2. The Hegemony of New Critical Modernism

Stuart Gilbert, James Joyce's Ulysses

In the case of Ulysses, the relation between critical discourse and novelistic practice was closer than kinship. We may speak of a "confluence" of the novel's two discourses legitimating a paradigmatic "New Novel" in more than a metaphoric sense:

One begins with close analysis, and only when the implications of the original are fully unraveled does one start looking for approximations in the other language. Thus I made a point of consulting Joyce on every doubtful point, of ascertaining from him the exact associations he had in mind when using proper names, truncated phrases or peculiar words[....] Joyce showed extra­ordinary patience in bearing with my interrogation[....] But perhaps most valuable of all were the hints thrown out quite casually (this was Joyce's invariable way) as to the sources of Ulysses.[38]
Finally, it should be mentioned that in the course of writing this Study I read it out to Joyce, chapter by chapter, and that, though he allowed me the greatest latitude in the presentation of the facts and indeed encouraged me to treat the subject on whatever lines were most congenial to me, it contains nothing [...] to which he did not give his full approbation; indeed there are several passages which I owe directly to him.[39]

The scene is upstairs at Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare & Company. The writer is Stuart Gilbert--or, is it James Joyce? The product is the first full length, "chapter by chapter," critical guidebook to Ulysses. Of course, in 1950 when Stuart Gilbert described this scene in his preface to the revised and enlarged edition of James Joyce's 'Ulysses', he was recalling Joyce's collaboration to lend authority to his criticism. But, twenty years earlier, in the openly partisan literary atmosphere of Paris where writers and their supporters clustered in cliques about small press publishers and avant garde magazines, it was Stuart Gilbert who was engaged in lending critical authority to Joyce's literary practice--a point to which Joyce, for all his "extraordinary patience" and congeniality, seems to have been most attentive.

Prior to James Joyce's 'Ulysses', Joyce had already moved to stimulate critical interest in the structural aspects of his work. As Edmund Wilson reported,

Joyce has drawn up an outline of his novel, of which he has allowed certain of his commentators to avail themselves, but which he has not allowed them to publish in its entirety (though it is to be presumed that the book on "Ulysses" which Mr. Stuart Gilbert has announced will include all the information contained in it); and from this outline it appears that Joyce has set himself the task of fulfilling the requirements of a most complicated scheme--a scheme which we could scarcely have divined except in its more obvious features.[40]

Perhaps Joyce's outline was inspired by Eliot's "Notes" to The Waste Land--by the manner in which Eliot's notes immediately shaped and continue to shape critical response to his work.[41] These initial "advertisements for myself" aside, the importance of Gilbert's and Joyce's collaborative guidebook to the hegemony of New Critical modernism should not be underestimated. It may not be possible to date properly the origin of New Criticism, nor the beginning of modernism, but one could not go too far wrong dating the onset of the hegemony of New Critical modernism from the 1930 publication of James Joyce's 'Ulysses'. That publication unambiguously marks the moment a text and an exegetical method meet, such that thereafter British-American modernism and literary history become almost unthinkable except on New Critical grounds.

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