Peake, Charles / James Joyce, the citizen and the artist
Chapter 5: Ulysses: the moral vision, pp. 322-340
340 Ulysses: moral vision our own experience in theirs, and thus to share the complexity of Joyce's vision instead of leaping to hasty and oversimplified moral judgements. From early in his career (what follows was written soon after his twentyfirst birthday), Joyce held that ' tragedy is the imperfect manner and comedy the perfect manner in art': An improper art aims at exciting in the way of comedy the feeling of desire but the feeling which is proper to comic art is the feeling of joy. Desire, as I have said, is the feeling which urges us to go to something but joy is the feeling which the possession of some good excites in us. . . . All art which excites in us the feeling of joy is so far comic and according as this feeling of joy is excited by whatever is substantial or accidental in human fortunes the art is to be judged more or less excellent. ~ A writer cannot be held to the formulations of his youth, but it seems typical of Joyce that he should have aimed, in Ulysses, at the highest excellence in what he took to be ' the perfect manner in art', for there is nothing more substantial in human fortunes than our daily experience itself nor any good of which we are more surely possessed. Ulysses is a comedy not in the sense of being a work designed to make the reader laugh (though it continually does that) or looking steadily away from whatever is harsh, painful or pathetic. It is comedy in that it includes so much — death and birth, remorse and self-congratulation, ambition and stagnation, pride and shame, isolation and companionship, love and hate, a variety of moods and relationships, the human qualities which most excite condemnation or disgust, the ordinary occupations which seem commonplace, trivial or unpleasant — and yet finds in it all cause for what Joyce calls ' joy'. Before his eighteenth birthday, he had foreseen the possibility of such a vision and such a work: Still I think out of the dreary sameness of existence, a measure of dramatic life may be drawn. Even the most commonplace, the deadest among the living, may play a part in a great drama. . . . Life we must accept as we see it before our eyes, men and women as we meet them in the real world, not as we apprehend them in the world of faery. The great human comedy in which each has share, gives limitless scope to the true artist, today as yesterday and as in years gone.'8 ' ~ Gorman, 97. ~8 CW, 45.
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