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Joyce's Modernist Allegory
Ulysses and the History of the Novel

Stephen Sicari

A major revisionary interpretation of Ulysses that connects Joyce to Dante.

In Joyce's Modernist Allegory Stephen Sicari suggests that James Joyce's famous experiments with style and technique throughout Ulysses constitute a series of attempts to find a language adequate to his purposes—a language capable of representing an ideal of behavior for the modern world. Addressing Joyce's use of lucid and powerful naturalistic prose in the opening episodes of Ulysses only to abandon such writing as insufficient to his aims, Sicari underlines Joyce's conviction that the novel, constrained by space and time, can end only in death. As a result Joyce begins to play with language, exposing the limitations of the novel as a genre and opening up new possibilities for prose fiction. In this volume Sicari shows how, episode by episode, Joyce tests style after style, voice after voice, in search of an effective way to present his Christian ideal of behavior.

Sicari traces the development of Joyce's writing from novel through epic to what Sicari calls "modernist allegory," a kind of writing based on ancient and medieval forms of allegory yet suited to modern concerns. He connects Joyce to the tradition of Christian allegory, inaugurated by Saint Paul and developed by Dante, that sought to represent ideals as based on the Christ event. Sicari contends that Joyce's Christian allegory establishes a spiritual mode of thought for a harsh, literal-minded modern age.

Stephen Sicari is an associate professor of English and chair of the English Department at St. John's University in New York City. The author of Pound's Epic Ambition: Dante and the Modern World, he has written extensively on modernist literature. Sicari holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

"Joyce's Modernist Allegory develops a genuinely fresh reading of Ulysses. Stephen Sicari views the work as evolving beyond the novel form first towards epic but ultimately towards allegory, a form of modernist allegory related to Dante's 'allegory of the theologians.' The connection Sicari draws between this and the revaluation of earlier events so common in Ulysses is compelling and profound."—Reed Dasenbrock, New Mexico State University

"Stephen Sicari's new book is an original, fascinating, and subtle reading of both Ulysses and the style of modernity. Giambattista Vico would love Sicari's account of the novel's odyssey around the bleak rocks of modernity. Contemporary readers will admire the book's fresh argument. In a provocative manner, Sicari casts memory as the critical perspective on the limitations of modernity and as the light blazing the trails for the retrieval and renewal of timeless truths."—Giuseppe Mazzotta, Yale University

"Stephen Sicari has written an important study of Ulysses as modernist allegory; his book will take its place among the crucial texts on Joyce's great Irish epic novel. He argues compellingly for Dante's importance in understanding Joyce's form and meaning."—Dan Schwarz, Cornell University



book jacket for Joyce's Modernist Allegory


6 x 9
272 pages
ISBN 978-1-57003-383-4
hardcover, $34.95s


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