International Solidarity and Self-Deception in James Joyce’s Dubliners and “Cyclops”
Chapter two reconfigures the opposition between modernism’s aesthetic individualism and postcolonialism’s political collectivism by analyzing what I call, borrowing from Walter Benjamin, Joyce’s mediated solidarity with the Irish people. Mediated solidarity entails a critique but not an outright rejection of solidarity, both national and international, particularly when expressions of solidarity rely on rather than contest practices of self-deception. Joyce treated the self-deceptions of individual desire and collective national fantasies as chimeras with the potential to deflate the grandiose comparative claims of Irish revivalism. In a rejoinder to revivalism’s politically specious comparisons, Joyce developed his own techniques of international comparison in his fiction – techniques this chapter gathers under the heading “alternating asymmetry.” Its claim is that Joyce developed strategies of uneven and disproportionate comparison in order to explore the psychological and material effects of colonialism on ordinary Irish people and, further, to propose that the reassurances of collective solidarity do not always constitute an adequate solution to the challenges facing structurally underdeveloped communities. Eschewing narratives of progress and social acceptance for those of unlit pathways, failed unions, and betrayed friendships, Joyce brings attention to the residual inequalities and exclusions haunting nationalist and transnationalist projects of political unification from postcolonial Ireland to the continental fellowship of Europe.
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