"Not since Cheryl Herr's Joyce's Anatomy of Culture has a critic shown such wide ranging command of the contrasting elements of Joyce's cultural context."--Michael Patrick Gillespie, Marquette University
Joyce and the Victorians excavates the heretofore largely unexplored territory of the late Victorian and Edwardian cultural contexts of Dubliners, Portrait, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake. Ideologies and icons suffused turn-of-the-century Ireland and, Schwarze argues, Joyce replicated contemporary behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes in his work as carefully as he re-created the pubs and landmarks of his native Dublin. Schwarze also asserts that even as they expose and manifest the social forces at work on the individual, Joyce's short stories and novels also grapple with a fundamental modernist paradox: whether modern consciousness can effectively resist the ideological force of the culture that produces it.
Examining discourses on "Irishness," spiritualism, middle-class masculinity, social reform, domesticity, hysteria, and the Woman Question, Schwarze argues that Joyce's characters continually reinscribe themselves with prevailing attitudes and influences and are never fully able to overcome the powerful influence of traditional Victorian authorities and ideologies. Instead, Joyce's narratives create only the potential for such supercession. They explore the pervasive influence of ideological structures on subjectivity and illuminate the fissures contained within the social discourse itself.
Schwarze does not defend Joyce as the last Victorian; she re-creates the late-Victorian and Edwardian ethos that underlies Joyce's fiction and suggests that Joyce himself, much like his characters, was simultaneously bound by and critical of the ideologies of his age.
Tracy Teets Schwarze is assistant professor of English at Christopher Newport University, Newport News, Virginia.