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Against the EventThe Everyday and Evolution of Modernist Narrative$
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Michael Sayeau

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199681259

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199681259.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 06 March 2021

Joyce's Anti-Epiphanies: The Atomic Form of Fiction

Joyce's Anti-Epiphanies: The Atomic Form of Fiction

(p.189) 5 Joyce's Anti-Epiphanies: The Atomic Form of Fiction
Against the Event

Michael Sayeau

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines James Joyce's romance with the temporality of the epiphany—that “sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself” (Stephen Hero). Yet, if epiphanic concentration seems the antidote to the depletions of the everyday, the manuscript epiphanies of 1900–3 disclose a dire entailment: an extinction of fiction itself (the syntax of plot) as characters sink into the moment. Joyce experiments with severing epiphany from narrative altogether—an experiment that manifests itself in that sensation of prose without progression that is the signature of his fiction. Even the concise, almost lyrical narratives in Dubliners have the feel of a prolonged epiphany, stopping short of the turn, the revelation, we expect from even the most self-aware or self-ironizing fictions. So, too, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man pivots upon an anti-epiphanic epiphany, as it submerges authorial presence into temporality of linguistic rhythms. As this chapter shows, the epitome of this poetic can be found in the “Nausicaa” chapter of Ulysses, in which Joyce's style indirect libre, the formal face of impersonality, reveals itself to be not just a narrative technique but further a style of modern life adapted to the new rhythms of secular modernity and its everyday epiphanies.

Keywords:   James Joyce, modernism, Dubliners, epiphany, everyday, event, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, Georgio Agamben

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