Voices and Values in Joyce's Ulysses

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University Press of Florida, 2000 - Literary Criticism - 238 pages

"Few scholars can approach Ulysses armed with the breadth of knowledge and command of scholarship evident in Thornton's rich and humane reading of the novel. Voices and Values in Joyce's Ulysses is the most important study in many years of the relationship between Joyce's stylistic experiments and the values on which they are based."--Patrick A. McCarthy, University of Miami

This book provides a clear, well-substantiated answer to a question that has vexed critics for decades: Why does Joyce employ a different style for each of the last ten episodes of Ulysses?

Rejecting the commonly held position that this variety of styles is a reflection of Joyce's linguistic relativism, Weldon Thornton argues that Joyce's intention is to reveal and to highlight the limitations and distortions that these extravagantly disparate styles produce.

Thornton further argues that it is in the style of the opening episodes--what Joyce called the "initial style"--that the reader will find the normative voice of the novel, the one Joyce labored mightily to create and which fulfills his underlying purposes in the novel.

After grounding his epic in this "initial style," Joyce deploys an encyclopedia of contemporary modes and techniques, exposing how each in its turn inhibits or distorts our experience of the world. In every case, the fulcrum of Joyce's satire is a concern for his characters' (and his readers') fulfillment of their potential to understand what happens in their world.

In the "Nausicaa" episode, for example, he reveals the pernicious effects of sentimental romance. In "Sirens" he satirizes the idea that music is the primary art. In "Circe" he demonstrates the distortion of experience that follows from the Freudian expressionistic literary mode.

While the primary audience for Voices and Values in Joyce's Ulysses will be teachers, critics, and students concerned with the basic critical issues of this novel, it will also be of great interest to those concerned with the broader issues of modernism and modern literature in general.

Weldon Thornton is William R. and Jeanne H. Jordan Professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is author of several books, including The Antimodernism of Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1994).

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