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Joyce's Web

Joyce's Web
The Social Unraveling of Modernism

In this revolutionary work, Margot Norris proposes that Joyce’s art critiques modernism’s fundamental concept of the artist as martyr to bourgeois sensibilities by revealing an awareness of the artist’s connections to and constraints within bourgeois society.

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

January 1992
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255 pages | 6 x 9 |

James Joyce has long been viewed as a literary modernist who helped define and uphold modernism's fundamental concepts of the artist as martyr to bourgeois sensibilities and of an idealistic faith in artistic freedom. In this revolutionary work, however, Margot Norris proposes that Joyce's art actually critiques these modernist tenets by revealing an awareness of the artist's connections to and constraints within bourgeois society.

In sections organized around three mythologized and aestheticized figures in Joyce's works—artist, woman, and child—Norris' readings "unravel the web" of Joyce's early and late stories, novels, and experimental texts. She shows how Joyce's texts employ multiple mechanisms to expose their own distortions, silences, and lies and reveal connections between art and politics, and art and society.

This ambitious new reading not only repositions Joyce within contemporary debates about the ideological assumptions behind modernism and postmodernism, but also urges reconsideration of the phenomenon of modernism itself. It will be of interest and importance to all literary scholars.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abbreviations
  • Part I. The Artist
    • Chapter 1. Textual Raveling: A Critical and Theoretical Introduction
      • 1. Joycean Canonization and Modernism
      • 2. Joyce, Feminism, and the Ideologically Self-Critical Text
      • 3. Intertexted Weavings
    • Chapter 2. Patronage and Censorship: The Production of Art in the Social Real
      • 1. Patronage as Communist “Grace”
      • 2. Ibsen, Censorship, and Art!’s Social Function in Stephen Hero
    • Chapter 3. Stephen Dedalus, Oscar Wilde, and the Art of Lying
    • Chapter 4. “Shem the Penman”: Joyce’s Tenemental Text
      • 1. Cranly, Materialism, and Art
      • 2. Shem as Béte Noire of Modernism
  • Part II. The Women
    • Chapter 5. “Who Killed Julia Morkan?”: The Gender Politics of Art in “The Dead”
      • 1. Stifled Back Answers
      • 2. The Woman as Objet d’Art
      • 3. Woman as the Other Woman
      • 4. Songs, Romance, and the Social Real
      • 5. The Silencing of Female Art
    • Chapter 6. Narration under a Blindfold: Reading the “Patch” of “Clay”
    • Chapter 7. The Work Song of the Washerwomen in “Anna 139 Livia Plurabelle”
      • 1. Samuel Butler and the Desublimation of Myth
      • 2. The Social Politics of Washerwomen in History
      • 3. Washerwomen’s Working Talk
      • 4. Ablution and Absolution
    • Chapter 8. Modernism, Myth, and Desire in “Nausicaa”
  • Part III. The Children
    • Chapter 9. The Politics of Childhood in “The Mime of Mick, Nick, and the Maggies”
      • 1. Tea Parties
      • 2. Exile
      • 3. Home
  • Notes
  • Works Consulted
  • Index

Margot Norris is a professor of English and comparative literature at the University of California, Irvine.


“. . . some of the finest, most politically sensitive and informed feminist criticism yet published on Joyce. . . . it will have a major impact on the field of Joyce studies . . .”
Vicki Mahaffey, associate professor of English, University of Pennsylvania