Critical History of “the Dead”

Topics: Literary theory, Reader-response criticism, Wolfgang Iser Pages: 9 (3018 words) Published: February 23, 2012
Entry for Week 1 -- Critical History of “The Dead”

I found it interesting that the city of Dublin could be thought of as a major character of Dubliners and/or of The Dead. From everything I have read so far, it definitely is obvious that Joyce was struggling with Ireland’s apparent unwillingness to define itself, either as Roman Catholic or as Protestant. And also, he feels that religion is too much the focus of the country, too strict, too regimented.

Schwarz writes on page 67 that Gabriel “lapses out of his paralytic self consciousness to become part of the reality of being.” I completely agree. It seems to me that Gabriel probably was too caught up in his bourgeoise, educated life to be able to experience true feeling, true love and true loss. With the story’s end events unfolding Gabriel is suddenly exposed to true feelings of both love and loss. The feelings of true love are not his own, but as Gabriel’s tears flow while Gretta is asleep, the narrator tells us “He had never felt like that himself towards any woman but he knew that such a feeling must be love.” Through this discovery, Gabriel has experienced a previously unknown dimension of emotion, which has brought him further away from his superficial world and much closer to a deeper world of true feeling and compassion. This sentiment is further supported by Tate’s reference on page 69. He says Gabriel represents an “emotional sterility” and Gretta has a “peasant richness.” He goes on to say that Dublin is devoted to a “genteel culture…an evasion of reality.” Dublin’s devotion to aristocracy is mirrored in Gabriel himself.

On page 77, I do understand MacCabe’s notion that “language introduces to us an existence which can never be satisfied...something is always missing.” However, further down the page I am a bit confused about this quote: “in Joyce’s text, the division between signifier and signified becomes an area in which the reader is in (and at) play – producing meaning through his or her own activity.” Would this be along the same lines as earlier in this study, when the point was made that an writer’s prior experience largely determines his or her writing method? Can this be applied to the reader as well?

On page 80, Schwarz refers to the party as “really an advertisement” for the music school. This point really hit home for me because throughout the descriptions of the music playing and receptions, especially for Aunt Julia, I believe, the language seemed to convey a sense of artificiality and of forced applause. For some reason that slight air of discomfort, almost embarrassment at the not wholly genuine gesture of making music and the odd air of sporadic applause (I cant remember the word Joyce used – fragmented??) really stuck with me and set a definite tone for the rest of the story.

Entry for Week 2 Psychoanalytic Criticism

I found it interesting to read about Freud’s approaches to literature. Again, I am reminded of all the feelings and desires that humans suppress which then are forced into dreams and the unconscious. Also once again I am reminded of Freud’s seemingly eccentric view that characterizes “the creative mind as ‘clamorous’ if not ill” on page 89 of Murfin’s portrayal of psychoanalytic literature. To me, this view seems a bit radical on the surface, but when you think about all the excellent writers, it does appear that many of them had emotional and psychological issues, so it seems Freud is correct again.

The Jungian theory of why writers write seems to be to be closely related to the Freudian theory. Jungian theory holds that “it is a manifestation of desires once held by the whole human race by now repressed because of the advent of civilization.” I understand that Freud is dealing with repression more on a personal level, but wouldn’t “civilization” as a whole still need to address many of these repressions on individual, personal levels? It seems to me that many of these repressions...
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