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Peake, Charles / James Joyce, the citizen and the artist

Chapter 6: 'The traits featuring the chiaroscuro coalesce',   pp. 341-364 PDF (2.2 MB)

Page 348

348 ' The traits featuring the chiaroscuro coalesce' 
claustrophobic parochialism of Irish life and the oppressive weight of Irish
history as clogs and burdens experienced through every hour of every day.
Yet the influence of Ireland as a spatial and temporal environment is only
an immediate and localized aspect of a much greater influence — that
of the world in which we live and the history of man back to his first emergence
and development. Many of the qualities for which Stephen condemns or rejects
his native city are plainly no more than Dublin manifestations of universal
conditions; the nightmare of history from which he is trying to awake began
with Adam.7 But although it is easy enough to accept the abstract idea that
our experience is conditioned by the space-time continuum in which we find
ourselves, it is very difficult to apprehend the immanence of such influence
in the particulars of our daily life, and even more difficult to conceive
of literary conventions capable of representing it. To focus a four-dimensional
universe in the conscious and unconscious experience of a single man would
require a new kind of writing, which could represent simultaneously our experience
as we are aware of it, and as it is related to our specific location in time
and space, and as it is involved in the whole of human experience, regardless
of location in time and space. Moreover, the connection between the particular
and the universal would have to be two-way: no doubt the space-time continuum
exerts an influence on the experience of the individual, but, equally, since
space and time themselves are merely the modalities of seeing and hearing,
the nature of the seeing and hearing individual is projected into and expressed
by the universe he apprehends. 
 What kind of individual, or, more properly, what kind of image of an individual
could operate as the microscopic centre of this macrocosm? In one sense he
would have to be an Everyman, representative of all the varieties of men
and of all human experience; yet, in another sense, he would have to be an
individual man in order to suggest how all history and space are factors
in and modalities of the experience of every single human being. He would
have to be seen as the point in which all the forces in man's history and
environment — rises and falls, loves and hates, hopes and fears, the
natural world and the manmade world — intersect; and, on the other
hand, as the point from which all the temporal and spatial universe is projected.
All men and women, whether real or fictional, all historical movements and
conflicts, all societies, all institutions, all environments would have to
meet in this one man as influences, and yet be seen as externalizations of
his complex nature. 
 Not surprisingly, in Finnegans Wake, Joyce has made his figure an Irishman,
though one of uncertain origins, and has placed the story in Dublin and its
suburbs; if all space and time are to be focused in a microcosm, the microcosmic
point of view must be the one familiar to the author. The people, forces,
conflicts, environments and institutions most palpably 
 "Cf. ' "For myself," Joyce answered, "I always write about Dublin, because
if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities
in the world. In the particular is contained the universal"' (Arthur Power,
From the Old Waterford House (London, Mellifont Press ' 944, 6~)). 

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