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Our Joyce

Our Joyce
From Outcast to Icon

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.

Series: Literary Modernism Series, Thomas F. Staley, series editor

February 1998
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303 pages | 6 x 9 | 1 b&w illus. |

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.


Outstanding Academic Books list, 1998 CHOICE (Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • 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
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

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


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