"May send some Joyceans into catatonic denial. . . . Black's detailed demonstration of Shaw's presence in Joyce's work is so overwhelming that one can only wonder at the determination of Joyceans to ignore it all these years. Her explanation of Joyce's need to keep his discipleship secret, partly out of ambivalence but mainly because he believed the artist must 'father' himself (another idea he stole from Shaw), is utterly convincing."--R. F. Dietrich, University of South Florida, Tampa
This controversial and groundbreaking book--certain to provoke Joyce scholars--documents the heretofore underobserved influence of George Bernard Shaw on James Joyce.
In painstaking detail, Martha Fodaski Black addresses Joyce's "stolentelling" from Shaw, maintaining that Joyce employed literary ruses to obscure the relationship between himself and his Irish predecessor--stratagems that argue for Joyce's own originality. Shaw and Joyce were both literary pickpockets, like most writers, but Shaw (unlike Joyce) readily admitted his sources. Black seeks "to restore Shaw's reputation, to prove that the crafty Joyce secretly approved of and used the old leprechaun playwright, and to quarrel with critics who isolate texts from the faces behind them."
Black finds "pervasive and indubitable connections" especially between Finnegans Wake and Back to Methuselah, culminating in the subterranean conflict between the father/brother ("frother") Shaun and the "penman" Shem in the Wake. But ultimately she shows that Shaw's influence on Joyce was ubiquitous: while the younger writer followed his own muse as a stylist, the "germs" of all his themes "are in the polemics, prefaces, and plays of the famous Fabian."
A critical pragmatist, Black draws on an eclectic blend of sociological/psychological and feminist insights to produce an analysis "accessible to readers who are not specialists in structuralism, deconstruction, manuscript analysis, or any of the critical isms." Given the controversial nature of "The Last Word in Stolentelling," it will find partisan readers among Joyce and Shaw scholars as well as others interested in Irish literature and literary theory.
Martha Fodaski Black, professor of English at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, was formerly associate director (overseas) of the Humanities Centre of the Institute for Irish Studies in Dublin. She is the author of George Barker and of numerous essays on modern literature published in such journals as The Explicator, Conradian, English Language Notes, and the James Joyce Literary Supplement.