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This article is taken from PN Review 31, Volume 9 Number 5, May - June 1983.

James Joyce (1942) George Barker

THE shade of James Joyce is probably smiling rather sadly in its sleeve at this quite excellent study because although it anatomizes the technical Joyce with penetration, it fights shy of the spiritual Poltergeists that inhabit the technical Joyce. I mean that here the critic has either deliberately minimized or elected to overlook the fact that above everything else James Joyce suffered from the same sense of guilt that devastates the Dostoevskian and makes 'The Ancient Mariner' a poem comparable in content with Crime and Punishment. This sense of guilt arises, I think, from the knowledge that blasphemy is possible only to those who venerate the objects of their blasphemy. Thus the clue, the whole clue, and nothing but the clue to James Joyce is not Dublin but Rome. Apart, however, from the fact that this autopsy omits to take the heart out of the corpse of Joyce, it is at once scrupulous, intelligent, and expertly surgical. Mr Levin deserves all the applause that I am sure his study will receive. Well, almost all. That he has, as I happen to feel, missed the mill where the gist of Joyce is ground down to a kind of mathematical eucharist, is not, finally, as important as the possibility that a gifted critic has at last appeared on the landscape.

It is because I recognize Mr Levin's incontestable critical acumen that I am surprised that he has not suspected that the hysterical and desperately heretical gestures of Joyce prove ...


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