This article argues that although James Joyce’s Ulysses faces us with an overarching verbal complexity, we need not allow the insights into Leopold Bloom’s voicing grounded in Bakhtinian analysis to delimit the endpoint in exploring Joyce’s narrative technique. Stressing that Bloom is at once a creature of multiple linguistic contingencies and a lone storyteller who longs to compose a coherent story of himself to make sense of his life, my argument traces Bloom’s internal ordeal through what Emmanuel Levinas might call his “narrative intentionality.” By following Levinasian “dark riddles” that compose Bloom’s discursive negotiations, it concludes that Joyce demonstrates the vital role self-narrativizing plays in countering existential isolation, and that his narrative technique is in important ways aligned with Levinas’s conception of an ethics of love.
Leopold Bloom’s Dark Riddle: Joyce, Levinas, and the Storytelling Self
Teresa Winterhalter is professor of English and associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts at Armstrong State University in Savannah, Georgia. She has published articles on modernist poetry, the representation of Victorian women in film, Virginia Woolf, Haruki Murakami, and the intertextual relationships between James Joyce and Ian McEwan. She is currently working on a book-length study of Joyce and McEwan that explores both writers’ treatments of nostalgia as a superintending narrative structure.
Teresa Winterhalter; Leopold Bloom’s Dark Riddle: Joyce, Levinas, and the Storytelling Self. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 December 2016; 62 (4): 359–378. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-3764010
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