Our Joyce

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Our Joyce

From Outcast to Icon

By Joseph Kelly

How James Joyce's literary reputation transformed from an Irish writer speaking to the Dublin middle classes to a writer talking only to other writers.

Thomas F. Staley, series editor



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6 x 9 | 303 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-72376-4

James Joyce began his literary career as an Irishman writing to protest the deplorable conditions of his native country. Today, he is an icon in a field known as "Joyce studies." Our Joyce explores this amazing transformation of a literary reputation, offering a frank look into how and for whose benefit literary reputations are constructed.

Joseph Kelly looks at five defining moments in Joyce's reputation. Before 1914, when Joyce was most in control of his own reputation, he considered himself an Irish writer speaking to the Dublin middle classes. When T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound began promoting Joyce in 1914, however, they initiated a cult of genius that transformed Joyce into a prototype of the "egoist," a writer talking only to other writers.

This view served the purposes of Morris Ernst in the 1930s, when he defended Ulysses against obscenity charges by arguing that geniuses were incapable of obscenity and that they wrote only for elite readers. That view of Joyce solidified in Richard Ellmann's award-winning 1950s biography, which portrayed Joyce as a self-centered genius who cared little for his readers and less for the world at war around him. The biography, in turn, led to Joyce's canonization by the academy, where a "Joyce industry" now flourishes within English departments.

List of Abbreviations

One. Joyce the Propagandist
Joyce’s First Readers
Politics and the Literary Industry in Ireland
The Irish Homestead and the Rural Middle Class
Joyce’s Politics
Class Conflict in Dubliners
The Socialist Alternative
Joyce the Realist

Two. The Egoist’s Joyce
Pound’s Half-Thousand
Eliot’s Geniuses
Joyce the Egoist
The Modern Classic

Three. Ernst’s Joyce
The Erotic Joyce
The Second Round: A Test of Beach’s Ulysses
Morris Ernst and the Obscenity Laws
Class Conflict
The Third Round
The Preparation
The Modern Classic and the Secretary of the Treasury
The Briefs
Ulysses in School
“The Salutary Forward March”

Four. Ellmann’s Joyce
Stanislaus Joyce v. the Critics
Mason and Ellmann
Mason’s Objections to James Joyce
Conjecture: Theory and Practice
The Gay Betrayers
Ellmann’s James Joyce
Canonization and Dissent
Revisionist Views of Joyce

Five. Our Joyce
Criticism, Inc.
The “Scholarly Critic” of Modern Fiction Studies
Transition: New York’s Joyce
The James Joyce Quarterly
The Joyce Industry
The International James Joyce Symposia
The Critical Editions

Conclusion: The Trouble with Genius


Joseph Kelly is Assistant Professor of English at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

"This study of Joyce's literary reputation is extremely interesting and provocative.... Joseph Kelly wants us to rethink entirely our notion of who 'James Joyce' is."
—Morris Beja, Editor, James Joyce Newestlatter

Outstanding Academic Books list, 1998