Joyce and the Scene of Modernityby David Spurr
"With an array of brilliant close readings and the discovery of new historical sources, Spurr deftly negotiates between high theory and new historicism. Refusing to contextualize Joyce in a narrow sense, he focuses on the fast-expanding field of modernism, which allows him to deploy a rigorous intertextual context that also takes Proust and Benjamin into… See more details below
"With an array of brilliant close readings and the discovery of new historical sources, Spurr deftly negotiates between high theory and new historicism. Refusing to contextualize Joyce in a narrow sense, he focuses on the fast-expanding field of modernism, which allows him to deploy a rigorous intertextual context that also takes Proust and Benjamin into account while remaining alert to the impact of anthropology or technology on literature in the first decade of the 20th century."--Jean-Michel Rabaté, University of Pennsylvania
"So much more than a collection of essays, [this is] a valuable, interesting, and illuminating piece of scholarship . . . clearly based on sound research and a great deal of experience in handling difficult and challenging works of literature. Its scholarly discourse is sophisticated but accessible and never pretentious, and it constantly transmits the excitement of literary and critical discovery and pleasure."--Astradur Eysteinsson, University of Iceland
The contextual studies collected for this book, taken together, explore the notion that, in all of Joyce's major works, his idea of "altereffects" (alterity or otherness) pervades his treatment of the modern condition. The author proposes a revitalized vision of modernism, taking Joyce as a privileged site upon which to build a broader cultural context.
Of particular interest is the book's comparative perspective, which reads Joyce's work alongside that of, notably, Mallarme and Proust, seen here as inaugurating an alternative continental modernism to which Joyce belongs. This approach marks a new direction for Joyce studies and for modernist literary studies in general in that it negotiates deftly between historicism and high theory, combining the study of specific historical contexts with a theoretically informed reflection on the fundamental questions of modern human existence: the questions of being, of language, of the subject, of the very possibility of literature in the modern world.
David Spurr's novel use of historical documents complements this original project, which forges new parallels and links between authors such as Joyce and Proust as well as providing a timely account of the state of Joyce scholarship today from a comparative perspective.
David Spurr is professor of English at the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland.
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