Monday, March 24, 2008

The "Bombast" Joyce

In Episode 7, James Joyce plays around with the idea of language and the possibility and power of words. While exploring the nature of language and writing, Joyce seems to step outside the parameters of the narrative and examines his own place as an artist and writer. In this episode is one of the most overt examples we see of Joyce manipulating the text to display and portray the very things he is writing about in the novel. However, as Joyce crafts the structure of his writing in a deliberate and unique manner, he seems to question his own effectiveness or meaning as a purveyor of words. When he describes the machine that produces the noise “Sllt” and reveals that it is “doing its best to speak…Everything speaks in its own way” (121), he points the reader to his own place as something trying to communicate in his individual manner. If a machine is able to speak, does it ultimately reduce the value of communication?

Joyce also adopts a self-deprecating attitude towards himself and his work. In the episode, when MacHugh and Dedalus laugh at the article praising Ireland for its verbose and arrogant tone. They comment, “Bombast!...Enough of the inflated windbag” (125). MacHugh later mocks, “The moon…He forgot Hamlet” (126). Joyce seems to be poking fun of himself as well as the newspaper article in the narrative. Joyce himself recognizes his difficult –to-comprehend writing style and acknowledges it in this episode. It is no coincidence that MacHugh mentions Hamlet as the literary allusion left out of the article, an allusion that pervades almost every episode thus far in Ulysses.

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