Unreal Nature

May 19, 2017

The Din of all the Hollowsounding Voices

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:23 am

… growth into one’s own distinctive language is in fact a process of adjustment to the language of others …

This is from the chapter on ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man‘ in James Joyce (2nd Edition) by Steven Connor (1996, 2012):

… When Joyce abandoned this novel [Stephen Hero] in 1907 or 1908, and set to writing A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, he abandoned the authoritative third-person narration of Stephen Hero, in an attempt to find a way of presenting Stephen’s thoughts and feelings more immediately. This is Joyce’s version of the struggle, in which many modernist writers were engaged, to find an art of direct showing rather than an art of oblique telling.

… One of the impressive discoveries of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is that growth into one’s own distinctive language is in fact a process of adjustment to the language of others, as it is encountered through reading, instruction, and the discourses of social life. If the book shows Stephen striving towards an ideal of linguistic self-possession, it also shows in its very narrative form that such self-possession can arise only out of a condition in which one is possessed or spoken through by the language of others.

[line break added] It is for this reason perhaps that, at crucial stages of the narrative, Joyce appears to suspend his own principle of restricted point of view, by having Stephen’s receiving and responding consciousness recede from the narrative. During the account of the political argument over Christmas dinner, and in the evocation of the torments of Hell by Father Arnall during the retreat at Clongowes, Stephen is present in the novel only as an abstract receptivity, as a kind of diaphragm vibrating to the force of what he hears. The horrified emptying-out and invasion of Stephen’s awareness by what he later characterizes as ‘the din of all the hollowsounding voices’ is the whole point.

My most recent previous post from Connor’s book is here.

-Julie

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