Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Franco Moretti on Joyce

"Ulysses is indeed static, and in its world nothing — absolutely nothing — is great. But this is not due to any technical or ideal shortcoming on Joyce's part, but rather to his subjection to English* society; for Joyce, it is certainly the only society imaginable, although he just as certainly condemns it, through a hyperbolic presentation of its worst features, to a future of paralysed mediocrity (a future that Joyce, with a stroke of genius, places in the past, as if to underline his consummate skepticism: one can always hope never to reach the negative utopias of science fiction, but if a negative utopia came into being twenty years ago, and no one realized it, then the die is truly cast…)" (Signs Taken For Wonders, p. 189)

I don't agree with this as an interpretation of Ulysses, but it's brilliantly formulated.

* Weirdly Moretti insists on reading Joyce as an English, rather than an Irish, writer.