Degeneration, Decadence, and Joyce’s Modernist Disability Aesthetics

Degeneration, Decadence, and Joyce’s Modernist Disability Aesthetics MARION QUIRICI Shortly after the publication of James Joyce's Anna Livia Plurabelle as a standalone volume in 1928, the Observer issued an unfavorable review by Gerald Gould. "It looks as if he had a spelling-bee in his bonnet, and had got confused by the buzz," he complained.1 To Padraic Colum, whose preface to Anna Livia had praised Joyce as "an innovator of literary form,"2 Gould countered, "I doubt whether it is really an invention to burble, since all babies do it" (7). His summary response to this chapter on rivers and flowing waters was blunt: "The only water it all suggests to me," he wrote, "is water on the brain" (7). Gould's technique-- discrediting Joyce by invoking disability--is dashed off with a lightness of touch that reveals the use of negative disability metaphors as a secondnature reflex during this stage of eugenics and social Darwinism. Indeed, by 1928, disability imagery was already a well-worn trope in Joyce's reception. This essay explores the invocations of disability in early responses to Joyce's novels, from newspaper reviews to essays by well-known modernist contemporaries. My study demonstrates the lasting impact of nineteenthcentury theories of degeneration--the idea that modern art was contributing to http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Joyce Studies Annual Fordham University Press

Degeneration, Decadence, and Joyce’s Modernist Disability Aesthetics

Joyce Studies Annual, Volume 2016 – Mar 15, 2016

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Fordham University Press
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Copyright © Fordham University Press
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1538-4241
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Abstract

MARION QUIRICI Shortly after the publication of James Joyce's Anna Livia Plurabelle as a standalone volume in 1928, the Observer issued an unfavorable review by Gerald Gould. "It looks as if he had a spelling-bee in his bonnet, and had got confused by the buzz," he complained.1 To Padraic Colum, whose preface to Anna Livia had praised Joyce as "an innovator of literary form,"2 Gould countered, "I doubt whether it is really an invention to burble, since all babies do it" (7). His summary response to this chapter on rivers and flowing waters was blunt: "The only water it all suggests to me," he wrote, "is water on the brain" (7). Gould's technique-- discrediting Joyce by invoking disability--is dashed off with a lightness of touch that reveals the use of negative disability metaphors as a secondnature reflex during this stage of eugenics and social Darwinism. Indeed, by 1928, disability imagery was already a well-worn trope in Joyce's reception. This essay explores the invocations of disability in early responses to Joyce's novels, from newspaper reviews to essays by well-known modernist contemporaries. My study demonstrates the lasting impact of nineteenthcentury theories of degeneration--the idea that modern art was contributing to

Journal

Joyce Studies AnnualFordham University Press

Published: Mar 15, 2016

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