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The Poetry of James Joyce Reconsidered$
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Marc C. Conner

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780813039763

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813039763.001.0001

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Joyce's Poetics of Knowledge

Joyce's Poetics of Knowledge

(p.143) 7 Joyce's Poetics of Knowledge
The Poetry of James Joyce Reconsidered
Marc C. Conner
University Press of Florida

This essay engages the questions of knowledge, faith, and authority in Joyce's writings, focusing in particular on the “Gnostic quest” Joyce pursues in Chamber Music. Beginning with the profound struggles over religious authority and knowledge that Joyce presents in Portrait and Ulysses, and that mirror many of Joyce's own personal struggles during the very period leading up to his composition of the Chamber Music poems, the essay examines Joyce's pursuit of alternative means of salvation, in particular the Gnostic hope of knowing one's way to the divine. Studying in detail the Chamber Music poems, following Joyce's original ordering of that sequence, we see that Joyce writes his way through a pattern of Gnostic pursuit, ultimately abandoning love in search of otherworldly wisdom and ecstatic union with the divine unmediated by Church or creed. The dispiriting shift in the second half of the sequence away from consummated earthly love and towards a solitary, wandering, perhaps fruitless quest for visionary knowledge intimates the pattern Joyce foresaw, but ultimately rejected, for himself.

Keywords:   Knowledge, Poetics, Gnosticism, Religion, Chamber Music, Salvation, wisdom

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