This essay challenges the dismissal of nationalist politics in readings of Ulysses by reconnecting the “Cyclops” episode to the aporias of modern political thought. Drawing from Joyce’s neglected notes to the episode, it relocates anticolonial nationalism within the diremption and mutual implication of civil society and state, first articulated by G. W. F. Hegel and developed by Hannah Arendt. The essay rereads Hegel’s state/society diremption through Gillian Rose’s conception of “speculative thinking” and the historical openness of the “broken middle.” It argues that “Cyclops” generates a dynamic interpretative space in which other configurations of the social and political in the nation might be registered. In a contemporary moment when legality and constitutionality are under attack in the name of nationalist populism, this reading suggests an alternative to frameworks that conceive of law only as violence.
Hegel after Ulysses? The (Dis)Appearance of Politics in “Cyclops”
Graham MacPhee is the author of Postwar British Literature and Postcolonial Studies (2011) and The Architecture of the Visible (2002) as well as essays on Joyce, Benjamin, Arendt, neoliberal nationalism, modernism, critical theory, and philosophy and culture. He has edited journal special issues for College Literature on “Arendt, Politics, and Culture” and “The Banalization of War” (coedited with Angela Naimou), and he is coeditor (with Prem Poddar) of Empire and After: Englishness in Postcolonial Perspective (2007). He is currently working on a study of the right-wing public intellectual and politician Enoch Powell.
Graham MacPhee; Hegel after Ulysses? The (Dis)Appearance of Politics in “Cyclops”. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 September 2023; 69 (3): 293–328. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-10814826
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