Ordinary Culture in ‘The Dead’” reads James Joyce’s short story through the lens of Raymond Williams’s essay “Culture Is Ordinary.” Each work represents the gap between education and social solidarity in narratives about the return of an educated protagonist to his place of origin. Williams’s essay is a powerful demolition of the kind of cultural hierarchies in which Joyce’s protagonist, Gabriel Conroy, is invested. Nevertheless, Joyce’s story offers a similar critique of Gabriel’s elitism through its presentation of a “hyper-educated” Dubliner who fits uneasily in a cultural world that he has fled but that has also produced him. Both thinkers offer similar accounts of how English colonialism affects the consciousness of the colonized, producing the sort of elitist disdain we see in Gabriel as well as the ideal of an “authentic” Irish culture typically mobilized to critique him.

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