James Joyce's animal aesthetic

Nunn, Michael Russell, Department of English, University of Virginia
Luftig, Victor, Department of English, University of Virginia
Wicke, Jennifer A., Department of English, University of Virginia
Arata, Stephen, Department of English, University of Virginia
Barolsky, Paul, Department of Art, University of Virginia

James Joyce's search for the springs of creation reveals that the structures of language and literature contain, hidden away--often quite purposely by the human animal who creates--the figure of the non-human animal. Joyce's animal aesthetic explains the hidden animal as s/he helps foster the literary work. While recognizing that our connection to animals is deep--if always mediated by language--Joyce examines the linguistic web that ensnares both animal and human.

Profoundly influenced by Joyce's interrogation of the linguistic animal, Jacques Derrida spent a lifetime of engagement with Joyce's work. Derrida points out the difficulty involved in ascertaining where the animal ends and the human begins, or vice versa. This anti-essentialist vision empties the traditional human subject, and the void is filled by the animal and the body. Joyce brings animal and body in from the margins and gives them central roles--as both sources and themes--in his works. The body, like the animal, is always already inside Joyce's language. This immanence re-creates in Joyce's texts the ground of literature itself, and by using the work of Julia Kristeva we see that the bodily and the archaic are the engines of linguistic invention and literary creation.

When Derrida writes, we read Joyce as well. It is not a matter of reading Derrida for the light he sheds on Joyce; rather, we learn about Joyce by attending to what he taught Derrida to say. Joyce's work is thus one of the principal sources of deconstruction. Joyce's breaking-open of language helped lead to deconstruction and its crossing of all frontiers, in particular the human/animal, and to the burgeoning field of "animal studies."

Joyce's success is Stephen Dedalus's failure. As Stephen tries to be a writer in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, Joyce anatomizes the process of creation, which must always include the animal. Stephen's inability to understand the importance of the human/animal interchange dooms him to artistic barrenness. In Ulysses,/i> he meets a "humanimal" who receives the artistic vision that Stephen is denied.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: