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Joachim Fischer and Brian Coates. Rudolpi Press, Amsterdam, Volume 2, pages 2!"
“identities in the writer complexus”: Joyce, Europe and Irish Identities
University of Limeric
$he point at issue o% the concluding sections o% A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
is the con%lict bet&een di%%erent notions o% 'rish identity. 'n lines that ha(e become a
credo o% Joyce)s o&n e*ile %rom 'reland, he puts into the mouth o% +tephen ,edalus this
astute summary o% the e%%ect o% essentialist notions o% 'rishness on an indi(idual
consciousness. -ere, spea.ing o% the soul, +tephen ma.es the point that/
$he soul is born, he said (aguely, %irst in those moments ' told you o%.
't has a slo& and dar. birth, more mysterious than the birth o% the body.
0hen the soul o% a man is born in this country there are nets %lung at it
to hold it bac. %rom %light. 1ou tal. to me o% nationality, language,
religion. ' shall try to %ly by those nets.
$his can be seen as a programmatic statement o% &hat ' &ill term a negati(e sense o%
identity. 't is (ery di%%erent in theme and in style %rom the preceding stories o%
Du!iners, &here the style &as co(ert and implicit, as narrati(e (oice tended to blend
&ith that o% di%%erent characters in %ree indirect discourse, &ith little personal input %rom
any central narrati(e presence. -ere, the narrati(e (oice e*pressed in the personal
pronoun %irst person singular, is acti(ely embracing the out&ard heteroglossic mo(ement
to&ards 2urope &hich &ill be seen as creati(e o% a ne& %orm o% cosmopolitan and
comple* 'rish identities.
' &ill e*amine these %orms o% 3identities in the &riter comple*us4
in terms o% t&o
intersecting (erbal a*es/ Joyce)s o&n term, gno"on and Jac5ues ,errida)s term
haunto!ogy. $he &ord gno"on appears in the opening story o% Du!iners, entitled #he
$he term deri(es %rom 2uclid)s %!e"ents, Boo. '', in &hich a gno"on is
de%ined as &hat is le%t o% a parallelogram &hen a similar parallelogram containing one o%
its corners is remo(ed. -o&e(er, it can also re%er to a pointer on a sundial &hich, by its
shado&, indicates the time o% day.
' &ould suggest that both meanings o% the &ord, that o% a geometrical %igure and
that o% a pointer on a sundial, pro(ide symbols o% the Joycean concepts o% negati(e
identity. $he %igure o% a parallelogram, &ith a smaller parallelogram remo(ed, suggests
a desire %or closure and completion that can ne(er be achie(ed, %or, i% the parallelogram
in the corner is %illed in, then the shape &ill cease to be a gno"on and instead &ill re(ert
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, edited by R. B. 7ershner, Boston, 88#, !! .
James Joyce, &innegans Wake, %irst published 8#8, London, 8!9, 6, ##.
James Joyce, Du!iners. 'ntroduction by Anthony Burgess. London, 886, .
,on :i%%ord, 'oyce Annotated: (otes for ;Du!iners) and ;A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man),
Ber.eley, 8<2, 28.
to being a parallelogram. $o this e*tent, the gno"on de%ines a process &hich tends
to&ards closure, but ne(er 5uite achie(es it, al&ays seeming to ha(e a phantom dotted
line haunting its ontology, and al&ays tending to be &hat it is not. 't is a diagrammatic
and conceptual signi%ier &hich stresses that identities and de%initions are al&ays
processes o% becoming, as opposed to positions o% %i*ity. 't is also an indication that
identity as a sel%"present essentialism is not &hat Joyce has in mind= %or the gno"onic
(ie& o% identity, &hat ' term 3identities in the &riter comple*us4, sel% is al&ays de%ined
in terms o% the other. 'n ethical and political terms, such a position is the (ery antithesis
o% the %undamentalism that has been seen, &orld"&ide, in the ,rumcree stando%% in
recent years in >orthern 'reland, &here sel% and other &ere in (iolent opposition. ' thin.
this e*ample is an elo5uent synecdoche o% the dangers that %i*ed and simplistic
de%initions o% identity can bring into being. 'ndeed, ' &ould argue that it is such
%undamentalist identi%icatory attitudes and ideologies that ha(e been the terminus a 5uo
%rom &hich much o% the (iolence in >orthern 'reland o(er the past thirty years has
'n $)ecters of Mar*, Jac5ues ,errida discusses &hat he terms haunto!ogy. 'n this
boo., he e*plores the spectrality o% many areas o% meaning, seeing ghostly hauntings as
traces o% other possible meanings. ,errida)s spectrality in(ol(es ac.no&ledging the
other that haunts the sel%= it in(ol(es ac.no&ledging the possibility that the 3h4 in
haunto!ogy is a ho(ering presence o(er the certainties o% ontology ?in French phonology
both &ords sound remar.ably similar &hen spo.en@.
'n practical terms, this means that
Joyce)s 'rishness is al&ays inhabited by spectral presences o% other languages, other
cultures and other mindsets.
$o be a gno"on is to ha(e a haunto!ogica! relationship &ith a parallelogram, and
yet ne(er to become that parallelogram= it is to ha(e an independent ontology o% se!f
&hich is, at the same time, imbricated in terms o% the other. 't is to be de%ined,
negati(ely, by an other &hich, &hile not a part o% the sel%, is ne(ertheless
haunto!ogica!!y present in relation to that sel%. 't suggests a metaphor o% identity &hich
is open to other identities, other ideologies and to notions o% plurality A hence the plural
%orm o% the noun 3identity4 in this discussion. 'n Joyce)s case, 'reland is de%ined
gno"onica!!y and haunto!ogica!!y by 2urope, and 2uropean language and culture. $his
de%inition complicates and deepens any simplistic desire %or an echt 'rishness &hich is
simply :aelic, Catholic and nationalist.
$he desire o% Joyce, and o% +tephen, to see. out such ne& dimensions and ne&
modes o% identity should not, ho&e(er, be seen as a %light %rom his o&n country or his
o&n sense o% 'rishness. Rather is it an attempt to create a ne& sense o% 'rishness &hich
ac.no&ledges alterity. $his contradictory position, o% being part o% a culture &hile at the
same time attempting to o%%er a criti5ue o% the ideology o% that culture, is discussed by
$heodore Adorno, in his essay 3Cultural Criticism and +ociety+. $he t&o subBect
positions %rom &hich criticism may be o%%ered are seen by Adorno as being either those
o% immanence or transcendence, and both positions are %raught &ith di%%iculty. $he
immanent critic participates in the culture/ he or she is shot"through &ith the ideologies
Jac5ues ,errida, $)ecters of Mar*/ #he $tate of the Det,, the Work of Mourning , the (e-
Internationa!, translated %rom the French by Peggy 7amu%, introduction by Bernd Cagnus and +tephen
Cullenberg, London, 886, D.
and attitudes o% that culture and hence has little chance o% ma.ing any real obBecti(e
statements about this position o% 3total immanence4
and there%ore is doomed to repeat
the errors o% the culture. $he transcendent critic, on the other hand, 3aims at a totality4
and assumes an 3Archimedean position abo(e culture and the blindness o% society4.
-o&e(er, such a position 3outside the s&ay o% e*isting society4, is 3%ictitious4,
ultimately as monological as that o% the immanent position &ithin ideology. Adorno)s
ans&er to this dilemma is the notion o% 3negati(e dialectical criticism4, &hich ta.es up a
position in culture and yet not in culture at the same time. 'n this sense, the position o%
transcendence is achie(ed dialectically by loo.ing at a microcosmic part o% a totality,
and by then relating that to the cultural macrocosm. $he .no&ledge achie(ed is negati(e
and it is in search o% such a negati(e sense o% 'rishness that Joyce, and %ictionally
+tephen, lea(e 'reland. 't is in the cause o% some rede%inition o% 'rishness that he %eels he
must achie(e a 5uasi"transcendent position, and mo(e to 2urope= here he &ill attempt to
rede%ine a sense o% 'rishness &ithin a 2uropean conte*t.
0hat Joyce, through +tephen, is attempting to do is to create a negati(e portrait o%
'rish identity. $o create this, he must ha(e some regulati(e point %rom &here he can
begin to dialectically Bu*tapose the immanent and the transcendent so as to create these
more comple* %orms o% identity. $&o tropes allo& him to achie(e this, +tephen)s
unusual name and the trope o% emigration, as both combine to o%%er a transcendental
perspecti(e on 'reland, and both imbricate 'rishness gno"onica!!y &ith 2urope.
+tephen)s name is a signi%ier o% otherness %rom the (ery beginning o% the boo..
>asty Roche, on %irst hearing it as.s/ 3F&Ghat .ind o% a name is thatH4,
&hile later in the
opening chapter, Athy says/ 3you ha(e a 5ueer name, ,edalus4.
$his strangeness o%
name, allied to +tephen)s early preoccupation &ith &ords, names, and stories mar.s him
out as di%%erent %rom the other boys. 't places him &ithin a :ree. %rame o% re%erence,
alluding to another artist and arti%icer &ho combined immanence and transcendence
?through %light@ on his o&n culture, namely ,aedalus.
From the earliest stage, +tephen situates himsel% in terms o% a society and a
.eens-e!t that reaches out beyond 'reland, and nomenclature is a seminal trope o% this
situation. -is %riend, Fleming inscribed the %ollo&ing doggerel on his geography boo./
$te)hen Deda!us is "y na"e/
Ire!and is "y nation0
1!ongo-es is "y d-e!!ing)!ace
And hea2en "y e*)ectation0 Fita!ics origina!G
'n Fleming)s placement, +tephen has been slotted into an e*pected range o% de%initional
identi%icatory parameters/ he is 'rish and Catholic, and his %uture path is predetermined.
-ere, there is an anticipation o% ,a(in, &ho tells him that his country must come %irst.
$he identi%icatory epistemology is %oundationalist in that there is no room in this narro&
prescripti(e paradigm %or alterity o% any sort= again one is put in mind o% the essentialism
$heodore Adorno, Pris"s, translated by +amuel and +hierry 0eber, Cambridge, Cass., 8<, 2E.
Portrait of the Artist, 2.
Portrait of the Artist, #6.
Portrait of the Artist, 2!
o% ,rumcree and the :ar(aghy Road, &here sel% is de%ined in contradistinction to the
-o&e(er, on the %lylea% o% his geography boo., +tephen inscribes his o&n name,
but in a manner &hich rede%ines himsel% &ithin a %ar &ider set o% parameters than the
abo(e, and &hich anticipates his later %light to 2urope in the closing chapter/
1!ass of %!e"ents
1!ongo-es Wood 1o!!ege
-ere, +tephen is locating himsel% &ithin a %ar broader spatial span that that allotted him
by Fleming. -ere, the sel% is de%ined (ery much in terms o% an otherness that is part o%
the de%ining constituents o% that sel%. For Joyce, the haunto!ogica! gno"onic de%inition
o% an identity 3comple*us4 &ill al&ays see the present 'reland de%ined dialectically
against the ho(ering alterity o% 2urope, and the &orld.
$he proper name, as synecdoche o% identity itsel%, is central to any epistemology o%
identity= one)s name is that &hich locates one as part o% a language and a culture. Just as
the signi%ier 3,edalus4 conBures up mythic images o% a spectral %ather &ho &ill pro(ide
his %oster"son &ith a means to %ly abo(e the maIe, and also the nets o% nationality, so the
name o% :od, itsel% a potent signi%ier o% Catholic essentialism, is in(o.ed in the opening
chapter o% A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, but the e(ocation is through the
ironic eye o% Joyce, telling us %rom a transcendental perspecti(e, about the young
+tephen)s immanent participation in essentialist modes o% thin.ing/
:od &as :od)s name Bust as his name &as +tephen. ,ieu &as the
French %or :od and that &as :od)s name too= and &hen anyone prayed
to :od and said ,ieu then :od .ne& at once that it &as a French
person that &as praying. But, though there &ere di%%erent names %or
:od in all the di%%erent languages in the &orld and :od understood
&hat all the people &ho prayed said in their di%%erent languages, still
:od remained al&ays the same :od and :od)s real name &as :od.
$hrough Joyce)s ironic eye, an eye &hich &ill, in &innegans Wake, spea. o% a
the essentialism o% seeing the name %or :od in one language as
someho& 3better4, as someho& more authentic, than others is e*pressed through the
simplistic thought processes o% a small child. 'ndeed, such dogmatism is ironically
amusing, until &e e*trapolate %rom such essentialist ideas o% religion, the mindset that
Portrait of the Artist, 2!.
Portrait of the Artist, 2!.
&innegans Wake, 296, 8.
allo&ed people to petrol"bomb a house in Ballymoney, in the +ummer o% 888, and
murder three young boys &ho happened to adhere to a di%%erent (ie& o% 3:od)s real
name4 %rom that o% the petrol"bombers, or o% the ten protestant &or.ers lined up and shot
by the 'RA at 7ingsmills, in 8!E, merely because they &ee Protestants.. $hrough the
ironic positioning o% the narrati(e (oice, Joyce the author, achie(es a transcendent
perspecti(e on +tephen the character, and as such can achie(e something (ery li.e
Adorno)s notion o% negati(e dialectical criticism.
Joyce as author &ill ma.e a space and a time %or alterity, a point that is abundantly
clear in the haunto!ogica! e(ocation and trans%ormation o% the opening lines o% Portrait
in a later passage %rom &innegans Wake/
Jnce upon a time and a (ery good time it &as there &as a mooco&
coming do&n along the road and this mooco& that &as coming do&n
along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuc.ooK
2ins &ithin a space and a &eary&ide space it &ast ere &ohned
a Coo.se. $he onesomeness &ast alltolonely, archunsitsli.e,
broady o(al, and a Coo.se he &ould a &al.ing goK
't is clear that the childish narrati(e certainties are haunto!ogica!!y rede%ined in the
analogous piece %rom &innegans Wake, &hich in Ba.htinian terms, is heterog!ossic in
that di%%erent (oices and di%%erent languages are allo&ed to con%ront each other and
achie(e some .ind o% dynamic interaction, or dialogiIation.
'n the 5uotation %rom A
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, there is an e*periential %amiliarity e(ident
throughout the piece. $he opening, borro&ing %rom the to)os o% the %airy or %ol. tale, is
com%orting and recogniIable, as is the baby"tal. &hich is the %rame o% re%erence o% the
story. $here is one time, one road, one co& and one 3nicens little boy4. $here is no
problem &ith comple*ity o% identi%ication here= temporally and spatially the reader is in
%amiliar territory. Jne could see such a simplistic narrati(e as analogous to the already
created conscience o% Joyce)s race, &here as ,a(in puts it, to be 'rish is to be nationalist,
Catholic and :aelic only. $o again ad(ert to Ci.hail Ba.htin)s terminology, this notion
o% narrati(e is monologic as opposed to dialogic. By 3monologic4, he means the denial
that, outside one particular opinion or reading, there e*ists 3another consciousness, &ith
the same rights, and capable o% responding on an e5ual %ooting4.
-o&e(er, the granting o% an e5uality o% rights, as seen in >orthern 'reland in recent
years, is an e*tremely di%%icult and comple* e*ercise in reality A both sides o%ten seem to
be spea.ing in di%%erent languages. Perhaps the &innegans Wake 5uotation articulates
this by subBecting the opening lines o% Portrait to a destabiliIing linguistic polyglossia.
'n the case o% the :erman &ords 3eins4 and 3&ohned4 ?the latter also deri(ing %rom Jld
and Ciddle 2nglish sources@, there is an opening up to alterity (oiced in the language o%
2urope and in the language o% di%%erence. $he &innegans Wake 5uotation, then, o%%ers a
Portrait of the Artist, 8.
&innegans Wake, 92, <"2D
Ci.hail Ba.htin, #he Dia!ogic I"agination: &our %ssays, translated by Caryl 2merson and Cichael
-ol5uist, Austin, $e*as, 8<, 2E#.
$I(etan $odoro(, Mikhai! Bakhtin/ #he Dia!ogica! Princi)!e. Cinneapolis/ 8<6, D!.
negati(e criti5ue o% the epistemological assumptions regarding narrati(e, teleology, and
language that are inherent in the Portrait 5uotation, as the haunto!ogica! presence o%
languages and stories destabiliIes the seeming singularity o% one story and one language.
$hus, di%%erent languages pro(ide a perspecti(e %rom &hence to mount an immanent
criti5ue o% one)s culture. -o&e(er, there is another perspecti(e %rom &here a parallel
criti5ue may be o%%ered, and that is through a sense o% 'rishness &hich is spatially
negati(e, namely, an 'rishness &hich is not, o% necessity, located in 'reland.
>ear the end o% Portrait, +tephen is recalling a con(ersation &ith ,a(in, the young
%enian, and a symbol o% a narro& (ision o% 'rishness. ,a(in sees himsel% as 3an 'rish
nationalist %irst and %oremost4, and he as.s +tephen i% he is 3'rish at allH4,
enunciating his o&n green nationalist (ie& o% 'rishness/ 3be one o% usK.0hy don)t you
+tephen retorts, on being as.ed &hy he is going to emigrate that he told
,a(in that 3the shortest &ay to $ara &as 2ia -olyhead4,
and this aphorism, ' &ould
argue, gestures to&ards the epistemological position o% emigration as a trope %or the
creation o% a more comple* %orm o% 'rishness &hich does not become subBect to closure
$ara &as the traditional seat o% the high".ings o% 'reland. 't is a placename
commonly %eatured in the Celtic, heroic tales o% the re(i(al, and associated &ith the
coming o% Christianity to 'reland through stories o% +aint Patric.. +ymbolically, $ara
&ould be the epicentre o% an Lr"'reland, a place o% pre"in(asion purity, &here 'rish
language and culture &ere the norm. -olyhead is that port in 0ales &here 'rish
emigrants traditionally alight in Britain, be%ore mo(ing on to mainland 2urope. $he core
point here is that +tephen is not lea(ing 'reland because he is in some &ay renouncing
'rishness= he is lea(ing so that he can disco(er a ne& %orm o% 'rishness, and e*press it, as
he %amously puts it at the end o% the no(el/
Cother is putting my ne& secondhand clothes in order. +he prays no&,
she says, that ' may learn in my o&n li%e and a&ay %rom home and
%riends &hat the heart is and &hat it %eels. Amen. +o be it. 0elcome,
J li%eM ' go to encounter %or the millionth time the reality o% e*perience
and to %orge in the smithy o% my soul the uncreated conscience o% my
-ere, +tephen is espousing emigration as an epistemological perspecti(e through &hich
a more comple* sense o% 'rish identity can be created. By adopting a perspecti(e that is
outside the culture, he hopes to achie(e a t&o%old aim/ to distance himsel% %rom the
3nets4 o% 3nationality, language, religion4,
and to gi(e a (oice to those o% his 3race4
&ho are physically outside 'reland. 'nterestingly, he e5uates the 3nets4 &ith being born
in 'reland/ 3F&Ghen the soul o% a man is orn in this countryK4 F"y ita!icsG,
seem to be attempting to trans%orm the %i*ed categories o% identity through the
Portrait of the Artist, !E.
Portrait of the Artist, !E.
Portrait of the Artist, 2E.
Portrait of the Artist, 2<.
Portrait of the Artist, !!.
Portrait of the Artist, !!.
e*perience o% 2uropean culture, an e*perience &hich is enunciated through the trope o%
emigration. +tephen, in attempting to de%ine some sense o% 'rish identity, %eels that he
can only achie(e this by mo(ing a&ay %rom the %i*ed centrality o% the 'rishness o% the
re(i(al, and instead attempt to create a haunto!ogica!, plural (ie& o% 'rishness and o%
comple* identities, &hich contrasts sharply &ith that o% ,a(in. -e is attempting to de%ine
the culture o% 'rishness in a &ay &hich is 3to be not identical to itsel%4 but rather to be
3di%%erent -ith itse!f 4,
in short, he is attempting to de%ine 'rishness other-ise.
'n this conte*t, and in the conte*t o% Adorno)s dialectical criticism, the (erbal
construction o% the credo 3' &ill %ly by those nets4 is ambiguous. 3By4 can mean around
or past, indicating a desire %or the a(oidance o% the entrapping nets. -o&e(er, 3by4 can
also mean 3by means o%4 or 3using as an aid4, and in this sense, the term implies a
dependence on, or an attachment to, such notions almost as a mode o% articulation. '
&ould suggest that the dialectical interaction o% these t&o meanings acts as a %urther
metaphor %or the Joycean concept o% identity 3comple*us4. Bypassing the nets still
in(ol(es ta.ing them into consideration, Bust as the mo(ing shado& o% the sundial is still
dependent upon the static pointer o% the gno"on. +imilarly, ma.ing use o% the nets to
achie(e something beyond them also in(ol(es a dialectical progression. +o, in both
cases, the nets can ne(er be totally destroyed or done a&ay &ith= their %unction is to
pro(ide some limits in terms o% sel% identity, but also to allo& %or the opening to alterity
that is so necessary to the Joycean proBect. $o be inside these nets is to be delimited by
past concepts o% nationality, language, and religion. $o bypass them, or to use them to
mo(e on, is to be open to a %uture that &ill, &hile ta.ing on board some o% the baggage
o% the past, tra(el to ne& destinations, rede%ining itsel% in the process.
-is attitude to history is di%%erent to that o% ,a(in, he sees not a glorious :aelic
past, but the reality o% linguistic metamorphosis &hich in turn led to cultural
metamorphosis/ 3FmGy ancestors thre& o%% their language and too. on anotherK.$hey
allo&ed a hand%ul o% %oreigners to subBect them4.
Bet&een these personal pronouns A
3my4 and 3they4 A is the interstitial position, &hat Bhabha terms 3liminal4 spaces,
&hich the trope o% emigration o%%ers Joyce. 'n this 3in"bet&een4 is the ,erridean notion
o% an identity &hich, in the case o% culture, person, nation, or language is 3a sel%"
di%%erentiating identity, an identity di%%erent %rom itsel%, ha(ing an opening or gap &ithin
'n his later boo.s, especially &innegans Wake, this gap is symboliIed by Joyce
in terms o% a sel%"di%%erentiating language, &herein meaning is ne(er sel%"identical.
&innegans Wake)s multilingual spectraliIation o% the beginning o% A Portrait of
the Artist as a Young Man, %urther underlines this trans%ormation. 2nglish is no longer
seen as the property o% the coloniIer= instead it is de%ined gno"onica!!y in terms o% its
negati(e relationship &ith the many other languages and discourses in &innegans Wake
?o(er 9D at the last count@. As Joyce puts it in the abo(e 5uotation, the 3onesomeness
this 3onesomeness4 is precisely that monological strain that has gi(en
Jac5ues ,errida, #he 5ther Heading: 6ef!ections on #oday)s %uro)e, translated by Pascale"Anne Brault
and Cichael >aas, Bloomington, 'ndiana, 882, 8"D.
Portrait of the Artist, !!.
-omi 7. Bhabha, #he .ocation of 1u!ture, London, 886, 6.
Jac5ues ,errida, Deconstruction in a (utshe!!: A 1on2ersation -ith 'ac7ues Derrida, edited &ith a
commentary by John ,. Caputo, >e& 1or., 88!, 6.
&innegans Wake, 92, 8.
rise to the ideological ossi%ication that is de%ined, in >orthern 'reland, as unionist and
nationalist, or as Jrange and :reen. +uch 3onesomeness4 is, o% course, practically
impossible in terms o% the modern &orld, a point &hich is mimetically demonstrated in
&innegans Wake, &here an indigenous 'rish person has no readier insight into the range
o% meanings codi%ied in the te*t than has a person o% any other nationality.
'n this sense, the te*t itsel% %unctions as a criti5ue o% all essentialist epistemological
positions. 2arlier in the same te*t, Joyce pointedly re%ers to the tale o% +hem a 3blind
&ho is also a 3%ain shinner4,
and the blindness o% immanent simplistic
nationalism, be it political, linguistic, or cultural, is clearly the source o% such parodistic
re%erence, especially gi(en an address that comes slightly later in the same section/
3FgGentes and laitymen, %ullstoppers and semicolonials, hybredsNand lubberdsM4.
Joyce is addressing his 3nation4 and the address could be seen as an echoing ans&er to
the 5uestion o% 'rishness A 3-ushM Caution M 2cholandM4
A &ith &hich our discussion
opened, but here the 'rishness in 5uestion is an e*ample o% 3identities in the &riter
For Joyce, his nation is a transactional blurring o% the binarisms o% essential
identity. 3:entes and laitymen4 can re%er to people, deri(ing %rom the Latin noun gens,
or to ladies and gentlemen, or to the people sharing descent along the male line, or to
class distinction bet&een some %orm o% aristocracy and those &ho are 3ordinary4, or to
clergy ?in the sense o% patriarchal po&er in the church@, and the laity. $he &ords
3%ullstoppers and semicolonials4 can re%er to the rules o% grammar, &hich ma.e meaning
and nationhood possible by delimiting the play o% language, or to the ongoing dialectic
o% colonialism and coloniIation, or to the ambiguous position o% 'reland in terms o% its
status as a postcolonial country. $he %inal phrase, 3hybreds and lubbberds4, con%lates
land and sea &ith di%%erences o% identity in a pairing that is (ery much at odds &ith the
3onesomeness4 noted earlier. -ere, hybridity, comple*ity and abo(e all plurality, are
seen as natural conditions o% modern identities, a perspecti(e &hich completely
contradicts +tephen)s earlier comments regarding :od and Dieu.
'n short, each &ord is signi%ying 3other&ise4 inasmuch as there is a constant
openness to alterity o% all sorts. $he language o% &innegans Wake o%%ers a gno"onic
epistemology o% 'rishness in that it allo&s %or the (oice o% the other to %ill the gap in the
gno"on, &hile ne(er allo&ing any %orm o% closure. $he 3&riter comple*us4 creates
haunto!ogica! 'rish 3identities comple*us4 through the achie(ement o% a position outside
'reland, and through the creation o% an 32nglish4 language ?and ne(er &ere in(erted
commas more deser(ed@ &hich is shot through &ith traces o% 2uropean languages. 'n
the %ace o% the essentialism that &e ha(e all seen in e(idence at ,rumcree in recent
years, perhaps there is something to be said %or &hat Joyce ?the &riter comple*us )ar
e*ce!!ence@ is attempting, namely the a(oidance o% &hat he calls 3li%e)s high carnage o%
semperidentity by subsisting peasemeal upon (ariables4.
3+emperidentity4, an identity
that is al&ays the same, is by de%inition unchanging. $he memory o% the most recent
&innegans Wake, 68, 2.
&innegans Wake, 68, !.
&innegans Wake, 92, E"!.
&innegans Wake, #, 9.
&innegans Wake, 9<2, 9"E.
3high carnage4 brought about in >orthern 'reland in the name o% such 3semperidentity4
is still %resh in all o% our minds. +uch a simplistic and %i*ed identity is necessarily
temporally %ocused on the past. 'ts sense o% de%inition deri(es %rom the past, and its
&hole raison d89tre is predicated on conser(ing the trans"temporal nature o% its o&n
identi%icatory characteristics. Change, in such a We!tanschauung, is to be bloc.ed at all
costs, including those o% 3high carnage4, in order to preser(e this simplistic %orm o%
sel%hood. Arguing %or a more comple* %orm o% 'rishness, as created through literature,
Joyce suggests an a(oidance o% such simplicity and instead argues that the 3(ariables4 o%
alterity should be embraced as they occur, 3peasemeal4, in order to constantly rede%ine
our notions o% sel%hood.
' &ould %inish this paper &ith a 5uotation %rom 4!ysses. Leopold Bloom, a
-ungarian Je&, symbolic o% the 2uropean in%luence on 'rishness, enunciates the comple*
%orm o% 'rishness that is the subBect o% this paper, and ' &ould argue one o% the aims o%
0hat is your nation i% ' may as.H says the citiIen
'reland, says Bloom. ' &as born here. 'reland.
0hat is at sta.e here is that (ery sense o% gno"onic and hauntological identity that &e
ha(e been discussing, &ith Bloom, li.e +tephen be%ore him, %unctioning as Joyce)s
raisonneur. $he point at issue is that, %or Joyce, 'reland, or to be more correct notions o%
'rish identity, must be su%%iciently comple* and plural to include those, li.e Leopold
Bloom, &ho are not 'rish in any essentialist sense. 0riting at the time o% the :aelic,
Celtic and 'rish re(i(als, Joyce &as ma.ing a point &hich &as unli.ely to be popular
gi(en the notions o% postcolonial sel%"%ashioning that &ere ta.ing place in an 'reland
about to go through the throes o% decoloniIation. $hese notions &ere simplistic in the
e*treme, &ith members o% political and cultural groups mining a narro& seam o%
'rishness %or the essential 5ualities o% nationalism, Catholicism, :aelicism and a strong
sense o% anti"Britishness. Loo.ing bac. on this period, another &riter &ho enunciated a
similar comple* sense o% identity, John Cc:ahern, ga(e the %ollo&ing account o% a
simplistic %orm o% 'rishness/
't &as a young, insecure state &ithout any traditions, &ithout any
manners, and there &as this notion that to be 'rish &as good. >obody
actually too. any time to understand &hat to be 'rish &as. $here &as
this slogan and %anaticism and a lot o% emotion, but there &asn)t any
clear idea e*cept &hat you &ere against/ you &ere against se*uality=
you &ere against the 2nglish.
't is against such simplistic de%initions o% 'rishness that Joyce sets up his o&n comple*
sense o% 'rishness, an 'rishness &hich de%ines itsel% negati(ely in terms o% 2uropean
James Joyce, 4!ysses, edited by -ans 0alter :abler, 0ol%hard +teppe and Claus Celchior, London,
Julia Carlson, Banned in Ire!and: 1ensorshi) and the Irish Writer, Julia Carlson ed., London, 88D, E#.
$he dri(e to&ards unity, %uelled by literature about Celtic heroes and )roso)o)eic
%emale embodiments o% 'rishness ?2rin, Cathleen >i -oulihan, Banba, Cother 'reland,
the +han Van Vocht@, tended to ma.e 'rishness monological and essentialist, and as
such, part o% a politics o% the unu", o% a notion o% 3oneness4, &hich, as ,errida notes,
can be 3a terrible catastrophe4 in a state or a country.
-o&e(er, as Ci.hail Ba.htin has
percepti(ely obser(ed, language, especially in its literary incarnation, is a po&er%ul tool
in the deconstruction o% such centraliIing dri(es, as the 3uninterrupted processes o%
decentraliIation and disuni%ication go %or&ard4 alongside the language o% 3(erbal"
ideological centraliIation and uni%ication4.
't is these processes, ' &ould suggest that
underpin the Joycean notion o% haunto!ogica! and gno"onic identities that ha(e been the
subBect o% this essay.
Li.e ,errida, Joyce is un&illing to see an identi%icatory politics predicated on the
simplistic notions o% 3semperidentity4, o% an unu" &hich broo.s no other notion o%
sel%hood. '% &e ta.e the cultural conte*t o% Joyce)s &or. into account, the dangers o%
such notions o% semperidentity &ould ha(e been all too clear to him. Cuch o% the &riting
o% the :aelic and 'rish Literary re(i(als &ould ha(e been attempting to (alidate a Celtic
sel%"%ashioning by %oregrounding core (alues in terms o% a politico"cultural (ersion o%
'rishness. 2lse&here, ' ha(e made the point that such a simplistic notion o% 'rish identity/
see.s to ground itsel% (ertically in terms o% historical de(elopment
along a single ethnic and identi%icatory &a(elength= the past has de%ined
'rishness, and the contemporary %unction o% literature is to conser(e and
preser(e this handed"do&n heritage= its spatial dimension is narro& in
the e*treme, encompassing the (erities o% the transcendental signi%iers
o% 'rishness, Catholicism, Celtism, republicanism, nationalism, and
For Joyce, ho&e(er, the role o% the &riter is (ery di%%erent. Rather than seeing &riting as
(alidating the socio"cultural status 7uo, he sees his role as o%%ering ne& paradigms o%
identity, identities comple*us, %or his o&n culture. 't is no accident that, at the end o% A
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, he sets out his artistic credo as the %orging in the
smithy o% his soul o% the uncreated F"y ita!icsG conscience o% his race. 't &ill be his role
to create that conscience by opening up the seeming certainties o% identity to an ongoing
criti5ue &hich &ill allo& %or a de%inition o% 'rishness that &ill be 3not identical to itsel%4
but rather 3di%%erent -ith itse!f 4,
in short, he is attempting to de%ine 'rishness other-ise,
and this, ' conclude is the Joycean de%inition o% the role o% the artist. 't is the creation o%
3identities in the &riter comple*us4, &ith the stress on the plural %orm o% the noun. '%
sel%hood is to be de%ined in terms o% alterity in an ongoing process &hich &ill encompass
the 3(ariables4 o% both, then simplistic identity, as enunciated in the opening o% A
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, must be trans%ormed into the linguistic and
Deconstruction in a (utshe!!, 9.
#he Dia!ogic I"agination, 2!2.
2ugene J)Brien, #he :uestion of Irish Identity in the Writings of Wi!!ia" But!er Yeats and 'a"es 'oyce,
Lampeter, 0ales, 88<, ##.
#he 5ther Heading, 8"D.
cultural polysemy o% &innegans Wake, i% the pluraliIation and complication o% 3'reland
is to be achie(ed.
Adorno, $heodore, Pris"s, translated by +amuel and +hierry 0eber, Cambridge, Cass.,
Ba.htin, Ci.hail, #he Dia!ogic I"agination: &our %ssays, translated by Caryl 2merson
and Cichael -ol5uist, Austin, $e*as, 8<.
Bhabha, -omi 7., #he .ocation of 1u!ture, London, 886.
Carlson, Julia, Banned in Ire!and: 1ensorshi) and the Irish Writer, Julia Carlson ed.,
,errida, Jac5ues, #he 5ther Heading: 6ef!ections on #oday)s %uro)e, translated by
Pascale"Anne Brault and Cichael >aas, Bloomington, 'ndiana, 882.
,errida, Jac5ues, $)ecters of Mar*/ #he $tate of the Det,, the Work of Mourning , the
(e- Internationa!, translated %rom the French by Peggy 7amu%, introduction by
Bernd Cagnus and +tephen Cullenberg, London, 886.
,errida, Jac5ues, Deconstruction in a (utshe!!: A 1on2ersation -ith 'ac7ues Derrida,
edited &ith a commentary by John ,. Caputo, >e& 1or., 88!.
:i%%ord, ,on, 'oyce Annotated: (otes for ;Du!iners) and ;A Portrait of the Artist as a
Young Man), Ber.eley, 8<2.
Joyce, James, &innegans Wake, %irst published 8#8, London, 8!9.
Joyce, James, 4!ysses, edited by -ans 0alter :abler, 0ol%hard +teppe and Claus
Celchior, London, 8<8.
Joyce, James, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, edited by R.B. 7ershner, Boston,
Joyce, James, Du!iners. 'ntroduction by Anthony Burgess. London, 886.
J)Brien, 2ugene, #he :uestion of Irish Identity in the Writings of Wi!!ia" But!er Yeats
and 'a"es 'oyce, Lampeter, 0ales, 88<.
$odoro(, $I(etan, Mikhai! Bakhtin/ #he Dia!ogica! Princi)!e. Cinneapolis, 8<6.
&innegans Wake, 628, !"<.
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