click here to read the full text of the book leave / read comments and critiques of the book

Joyce’s Moraculous Sindbook

A Study of Ulysses

Suzette A. Henke

Though most critics have been quick to acknowledge the innovative nature of James Joyce’s stylistic experiments, few have pointed out the radical content of Ulysses or the revolutionary view of consciousness that is implicit in the novel.

Suzette Henke makes use of various Continental methods of literary criticism to reconstruct Ulysses as a fictional life-world, and draws upon phenomenology, Geneva criticism, psychoanalytic investigation, and linguistic analysis to illumine the progress of the narrative. Existential philosophy provides the point of departure from which she demonstrates how the principles of Heidegger and Sartre elucidate the humanistic dimensions of Joyce’s work. Ulysses, she maintains, is no mere tour de force: it has meaning “from and in life” and is significant to us as moral beings.

According to Professor Henke, Joyce’s characters move from a world of solipsistic fear to one of shared experience, and from psychological enclosure to an existential liberation of consciousness. Joyce, she suggests, was far ahead of his contemporaries in his understanding of social interaction and psychological development. In Ulysses, he questions traditional notions of identity and reality, of conjugal appropriation and egocentric privilege, and delights in the capaciousness of the human imagination, implying that every individual can become an “artist of life” through myth, sympathy, and creative fantasy.

Dr. Henke offers an original and innovative reading of Ulysses that challenges traditional interpretations and reveals dimensions of the text that have hiterto gone unnoticed or unexplained. Joyce himself, in the later, more experimental episodes of the novel, provides the key to this new understanding, when he insists that the reader, like the characters, explore the ramifications of both temporal and ethical relativity. We are expected to be “time-travelers” in defiance of a serial definition of literature, and are forced, finally, to apprehend the entire novel as a contemporaneous object of consciousness, an autotelic and self-referential phenomenon. The ultimate subject of Ulysses becomes the mind beholding itself in an act of transcendental, creative perception.

Suzette A. Henke teaches English at the University of Virginia.

1978   267 pp. This title is no longer available in a traditional print edition. Click here for free access to the book's full text.