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The Popcycle of James Joyce

  History (School, Community): Young Joyce’s imagination was captured by the cause of Irish freedom, whose most prominent spokesman at the time was Charles Stewart Parnell, a national hero who suffered a tragic fall. “He was accused of adultery in the divorce suit of Captain O’Shea. At first it appeared that Parnell might weather this scandal, but a coalition of political enemies and devout Catholics ousted him from leadership of the Irish Parliamentary Party, and the rural population of Ireland turned against their hero with savage hatred” (Litz, 1972: 20). At Parnell’s funeral crowds tore to shreds the case in which the man’s coffin had been shipped in order to have a relic. Soon he became in the Irish imagination the type of the betrayed hero (21).

Church (Religion): Joyce’s formal education took place in schools run by the Jesuit order. His mot important religious experience occurred at Belvedere College, “when he was elected Prefect of the Sodality, “that is, “head of a group of students who banded together for the purposes of devotion and mutual help.” It was his duty according to the Jesuit manual “to excel the other members of the Sodality in virtue and to observe with the greatest diligence not only the rules of his own office but also the common rules, those especially that relate to the frequentation of the sacraments, confessing his sins and receiving the Blessed Eucharist more frequently than the others, and he should take care to advance the Sodality in the way of virtue and Christian perfection, more by example even than by words (28). Although Joyce broke with the Church, as Litz observed, this stance carried over to his “view of the artist as secular priest.”

Family (Paleo): The defining problem of Home for Joyce was his ambivalence toward his father, whose chief interst in life was “jolification.” “The declining family fortune had the greatest impact on James. The inefficiency of Joyce’s father and his wasteful habits gradually undermined family finances and family solidarity. When James entered the fashionable Clongowes Wood College in 1888, his family was quite well-to-do; by the time he had reached Belvedere College, five years later, his father had been dismissed from the Rates office on a small pension. The family had now begun a long series of removals to heaper dwellings” (919).

  Career: At age eighteen Joyce published a refiew of Ibsen’s play, “When We Dead Awaken” in The Fortnightly Review. In a letter he sent to Ibsen, the student Joyce explained that while he promoted the dramatist’s work at every opportunity, he kept to himself the most important reasons for his admiration. “I did not say how what I could discern dimly of your life was my pride to see, how your battles inspired me–not the obvious material battle but those that were fought and won behind your forehead–how your willful resolution to wrest the secret from life gave me heart and how in your absolute indifference to public canons of art friends and shibboleths you walked in the light of your inward heroism” (Joyce, in Litz, 24).

Mystory: These entries constitute a preliminary survey of Joyce’s popcyle, points of identification, both positive and negative, attraction and repulsion, by which Joyce oriented himself his existence: Parnell, Christ, Joyce’s father, Ibsen: together they constitute Joyce’s inner Board of Directors (superego).Even in these brief descriptions themata are evident, perhaps summarized in the completed sentence of Ibsen’s title: “When we dead awaken, we will see that we have never lived.” The Jesuit organization for boys, the Sodality, set the highest standards piety an virtue for lay people, perhaps too high: Parnell, Joyce’s father, the characters in the play, could not live up to them.


A. Walton Litz (1972), James Joyce, revised ed. New York: Hippocrene Books.

The image is a map drawn by Nabokov of the intertwining paths of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Daedalus around Dublin recounted in the novel, Ulysses.

2018-07-20T14:15:48+00:00 July 20th, 2018|Categories: Memory, Mystory, Popcycle|Tags: , , , |


  Identity (Know Thyself)

  • There are reasons why creativity is not the basis of conventional pedagogy. Creativity does not happen in general, but must take place in relation to specific fields of productivity and their paradigmatic problems. The assumption is that egents first must learn “normal science,” and then innovate. In the absence of the unknowns of a discipline, mystory poses the maker’s own identity as the mystery.
  • Another obstacle to education as creativity is the peculiarity of inventive reason, whose inferential movement from the known to the unknown involves risky departures from proven procedures, counterintuitive choices and operations, a persistence of application in the face of unpromising results, and similarly unusual experiences. The one object of study likely to motivate a maker to undertake these trials is a self-portrait. The problem of one’s own identity is a simulacrum of the unknowns of any field of knowledge. Within the framework of the wide image, every invention in the specialized disciplines is a self-portrait. It is difficult to remain indifferent or disengaged when the heart of the inquiry is a vision of one’s own being.


  • To make a mystory is to notice and record the identifications organizing our experience. We accept the theory of ideological interpellation as an explanation of identity construction, but with the understanding that individuals experience these internalizations of default collective norms of thought and behavior more through emotion, affect, intuition than through explicit concepts and ideas. The mystory maps the makers’ passages between living and artificial memory, between embodied experience and the social archives of lore, libraries, databases, festivals, rituals, and other external collective information storages. Thus for example long before one starts thinking about a career and how to make a living in a capitalist economy, one has already internalized the norms and expectations of competition within the lifeworlds of Family, Entertainment, and School. The wild card (the joker) in the deck of socialization, however, is the unpredictable way these default moods are internalized within the biologies and peculiar circumstances of individuals.
  • Poetic Encounter
    The overall effect of mystory is that of an extended parable. It is what Roland Barthes called a structural self-portrait. The makers compose an analogy between their own personal situation and the situations observed in the relevant stories located in the popcycle institutions within which our identity is constructed. The method is that of modernist poetics, variously named “objective correlative,” “correspondences,” “world-inner-space.” Some situation in the external world is recognized/adopted as an analogy or allegory of how the makers feel about their personal situation. The outside scene is the “vehicle” in a metaphor whose “tenor” is the maker’s spirit, temperament, state of mind. Thus when Ulmer identifies with Will Kane (Gary Cooper) in High Noon or with Custer at the Little Bighorn, it is not because he is the same as that person or resembles that person directly, nor that his circumstances are literally those of showdowns and last stands, but that his circumstances have a mood of showdowns and last stands (this is what a situation of masculine gendering in a capitalist society felt like to him).
  • Testimony, not Confession. For an image to become wide, for the simulation to work, egents engage emotionally with the design process. This engagement is easiest with personal memories of Family life. There is little difficulty in recalling Entertainment works, but then the work must be reviewed/reread in order to notice the relevant resonant details. This act of research is essential when it comes to Community History and Career field. The relevance of a specific history is established through the sheer fact of life circumstances associating the makers with a given context of place, ethnicity, religion, or whichever identity community one decides is most significant. After that the work of identification is intellectual, based on the assumption of interpellation, that I must have assimilated in some way the beliefs and attitudes circulating in my environment. The key in every case is the bodily emotional experience of recognition, the sting or punctum as Barthes called it, in which the Entertainment, History, or Career scene shows me figuratively, metaphorically, the nature of my own state of mind.
  • To make this event of revelation happen the makers must put themselves in the picture. But this entering of one’s own circumstances need not involve any secrets. Rather, one simply documents the external details of any situation that has persisted in memory. An assumption is that a reason for this memorability is that the situation involved some lack of fit between the individual and the identity expectations of the default norms. The mystory testifies to these moments of self-consciousness awakened by the problems of being and becoming. Indeed, mystory is considered relevant to creativity just because of the assumption that one’s approach to problem-solving in a Career field is shaped by the experience of “problem” in the institutions of the popcycle.
2018-07-19T19:58:18+00:00 July 19th, 2018|Categories: Mystory, Popcycle|Tags: , , , |