Jacques Laberge – CMJOYCIRENSFW – The Writersinger

THE LETTER 54 Autumn 2013, pages 45-62.

From Chamber Music to Finnegans Wake through the Sirens’ episode in Ulysses, we have the revelation of a man who cannot really be a writer without being a singer. Joyce is a mixture of Henrik Ibsen and Richard  Wagner. At the end, he identifies himself to the tenor Sullivan considered by him better than any genius in literature, painting, or sculpture and defines his last book as ‘pure music’.

Keywords: Ibsen, Wagner, Lévi-Strauss, Didier-Weill, Sullivan

The works of William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Richard Wagner (1813-1883), and Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) made a special mark on the life and work of James Joyce. What do they have in common? Drama, theatre, and, especially, voices. On the basis of this drama, Joyce will invent a kind of writing that is meant to be heard. On Shakespeare, Joyce tells us in Drama and Life, written in 1900, that his art is, properly speaking, ‘literature in dialogue’, literature being ‘an inferior art-form’. It is in Henrik Ibsen that one finds, according to Joyce, a form of drama that ‘transcends the critics: the artist forsakes his own self and sets himself up as a reverential mediator of truth before the veiled face of God. ….when the art of a dramatist is perfect, criticism is superfluous. Life is not be subjected to criticism, but to be confronted and lived’.

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