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The Subaltern Ulysses

1994
Author:

Enda Duffy

The Subaltern Ulysses

Reveals that James Joyce's Ulysses can be seen as a guerrilla text written to resist colonialism.

Reveals that James Joyce's Ulysses can be seen as a guerrilla text written to resist colonialism.

The Subaltern Ulysses is a sweeping postcolonial revaluation of Joyce and by extension of modernism at large. Enda Duffy brought to bear upon his subject a profound knowledge of Irish culture, an extraordinary literary sensitivity, and a sophisticated grasp of recent literary theory, and he does it all without jargon, without lapsing into dogmatics, and with a keen sense of aesthetic texture and quality. His work demonstrates that current concerns with politics, ideology, and history involve a deeply humanist perspective, and an attention to language, theme, and structure, that brings a whole new dimension to textual interpretation.

Sacvan Bercovitch, Carswell Professor of English and American Literature at Harvard University

How might an IRA bomb and James Joyce's Ulysses have anything in common? Could this masterpiece of modernism, written at the violent moment of Ireland's national emergence, actually be the first postcolonial novel? Exploring the relation of Ulysses to the colony in which it is set, and to the nation being born as the book was written, Enda Duffy uncovers a postcolonial modernism-and in so doing traces another unsuspected strain within the one-time critical monolith.
In the years between 1914 and 1921, as Joyce was composing his text, Ireland became the first colony of the British Empire to gain its independence in this century after a violent anticolonial war. Duffy juxtaposes Ulysses with documents and photographs from the archives of both empire and insurgency, as well as with recent postcolonial literary texts, to analyze the political unconscious of subversive strategies, twists on class and gender, that render patriarchal colonialist culture unfamiliar.
Ulysses, Duffy argues, is actually a guerrilla text, and here he shows how Joyce's novel pinpoints colonial regimes of surveillance, mocks imperial stereotypes of the "native," exposes nationalism and other chauvinistic ideologies of "imagined community" as throwbacks to the colonial ethos, and proposes versions of a postcolonial subject. A significant intervention in the massive "Joyce industry" founded on the rhetoric and aesthetics of high modernism, Duffy's insights show us not only Ulysses, but also the origins of postcolonial textuality, in a startling new way.

Enda Duffy is assistant professor of English at the University of California at Santa Barbara.


Related Backlist
Nationalism, Colonialism, and Literature
Terry Eagleton, Fredric Jameson, Edward W. Said
Introduction by Seamus Deane
The three essays included in this book were originally published as individual pamphlets by the Field Day Theatre Company, Derry, Northern Ireland. They offer unique understandings of the role of cultural production as a force in understanding the aftermath of colonization.

ISBN 0-8166-1862-3 cloth $24.95x
ISBN 0-8166-1863-1 paper $9.95

The Subaltern Ulysses

Enda Duffy is professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The Subaltern Ulysses

The Subaltern Ulysses is a sweeping postcolonial revaluation of Joyce and by extension of modernism at large. Enda Duffy brought to bear upon his subject a profound knowledge of Irish culture, an extraordinary literary sensitivity, and a sophisticated grasp of recent literary theory, and he does it all without jargon, without lapsing into dogmatics, and with a keen sense of aesthetic texture and quality. His work demonstrates that current concerns with politics, ideology, and history involve a deeply humanist perspective, and an attention to language, theme, and structure, that brings a whole new dimension to textual interpretation.

Sacvan Bercovitch, Carswell Professor of English and American Literature at Harvard University

A valuable study of Joyce’s novel that challenges deeply held assumptions about modernism and colonialism. Through his use of new frameworks, both theoretical and historical, for interpreting Joyce’s narrative innovations, Duffy provides a model for further research on the relation of Ulysses to the social history of its time. From this perspective, Duffy’s book also provides new approaches to the study of modernism and its relation to history that should appeal to anyone interested in the study of modern literature and culture.

Modernism/modernity

This is an original and intellectually ambitious book, both provocative and provoking. It is sure to be hotly debated for some time to come.

Modern Fiction Studies

Substantial and significant.

David Lloyd

An indisposable analysis of colonial subjectivity and society, Duffy’s is the first study, to my knowledge, that has undertaken to supplement this diagnostic aspect with a systematic attempt to link the analysis with Joyce’s own positioning in relation to the subsequent independence struggle.

James Joyce Quarterly

Books like The Subaltern Ulysses express, not a desire to bring Joyce’s long canonical reign to an end but, rather, a deep and fairly widespread suspicion that Ulysses has been canonized on the wrong grounds. This is part of a process of canonical renewal, which is likely to succeed in reinforcing Eurocentrism despite its declared objective of undermining it.

James Joyce Broadsheet