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Empty HousesTheatrical Failure and the Novel$
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David Kurnick

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691151519

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691151519.001.0001

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Joyce Unperformed

Joyce Unperformed

(p.153) Four Joyce Unperformed
Empty Houses

David Kurnick

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the collective spaces invoked in James Joyce's career-long obsession with dramatic form—from the epiphanies he wrote as a teenager through his 1918 play Exiles to the closet drama of the Nighttown (or “Circe”) episode of Ulysses. Joyce's experiments with theatrical form constitute a running commentary on his interest in the “depths” of the psyche. The different conceptions of theatrical space embedded in the idea of epiphany lend a dual valence to this keystone of Joycean aesthetics. If, on the one hand, epiphany imagines a humiliating theater of psychic exposure, on the other it gestures toward a perverse collective space where such exposures would lose their policing force. These isolating and collectivist impulses are both visible in Joyce's play Exiles, which follows Ibsenesque naturalism in its representation of psychic motivation but allows its characters to mount a notable collective resistance to the diagnostic imperative structuring their stage existence.

Keywords:   James Joyce, plays, theater, collective spaces, Exiles, dramatic form, Ulysses, epiphany

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