James Joyce has long been viewed as a literary modernist who helped define and uphold modernism's fundamental concepts of the artist as martyr to bourgeois sensibilities and of an idealistic faith in artistic freedom. In this revolutionary work, however, Margot Norris proposes that Joyce's art actually critiques these modernist tenets by revealing an awareness of the artist's connections to and constraints within bourgeois society.
In sections organized around three mythologized and aestheticized figures in Joyce's works—artist, woman, and child—Norris' readings "unravel the web" of Joyce's early and late stories, novels, and experimental texts. She shows how Joyce's texts employ multiple mechanisms to expose their own distortions, silences, and lies and reveal connections between art and politics, and art and society.
This ambitious new reading not only repositions Joyce within contemporary debates about the ideological assumptions behind modernism and postmodernism, but also urges reconsideration of the phenomenon of modernism itself. It will be of interest and importance to all literary scholars.
". . . some of the finest, most politically sensitive and informed feminist criticism yet published on Joyce. . . . it will have a major impact on the field of Joyce studies . . ."
Vicki Mahaffey, associate professor of English, University of Pennsylvania