JOYCE & HIS DYNAMIC By John Rodker

With this latest work some enquiry into the symbols that govern the communication through writing of thought and emotion becomes imperative. It would seem that we have reached a degree of consciousness where we find it no longer adequate to use words as we use them in speeeh, for we recognise in speech only the superficial movement of profounder currents.

How do men then, through literature, communicate with each other and what is it they succeed in conveying.

Certainly they use words and these words and the meanings commonly attached to them, provoke in the reader associations true for himself, possibly widely true for humanity, but it may be remote in the extreme from the author’s intention. In any case the accustomed channels traced by speech and the writing that resembles it provoke no confusion, no complication of associations. They may be said to follow the path of least resistance; least resistance for the author, least resistance in the reader, no transfusion, no change.

Yet the reader is susceptible to contacts profounder than those described, indeed he commonly supplies them to complete the author’s indications which fora multitude of reasons the author has found himself unable or unwilling to fill in. Here it is as though the words held in solution the elements, inarticulate in both reader and author, which we call dynamic; their core is those basic preoccupations round which we most deeply move, they are at the root of every later development of the soul; these have always been the chief preoccupation and gratification of what we call creative writing. For thinking is first affective, words make it flesh in so far as they serve to define feeling, but beneath all words lie affective contacts which might, it would seem, entirely dispense with words as signs but not as sounds.

Not only is this so but any word, however unjustihable and nonsensical it may seern, moves the mind to an attempt to visualise that word. The new term borrows from and consequently lends to the term it apes, the abortive associations which accompany it cannot but enrich with their frustrated vibrations the term which was the basis of the invention. This is an extreme instance interesting only as an example of how the mind works, but it must be obvious that an author, completely aware (and by completely I mean to a degree transcending literature as we have known it) of the forces he is using and anxious to produce the most naturalistic picture possible of an individual and of the repressions, complications, forces which direct that individual before they express themselves in words, must have recourse to all the hybrid formless onomatopoeic and conventional sounds in which feeling clothes itself [1].

Should his technique then be adequate to all these requirements he will most quickly and vitally establish himself (on his own terms and not on those of his auditor) in a permanent symbiosis with that auditor.

Joyce’s virtuosity in this new work is a very remarkable phenomenon in that it is adequate to the requirements postulated. Because of his method, because of his pursuit of the innumerable paths of association by means of all the word — ways capable of delimiting them, if not exactly, at least with a precision so far unknown in literature, he now brings to fruition what was foreshadowed in Ulysses; the possibility of a complete symbiosis of reader and writer; the only obstacle which now remains being the inadequacy of the reader’s sphere of reference — not to the emotional content —-— but to the ideas, objects and events given.

Yet when Ulysses made its first appearance it seemed incomprehensible to a number of people. It is a complaint we do not at all hear today. Evidently then, though in a somewhat unusual and baffling form, the elements which composed it were well within the sphere of contemporary reference.

The dynamic aspect of the work derives a large part of its importance from the fact that words are used so to speak ‘in vacuo’ by means of which they still preserve much of their ancient magic. Puns, klang words, mantrams are powerful because they are disguised manifestations of revengeful and iconoclastic impulses driven underground by fear; and because the violence of childhood inspires them, their underground life compacted, made- sly, imparts to them an intense vitality.

To show still more obviously that he is creating a language the author indulges in an amazing virtuosity of puns- The child’s seeming innocence is to him and to us one of the deepest sources of gratification. Joyce makes intense use of this screen.

How sly satire can prove, how joyful, how inspiring, what l lusts of combat it can evoke let the parable of the Mookse and the Gripes or the immense Rabelaisian humour of the 5thtransition’ instalment witness.

The need for a vehicle by means of which to express the more elaborate consciousness of the time provoked, I imagine, the apparition of a Rabelais and Chaucer. To formal expression, formal emotion, they opposed their individualities and the vitality of common speech, which by its nature is not subject to the relinements which seem inevitably to accompany the development of literature and the spread of writing.

Since the vernacular is as it were a storehouse of all the sounds necessary to expression, however complicatedly foreign or refined they may seem today in regard to the actual needs of the populace, the common speech holds within it relics of tongues spoken it may be millions of years before symbols were invented. It is impossible therefore for us not

to respond to words, all words and all forms of words, but writing and speech are so denatured that it is important, if we are not forever to be deprived of part of our emotional inheritance, that these primitive forms be returned to us. Joyceis doing this for us; the result is an intense and basic revitalising of words and our attitude to them. Posterity is immensely indebted to him.

We see for ourselves in the Europe of today that there has been little which by the standards we know but find so hard to define, can be called dynamic. Emotion in literature has grown formal, as have perhaps the emotions themselves, and it is very apparent how the writer’s consciousness seems continually to grow more circumscribed.

Joyce is revitalising our language in a form which borrows vastly from the past in its every protean disguise. In the vernacular, whether English, Irish, American or any of the combinations of these or other tongues, he finds that breath which will revivify our dying tongue. Is not this perhaps the most important aspect of his work? And is it not already predestined to be — with its content -— a mine where future writers will quarry as they are already quarrying in Ulysses; a pyramid of language, a monument to time built with such loving care, so great a feeling for material, such density, as to be unique in English.

This work also contains psychological implications of the greatest value and has been created with a concentration of toil which must be unique among the writers of this generation.

As to its meaning?

As in the unconscious, in this new work there is no time.Events, people, make their own relevant conjunctions. Events are people too, a whole cosmographication of them. But the form is so elusive—- alas where is our iield of reference — and the associations often so personal to the author as to be incomprehensible to us that it seems half the matter is lost, as though indeed it were the inside of a pyramid which must always be hidden from us.

Is it possible this attempt to make the unconscious conscious may but end in confusing the rapport between author and reader? Possibly for a while. But a first confusion gives place to a deeper, more complete identification; and I think of Ulysses and how with the complete work and some passage of time this “Work in Progress” must become apparent to us.

This is certain. “Work in Progress” is much in advance of Ulysses, both as to elasticity of writing, naturalism, the pulse of life; it is technically unique, as Ulysses was not. In the straight passages, such as those concerned with the River Liffey, no writer to my knowledge, drawing from all the sources of human comparison has ever rendered so rapturously, so indirectly, or so revealingly (it is not strange that the secret, the baffled should be to us more profoundly, dynamically true than the simple) the life of a river — river of life; nor elsewhere evoked such moments of inarticulate rapture.


[1] A consideration (notion, idea) or an idea is relevant to an interpretation when it forms part ofthe psychological context which links other contexts together in the peculiar fashion in which interpretation so links them. irrelevant consideration is a non-linking member of a psychological context… mental process is not determined purely psychologically but by blood pressure also.

The Meaning of Meaning. C. K. Ogden and l. A. Richards.

Kegan Paul.

 

 

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Publicado on setembro 12, 2012 at 3:12 pm  Comments (1)  

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