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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Can Joyce Portray What He Is Not?-- Russ Winfrey

I am thoroughly amazed at Joyce's ability to accommodate a number of readings through the same story. I had barely noticed the homosexual implications beyond the obvious reference to Nietzsche's The Gay Science and what is arguably effeminate about Duffy. I had developed an entirely different reading, but am floored at how well this reading was assembled, even though it was interpreted entirely different than my own.

While I agreed with much of her assessment of the story, as it concerns the sexual orientation of Duffy (which seemed to be what she argued for on the whole), I was less sold on what seemed to be her main point. She claimed that James Joyce, in writing this was channeling a kind of heterosexual anxiety, which was in response to his brother/community/nation's unspoken history of homosexuality and pedophilia. She seemed to be claiming that Joyce doesn't or can't fully represent Duffy's homosexual anxiety because it is largely different from Joyce's heterosexual anxiety, and that Joyce can only portray Duffy's apprehensions through the unreliable lens of heterosexuality. Joyce cannot accurately depict a gay man's thoughts because he does not himself share those precise worries.

I however think that Joyce does a fair job of this depiction, while not essentializing this reading. If perhaps Roberta Johnson were to offer the things that Joyce's portrayal was missing, I might've been more willing to second guess Joyce's capacity to empathize. I do not think that Joyce has developed a flat homosexual character. I think Duffy is fully imagined, but Joyce will only give you a whiff of what it is he is really feeling (perhaps due to his inability to actually know) but I believe that it was Joyce's choice to show mere bits of Duffy's psyche, though dialogue or expletive correlative, etc to let on who this character might be.

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