This chapter explores how James Joyce evokes an overarching concern with the linear in his works, both formally (in terms of the Euclidean ideal of rectilinearity) and conceptually (in terms of linear narratives, histories, arguments, modes of thought, etc.). In particular, it considers how the non-linearity of Joyce’s works reflects a wider questioning of the straight line in modernist literature which followed the development of non-Euclidean geometries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This chapter also provides an overview of the geometric babble which entered into the context of Joyce’s writing following the popularization of non-Euclidean geometry in modernist art and literature, as well as the “fashionable nonsense” associated with the application of geometric concepts in contemporary literary criticism. By referring to the source texts which informed Joyce’s articulation of multiple geometric registers, it traces his engagement with non-Euclidean geometry to his early readings of Giordano Bruno’s mathematical and philosophical works, illustrating how notions associated with the curvature of the straight line inform the structural composition of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.
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