Lecture 2

[Frank Budgen: Proteus]

James Joyce:
Ulysses (1922)

The Muses of Fiction

Anthology Texts:

History of the Ban:

In 1922, the United States Department of the Post Office burned 500 copies of the novel when an attempt was made to import the book and court decisions ruled against the book. The first court trial of the book, however, actually occurred in 1921, when John Sumner, the secretary for the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, and his followers seized an issue of the Little Review, which contained one chapter of the serialized version of the novel. The trial rook place in the court of general sessions with magazine editors Margaret Head and Jane Heap as defendants. Author John Cowper Powys and playwright Philip Moeller, called as witnesses, testified that Joyce's style was too obscure to be understood by most people, but the court ruled against the Little Review and the novel.

Bowdlerized and bootlegged copies of the novel appeared, but no further action occurred until 1932, when the collector of Customs seized a copy of the book sent to Random House and declared it obscene under the Tariff Law of 1930. Random House intervened in the case because the publisher was, at that time, producing copies of the book with the intent to distribute it to the American reading public. The publisher demanded the court hearing required by the tariff law and asked for exculpation of the work. In pleas to the Federal Court of New York, Random House asked that the book be read in its entirety and that the passages declared to contain "the dirtiest language" be viewed in the context of the whole. In United States v. One Book Entitled "Ulysses," 5 F. Supp. 182 (S.D.N.Y. 1933), later affirmed in United States v. One Book Entitled "Ulysses," 72 F.2d 705 (2d Cir. 1934), Judge John M. Woolsey rejected the claims of obscenity, stating that despite the "unusual frankness" of the novel, "I do not anywhere detect the leer of the sensualist. I hold, therefore, that it is not pornographic." He further observed that he viewed the language and actions to be entirely consistent with the types of people whom Joyce describes. As to "the recurrent emergence of the theme of sex in the minds of his characters, it must always be remembered that his locale was Celtic and his season Spring." Judge Woolsey ruled that the book was not obscene when judged by its effect on the average man, l’homme moyen sensuel. He stated the following:

In many places it seems to be disgusting, but although it contains, as I have mentioned above, many words usually considered dirty, I have not found anything that I consider to be dirt for dirt's sake. Each word of the book contributes like a bit of mosaic to the detail of the picture which Joyce is seeking to construct for his readers.

The government appealed the decision in the circuit court of appeals where, in United States v. One Book Called "Ulysses," Judge Augustus Hand and Judge Learned Hand upheld the earlier decision. In the majority decision, they noted, “We think that Ulysses is a book of originality and sincerity of treatment, and that it has not the effect of promoting lust." The government chose not to appeal to the Supreme Court, and thus ended a decade-long struggle with the United States government and local censorship groups. It also provided a step toward freedom in the struggle between the moralists and publishers. In essence, the court ruled that the harm of an "obscene" book must be judged not from reading select passages but as a result of the whole book. Therefore, if the book as a whole had merit and the allegedly obscene parts were germane to the purpose of the book, then the book could not be viewed as obscene. In summing up the new interpretation of the law, Judge Augustus Hand stated:

We believe that the proper test of whether a given book is obscene is its dominant effect. (I.e., is promotion of lust the dominant effect of reading the whole book?) In applying this test, relevancy of the objectionable parts to the theme, the established reputation of the work in the estimation of approved critics, if the book is modern, and the verdict of the past, if it is ancient, are persuasive pieces of evidence; for works of art are not likely to sustain a high position with no better warrant for their existence than their obscene content.

A significant result of the verdict was that it led judges and prosecutors to examine a book in its entirety rather than according to isolated passages. The decision also admitted the novel into the United States.

– Nicholas J. Karolides, Margaret Bald & Dawn B. Sova, 100 Banned Books: Censorship Histories of World Literature (New York: Checkmark Books, 1999): 328-30.

The Muses of Fiction:
What is a Novel?

  • Novels are generally written in prose, that’s one defining feature (except that there are verse novels and graphic novels, too).
  • They tend to be fairly substantial, over 50,000 words in length (though, again, there are exceptions).
  • They’re fictional, in that they make no claim to be considered as statements of fact (though biographical and historical novels abound, some of which are virtually exclusively factual – at any rate in intent. Far more so, at any rate, than many histories and autobiographies).

What we call a novel is generally held to be a product of the self-conscious individualism encouraged by European modernity and the rise of mercantile capitalism in the 17th-18th century. There were certainly long prose fictions before then, some of considerable sophistication and interest. But the form didn’t really start to become dominant (at any rate in European literature) till the advent of writers such as Defoe, Richardson and Fielding in England, Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau in France.

The ancestors of the modern novel can clearly be seen in the characteristics of books such as Defoe’s Moll Flanders (1722), Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749), or Voltaire’s Candide (1759).

  • On the one hand we have the influence of historiography. Long prose narratives tended to begin as historical chronicles and analyses of past events: Herodotus and Thucydides in Greece, Livy and Tacitus in Rome, Ssu-Ma Chien in China.
  • On the other hand we have the long narrative epic poem, designed for recitation and memorisation: Homer, Virgil, Dante, The Epic of Gilgamesh, even. These stories are full of incident and vivid description, strongly prophetic of the strengths of the novel, but they perhaps lack its focus on realistic psychology and characterisation.
  • For these we need a third factor: autobiography. This tends to begin as religious apologia or confession of some sort. Saint Augustine’s 5th-century Confessions are generally regarded as the first true autobiography in Western literature. His book had many successors, generally with similar religious motives – at any rate until the advent of Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571) and other similar Renaissance wits and egotists.

The ancient Greeks believed in nine Muses, divine daughters of Zeus and the goddess Memory, who governed all the arts. The exact line-up (and even the number) is disputed, but it’s generally thought to be:

  • Calliope (beautiful speaker): muse of epic or heroic poetry
  • Clio (glorious one): muse of history
  • Erato (amorous one): muse of lyric, love and erotic poetry
  • Euterpe (well-pleasing): muse of music and lyric poetry
  • Melpomene (chanting one): muse of tragedy
  • Polyhymnia (hymn-singer): muse of sacred song and oratory
  • Terpsichore (delighting in dance): muse of choral song and dance
  • Thalia (blossoming one): muse of comedy and pastoral poetry
  • Urania (celestial one): muse of astronomy

Fielding called Tom Jones a "comic epic in prose", so I imagine he saw it as combining the influence of Calliope, Clio and Thalia: Epic, History and Pastoral. Melpomene and Polyhymnia (Tragedy and Oratory) would have to be included in there somewhere, too, though, I suspect.

I’d like to propose, then, for the purposes of our discussion, 9 Muses of the Novel:

  1. Character (or Psychological portraiture)
  2. Detail (or Verisimilitude)
  3. Narration (or Point of View)
  4. Plot (or Story)
  5. Setting (or mise-en-scène)
  6. Structure (or Architecture)
  7. Style (or Tone of Voice)
  8. Theme (or Implication)
  9. Timing (or Duration)

All of them require a bit of unpacking, which I shall endeavour to do in detail throughout the semester by letting one dominate the discussion of each of our nine novels:

  1. Plot for Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness (1928)
  2. Character for D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928)
  3. Setting for Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer (1934)
  4. Time for Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory (1940)
  5. Point-of-view for Vladmimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)
  6. Detail for Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago (1957)
  7. Structure for William Burroughs, Naked Lunch (1959)
  8. Style for Kathy Acker, The Adult Life of Toulouse Lautrec (1978)
  9. Theme for Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses (1988)

An easy mnemonic for our nine Muses might be:

C & D: Character & Detail
2 P’s: P-o-v & Plot
3 S’s: Setting, Structure, Style
2 T’s: Theme & Time

[The Diary of a Young Girl]

Workshop 2:
Civilisation and Its Discontents

We'll begin with the book report on Ulysses, then move on to do the class exercise in pairs or small groups.

Exercise 2:
The Bloomsday Game

[Ulysses Map]

  • Choose one episode from Ulysses which intrigues or disturbs you in some way.
  • Why?
  • Make a diagrammatic representation of it.
  • Describe the picture to the rest of the group, then your associations with it – what it means to you.
  • Remember, your picture must convey the essence of the text even to someone who hasn't read it.

Next week:

Group 2: Book report on The Well of Loneliness due.

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