysses, 598.
(21.) More, Utopia, 78, 58.
(22.) Joyce, Ulysses, 575.
(23.) H. G. Wells, A Modern Utopia (London: Penguin, 2005), 87.
(24.) Ibid., 11.
(25.) Ibid., 12.
(26.) George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (London: Penguin, 1954), 172.
(27.) Wells, Modern Utopia, 81.
(28.) Chris Ferns, Narrating Utopia (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1999), 89.
(29.) Ibid., 98.
(30.) Paul Ricoeur, Lectures on Ideology and Utopia, ed. George Taylor (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), 1-2.
(31.) H. G. Wells, Anticipations (Charleston: BiblioBazaar, 2007), 163.
(32.) Ibid., 182.
(33.) Ibid., 194.
(34.) H.G. Wells, The Shape of Things to Come (London: Penguin, 2005), 361, 415.
(35.) Ibid., 346-47.
(36.) See Ellmann, James Joyce, 414.
(37.) See ibid., 608.
(38.) James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (London: Panther, 1977), 192.
(39.) Ernst Bloch, The Spirit of Utopia, trans. Anthony Nassar (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), 20.
(40.) Thomas Aquinas, Selected Philosophical Writings, trans. Timothy McDermott (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 424.
(41.) Bloch, Spirit of Utopia, 3.
(42.) Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 120, 53.
(43.) See Jeri Johnson, "Composition and Publication History," in Ulysses, by James Joyce (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), xl.
(44.) Bloch, Spirit of Utopia, 3. Cf. Joyce, Ulysses, 395, 591.
(45.) Darren Webb, Marx, Marxism, and Utopia (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000), 159.
(46.) Ibid., 160.
(47.) Finn Fordham, Lots of Fun at Finnegans Wake (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 228.
(48.) Herbert Marcuse, Negations, trans. Jeremy Shapiro (London: Allen Lane, 1968), 143, xvii.
(49.) Ricoeur, Lectures on Ideology and Utopia, 253.
(51.) Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 262.
(52.) Tobin Siebers, "What Does Postmodernism Want? Utopia," in Heterotopia: Postmodern Utopia and the Body Politic, ed. Tobin Siebers (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994), 4.
(53.) Valentine Cunningham, "Renoving That Bible: The Absolute Text of (Post)Modernism," in The Theory of Reading, ed. Frank Gloversmith (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1984), 47, 1.
(54.) James Joyce, Dubliners (London: Panther, 1977), 25-31.
(55.) I.A. Richards, Science and Poetry (London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., 1926), 82-83.
(56.) George Gordon, Discipline of Letters (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1946), 12.
(57.) Ibid., 13.
(58.) Selected Letters of James Joyce, 106; Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 579.
(59.) Erich Auerbach, Mimesis, trans. Willard Trask (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), 547.
(60.) T. S. Eliot, Selected Prose (London: Faber and Faber, 1975), 177.
(61.) Declan Kiberd, introduction to Ulysses, by James Joyce (London: Penguin, 1992), lxxx.
(62.) Jean-Michel Rabate, James Joyce and the Politics of Egoism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 2.
(63.) Evans Lansing Smith, Ricorso and Revelation: An Archetypal Poetics of Modernism (New York: Camden House, 1995), 130.
(64.) Keohane, "Revitalization of the City and the Demise of Joyce's Utopian Modern Subject," 30.
(65.) Ibid., 40.
(66.) More, Utopia, 131.
(67.) Samuel Beckett, Disjecta (London: John Calder, 1983), 33.
(68.) Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (London: Verso, 1991), 307.
(69.) Morris, News from Nowhere, 262.
(70.) Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future (London: Verso, 2007), 337, 89; Jameson, Postmodernism, 56.
(71.) Andrei Zhdanov, Maxim Gorky, Nikolai Bukharin, Karl Radek, and Aleksei Stesky, Problems of Soviet Literature, trans. H. G. Scott (London: Martin Lawrence, 1935), 179.
(72.) Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future, 263.
(73.) James Atherton, The Books at the Wake (London: Feffer and Simons, 1974), 269.
(74.) Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 492.
(75.) Ibid., 112.
(76.) Ibid., 333.
(77.) Fordham, Lots of Fun at Finnegans Wake, 221; cf. 132.
(78.) Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 160. The language is identified as Esperanto by William York Tyndall, A Reader's Guide to Finnegans Wake (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1996), 130. See also Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 52 (identified as Esperanto by Tyndall, Reader's Guide to Finnegans Wake, 79).
(79.) Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 34.
(80.) Wicht, Utopianism in James Joyce's "Ulysses," 107.
(81.) David Samuelson, "Wolfang Wicht. Utopianism in James Joyce's 'Ulysses,'" Utopian Studies 14, no. 1 (2003): 279.
(82.) Wicht, Utopianism in James Joyee's "Ulysses," 9, 229.
(83.) Ibid., 11.
(84.) Ibid., 38.
(85.) Ibid., 92.
(86.) Joyce, Ulysses, 270.
(87.) Ibid., 30.
(88.) Ibid., 250-52, 255, 270, 267.
(89.) Ibid., 484, 488.
(90.) Ibid., 395.
(91.) The Poetical and Dramatic Works of S. T. Coleridge (London: William Pickering, 1847), 267.
(92.) Joyce, Ulysses, 399.
(94.) Ibid., 396.
(95.) Cf. Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal (London: Penguin, 2009).
(96.) Richard Ellmann, Ulysses on the Liffey (London: Faber, 1984), 149.
(97.) Joyce, Ulysses, 585-86.
(98.) Ibid., 590.
(99.) Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 239.
(100.) Joyce, Dubliners, 7.
(101.) Joyce, Ulysses, 535.
(102.) Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 188.
(103.) Ibid., 425.
(104.) Giambattista Vico, Selected Writings, trans. Leon Pompa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 225.
(105.) Walt Whitman, A Choice of Whitman's Verse, ed. Donald Hall (London: Faber, 1968), 82.
(106.) Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations (London: Routledge, 2002), 48.
(107.) Samuel Butler, Erewhon (London: Penguin, 1985), 162, 174.
(108.) Jean-Michel Rabate, Joyce upon the Void: The Genesis of Doubt (London: Macmillan, 1991), 1, 35.
(109.) Ibid., xxv.
(110.) James Joyce, Stephen Hero (London: Panther, 1977), 157.
(111.) Joyce, Ulysses, 591.
(112.) Jacques Derrida, Acts of Literature, ed. Derek Attridge (New York: Routledge, 1992), 265.
(113.) Jacques Derrida, "Two Words for Joyce," trans. Geoff Bennington, in Post-structuralist Joyce, ed. Derek Attridge and Daniel Ferrer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 147.
(114.) Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 553.
(115.) Ibid., 170.
(116.) Derrida, "Two Words for Joyce," 149.
(117.) Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 628.
(118.) Ibid., 590.
(119.) Ibid., 4, 322.
(120.) Umberto Eco, The Middle Ages of James Joyce, trans. Ellen Esrock (London: Hutchinson, 1989), 53.
(121.) Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 121.
(122.) Ibid., 196, 324, 23, 182, 334, 493, 534.
(123.) Ibid., 11.
(124.) Phillip Herring, Joyce's Uncertainty Principle (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 181.
(125.) Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 533.
(126.) Ibid., 86.
(127.) Joyce, Stephen Hero, 66; Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 182.
(128.) Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 181, 424.
(129.) Ibid., 613.
(130.) Fordham, Lots of Fun at Finnegans Wake, 221.
(131.) More, Utopia, 84.
(132.) Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels (London: Penguin, 1985), 281.
(133.) Ibid., 291, 318-19.
(134.) Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 188.
(135.) Joyce, Dubliners, 7
(136.) Ibid., 27.
(137.) Jacques Derrida, Dissemination, trans. Barbara Johnson (London: Athlone, 1981), 57.
(138.) Louis Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy, trans. Ben Brewster (Delhi: Aakar Books, 2006), 20.
(139.) Nicholas Brown, Utopian Generations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 42.
(140.) Jameson, Archaeologzes of the Future, 211.
(141.) Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward (London: Penguin, 1986), 43.
(142.) Ibid., 65, 64.
(143.) V.I. Lenin, What Is to Be Done? trans. Robert Service (London: Penguin, 1989), 91.
(144.) Joyce, Ulysses, 273, 644.
(145.) Ibid., 395.
(146.) Jacques Derrida, "Choreographies," Diacritics 12, no. 2 (1982): 76.
(147.) Morris, News from Nowhere, 301.
(148.) Ibid., 300-301.
(149.) Bellamy, Looking Backward, 230.
(150.) More, Utopia, 153; Homer, Odyssey, 85-86.
(151.) Joyce, Ulysses, 538.
(152.) Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future, 177.
(153.) Tom Moylan, Demand the Impossible: Science Fiction and the Utopian Imagination (London: Methuen, 1986), 213.
(154.) More, Utopia, 132.
(155.) Moylan, Demand the Impossible, 213.
(156.) Sheldon Brivic, Joyce's Waking Women (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995), 5.
(157.) Ibid., 133, 135.
(158.) Julia Kristeva, Revolution in Poetic Language, trans. Margaret Waller (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984), 40.
(159.) Brivic, Joyce's Waking Women, 29.
(160.) Kristeva, Revolution in Poetic Language, 25.
(161.) Ibid., 88.
(162.) Brivic, Joyce's Waking Women, 6.
(163.) Helene Cixous, L'exil de Joyce ou l'art du remplacement (Paris: Grasset, 1968).
(164.) Helene Cixous, "The Laugh of the Medusa," trans. Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen, in The Portable Cixous, ed. Marta Segarra (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 35.
(165.) Joyce, Ulysses, 41, 474.
(166.) Ibid., 575.
(167.) Ruth Levitas, "Utopia as Method: The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society," paper presented at Modernism and Utopia, Birmingham and Midland Institute, Birmingham, England, April 23-24, 2010.
(168.) Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, trans. Michael Heim (London: Penguin, 1983), 233.
(169.) Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, 222; Joyce, Ulysses, 475.
(170.) Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 628.
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|Date:||Jul 1, 2012|
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