In a period post—dating the admission of the subconscious as important to individual and general human destinies, and when an acceptance of relativity forces the realization that facts and ideas are neither as hard nor as logical as some minds wish them, it is natural that a literature should emerge which is evocative rather than explanatory, more intent upon composite types, plots, and situations, than on particularized meanings. Had the inhabitants ofthe tower of Babel sought for an esperanto language, their gropings would have been, to be successful,into some composite subconscious of individual and race types; the language emerging might readily have been.a dance or a symphony of music, with whatever evocations and implications the movements of a ballet or the combinations of sound summoned to any particular subconscious. The ability to respond to suggestion varies greatly. However, music and the ballet are less inhibited by the demands of mecming than literature has been. Audiences do not insist upon a story or a situation to appreciate the movements ofa dance or the strains of music. Critics allow that there can be a pure art in these mediums; they have sometimes come to permit with painting, sculpturing and architecture, that for evoking a pleasurable emotion or sensation, form and colour does not have to be utilitarian, descriptive, literal, or possessed of meaning other than the intent to awaken response.
Also good comedy, clowning, pantomime, nonsense, slapstick, drollery, does not appeal to the sense of humour by explanation, but by gesture. In such good dances or music as are humorous, it is rarely possible to define the reasons for the comic appeal. Prose too can possess the gesticulative quality.
In Ulysses James Joyce made a summary of a good share of the failure of the entire christian era. Whether it was his purpose or not, and it probably was not his intent, he damned intellectually the religious and metaphysical logics of Jesuitism, emphatically, and ofChristianity as a whole, generally, for the effects they had on him and his race and his realization of what they have done to the emotions of people. Having what has been called his “detestable genius” for words, their intonations,connotations, and rhythms, he often achieved orchestral effects with his prose, but the morale underlying the book was such that it suited too perfectly the morale of the time when it first appeared. Then, four years after the war the world had come to an end, there was an end; there had to be a new beginning; and Joyce, realizing since years that minds to not think in sentences, that the subconscious does not think or feel in ideas, but in images, and these images not consecutive or related to our as yet unscientific understanding of psychology, surely wished to break though language to give it greater flexibility and nuance. To him language does not mean the English language; it means a medium capable of suggestion, implication, and evocation; a medium as free as any art medium should be, and as the dance at its best can be. Primitive tribes, particularly the Indians of North America, know sign language as a means or communications; African tribes, by drums, dances, and a variety of gestures get their emotions across without the necessary means of a common language. Isadora Duncan’s dream of a dancing America, of masses of dancing figures, of a populace released to fuller realizations because permitted to express themselves individually in a mass, no one much questions because she is dealing with the dance. As yet literature is unfreed, because to most people it is bound up with the idea of story telling, the drama of single lives or a group of lives. lt still is under the shadow of medieval philosophies, religion, and reasoning, to such an extent thatits scope is limited. Joyce, one judges, wishes to evolve a prose that deals with human types, mytholgies, eruditions, and languages, compositely.
In Anna Livia Plurabelle, which is written to suggest the flowing of the river, it is hardly important that Mr. Joyce has with great pains sought the names of all rivers on earth and in hell, and heaven. Unless the satisfaction he himself gets matters enough so that it transmits a satisfaction to the reader, it does not appear significent that he sought for the word peace in 29 languages so that he might call a composite female character peace in 29 ways; and similarly with twilight that after much research he finds that in the Burmese there is only the word Nyi—ako—mah—thi-ta-thi, which translates literally into “the time when younger brother meets elder brother, does not recognize him but yet recognizes him” What is important is the sensations evoked, the sensibilities made susceptible to response, by his writing, and that necessarily varies with each individual reader. The question “but what does it all mean ” need not be asked; it means variously, to Joyce himself and to each reader, as a Mozart, or a Beethoven or a Strawinsky symphony means variously to different people and variously to the same persons in various moods and circumstances. Generally the new Work in Progress with which Mr. Joyce is now occupied is sprinkled with classical allusions; he may, at the time of writing, find a particular passage – that suggests to him a classical mythological figure, a reminiscence of Dublin, an ironical crack at the works and pomps of catholicism, a sentimental thought about some loved person of his present or past acquaintance, and again a memory of Dublin. Dublin he cannot forget;
“What was thaas?Fog was whaas? Too mult sleepth. Let sleepth.
“But really now whenabouts. Expatiate then how much times we live in. Yes?
“So not by night by naught by riaket, in those good old lousy days gone by, the days, shall we say? of whom shall we say? while kinderwardens minded their twinsbed, there now theystood, the sycomores, all four of them, at their pussy-corners, and their old time pallyollogass playing copers fearsome, with Gus VValker, the cuddy, and his poor old dying boosy cough. esker, Newcsele, Saggard, Crumlin, Dellme, Donk, the way to Wumblin, Follow me beeline and you’re Bumblin, Esker, Newscle, Saggard, Crumlin, and listening, so gladied up when nicechild kevin Mary (who was going to be commandeering chief of the choirboys’ brigade the moment he grew up under all the auspices). Irishsmiled i in his milky way of cream dwibbleand onage tustard and dessed tabbage, frighted out when bad brat Jerry Goldophing (who was hurrying to be cardinal scullion in anight refuge as soon as he was cured enough under all the hospitals) furrinfrowned down his wrinkly waste of methlated spiritsick and lemoncholy lees ick and pulverised rhubarbarorum icky. ”
What the above passage means to Joyce I cannot say. To me it means that he cannot forget Dublin, cannot forget schooldays, and childhood. To a Dubliner it would mean possibly more; but to me childhood memories, nightfears and humours, weeping willows rather than sycamores, and a hackingly coughing consumptive town drunkard are evoked, and the suggestion of male pedagogues, monitors in a wet—the—bed ward of a boarding school. He is not doing characterizations of definite characters; he is implying the being and having been of types that are general to all times and places, and according to the readers background do the composite characters suggested take on feature. He cannot forget Dublin, and in his Irish tenor prose lemoncholy way he must sing or be mumbling a Dublin Irish come—all—you in a wistful twilight remembering occasionally Greece and her myths such as a barber whispering to the rushes that Midas has golden ears, or recalling that the twilight of madness descended on Swift.
“Unslow, malswift, pro mean, proh noblesse, Atrahore, melancolores, nears; whose glauque eyes glitt bedimmed to imm; whose Hngrings creep o’er skull: till quench., asterr mist calls estarr and graw, honath Jon raves homes glowcoma.”
Inevitably swift madness (bad swiftness) mean and noble the black hour black care sits behind the horseman (bringing near) melancholy (black coloured sorrow); whose owlsighted green eyes glimpse of reason or sight, bedimmed and bedammed by the fingers of incipient dementia creep o’er the skull (crepuscle); till one star (asterr: Greek) in being quenched names another star wench, estarr (German for blindness) and graue (starr) (greenstar, glaucoma) grauestarr, cataract, grey, shwarsz starr, for black and the dissolution of the retina.
But also, for Joyce, asterr is one of his composite female characters, Esther Johnson, and Estarr is Hester Vanhomrigh, and probably he thought of Astarte, as he thought with graw of his glaucoma, approaching blindness, grey love is cold, he remembers his love for words, for the quality which is onomatopoeic. And Honath Jon raves in a delirium of dreams for the homes of the star women, Stella and Vanessa, in this passage cornpositely suggested by quench, their homes suggesting Fireside and repose, the glow coma of repose.
It is unlikely that Joyce himself understands from a re-reading of his present writing all that he thought it had in the way of implication. So much as he is dealing with prose lor the evocative capacities which it possesses his psychology and mythology are the renderings of his subconscious in the hope of reaching an audience that responds pleasurably to the implications of his involved orchestral theme. In the above quoted passage the emotional impact of its meaning could be the painful record of a subconscious quivering with terrors as in a night crise, but by using the english language only as a basis, while weaving in classic mythology, German, latin, and French, words or rythms, he has managed to depersonalize his emotions and situations sufficiently to take the raw quivering of a suffering spirit out of the passage.
This manner he utilizes frequently. There is no telling what languages he is using if one is not a person who knows eighty languages and well. The extent of his erudition is wide, but not so great as people sometimes assume it to be. He admits to philological “ragpicking” because the great passion of his life is words, their colours and implications; he does not intend to create a new literary esperanto, but he wishes to originate a flexible language that might be an esperanto of the subconscious and he wishes to believe that anybody reading his work gets a sensation of understanding, which is the understanding which music is allowed without too much explanation. His readers who take him with least effort are probably the younger generation, who have grown up with machinery, the radio, the aeroplane, with psycholanalysis, enough accepted as a progressing study so that fewer laymen swallow it hook and sinker, with relativity a theory that can be accepted for the timebeing as was Newton’s in the past.
This generation may demand less explanation about the meaning of meaning. Being well out of the period when there was much argument about abstract art, cubisms, futurisms, and pure form, they may without bewilderment and resentment, permit their sensibilities to remain open and
susceptible and capable of response to the implications of a literature that is not a literature of escape, of interpretation,of propaganda or reform, or of God or morality seeking. In Joyce are the backgrounds of his race, his education, his subconscious and conscious responses to mythology, poetry, metaphysics that are mainly Jesuit, and from the source of his subconscious flows the stream of his wish to evoke literary music, a ballet of dancing words that suggest the clear line and mass form which is the beauty quality that good art has. The river maybe flowing, or he may be wishing to summon up the sounds ofnightor to awaken the emotions that night thoughts bring. The symbol of the river flowing however is not the important factor; it can be too insularly insisted upon to the extent of limiting the capacities for stimulating the reader’s sensua1—sensitive esthetic response to prose music; and more,what to Joyce the sounds of a river flowing evokes emotionally may be quite other than the effect of riverflowing sounds upon another person. But what these sounds bring into his operating conscious from the scource of his subconscious can have gratifying implications for that other person nevertheless. The Irish tenor prose sings on, deriving from classic literature and mythology and religion. The stream of the subconscious reveals itself, derived also from the sources, (always mainly Dublinesque), of folklore and folksong, of Celtic bards, of Celtic legends of slim maidens with dark hair and lithe bodies and breasts, of laughter and the continual melancholy plaint of Celtic whimsy, fatalism, and the erratic shift of mood. Church music sounds here, and the half remembered refrain of a sentimental ballad of the 9o’s breaks in to be itself broken in upon by a barroom ballad or the ribald refrain of a bawdy house song. Limericks are woven into the Irish tenor wailings. No more than Joyce can forget Dublin and Jesuitism and irish homelife and family can he resist his mania for playing with words and phrases, punning. The gossip of housewives is suggested; the chatter of lounging, lazy, shiftless barroom and streetcorner politicians plays through the prose. The preachings and moralizings of priests, washerwomen, and parents, is woven into the pattern with ironic taunts against pedantries and the manners of editorial and newspaper writings; the insistence upon the Dublin-a—male—city with a woman either a respectable woman or a bloody whore is less in this new work than it was in Ulysses, and to that extent is older and more resigned. He cares less now for ideas and situations except as a basis for using the medium of prose as a medium for declaring his passion for words and their suggestions.
In an as yet unpublished portion of the new work this is a passage with a definite situation, but with the characters composite, and in time without age, but of course the scene must be Dublin since Joyce cannot forgive Dublin and the Dublin of 1904, which was when he left it for the last time.
Man with nightcap, in bed, fore. Woman. With Curlpins, hind. Discovered. Side point of view. First position of harmony. Say: Eh? Ha. Check action. Matt. Male, partly masking female. Man looking round, beastly expression, fishy eyes, exhibits rage. Business. Ruddy blond-beer wig, gross build, episcopolian, any age, Woman, sitting, looks at ceiling, haggish expression, peaky nose, exhibits fear. Welshrabbit tint, turh tuft, undersized, free kirk. No age. Closeup. Play.
Cry off. Her move.
You have here Joyce’s intentness on making his characters and his effects a composite evocation, of types, or of the summarization of a kind of poetry sensation, movement, or a species of act. In the rest of the scene nothing happens but the Joycian conversation between the man and woman, man and wife, and the crying of one of their two little boys. Jean qui Rit and Jean qui Pleure. The woman goes to comfort the weeping little boy. The man follows her to the hallway to look on secretively. The mother, comforting the boy.
“You were dreamed, dear. The pawdrag? The fawthrig? Shoe. Hear are no phanthares in the room at all. No bad faathern, dear one. Opop opap capallo, muy malinchily malchick. Gothgored father dowon followay tomollow the lucky load to Lublin for make his thoroughbass grossman’s bigness. Take that two pieces big slap slap bold honty bottomside pap pap pappa.
Li ne dormis?
— S; Malbone dormas.
Kial li Krias nokte?
Parolas infanete. S.
Sonly all in your imagination, dim. Poor little brittle magic nation, dim of mind. Shoe to me now, dear. Shoom of me. While elvery stream winds seling on for to keep this barrel of bounty rolling.”
Here Joyce cannot forget childhood, parenthood, mother affection and anxiety, but most ot all he cannot forget Dublin, Lublin, the memory of a Dublin folksong punned at and joked with, the lucky load to Lublin, the wage—earning father,and Ireland, poor brittle little magic nation, dim of mind.Ireland, little Jean qui Pleure, with Joyce crooning an Irish tenor twilight refrain to comfort the weeping child who awakes in fright from having had a bad nightmare. The mother does not call little Jean a melancholy badlittle chick. Joyce is playing with language, English, Russian, and latin, in this passage. The refrain of mother to child is all comforting, as Joyce sees it, but after a time he sees he has given it other implications. Gothgored father, perhaps a priest is praying as the mother tells of the no bad faathern, dear one, who goes the lucky load to Lublin for to make the family groceries, while every silvery stream (elvery) winds sailing selling (seling) on to keep the barrel of bounty rolling.
It is possibly necessary to “trance” oneself into a state of word intoxication, Hitting-concept inebriation, to enjoy this work to the fullest. Surely the author himself has written in a state of exaltation, where the mood is witty, comic’, or glimmery tragic, according to the passage; but the mood is only indicated rather than stated, defined, and dwellingly insisted upon. Whether Anna Livia is being a lithesome, taunting, woodnymph of an irish lass, or a garrulous knotty old washwoman, she is in the process of representing womankind, the femalenesses of life; and old man river, as a randy young buck or as arutty, fibrous, eternally impregnating aged male, is representing the masculinities; and the two are composites, not only of humanity, sexes, bi-, heter, and what have you, but there is the attempt to suggest through the ebb and flow of the prose the possibilities and relativities inherent in existence.
To what extent the imaginary being, the common man, or the common reader, can get a pleasurable sensation out of reading this work, is difficult to say; but if there is such a being as the common man, he probably does not read much, except detective tales or housemaid romances or the sporting news. He probably does not care much for the dance in ballet form and disassociated from sex and story telling; his response to music is likely to be of the sort that what he is accustomed to he believes he likes. But that common man, if a simple and not too complex but healthily curious minded man might be more capable than the precious esthete or critic of responding to the evocative and suggestive quality of literature. That imaginary “common man” may not have been educated away from ability to respond directly, through having learned academically what is art, or beauty, or style. The common man ought to be as receptive as a sensitive child, but try and find him. ln general it is not unlikely that Mr. Joyce in his new Work in Progress summons too insistently and often the wonder emotions, the religious emotions, that have in them presentments of death, intonations of fear and despair, or a humour that is too mainly Dublin masculine and lrish teasings. That however is his race quality; he has not escaped the twilight, nor the church; he is still summing up an age which some people believe past and too allied to the medieval age of harnpering gods, prejudices, and unscientific attitudes. Surely, nevertheless he has broken into language and made it a medium much freer, more sensitive, musical and flexible, while retaining a subject content still meaty with psychologic, historic, and sociologic comprehensions. He has become freed in a manner of metaphysical pomposities such as dominated the ideas, religions, and apprehensions of many great talents of the Past. He has always been free of the need to give messages to the world and his fellowmen; and it is his intentness upon his love for words which has given him this freedom, very probably.