Resenha de filme: “A livraria”, de Isabel Coixet


Estreou no Brasil nesta última semana, o filme “A livraria”, da cineasta espanhola Isabel Coixet. O filme ganhou o Goya de melhor direção na Espanha. Merecido prêmio: a direção é primorosa. E a atriz protagonista, Emily Mortimer, também levou o Goya. O filme foi baseado no livro da inglesa Penelope Fitzgerald, “The Bookshop” e acontece no final dos anos 50 na Inglaterra, na cidade de Hardborourgh . Amei a fotografia e o figurino. Há cenas exteriores que foram gravadas nas praias de Barcelona, além da Irlanda do Norte.

La-Librería-Cartel

“A livraria”(2017) é um excelente filme, mas não é pra todo mundo. Ele é cheio de sutilezas e silêncios carregados de significados, que muitos não saberão interpretar e poderão achar lento. A obra mostra, principalmente, uma relação maniqueísta. A viúva sem filhos, Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) mora numa cidadezinha da Inglaterra, ama ler e decide montar uma livraria, o seu sonho. Ela acredita que sua vida ganhará mais sentido, como uma missão, mesmo sabendo que é um negócio de alto risco e que pode lhe dar prejuízo. Escolhe uma casa abandonada há anos, a “Old House”.  Pede um empréstimo no banco, que lhe é concedido com muita dificuldade, e compra a casa velha e úmida. Arruma o básico e muda- se logo na primeira semana.

Tudo vai bem até a esposa rica de um militar, Violet Gamard (Patricia Clarkson), uma socialite filantropa (a maldade costuma usar este tipo de recurso, filantropia e religião, numa tentativa de  integrar- se e ser respeitado socialmente para poder estender amplamente a sua sombra envenenada), convida Florence para uma festa em sua casa ao saber que esta iria montar uma livraria na cidade.

A bruxa, quer dizer, Violet, tenta “convencê-la” (soa à ameaça) a montar na casa um centro cultural, porque considera melhor, mas Florence continuou com o seu sonho. Os livros chegaram e ela montou sim a biblioteca, a “The Old House Library”.

A inveja. A inveja é um sentimento terrível, porque, na verdade, ela não quer possuir o que tem o outro, ela só deseja que o outro não tenha o que tem. E não mede sacrifícios para isto.

A casa estava abandonada há anos, mas Violet, só agora, a queria. Ela era tão poderosa, que em um ano, conseguiu que uma lei de patrimônio histórico fosse aprovada para despejar Florence da sua própria casa, que era antiga, mas não tinha valor histórico.

Durante todo o filme vemos as armadilhas de Violet e a bondade de Florence. O bem contra o mal, a eterna luta. É algo muito, muito real, cotidiano. Infelizmente, há muitas Violets atravancando caminhos e arrebatando coisas que não lhe pertencem maquiavelicamente…só por maldade, inveja, porque querem algo que naturalmente jamais teriam.

Dois personagens importantes: a ajudante da livraria, uma menina que trabalha pela tarde, mas que foi impedida de continuar o trabalho que amava por artimanha da bruxa e Edmund Brundish (Bill Nighy), um senhor que vivia isolado numa casa antiga, leitor voraz, que odiava os seres humanos justamente por causa de pessoas como Violet, mas que acaba sendo conquistado pela bondade e coragem de Florence.

O filme é cheio de referências bibliográficas, com destaque para “Lolita”, de Vladimir Nabokov e “Fahrenheit 451”, de Ray Bradbury, esse tem resenha aqui no Falando em Literatura.

Infelizmente, amigos, o bem nem sempre vence. Mas, o que nunca as Violets da vida poderão nos roubar é o amor verdadeiro, a bondade e os sonhos, coisas que jamais conhecerão. Florence deixou uma semente plantada. Essa é a mensagem do filme.

Veja o trailer do filme, aqui.

O livro que deu origem ao filme está completamente esgotado na Espanha. Penelope Fitzgerald escreveu “A livraria” em 1978. Eis a autora:

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Penelope nasceu em 1916 e faleceu no ano 2000 em Londres, era casada com um soldado irlandês e teve três filhos. Uma pena não ter visto a sua obra no cinema. Ela publicou seu primeiro livro aos 58 anos, apesar do seu pai ser editor, foi uma “late bloomer“. A autora escreveu outros nove livros.

Anúncios

Resenha: Admirável mundo novo, de Aldous Huxley


“Admirável mundo novo” foi publicado em 1932 e começa com um longo prefácio escrito em 1946, onde o autor tenta justificar suas falhas artísticas. Pensou em reescrever, corrigir, mas acreditou que perderia a essência da obra. Contudo, não deixou de sentir uma espécie de remorso artístico, deve ter recebido críticas ruins na época. E vai levar outra aqui. Agora entendo o porquê desse livro ser tão popular: é um tremendo besteirol! Literatura besta mesmo. Huxley deveria ter reescrito.

Sempre prefiro ler o prólogo no final, não gosto quando o autor tenta explicar, justificar, prevenir o leitor do que virá. Acho uma perda de tempo falar no início sobre personagens e fatos ainda desconhecidos. Para mim, um posfácio faz mais sentido. Mas, de todas as formas, é interessante ler o pensamento do autor sobre a sua própria obra. No entanto, leia depois de terminar.

Meu espírito já estava amarrando para ler este livro. “Surpreenda- me!”, pensei. Não surpreendeu, meu faro me dizia que devia ser ruim. Acertei. Quando li logo na terceira página do primeiro capítulo “ovo bokanovskiano” pensei em desistir, mas segui, mesmo ferindo o meu bom gosto literário.

A história começa num laboratório de manipulação genética, onde produzem óvulos de homens e mulheres para que sejam padronizados, o “Processo Bokanovsky”, o verbo é “bookvskizar”. Ai, Pai, esse livro não é sério:

-Noventa e seis gêmeos idênticos fazendo funcionar noventa e seis máquinas idênticas.

Eu costumo colocar a página nas minhas referências, mas o PDF lido não vinha numerado, uma falha grande da editora “Escrytos”.

Detectando que era não é um livro sério, nem sequer bem escrito, tentei me divertir com o que imaginou um homem de 38 anos, no princípio do século XX.

Nesse período da pós- guerra mundial, época da publicação, o acesso aos livros e às notícias não devia ser muito fácil. Mas deviam saber o que os nazistas faziam com os prisioneiros, eles já barbarizavam desde a I grande guerra. O desgraçado do médico Josef Menguele, por exemplo, o que fugiu para o Brasil, viveu e morreu no litoral de São Paulo, fazia experimentos terríveis com os prisioneiros no campo de concentração na II Guerra, o monstro usava gêmeos para provas genéticas muito cruéis. Quem sabe pode ter surgido desses casos, de algum precedente, a semente desse livro…ou nada a ver, quem sabe?

Sinceramente, não considero mérito nenhum Huxley ter criado esse mundo com clones humanos. Creio que a humanidade imagina esse tipo de coisa desde o princípio da Idade Moderna.

Este livro é ruim em 1937 ou 2018. É uma obra supervalorizada. Também é certo que não é o tipo de literatura que gosto, um livro muito desgostoso pra mim, que preguiça de livro! Vai ver é manjar para você. Não me leve a sério, é só a minha opinião.

Falando em opinião, essa será a base das resenhas em 2018. Já não vou escrever posts didáticos desmembrando a obra, descrevendo personagens e tudo mais, não vou fazer análise textual, porque não vou mais mastigar pelos demais, ler por quem não lê e vem aqui só para copiar resenhas para a escola. Quero influenciar (ou não) leituras e não dar leituras prontas. Acredite: tenho motivos sólidos.

Não recomendo esse livro, mas se você quiser ler só para contrariar, então lá vai…

A edição que comecei em espanhol (foto) foi substituída por uma portuguesa, um ebook, que você pode comprar aqui na melhor livraria online de Portugal, Wook.  O e- book é bem acessível, custa €3,99 (cerca de 16 reais).

26195921_1184382081664147_626662719178770417_nHuxley, Aldous. Un mundo feliz, Random House Mondadori, Barcelona, 2009. Páginas: 255

Passeando pelo “The British Museum” em Londres


Um dos melhores e maiores museus do mundo, o The British Museum em Londres, é gratuito. É impossível ver tudo em uma visita, é um museu para voltar várias vezes. Há coleções de todos os continentes e épocas.

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Vou contar um pouco sobre o que vi por lá:

Antes de entrar há guardas revistando as bolsas. O hall de entrada é circular e muito alto, há várias portas para as coleções.

18402647_789795984509297_6799591225346952881_nO leão guardião logo na entrada é uma escultura grega de 1350.

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Em todos os andares têm lanchonetes com sanduíches, cookies, bolos, chás, cafés, sucos, refrigerantes e mesas coletivas.

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No térreo também fica a livraria. Eu trouxe um livro lindo, depois vou mostrar aqui.

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 Logo à esquerda no térreo, fica a coleção do antigo Egito. E do lado direito, romanos e gregos. Há coleções desde a pré- história. Toda a história da humanidade contada através de objetos, estátuas, restos de templos e até pessoas. Há múmias como de uma das Cleópatras (foram sete).

Uma peça que chama muito a atenção é a que fica logo na entrada: a pedra Roseta de 196 a.C.. Essa pedra com hieróglifos do antigo Egito desvendada foi crucial para entender o homem daquele tempo e sua escritura, trouxe muitos conhecimentos à era moderna.

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Estátuas dos filósofos gregos:

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As esculturas gregas são em mármore e são chamadas ” Esculturas de Elgin” ou “Esculturas do Partenon”. O Paternon foi construído em 447 a.C. e essas esculturas ficaram no templo. A Grécia está brigando para reaver essas peças, mas o Museu Britânico parece que não vai devolver. Foi um antepassado inglês, Thomas Bruce Elgin, arqueólogo e militar, que levou as peças para a Inglaterra em 1801. Ele era oficial, servia na Grécia.

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“Discóbolo” de Miron, uma das estátuas mais conhecidas do mundo.

18447124_789793457842883_101901626193924346_n18403661_789795974509298_7726931279082389066_n - copia18342000_789793391176223_6892969171089875123_n - copia18403352_789793377842891_6157115880341780934_n - copia

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A parte egípcia é muito interessante. A múmia mais interessante é uma que está completamente exposta. A de um rapaz que viveu há 2500 anos. Ele morreu apunhalado no peito. Só de ver um cadáver já é chocante, ainda mais sabendo que viveu numa época tão remota. Ele tem cabelos ruivos e encaracolados (no vídeo dá pra ver melhor):

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Essa é uma múmia de uma criança de oito anos. O tamanho é que quatro.

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Essa é uma visita essencial na cidade de Londres, reserve um dia inteiro ou então divida em dois dias, pois é impossível ver tudo em uma única visita. Visite e o site e veja as coleções.

Blindness and Insight: The Meaning of Form in F.S. Flint’s Malady, by Elton Uliana


 

Blindness and Insight: The Meaning of Form in F.S. Flint’s Malady

flint

 

 

Frank Stuart Flint (London, 19 December 1885 – Berkshire, 28 February 1960)

Malady (F.S. Flint)

I MOVE:

perhaps I have wakened;

this is a bed;

this is a room;

and there is light . . .

 

Darkness!

 

Have I performed

the dozen acts or so

that make me the man

men see?

 

The door opens,

and on the landing —

quiet!

I can see nothing: the pain, the weariness!

 

Stairs, banisters, a handrail:

all indistinguishable.

One step farther down or up,

and why?

But up is harder. Down!

Down to this white blur;

it gives before me.

 

Me?

 

I extend all ways:

I fit into the walls and they pull me.

 

Light?

 

Light! I know it is light.

 

Stillness, and then,

something moves:

green, oh green, dazzling lightning!

And joy! this is my room;

there are my books, there the piano,

there the last bar I wrote,

there the last line,

and oh the sunlight!

 

A parrot screeches.


F.S. Flint’s Malady is the archetypical Imagist poem.[1] The poem urges its readers to visualize objective images but Flint’s radical principles of clarity, cadence and exactness powerfully suggest a blinding, disorientating subjective condition. In the early twentieth century just the same kind of ontological anxiety, alongside an irreverent crisis in artistic representation took the form of Modernism. In this context, the pragmatic question of what kind of event is really happening in Malady is inseparable from Flint’s shifting contrast between objective binary oppositions, from the poet’s ‘unrhymed cadence’ technique and from the graphic image of the poem on the page.[2] This study will analyze Malady to elucidate the assertion that the Imagist paradigm the poem represents is inextricably aligned with the shared aesthetics of Modernist narrative. I shall argue that Malady is a kind of phenomenology of language, one in which the meaning of the words in the poem is closely bound up with the image and the experience of them. In addition, I will suggest that the blindness of the speaker is a metaphor for the blindness of the modern human subject where dissolubility and fragmentation are part its aesthetic.

Malady signals a development in poetic perspective. If its true that the poem rejects verbal inventiveness, ‘nearly-exact’ or ‘decorative words’, it is also true that it tersely draws attention to this fact.[3] It does so by continuously posting signifiers that refer unambiguously to material objects, making the poem strikingly visual and forcing the reader to ‘ideate’ such visions in the imagination: ‘this is a bed;/this is a room; and there is light…/Darkness!’, (lines 3-6).[4] The poet depicts external objects in an astonishingly compacted manner and by repeatedly questioning their stability in relation to the speaker and to their binary oppositions (‘But up is harder. Down!’, line 19), the author engraves the subjective experience of this ‘man’ (who ‘is ill and cannot see’) at extraordinary length in the mind of the reader.[5] This powerful imagist effect is enhanced with a combination of language precision, emphatic punctuation and sharp line breaks. The poem’s self-conscious sculpturedness not only allows for, but also imposes pause, silence and mental elaboration. In addition, the words are direct and emotionally blank, which fuelled by a circumspection of thought become a kind of emotional response in itself, increasing thereby the destabilizing, dizzying effect: ‘Stairs, banisters, a handrail:/ all indistinguishable.’ (lines 15-16). As a result, the speaker’s vertiginous perplexity becomes palpable and strikingly visible.

These formal innovations extend also to prosody. Like end-rhymes, regular metre is peculiar to most poetry which preceded Flint’s generation. These are precisely the features that Malady rejects. Instead, the images are compressed into short lines of distinctive syllabic count: ‘I move: / perhaps I have wakened; /this is a bed;/ this is a room;/ and there is light . . .’ (line 1-5). The iambic foot with which the second line begins echoes the metrical rhythm of the opening line and this pattern operates to mutually reinforce the mood of both lines. Perhaps the reader would be expecting after that some kind of regularity, something like a rising, bouncing iambic rhythm. But being undisputedly of a Modernist strand, the poem is not bound to regularity.  Significantly, the pattern is broken in the third line where a sudden rhythmic modulation occurs.  The stress falls from the second syllable (‘I move’ and ‘perhaps’) to the first syllable ‘this’, a strategy which in turn, is reproduced in the following line, thus generating another kind of regularity, one that will be equally displaced subsequently. By diverting the rhythm of the language from its anticipated course the poet arguably infuses the words with new content and function.  Indeed, in my view, he invites the reader to participate in the composition by generating his or her own personal pauses, inflection and intonation. It becomes then plausible to suggest that these cumulative verbal effects endow the straightforward scenario depicted with dizzying emotional color. Notably, Flint’s poetic method is structured in Imagist concerns with expressing ‘new moods’ by figuring out new prosodic relations.[6]

This new method has another nuance. With an insightful brushstroke Flint subjects the space described, a universally ordinary bedroom (in the sense that it could be anyone’s bedroom) to a powerful transformation.  In replacing a few words (‘a’ bed, ‘a’ room – lines 3,4, by ‘my’ room, ‘my’ books – lines 30,31), the meaning radically changes and the space becomes distinguishably personal, the speaker’s own recognizable bedroom. This semantic shift is performed with a grammatical one: the substitution of the impersonal indefinite articles by definite personal ones. Indeed, this aesthetic denouement has the overpowering effect of changing the psychological landscape of the speaker from painful to peaceful.

There is an abiding paradox operating in the poem: this is the fact that Flint makes ubiquitous, forceful and artificial use of conventional punctuation and in making these typographical signs so promptly conspicuous, the poet highlights the very artifice that the Imagists wish to clear poetry from.[7] With the exception of the third stanza, which is a four-line sentence with three enjambments, every other line of the poem is a strictly independent clause terminated by an emphatic punctuation mark (reticent only in line 5, ‘and there is light…’). For a critic like T.S. Eliot, speaking about poetry in general, such punctuation signs are ‘naïve, usually superfluous and overemphatic’. In truth, far from being a grammatical solecism, the incisive punctuation in Malady becomes a formal staple upon which the poetic image can be assembled by the reader. The special pathos in this is that intervening repeatedly on the poem’s phrasal movement and graphic shape, Flint allows the audience to experience the images at different lengths and intensity. Sometimes by stumbling towards points of arrival (‘But up is harder. Down!’, line 19), sometimes by moving away from points of departure ( ‘Me?’, line 22), the reader is able to emulate, to enact the experience of the speaker. According to Mercedes Romon-Alonso, these typographical incisions are trivial and highlight the critical fallacy on which Imagism has been built.[8] In my view, if this showcase of ink marks betrays Imagism and places practice and theory in dialectic, it does so by sharply materializing a form which seeks simultaneously to contain and extend the speaker’s complex emotional drama on the page. In this way, Flint experiments with new poetic forms for contemporary concerns.

The closing movement of Malady starkly stages a defamiliarizing device. It explores, rather unexpectedly, an external image that is apparently unrelated to the speaker’s mood: ‘A parrot screeches.’ (line 35). Flint’s final line abruptly disrupts the poem’s semiotic situation and leaves the reader intrigued, perplexed and puzzled. Suzanne Clark has suggested that the sentence is embroidered into the piece as a kind of sophistry, linking more or less desultorily the sensations of the speaker with the squealing sound of the parrot.[9] For the critic, the line is spurious and appears to be meaningful but it is actually vapid. In my view, far from being self-indulgently meaningless, the sudden appearance of the parrot imbues the poem with a redemptive quality. It restores beauty, brightness, hope and insight, if momentarily, to the life (or indeed death) of the individual speaking in the poem. Pushing the image to an extreme, it can be metaphorically understood as representing some kind optimism for the collapsing, shattered modern subjectivity. In one way, lurking on the surface of the poem is both the personally chaotic, dissolute interiority of the poet’s persona and the universally fractured state of modern sensibility. In another, the poem functions to foreground key concepts of Modernist aesthetics with affected awareness.

 Malady typifies, rather magnificently, the modernist disbelief that traditional poetic conventions could capture the experience of the modern world. I have argued that the relationship between form and content in the poem is typically a modernist one. If Flint’s poetics is suffused with recurrent, sharp, clear-cut images of everyday life, it is also punctuated with the painstaking drama of human disintegration and meaninglessness, an inherent condition of modernity and one which the modernists have been profusely concerned with representing.[10] For Flint, and for the modernists in general, literature is about complicating ideas of form so far that these ideas reflect the subjective apprehension of modern life.

Bibliography

Artridge, Derek, Poetic Rhythm (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2002)

Clark, Suzanne, Sentimental Modernism (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999)

Copp, Michael (ed.), Imagist Dialogues: Letters between Aldington, Flint and Others

(Cambridge: The Lutterworth Press, 2009)

Davis, Alex. (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Modernist Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Herman, Theo, The Structure of Modernist Poetry (London: Croom Helm, 1982)

Hughes, Glenn (ed.), Imagist Anthology (London: Chatto & Windus,1930)

Iser, Wolfgang, The Act of Reading: a Theory of Aesthetic Response (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1980)

Jones, Peter, Imagist Poetry (ed.) (London: Penguin, 2001)

Kolokotroni, Vassiliki (ed.) Modernism: An Anthology of Sources and Documents (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998)

Levenson, Michael H., A Genealogy of Modernism: A Study of English Literary Doctrine 1908-1922 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)

Romon-Alonso, Mercedes, H.D. Sublimity and Beauty in Her Early Work (1912-1925), Durham University, 1999,  [http://etheses.dur.ac.uk]

[1] See ‘Imagism: Preface to some Imagist Poets’ in Modernism: An Anthology of Sources and Documents, ed. by Vassiliki Kolokotroni, Jane Goldman, and Olga Taxidou (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998), p. 268-269.

 
[2] Kolokotroni (1998), p.268.
[3] Kolokotroni (1998), p. 269.
[4] Wolfgang Iser, The Act of Reading: a Theory of Aesthetic Response (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1980), p. 136-137.
[5] In a letter to the editor of The Nation Flint explains, after being called ‘Prose-impressionist’ and accused of confusing ‘white blur’ with significance by one of the periodical critics, that ‘the man is ill and cannot see; and there is no impressionism therefore, but exact rendering.’

This is also an evidence that the speaker in the poem is a male figure. See Michael Copp (ed.), Imagist Dialogues: Letters between Aldington, Flint and Others (Cambridge: The Lutterworth Press, 2009), p. 96.
[6] Kolokotroni (1998), p. 269.
[7] Kolokotroni (1998), p. 269.
[8] Mercedes Romon-Alonso, H.D. Sublimity and Beauty in Her Early Work (1912-1925), Durham University eTheses, 1999,  [http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/4691/1/4691_2160.PDF?UkUDh:CyT], assessed 9 Jan 2015.
[9] Suzanne Clark, Sentimental Modernism (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999), p.132.
[10] Michael H. Levenson,  A Genealogy of Modernism: A Study of English Literary Doctrine 1908-1922 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p.5.


 

Um texto de Elton Uliana, brasileiro residente em Londres, bacharel em Literatura Inglesa pela Universidade Birkbeck College, University of London.

The Consciousness Effect: Representation of Subjectivity in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and James Joyce’s Ulysses


Falando em Literatura in english? Yes! Elton Uliana‘s article, he’s Brazilian, bachelor of English Literature from University Birkbeck College, University of London. Enjoy!


The Consciousness Effect: Representation of Subjectivity in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and James Joyce’s Ulysses 

A sudden light transfigures a trivial thing, a weathervane, a windmill, a winnowing flail, the dust in the barn door; a moment – and the thing has vanished, because it was pure effect.

   (Walter Pater)[1]

 

The house of fiction has many windows, but only two or three doors.

     (James Wood)[2]

The works of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce are a landmark in aesthetic history. In the early twentieth century, a moment of rupture and breakdown in cultural order, both writers responded to the changing conditions of the period by proposing a radical overturn of the objective mimetic impulses characteristic of conventional literary representation. In their own idiosyncratic way, each writer indulged freely in communicating a more relativistic, subjectivist version of reality. Woolf’s and Joyce’s linguistic experimentation epitomizes the ‘high modernist’ aesthetic system with its emphasis on consciousness rather then character (realism) or temperament (naturalism); its neglect of plot coherence, unity and closure; and its retreat from omniscient narrative strategy.[3] This pivotal misrule of literary form notoriously involved a multitude of other innovations like the debunking of syntax, the dislocation of cohesive point of view, and the disinheriting of linear time. If this break with tradition allowed for an ironic, if fictitious detachment between object and subject, it also represented a radical shift in the whole category of the subject, which became tantalizingly elusive and self-evident at the same time. These innovations of the modernist project remain remarkably enduring.

     Even though the writings of Woolf and Joyce may be regarded as diametrically opposites in terms of stylistic and thematic psychology, underlying that there is a preoccupation which inevitably unites them: the recasting of human consciousness, perception and memory beyond realistic conventions. This study will analyze the relationship between consciousness and literary representation as structured in Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1927) on the one hand and in Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) on the other. I shall argue that both Woolf’s and Joyce’s narrative technique produce, in strikingly distinctive manner, an expansion of subjective boundaries, one which destabilizes the self and makes it permeable by the other and impregnated by elusive, ephemeral impressions of external worldly events. I will focus both on the effects produced by free indirect style on the representation of consciousness and on the implications that genre, mode and form have on subjectivity.

     Both Woolf and Joyce use modulations in genre to shape and reproduce the effects of reality on consciousness. Each chapter in Ulysses is constructed in distinctive style, from epic to journalistic, from the dramatic to the catechetic form. In episode seventeen (Ithaca), when Joyce abruptly converts the genre of the preceding chapter from a long-winded prose (which emulates medieval morality tales and Christian parables) to a highly stylized parody of the Catholic catechism, Joyce’s narrator with all its verbal incontinence reveals a consciousness ceremoniously invaded by (low and high-brown) textual paraphernalia:

Similarly?

The trajectory of their, first sequent, then simultaneous, urinations were dissimilar : Bloom’s longer, less irruent, in the incomplete form of the bifurcated penultimate alphabetical letter who in his ultimate year at High School (1880) had been capable of attaining the point of greatest altitude against the whole concurrent strength of the institution, 210 scholars : Stephen’s higher, more sibilant, who in the ultimate hours of the previous day had augmented by diuretic consumption an insistent vescical pressure.

(Ulysses, p. 655)[4]

ulysses

Here (and elsewhere in the novel), there is a collision between the apparent psychological scantiness of the subjects and the verbal opulence with which they are treated. Suitably enough, the experiences of Bloom and Stephen are focalized through Joyce’s avatar in the text according to the conventions of the cathetic form, or in Joyce’s own words, ‘mathematical catechism’.[5] By categorizing the verbal details of the text and attempting to render the human within this ‘cosmic physical’ frame, Joyce’s writing not only tests the boundaries of genre but also produces a convulsion of subjectivities and data, making the distinction of voices virtually impossible. If the language in the passage with its doctrinal, pedantic (and clichéd) quality does not belong to Bloom (‘irruent’) or Stephen (‘sibilant’), it may not be characteristic of the narrator either.[6] In fact, this current of changing impressions goes so far as to produce a sense in which there seems to be no viewpoint at all outside the text from which the characters and events are observed, anymore then there seems to remain no objective reality apart from the one produced in the narrator’s consciousness.

   In an illuminating study of Joyce, Steven Connor argued that the chapters of the novel seem to form a pattern of stylistic rivalry.[7] The scholar suggests that this stylistic competition amongst the chapters often functions not to give expression to a consciousness, but rather, it represents ‘alien threats to or potential distortion of, that consciousness’.[8] If Joyce’s provoking stylistic design represents a discontinuity of consciousness, a debunking of a coherently expressible, obviously organized and consistently established structure of feelings and thoughts, as Connor suggests, it does so by continuously and self-consciously asserting an overarching unifying sensibility, one which authoritatively interpolates the purposelessness, seemingly pointlessness argument and the supreme autonomy of the work: that of the author, of James Joyce himself. In this way, the more the text disseminates this discontinuity of consciousness by its continuous change in style, mode, tone and diction, the more it establishes the (narcissistic) consciousness of its own author, one which is not only asserted, but in my view also performed in the text.

   Extending this point, ‘personality’ is always in tension with ‘impersonality’ in Ulysses.[9] According to Joyce, the aesthetic emotion is static and clinical, it arrests the mind and raises it ‘above desire and loathing’.[10] T.S. Eliot’s declared in ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ (1919) that a literary work is ‘not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not an expression of personality, but an escape from it’.[11] Expanding on Eliot’s argument, it becomes plausible to suggest that Joyce’s attempt to evade expressions of a particular consciousness (being it of the characters or of the writer himself) by constantly incorporating new genres in the textual fabric of the novel is, in fact, an assertion of Joyce’s own literary ambition and distinct artistic personality.

     This critical instance has another nuance. In a cold, ruthless manner the text manages to implement an ironic detachment between itself and the content it presents. Characteristically, to codify even more the semiotic situation in Ulysses, the narrator plunges into libelous subjects (‘the problem of irritability, tumescence, rigidity, reactivity, dimension, sanitariness, pelosity.’, p. 665) and reflects dispassionately on the shabbiness of ordinary life (‘both contemplate each other in both mirror of the reciprocal flesh theirhisnothis fellowfaces.’,p. 664) but offers no comment on the material related. It is plausible to suggest though that the narrator retains, nevertheless, some of Joyce’s own systematic inclination to scholastic, scientific and even theological thought.[12] Indeed, the author’s almost prurient captivation by ordinariness is established in the text rather magnificently. Joyce manages to combine the cult of the prosaic with wholehearted affinity with it.

     Form and content in To The Lighthouse have a similar vexed relation. However, the narrator’s deliberate (but not always ironic) detachment in Woolf’s text is never in the depraving, corrupting, unpalatable Joycean sense. The perception of inner processes in the novel, that is, the interior movement of characters’ and narrator’s consciousness, is systematically described (represented) by association, exposition or allusion to exterior reality. Nevertheless, these agents are not necessarily involved in the external occurrences. If the minds of the characters in the novel are momentarily anchored in the reality of the body or of real life, it is never in the same bluntly grocer context as in the passage from Ulysses above; instead, it is more likely to be because it leads to an excursion to some subjective, ethereal realm:

“And even if it isn’t fine to-morrow,” said Mrs. Ramsey, raising her eyes to glance at William Bankes and Lily Briscoe as they passed, “it will be another day. And now,” she said, thinking that Lily’s charm was her Chinese eyes, aslant in her white, puckered little face, but it would take a clever man to see it, “and now stand up, and let me measure your leg,” for they might go to the Lighthouse after all, and she must see if the stocking did not need to be an inch or two longer in the leg.

       (TTL, p. 24)[13]

The balance of this extract shifts from apprehensions of interior worlds (Mrs. Ramsey’s and the narrator’s) to presentations of penetrable objects and impenetrable substances. If the scene reveals a ‘myriad of impressions’ in Mrs. Ramsey’s mind, it also suggests at least two distinct layers of voices.[14] Through free indirect speech, Woolf simultaneously opens and bridges a subjective and linguistic gap between character and narrator. This technique enables the reader to see, hear and imagine things through Mrs. Ramsey’s physical eyes (‘and now stand up’), through her mind’s eyes (‘it would take a clever man to see it’) and through the narratorial function (‘for they might go to the Lighthouse after all’); but also through the language of both. In this sense, the novel relegates not only consciousness but also language to relative, temporary state. Thus, the characters’ consciousness in the novel blurs into everything which surrounds them.

     This strategy implies a ‘double flexibility’.[15] The narrative operates in a multitude of simultaneous time dimensions (Mrs. Ramsey’s moment with James, the unspecified time of her conjecture on Lily’s attractiveness, the moments of authorial flagging – e.g. ‘she said’) and promenades itself elastically in space; sometimes observing Mrs. Ramsey, sometimes calling on William or on the Lighthouse. In his anthological study of the brown stocking episode in To the Lighthouse, Erich Auerback stresses that the narrative’s elasticity is constructed around interruptions. Indeed, the novel spatial-temporal expansions and contractions are woven in and utilized as frames for inner processes, both of characters present in the scene and for the perspective of characters that are physically absent. In the passage above, Mrs. Ramsey initial comment is continually interrupted by external occurrences and thoughts: first by the image of Bankes and Lily, then by the impressions these two characters have left in her mind. By the time Mrs. Ramsey finishes her sentence (‘and now let me measure your leg’), the reader is allowed a detailed intrusion in her memory, private thoughts and physical actions. Auerbach suggests that Mrs. Ramsey’s action of measuring the brown stocking against James’ legs dramatizes multiple works of consciousness, but in my view, it also connects the character with subliminal appearances and vibrations and establishes the (fragmented) continuity of the section. The novel embroiders the details at which Mrs. Ramsey is gazing at or focusing on into the activity of her own thoughts. In this way, the text of To the Lighthouse both structures the subjects within these dynamics and is structured by them.

     Time is a subjective process in both novels. The reader is embedded in it and experiences it in different ways. As both novels are concerned with the representation of states of mind, time is also embedded in the consciousness of the characters.[16] For Mrs. Ramsey in To the Lighthouse, the ephemeral moments, if they are saturated with significance, they are as important as if they were ten years for a character in a realist novel:

For she knew that he had turned his head as she turned; he was watching her. She knew that he was thinking, You are more beautiful than ever. And she felt herself very beautiful.

         (TL, p. 115)

Virginia Woolf To the Lighthouse 1927

In this passage and elsewhere in the novel, there are many things occurring in any moment simultaneously. Mrs. Ramsey’s words, feelings and thoughts are filtered through the third person narration. This instance of reported or indirect speech allows the narrator to let the reader know what Mrs. Ramsey is thinking; arguably in her own inflection, without the conventional authorial flagging (‘she though’ or ‘she said to herself’). It also facilitates the encompassing of unredeemed fragments of time. There is a sense throughout the novel that something meaningful, stable and eternal is at the core of personal experiences, of which we are only able to grasp a fleeting glimpse. Mrs. Ramsey represents one way of approaching experience. Her subjectivity is textually set against Mr. Ramsey objectivity.[17] Although they each have their moment of vision, Mrs. Ramsey seems to be always trying to make from the moment something permanent. Woolf continuously deploys different modes of indirect speech, most frequently free indirect style to slip in and out the character’s consciousness and incidentally give the reader a sense of multiple time frames; lapses of time which can be chronological, cyclical, mythical, subjective and so on.[18] The novel’s capacity to depict speech, consciousness and span of time is both mimetic and generative.[19] In this way, the characters’ stream of thoughts and their subjective apprehension of time, although seemingly organic and flowing, are actually affects of a meticulously studied narrative technique, one in which Woolf (and Joyce) is a prolific master.

     There is a remarkable artistry in the very act of perception in both novels. I have argued that Woolf and Joyce emphasized not only in To the Lighthouse and Ulysses but throughout their careers the urgency of reformulating language and literary representation by diverging radically from modes of realistic aesthetic. In their deliberate effort to produce a different kind of fiction, and extend its franchise, both writers developed a revolutionary and seminal mode for rendering the flux of experience and its impressions on the mind. The apprehension of the elusive relationship between the mind and reality in To the Lighthouse and Ulysses produces a fictional world which is nevertheless exuberantly embedded in the very elusiveness of the reality they wish to represent. The subjective flow of mental processes is in continuous dialectic with external objective events. If the world in both novels is vivid, radiant and mysteriously meaningful (in Joyce’s case usually profane), it is also somehow dependent on the mind, on the consciousness of both characters and narrators. Both novels powerfully undercut the idea of a stable, non-fragmented, realistically representable human subject. By deploying a constant interplay between modes of speech and generic conventions and performing continuous shifts in perspective both temporal and spatial, both writers become a kind of cchroniclers of the aesthetic and ontological anxieties of the early twentieth century. Each created an extravagant atmosphere of thought in their works and an unprecedented form of representing states of mind.

Bibliography

 

Armstrong, Tim, Themes in 20th Century Literature and Culture: Modernism (Cambridge: Polity, 2005)

Auerbach, Erich, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, trans. by Trask, Willard R. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974)

Bloom, Harold, Novelists and Novels: A Collection of Critical Essays (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007)

Briggs, Julia, Reading Virginia Woolf (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006)

Brooker, Joseph, Joyce’s Critics: Transitions in Reading and Culture (London: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004)

Brooker, Peter (ed.), Modernism/Postmodernism (Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 1922)

Childs, Peter, Modernism (London: Routledge, 2000)

Connor, Steve, Writers and their Work (Plymouth: Northcode House Publishing, 1996)

Eagleton, Terry, The English Novel: An Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004)

Eagleton, Terry, The Event of Literature (New Haven: Yale University Press, Terry Eagleton, Terry, The Ideology of the Aesthetic (Cambridge: Basil Blackwell, 1990), 2012)

Ellman, Richard, Ulysses on the Liffey (London: Faber and Faber, 1974)

Ferrer, Daniel, Virginia Woolf and the Madness of Language), trans. by Bennington, Geoffrey and Bowlby, Rachel ( London: Routledge, 1990)

Joyce, James, Ulysses, ed. by Jeri Johnson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998)

Joyce, James, Ulysses, ed. by Kibberd, Declan (London: Penguin, 1992)

Lathan, Sean (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Ulysses (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014)

Levenson, Michael H., A Genealogy of Modernism: A Study of English Literary Doctrine 1908-1922 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)

Pykett, Lyn, Engendering Fictions ( London: Edward Arnold, 1995)

Raitt, Suzanne, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990)

Reid, Sue (ed.), Contemporary Critical Essays: Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1993)

Schwarz, Daniel R., Reading Joyce’s Ulysses (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)

Smith, Paul Jordan, A Key to Ulysses of James Joyce (New York: City Lights Edition, 1970)

Stevenson, Randall, Modernist Fiction: An Introduction (Harlow: Longman, 1992)

Tobin, Patricia Drechsel, Time and the Novel: The Genealogical Imperative (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978)

Williams, Raymond, Writing in Society (London: Verso, 1985)

Whittier-Ferguson, John, Framing Pieces: Designs of the Gloss in Joyce, Woolf and Pound (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)

Wood, James, How Fiction Works (New York: Picador, 2008)

Woolf, Virginia To the Lighthouse (London: Vintage, 1990)

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[1] Quoted in Harold Bloom, Novelists and Novels: A Collection of Critical Essays (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007),

[2] James Wood, How Fiction Works (New York: Picador, 2008), p. 3.

[3] Peter Brooker (ed.), Modernism/Postmodernism (Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 1922), p. xi.

 

[4] All quotes from Ulysses will be taken from James Joyce, Ulysses, ed. by Jeri

Johnson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).

[5] Richard Ellman, Ulysses on the Liffey (London: Faber and Faber, 1974), p. 156.

[6] Derek Artridge, Joyce Effects: On Langrage, Theory, and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 94.

[7] Steve Connor, Writers and their Work: James Joyce (Plymouth: Northcote House, 1996), p. 61.

[8] Ibid.,p. 61.

[9] For the quest for ‘impersonality’ in literary Modernism see Peter Childs, Modernism (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 7.

[10] Joseph Brooker, Joyce’s Critics: Transitions in Reading and Culture (London: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), p. 21.

[11] Tim Armstrong, Themes in 20th Century Literature and Culture: Modernism (Cambridge: Polity, 2005), p. 91.

[12] Terry Eagleton, The English Novel: An Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), p. 284.

[13] Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (London: Vintage, 1990), p. 24. All quotes from the novel will be taken from this edition and abbreviated as above.

[14] Virginia Woolf, ‘Modern Fiction’, in Woolf, The Essays of Virginia Woolf, 4 vols., ed. Andrew McNeillie (London: Hogarth Press, 1988),vol. IV, p. 160.

[15] Suzanne Raitt, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990), p. 68.

[16] Interestingly, Derek Attridge asserts that the function of the term character is that it crystalizes and enforces a number of assumptions about the human subject. See Derek Attridge, Joyce Effects: On Language, Theory, and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p.52.

[17] Gay, Peter, ‘On not Psychoanalyzing Virginia Woolf’, in The American Scholar, Vol. 71, No. 2 (Spring 2002), pp.71-75, [Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41213293], accessed on 26 April 2015.

[18] Lyn Pykett, Engendering Fictions ( London: Edward Arnold, 1995), p. 9.

[19] Angela Frattorola, ‘Developing an Ear for the Modernist Novel: Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Richardson and James Joyce’, in Journal of Modern Literature, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Fall 2009), p. 137.