22 June 2007

For Reading on the Plane

Before leaving the James Joyce Centre after the theatrical production I've described, I bought some trinkets at the gift shop. Among them was a volume of Joyce's "Occasional and Critical Writings," which I thought would be a fun read on the airplane ride home if I didn't like the movie.

I don't remember what the movie was, but it was one I had seen, which left me free to crack open the book. Thus, I learned two facts about Joyce that surprised me: the unsympathetic nature of his reaction to Oscar Wilde, and the unbridled enthusiasm he expressed for Ibsen. Had I been required to guess his responses to these two contemporaries, I would likely have posited them the other way around. Ibsen's drama was revolutionary in its own way, but it seems to me to be a revolution in a quite different direction from that which Joyce was effecting in the format of the novel. And for Wilde's aestheticism, I thought, Joyce would have had something kind to say.

The piece about Ibsen here is a review of his 1899 work, "When We Dead Awaken." You can read it here: http://www.classicreader.com/booktoc.php/sid.7/bookid.1958/

Joyce spoke glowingly of Ibsen's "large insight, artistic restraint, and sympathy. He sees ... steadily and whole, as from a great height, with perfect vision and an angelic dispassionateness, with the sight of one who may look on the sun with open eyes."

The Wilde essay says that its subject has "deceived himself by thinking he was the harbinger of the good news of neo-paganism to the suffering people" when he was really just re-packaging Catholicism.

Joyce also expressed some curiosity whether the "epileptic cast of his nervous system" might be some exculpation for the crime of sodomy -- no word in the essay doubts the criminal nature thereof.

As I say, new data. There is no such sin as gluttony as regards food for thought.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.