Reading Music, Performing Text

Katherine O'Callaghan

in Bloomsday 100

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780813034027
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813038162 | DOI:
Reading Music, Performing Text

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James Joyce reveals the performative qualities of prose writing, most particularly in the “Sirens” episode of Ulysses, through an association of language with music. He also uses this interplay of the two art forms to alter the manner in which we approach the interpretation process of prose literature. Music, within his texts, acts not solely as a cultural reference point or a symbolic or thematic intensifier, but rather as a marker of a text-performance dynamic inherent within literature and unfolded by the reading process. Thus by drawing on two of the key elements of the musical art form, interpretation and performance, Joyce can evoke qualities of simultaneity, multiplicity, and audience interaction normally considered to be beyond the scope of the prose literary form. This chapter revisits “Sirens” and the interpretive problems it perennially poses for interpretation. Like a musical score, Ulysses is dynamically brought to life through the interpretive work of its audience, who must become Joycean impresarios in order to uncover its meanings.

Keywords: James Joyce; Sirens; Ulysses; music; prose literature; multiplicity; interpretation; performance; audience; simultaneity

Chapter.  6978 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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