Version classiqueVersion mobile

Text Genetics in Literary Modernism and Other Essays

Hans Walter Gabler

2. ‘He chronicled with patience’: Early Joycean Progressions Between Non-Fiction and Fiction

Texte intégral

1A fruitful area from which to begin to explore movements between non-fictionality and fiction in James Aloysius Joyce’s early writing is the field of force between his (self-dubbed) epiphanies, the narrative Stephen Hero, and the novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. James Aloysius Joyce, or ‘James A. Joyce’? In his early years, Joyce favoured the tri-partite form of given and family names. For his creative writing, and also frequently for correspondence among his private circle, he alternated this with the signature ‘Stephen Daedalus’. With this pseudonym as a foundation he proceeded to plan and construct Stephen Hero. As we know, it remained unfinished, or inachevé (to use the technical term of French genetic criticism). Its twenty-five chapters realised fall far short of the sixty-three chapters envisioned.

  • 1 I.e., [part of] Chapter XIV and chapters XV to XXV in Joyce’s original numbering (from which Theodo (...)

2Broken off and laid aside, moreover, Stephen Hero survives only as a fragment, spanning the final twelve chapters of the twenty-five written.1 This fragment suffices to show, however, the importance James Aloysius Joyce placed upon projecting his pseudonym into a written text. Under the guise of his fictive name, he ventured into narrating himself, accounting in pure temporal succession for his progress from earliest childhood through schooldays and puberty (all of which accounting, however, is regrettably lost) to his Dublin student days, as represented in the surviving twelve chapters. Through oscillating between his signatures of identity and authorship, Joyce opened for himself realms of life-writing before crossing the border into the autonomy of fiction. Notably, upon abandoning the Stephen Daedalus narrative in the summer of 1905, Joyce soon also ceases to use the pseudonym ‘Stephen Daedalus’ (and eventually drops ‘Aloysius’ or ‘A.’ as well). When the life-writing project reemerges from 1907 onwards, it does so as a fully-fledged fiction centred on the autonomously fictional character Stephen Dedalus. The distinction between Stephen Hero and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, consequently, is genuinely generic, and an assumption underlying this essay is that Stephen Hero, cast to narrate straightforwardly, as it is and does, the empirical real world, is in essence non-fictional. For present purposes, conveniently, the oscillating name forms used by James Joyce signpost the field of force between non-fiction and fiction that I wish to map out.


  • 2 So numbered in James Joyce, Poems and Shorter Writings, ed. by Richard Ellmann, et al. (London: Fab (...)

3Here is a text that in the compass of James Joyce’s oeuvre we find as Epiphany no. 14:2

[Dublin: at Sheehy’s, Belvedere Place]

Dick Sheehy — What’s a lie? Mr Speaker, I must ask …
Mr Sheehy — Order! Order!
Fallon — You know it’s a lie!
Mr Sheehy — You must withdraw, sir.
Dick Sheehy — As I was saying …
Fallon — No, I won’t.
Mr Sheehy — I call on the honourable member for Denbigh … Order, Order!

  • 3 This reference is to the text in the through-line numbering by chapter in James Joyce, A Portrait o (...)

4According to the generic term given by Stanislaus Joyce, as well as according to the term used by Stephen D(a)edalus in Stephen Hero and Ulysses, this is an epiphany: a ‘dialogue epiphany’ or ‘dramatic epiphany’, according to the nomenclature common in Joyce criticism. Heard in a real-life situation (that is: empirically perceived), the dialogue is separated out from the universe of the audible. ‘What is audible is presented in time, what is visible is presented in space’, explains Stephen Dedalus to Lynch in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (P-G 5, 1362–633); the ‘esthetic image […] is apprehended as selfbounded and selfcontained […] as one thing […] [in] its wholeness […] [its] integritas’ (1363–67). Stephen goes on to talk about the analysis by which to ‘apprehend [the thing] as complex, multiple, divisible, separable, made up of its parts, the result of its parts and their sum, harmonious. That is consonantia’ (1374–77). Upon which the line of argument culminates in Stephen’s defining — redefining for himself — Aquinas’s claritas as ‘the scholastic quidditas, the whatness of [the] thing’: ‘You see that it is that thing which it is and no other thing’ (1393–95). Through such acts of (interpretative) reading goes Stephen Dedalus’s ‘aesthetic theory’ in A Portrait. On Stephen’s aesthetics, we have much critical commentary — these debates are mostly bent on exploring the intellectual and philosophical groundings, not of Stephen’s, but of James Joyce’s theory of art. We also know that Stephen Dedalus’s unfolding of his theory to Lynch in A Portrait has its antecedent in his namesake Stephen Daedalus’s doing much the same to Cranly in Stephen Hero. There, we remember, the theorizing is actually predicated on the term and notion of the epiphany. In the rewriting of Stephen Hero into A Portrait, the term disappears. ‘Epiphany’ is not a concept, let alone an operative one, in the mind of Stephen Dedalus of A Portrait. Nor is it, when it resurfaces in Ulysses, an element of an ‘aesthetic theory’ for the Stephen Dedalus of that novel. He (again) uses the term, admittedly. Yet for him, it denotes merely a class of text inscribed on a material text carrier: ‘Remember your epiphanies written on green oval leaves, deeply deep’. (U 3, 141)

5Let us therefore talk of the notion of the Joycean epiphany not in terms of an ‘aesthetic theory’, whether of Stephen D(a)edalus’s or of James Joyce’s. Let us try to consider it for what it is (dare I say: for its whatness?). True enough, we have for this, within the confines of James Joyce’s writing, only the mediation through the autobiographically narrated pseudonymous character, the Stephen Daedalus of Stephen Hero. Usefully, however — and let us assume significantly — he introduces it in relation to a real event, a reality experienced:

Stephen as he passed on his quest heard the following fragment of colloquy out of which he received an impression keen enough to afflict his sensitiveness very severely.

The Young Lady — (drawling discreetly)… O, yes …
I was… at the… cha… pel …
The Young Gentleman — (inaudibly)… I… (again inaudibly)… I …
The Young Lady — (softly)… O… but you’re… ve… ry… wick… ed …
This triviality made him think of collecting many such moments
together in a book of epiphanies
SH, 45)

6Stephen Daedalus hears a ‘fragment of colloquy’, and by virtue of it being ‘keen enough to afflict his sensitiveness very severely’, it becomes separated out for him from the universe of the audible. Assuming he has formative inclinations, his interest would be kindled by what might be made of the impression. Were Stephen Daedalus the Stephen Dedalus of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, there were little doubt that the inclination would be turned to artistically formative ends. This is precisely what criticism commonly infers on the grounds of passages of ‘aesthetic theory’ that in A Portrait are put in the mind and words of Stephen Dedalus. Yet the perspective of Stephen Daedalus of Stephen Hero is different. He forms from the fragment of colloquy not an idea, let alone a theory, but a sensation, and perceives the fragment of colloquy thus in its whatness, specified as its ‘triviality’, and thinks of ‘collecting many such moments together in a book of epiphanies’. They are to go into that book as records — if we may take the Portrait Stephen’s word for it: ‘He chronicled with patience what he saw’ (P-G 2, 251). That is: he recorded what he saw in purely temporal succession, or: by writing them down, he narrated the records taken without transubstantiating them into fiction.

7Coolly appreciated for what it is, then, the Joycean epiphany, and particularly the dialogue epiphany, is a record; and as inscribed, a non-fictional text. What is remarkable and significant (and besides, very convenient for us) is that the record as written exists and has materially survived. Our eye, like that of Stephen Dedalus of A Portrait, may have been, and may still be, largely trained on the aesthetic value of the records that Stephen Daedalus in Joyce’s first narrative and James Joyce himself termed ‘epiphanies’. Taking in the materially texted epiphanies as raw material, we may indeed at times have adopted Stephen’s (of Ulysses) stance of an ironic distancing from them (‘deeply deep’). But let us reverse the perspective and consider what the non-fictional records record: moments of reality — or, moments of perception (I am purposefully wavering here). It is true that Stephen Daedalus of Stephen Hero is made to say that the impression he got from such moments ‘afflicted his sensitivity very severely’. Nonetheless, it is the moment, and not the affliction, or into what it might artistically be turned, that is recorded. The epiphany is the documentary transcription of a moment.

8At the same time, one surviving draft of an epiphany — the only such draft we have among fair copies in James Joyce’s or Stanislaus Joyce’s hand — shows that the records must not be assumed to be literatim documentations.

Fig. 2.1 An Epiphany-in-draft. The James Joyce Archive, vol. [7], p. 45

  • 4 Ronan Crowley speaks felicitously of ‘accommodation between strict accuracy and literary effect’ in (...)

9As we can see in this record, the moment appears not fixed but in process: what is said to have been said and to have been transacted is progressively heightened for effect of the language in which it is expressed. If it may be assumed that what is altered and overwritten represents literatim what is overheard (though this assumption is not safe, in the first place), the alterations demonstrate distinct aesthetic styling; even so, of course, the departures from what the reported characters may have said in the real overheard situation do not turn the stylistic rendering achieved into fiction.4


10Transcriptions may be made, strictly speaking, only of something already scripted, that is, of text, or something perceived as text. This means that the moment of reality, and ultimately reality itself, is perceived, experienced, and essentially conceived of as a text, as ‘text’. This, I believe, is the essence of Joyce’s sensitivity. The bent of his emotional and intellectual processing of impressions, as indeed of perception throughout, is that he apprehends in reading mode everything he senses and experiences, as well as anything he reads in books or newspapers, or registers from oral exposition or narrative, or (say) from song in words and music, or from patterned dance. In short, his mode of apperception is to read as text every contingent as well as imagined reality. ‘Text’ in this generalised sense may be defined as the configuration of signifiers into systems of referentiality, among which configurations of signifiers in language, called texts in common parlance, are but one sub-class. The common denominator of these systems, in whichever code of signification, is their readability. ‘Text’ so widely understood may refer outwards to empiric perception, experience, and memory, and will be constituted in denotative, and hence non-fictional, modes of reporting, retelling or other rerendering, and in varieties of codes, whether narratively in language, or, say, pictorially in painting. Or text may be cast self-referentially, in other words, in connotative modes of language configuration specific to fiction.

11Comprehensively, then, to configure signifiers referentially means to constitute text. For Joyce, to read means quite radically to perceive configurations of signifiers, in whatever system of encoding, as text and, from such perception, and out of such ‘perception texts’, constantly to feel the stimulus and power to reconfigure texts read in this way into freshly restructured texts. It is on the level of such argument that we may gain leverage for specifying the distinction between non-fictionality and fiction. For the purposes of this essay, this distinction is posited as defining the generic difference in narrative art between Stephen Hero and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.


  • 5 Crowley, pp. 30–31.
  • 6 An intention to reuse epiphanies is evidenced, as it would seem, from Joyce’s surviving epiphany fa (...)
  • 7 JJA 8,1; and cf., misleadingly positioned, SH, 237.

12Having seen how the ‘Gogarty epiphany’ (‘Epiphany 14’) above gets refashioned from first inscription to its adumbrated state of ‘accommodation between strict accuracy and literary effect’ (never in this case materialised in a fair copy),5 we are prepared to observe the progression of other epiphanies into subsequent writings. In orthodox parlance, the epiphanies in Joyce’s oeuvre acquire the status of paralipomena, of note material for use and reuse. Joyce deployed the epiphanies as preparatory and/or genetic material.6 In the manuscript of Stephen Hero (see Fig. 2.2), there is scrawled over what happens to be its first surviving page the phrase ‘Departure for Paris’ thus (JJA 8,1).7 The note was scrawled over the underlying inscription (with little respect for its fair-hand writing) several years after the abandonment of Stephen Hero, that is, when the Stephen Hero manuscript as written was mined as material deposit for A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The underlying sentences are recognisably a version, only slightly adapted to the third-person narrative of Stephen Hero, of the climax of ‘Epiphany 30’, ‘The spell of arms and voices’ (as it luckily survives, though in this case in Stanislaus Joyce’s hand only). As the inscription on the page itself indicates, the epiphany as redeployed in Stephen Hero appears to round off (as the purple passage it is) one segment in the flow of the narrative, before this resumes with a fresh segment.

Fig. 2.2 First surviving manuscript page of Stephen Hero. The James Joyce Archive, vol. [8]

  • 8 As may be noted in passing, asyndetic segmentation is a typical modernist narrative device.

13The articulation — or, musically speaking, the phrasing — of sequential narrative by epiphanic moments — and thus, compositionally, the strewing-in of epiphanies — is something still to be observed vestigially in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. It is, for instance, particularly evident in the second section of Chapter 2, where, introduced by the narrative pointer that Stephen ‘chronicled with patience what he saw’, follows an asyndetic sequence of brief, recognisably epiphany-shaped segments, strung together so as to suggest a progressive narrative action (P-G 2, 253–349).8 The ‘Departure for Paris’ scrawl in the Stephen Hero manuscript has distinctly more far-reaching implications. Constituting a planning note for the very construction of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, as it does, the ‘The spell of arms and voices’ epiphany should be understood as the ‘textual correlative’, or as we might say, the ‘epiphanisation’, of a moment of overall integrated action: the climactic finish of the prospective novel, at which Stephen Dedalus would be narratively transported from Dublin to Paris. The end as we have it in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was no doubt not yet written when Joyce earmarked its epiphanisation through his scrawl in the Stephen Hero manuscript. Ultimately the erstwhile epiphany, now narratively reused a second time, found its place under the diary entry of ‘16 April: Away! Away!’(P-G 5, 2777)

  • 9 Many years ago now, originally in the 1970s, I analysed comprehensively the genetic materials for S (...)

14Between 1905 and 1907 to 1914, Joyce radically rethought his prose writing. He reconceived Stephen Daedalus, the life-writing alter ego of James Aloysius Joyce, as Stephen Dedalus, the autonomous fictional character. This Stephen Dedalus he situated in a thematically self-referential and structurally centred narrative construct: a generically fully-fledged fiction.9 A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is an autonomous work of literary art. Against it, and in terms of the generic distinctions today at our disposal, Stephen Hero is non-fictional. Cast sequentially as a chronicle, it adheres to a serial (re)telling in purely temporal succession of its protagonist’s life as hitherto lived. To sustain that story of empirical experience, its protagonist, while fictive, since narrated, is contingent, not autonomously fictional. Stephen Daedalus, pseudonymous James Joyce, so converges with the author as narrator.


15Collocating epiphany (re)use in Stephen Hero and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man furthermore brings out significant generic distinctions of context in the (re)deployment. For Stephen Hero, it will serve very simply to look at how ‘Epiphany 14’, cited above, is built into its textual flow. In the case of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by contrast, keener analysis is required to appreciate how fictionality is achieved when the Daedalus/Dedalus narrative is rewritten into an autonomous artefact in language: a novel. The technique of ‘epiphanisation’ plays a significant role in Joyce’s reconceptualisation and rewriting of Stephen Hero as Portrait.

16‘Epiphany 14’, then, recurs thus in Stephen Hero:

McCann always represented a member of the Opposition and he spoke point-blank. Then a member would protest and there would be a make-believe of parliamentary manners.
— Mr Speaker, I must ask …
— Order! Order!
— You know it’s a lie!
— You must withdraw, Sir.
— As I was saying before the honourable gentleman interrupted we
must …
— I won’t withdraw.
— I must ask honourable members to preserve order in the House.
— I won’t withdraw.
— Order! Order!
Another favourite was “Who’s Who”
SH, 45)

17This is, again, an epiphany embedded in narrative. Yet the narrative gesture is rudimentary and remains as non-fictional as the original epiphany it embeds — in accordance with the generic stance of the Stephen Hero text.

18If, by contrast, we accept A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as an autonomous fiction, my second example should help to strengthen the distinction. We all remember from A Portrait Stephen arriving late for lectures and finding the dean of studies intent on lighting a fire. Stephen Hero, as a matter of fact, prefigures the incident; and here the priest at the fireplace has a name: Father Butt. The Stephen Hero narrative records — in pure temporal succession — two separate occasions on two consecutive days:

Stephen laid down his doctrine very positively and insisted on the importance of what he called the literary tradition.
Words, he said, have a certain value in the literary tradition and a certain value in the market-place — a debased value. […] Father Butt listened to all this […] and said that Stephen evidently understood the importance of tradition. Stephen quoted a phrase from Newman to illustrate his theory.
— In that sentence of Newman’s, he said, the word is used according
to the literary tradition: it has there its full value. In ordinary use, that is,
in the market-place, it has a different value altogether, a debased value.
“I hope I’m not detaining you.”
— Not at all! not at all!
— No, no …
— Yes, yes, Mr Daedalus, I see… I quite see your point… detain …
SH, 28)

19This narrative, I take it, embeds one dialogue epiphany (centred, clearly, on the double-take around ‘I hope I’ m not detaining you.’). The record of Stephen Daedalus as itinerant university student thereupon proceeds asyndetically to an incident occurring the next day: ‘The very morning after this Father Butt returned Stephen’s monologue in kind.’ We get Father Butt ‘engaged in lighting a small fire in the huge grate’ in the Physics Theatre, with the paraphernalia of wisps of paper, chalky soutane and candle-butts (maybe this detail is why Father Butt has lost his name and has become the dean of studies in Portrait). The moment is centred on another brief dialogue:

— There is an art, Mr Daedalus, in lighting a fire.
— So I see, sir. A very useful art.
— That’s it: a useful art. We have the useful arts and we have the liberal arts.

20Whereupon is recorded the priest’s immediate departure and Stephen’s brooding over the reproach:

[…] Father Butt after this statement got up from the hearthstone and went away about some other business leaving Stephen to watch the kindling fire and Stephen brooded upon the fast melting candle-butts and on the reproach of the priest’s manner till it was time for the Physics lecture to begin.
SH, 27–28)

  • 10 See the following essay in this volume, ‘James Joyce Interpreneur’, originally published online in (...)

21I suggest it was very likely two distinct dialogue epiphanies, the transcribed records of a patient item-by-item chronicling in the said ‘book of epiphanies’, since lost, that provided the kernels here embedded in the sequential Stephen Hero narrative. The fire-lighting scene in A Portrait is also of course an arranged and controlled narrative. Yet it has, too, all the marks of a literary composition. Extending to just over 200 lines (P-G 5, 378–581, which is a regrettable bar to quoting it here in full), it is not the disjunct stringing together of separate occurrences, but instead one singly developed occasion, occurring on one morning only, that interweaves overt or hidden personality tensions with many-faceted themes, opinions, outlooks, beliefs and vanities. It culminates comically, we remember, though at the same time deeply seriously, in the lexical skirmish over ‘tundish’ versus ‘funnel’, and Stephen’s reflection on language, the very medium for texts: ‘His language, so familiar and so foreign, will always be for me an acquired speech’ (P-G 5, 556–57).10

22The fire-lighting scene in A Portrait is therefore a transubstantiation of what was chronicled in the non-fictional narrative into a self-referential literary composition. This narrative is the text Joyce reads on rereading Stephen Hero, it is the ‘perception text’ from which he makes — and, yes, from which he creatively imagines — the literary text. The non-fictional ‘perception text’ of Stephen Hero (re)encountered has, like the epiphanies too, the status of a record. The epiphanies, as well as the narrative chronicle Stephen Hero, while distinguishable in terms of their respective modes, are related types of inscription. Both allow us to analyse aspects of the creativity invested in Joyce’s making something of them — in this case, making A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man from Stephen Hero. Yet viewed in the reverse direction, the epiphanies as well as the narrative chronicle provide us, too, with a sense of the peculiar creativity Joyce invests, in the first place, into seeing things, seeing the world. Taking both perspectives into account, we gain a superior sense of the flexibility of his writing, and ultimately of the comprehensiveness and universality that the term, notion and concept of ‘text’ possesses for the individual writer James Joyce.


23Surveying all that has come down to us from Joyce’s pen, we may say that, throughout, it reaches out beyond generic boundaries and draws essential gain from blending genre expectations and techniques. Moreover, his writing also lives from always being written back upon itself: from reviewing its antecedent textings. If Stephen Hero in this manner is (‘secondarily’, so to speak) the ‘perception text’ available for retexting into Portrait, it is in the first instance the transcript from the ‘perception text’ of its protagonist’s experiential reality (as specifically transcribed by that protagonist’s scribe and ‘epiphanist’, James Joyce). It is true that, as reasoned above, I not only classify Stephen Hero as an example of non-fictional prose; I also hold that its non-fictionality remains its unaltered property both upstream and downstream, that is, both in its relation to its own ‘perception text’ that the historically real James Joyce alone was in a position to read, but which we do not have and never would have had before our eyes; and then, in turn, in its function as the ‘perception text’ engendering the text of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Thus to consider the Janus-faced position that the Stephen Hero text holds in the creative and compositional progression of the Joycean oeuvre opens up new critical avenues. Specifically, moreover, it helps us to sharpen our sense of Joyce’s mindset towards contingent reality, perception and experience — and, lastly, the potential inherent in autonomous, self-referential fiction.

24Joyce’s mind and senses operated throughout, as I contend, in a mode of reading. Perceived reality and felt experience were read as texts. The surviving epiphanies as well as Stephen Hero are examples of how these texts, read, were transcribed, and so recorded and chronicled. While generic classifications in the conventional manner do not lose their usefulness in the face of Joyce’s works, we may nonetheless draw considerable advantage from acknowledging that Joyce, in writing, constantly played across generic boundaries. From recognising specifically the recording and chronicling qualities in his writing, we may also, and at times perhaps more productively still in critical terms, gain a measure of the creative powers expended on the reading of contingent events and perceptions as textual and on the labour invested into recording and chronicling them — as well as, where his genius proved irresistible, transubstantiating them into literature.

  • 11 Translated as ‘Ireland at the Bar’, whether punningly by intention or not; the Italian original app (...)
  • 12 I give it from JJA 3 in the translation from Joyce’s original Italian that may have been a communal (...)

25For instance: it suffices to listen to ‘L’Irlanda alla sbarra’11to appreciate how Joyce chose to deploy the recording and chronicling mode for the purpose of conjuring up a situation before the bar of justice that hopelessly founders on the language barrier. Here is an excerpt:12

The old man, as well as the other prisoners knew no English. The court was obliged to have recourse to the services of an interpreter. The cross-examination conducted with the help of this individual was sometimes tragic and sometimes comic. On one side there was the official interpreter and on the other the patriarch of the wretched tribe, who being little used to civil customs, seemed stupefied by all those judicial proceedings.
The magistrate said: “Ask the accused whether he saw the woman on that morning.”
The question was repeated to him in Irish and the old man burst into complicated explanations gesturing, appealing to the other accused men & to heaven. Then worn out by the effort, he was silent again and the interpreter, addressing the magistrate, said
— He says that he did not, your worship.
— Ask him whether he was close by that place at that time.
The old man began again speaking and protesting; shouting, almost beside himself with the anguish of not understanding and of not making himself understood, weeping with anger and terror. And the interpreter, again drily:
— He says no, your worship.
At the end of the cross-examination the poor old man was found guilty and the case was sent forward to the Higher Court, which sentenced him to death.

  • 13 T. Harrington, M.P., The Maamtrasna Massacre: Impeachment of the Trials (Dublin: Nation Office, 188 (...)

26In terms of style and narrative gesture, this is a text clearly written in the chronicling and recording mode. Yet here, the mode has become a style. James Joyce — even James Joyce — cannot have written the record from personal memory dating from the time the deed and the trial occurred: this was in August and November 1882, when he was just between six and nine months old. He may have found on his father’s bookshelf a pamphlet of 1884 impeaching the trials — the author, Tim Harrington, was a crony of John Stanislaus Joyce’s.13 Essentially, however — ‘transcript’ though it purports to be (specifically, by genre, a ‘court transcript’ of a kind) — it is, in its verbal and emotional detail, a transcript of an imagined contingently real situation. This would help us focus the creative energy invested in capturing reality — and thereby bring us a little closer to just how Joyce himself may have meant us to understand his adamant insistence on being a realistic author.

27If we take Joyce truly seriously in this, and at his word — hyperbolically though he underscores his claim that Dublin even after centuries could be rebuilt from his writings — if we take Joyce seriously, we should approach the notion of ‘realism’ less from its mimetic than from its referential aspect. Realism in literature conventionally means that fictions referentialise the experience of contingent reality—of the world, simply, that we live in. In Ulysses, as every reader must recognise, it is the ‘Circe’ episode in particular that foregrounds the narrative’s referentiality. According to the conventional take on the ‘realist novel’, separable strata of reference have commonly been distinguished for Circe, a stratum of ‘the real action’, say, and another of visions or hallucinations. At the same time, separations of the strata have, in tentatively being made, always already broken down. What has been overlooked is how the text itself constructs its referentiality. Only if a real Dublin, together with the world the reader lives in, and a horizon of experience contingent with it, are alone assumed as the chapter’s frames of reference does a difficulty arise at all. It is lessened, or disappears altogether, as soon as all modes are taken into account under which the chapter text came into being.

  • 14 What I cannot go into is the heterogeneous multitude of texts Joyce read and harvested so as to wea (...)
  • 15 The mindset from which I write this chapter goes back to my own explorations of Joycean writing in (...)

28In preparation for ‘Circe’ (as well as ‘Oxen of the Sun’) Joyce, as we know, intently reread all the preceding chapter texts of Ulysses. In an important respect, therefore, all preceding chapters became the ‘perception text’ out of which ‘Circe’ was generated.14 This is, as far as it goes, an analogy writ large of the relationship between Stephen Hero and A Portrait — which is an observation satisfying in genetic and critical terms, and hence interesting enough on a pragmatic level. Yet it is on a conceptual level, and in terms of theory, that the true significance lies. What ‘Circe’ relies on is not merely that James Joyce, to compose the chapter, reread all of the preceding chapters. The episode relies, too, on the readers’ cognitive as well as emotional memory of them. But if this is so, it means that Ulysses as a whole—and certainly all its chapters preceding ‘Circe’ — constitutes, in a manner, its readers’ ‘perception text’, too; or, in other words, that Ulysses by the onset of the novel’s fifteenth episode has effectively entered the realm of its readers’ experienced reality.15

29As we have noted, Joyce reads empiric and experiential reality as text, as ‘perception text’, which is non-fictional by definition. This is an important part of his approach to realism. One of the most stunning moments, showing the radical nature of the commitment, occurs in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. We catch the novel’s earliest surviving state of inscription in the fair copy. Here, the transformation of the chronicle record, Stephen Hero, into the literary composition of A Portrait has essentially been accomplished. The fair copies of Chapters 1 and 2 as we have them stand at least at two removes from the Stephen Hero ‘perception text’ which unfortunately for this stretch no longer materially exists. From the preparatory notes that survive for it, when read against Chapters 1 and 2 of Portrait, we may nonetheless conclude that in the round of revision immediately preceding the extant fair-copying, the Christmas Dinner scene was shifted from Chapter 2 to Chapter 1. This operation was accompanied, moreover, by the shift of the Chapter 1 action from (implicitly) 1892 — being Stephen Daedalus’s alter ego James Joyce’s real year of attendance at Clongowes Wood College — to 1891. In the autumn of this year of action, Wells shoulders Stephen into the square ditch. Stephen develops a cold and runs a fever. He is taken to the infirmary, dreams of dying and being laid out on the catafalque in the school chapel; yet in the morning he wakes up recovered — resurrected. The last phase of his dream has been about the dead Parnell returning in his coffin to Ireland and being greeted by ‘a multitude of people gathered by the waters’ edge to see the ship that was entering their harbour’ (P-G 1, 702–04). The harbour is, and was in historical reality, Kingstown (today Dun Laoghaire) harbour. It is a Sunday morning. Working back from there, the day on which Wells shouldered Stephen into the ditch was a Thursday. From Thursday’s betrayal to Sunday’s resurrection, therefore, the narration follows a signification pattern modelled on Holy Week. This is symbolically portentous enough, yet wholly intra-fictional.

30But there is a further detail to be gleaned from the fair-copy manuscript by which, most astonishingly, Stephen’s symbolic Holy Week is tied back to the calendar of 1891.

Fig. 2.3 Revision in holograph fair copy of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The James Joyce Archive, vol. [9], p. 45

31An inmate of a closed institution, Stephen keeps inside his study desk a secret record of his days of confinement. In the evening of the day Wells jumped him, he changes the number for the present day to the number for tomorrow. Here, Joyce enters a revision. He alters the text to read: ‘[Stephen] changed the number pasted up inside his desk from seventy-seven to seventy-six’ The next sentence remains unchanged: ‘But the Christmas vacation was very far away:’ (P-G 1, 282-3). This indicates the target of the day-count: seventy-six days remain (or rather, will tomorrow remain) until the Christmas vacation. Working back from ‘Christmas’, we arrive in the early days of October. Hypothetically choosing 23 December as likely date for the boys’ release into their Christmas vacation, this date will be reached in seventy-six days from Friday, 9 October. It is the day Stephen is taken to the infirmary. The day Wells shouldered him into the ditch was thus Thursday, 8 October. What clinches the reckoning and confirms its significance is that the real-calendar Sunday following, 11 October 1891, was the day in history on which, at dawn, the dead Parnell returned to Ireland and was carried ashore in his coffin in Kingstown harbour. By thus being texted back into real historical time, in other words, the fiction is moored, too, in real history. We enter an echo-chamber of Joycean texts dynamically referencing, by cross-mirroring, each other. Our ability to distinguish its noises is helped by genetic text research into James Joyce’s oeuvre and the material traces that bear witness to it. This opens new vistas onto the universe of imagination, language, signification, reading and texts within which he creatively lived — and to which the habitual distinction between non-fiction and fiction is distinctly subordinate.


1 I.e., [part of] Chapter XIV and chapters XV to XXV in Joyce’s original numbering (from which Theodore Spencer’s edition of 1944 diverges, as does identically its Slocum-Cahoon derivate of 1963). See further my ‘Preface’, The James Joyce Archive 8: Portrait: MS Fragments of Stephen Hero, ed. by Michael Groden, et al. (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1977–1979).

2 So numbered in James Joyce, Poems and Shorter Writings, ed. by Richard Ellmann, et al. (London: Faber & Faber, 1991).

3 This reference is to the text in the through-line numbering by chapter in James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Critical Edition), ed. by Hans Walter Gabler with Walter Hettche (New York and London: Garland Publishing Inc., 1993). It applies identically to the reprints from this edition: the Vintage, New York, 1993, and Vintage, London, 2012, reading-text editions, as well as the text in the Norton Critical Edition, New York, 2007, and essentially, too, the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man e-book from Vintage, London, 2015.

4 Ronan Crowley speaks felicitously of ‘accommodation between strict accuracy and literary effect’ in the epiphanies. See the detailed discussion of this epiphany on pages 30–31 in Gifts of the Gab: Quotation, Copyright, and the Making of Irish Modernism, 1891–1922, Ph. D. dissertation, SUNY, Buffalo, 2014.

5 Crowley, pp. 30–31.

6 An intention to reuse epiphanies is evidenced, as it would seem, from Joyce’s surviving epiphany fair copies themselves. He numbered them on their versos in an order definitely not corresponding to the original progress of their writing but instead apparently suggesting their sequential use in a putative narrative progression.

7 JJA 8,1; and cf., misleadingly positioned, SH, 237.

8 As may be noted in passing, asyndetic segmentation is a typical modernist narrative device.

9 Many years ago now, originally in the 1970s, I analysed comprehensively the genetic materials for Stephen Hero and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man on which I here again draw. Two articles I wrote separately have since been brought together in ‘The Genesis of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’, in Critical Essays on James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, ed. by Philip Brady and James F. Carens (New York: G. K. Hall, 1998), pp. 83–112, Claus Melchior’s dissertation in German, ‘Stephen Hero. Textentstehung und Text. Eine Untersuchung der Kompositions-und Arbeitsweise des frühen James Joyce’, Ph. D. dissertation, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Bamberg, 1988, (privately printed), deepens the generic and genetic perspective on Stephen Hero.

10 See the following essay in this volume, ‘James Joyce Interpreneur’, originally published online in Genetic Joyce Studies,, for discussion of the implications for James Joyce and his languages that arise from the funnel: tundish quibble in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

11 Translated as ‘Ireland at the Bar’, whether punningly by intention or not; the Italian original appeared in Il Piccolo della Sera on 16 September 1907.

12 I give it from JJA 3 in the translation from Joyce’s original Italian that may have been a communal effort of family and friends in Trieste. A different recent translation is given in James Joyce, Occasional, Critical, and Political Writings, ed. by Kevin Barry (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 145–47, where also the Italian original is appended on pages 217–19.

13 T. Harrington, M.P., The Maamtrasna Massacre: Impeachment of the Trials (Dublin: Nation Office, 1884), p. 29: ‘The third prisoner, Myles Joyce, was, before a quarter of an hour had elapsed, brought into the dock to stand his trial for complicity in the murder. The prisoner is older than either of the previous men who have been tried. He was dressed in older garments, but, unlike them, he did not appear to have the slightest knowledge of the language in which his trial is being conducted. He sits in the dock like them […] with his head leaning upon his arms, which he reels upon the bar of the dock’. I thank Harald Beck for helping with this background.

14 What I cannot go into is the heterogeneous multitude of texts Joyce read and harvested so as to weave them into ‘Circe’, as indeed into Ulysses in its entirety. This is the subject matter of an increasingly active investigation in Joyce criticism of Joyce’s notebooks, including the surviving ones for Ulysses, as, earlier in the history of notebook research, those for Finnegans Wake.

15 The mindset from which I write this chapter goes back to my own explorations of Joycean writing in the mode of rereading in the essay: ‘Narrative Rereadings: some remarks on “Proteus”, “Circe” and “Penelope”’, in James Joyce 1: ‘Scribble’ 1: genèse des textes, ed. by Claude Jacquet (Paris: Lettres Modernes, 1988), pp. 57–68, 5700.pdf

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 2.1 An Epiphany-in-draft. The James Joyce Archive, vol. [7], p. 45
Fichier image/jpeg, 208k
Légende Fig. 2.2 First surviving manuscript page of Stephen Hero. The James Joyce Archive, vol. [8]
Fichier image/jpeg, 272k
Légende Fig. 2.3 Revision in holograph fair copy of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The James Joyce Archive, vol. [9], p. 45
Fichier image/jpeg, 171k


Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search