Joyce's Poetics of Knowledge

Edited by Marc C. Conner

in The Poetry of James Joyce Reconsidered

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780813039763
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813043159 | DOI:
Joyce's Poetics of Knowledge

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This essay engages the questions of knowledge, faith, and authority in Joyce's writings, focusing in particular on the “Gnostic quest” Joyce pursues in Chamber Music. Beginning with the profound struggles over religious authority and knowledge that Joyce presents in Portrait and Ulysses, and that mirror many of Joyce's own personal struggles during the very period leading up to his composition of the Chamber Music poems, the essay examines Joyce's pursuit of alternative means of salvation, in particular the Gnostic hope of knowing one's way to the divine. Studying in detail the Chamber Music poems, following Joyce's original ordering of that sequence, we see that Joyce writes his way through a pattern of Gnostic pursuit, ultimately abandoning love in search of otherworldly wisdom and ecstatic union with the divine unmediated by Church or creed. The dispiriting shift in the second half of the sequence away from consummated earthly love and towards a solitary, wandering, perhaps fruitless quest for visionary knowledge intimates the pattern Joyce foresaw, but ultimately rejected, for himself.

Keywords: Knowledge; Poetics; Gnosticism; Religion; Chamber Music; Salvation; wisdom

Chapter.  11201 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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