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Love and the Ethics of Subaltern Subjectivity in James Joyce's Ulysses

HSU, CHING-YING (2014) Love and the Ethics of Subaltern Subjectivity in James Joyce's Ulysses. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis explores Joyce’s aesthetic enterprise in Ulysses from the perspective of ethics, arguing that my psychoanalytic study necessarily points to the entwinement of ontology, epistemology and ethics. Joyce’s literary experimentation not only revolutionised western literature, writing his name into world history, but also inaugurated an emergent subjectivity in modernity. In answering Spivak’s question, ‘Can the Subaltern speak?’, one of my main theses is that the subaltern can speak through the process of self-naming, through the self-invention of a new subjectivity and a New Symbolic.
In Chapter One, I critically review Lacan’s theorisation of the ethical models in his long career, engaging in the current debates among Lacanians regarding the definition and efficacy of Lacan’s theory of the (ethical) act and the interconnected ethico-political theories in the contemparay landscape. I evaluate Lacanians’ diverse stances toward Žižek’s interpretation of Lacan centered on the emphasis of negativity and Badiou’s theory of event and truth-procedures. After offering my own theoretical evaluation and intervention into the above-mentioned debates, I also seek to foreground the place of love in Lacanian psychoanalysis and to elucidate how love manifests itself ethically.
In my reading of ‘Scylla and Charybdis,’ I argue that Joyce, through Stephen’s idiosyncratic theory of Shakespeare, articulates his artistic ambition as a work of/for a singular universal, endeavouring to transform the human subject by way of writing a book of himself, and of making a self out of writing.
I take Joyce’s literary experiment in ‘Cyclops’ as an arrangement deployed through the narrative by the Nameless One that juxtaposes with the rhetorical excess of interpolated digressions. Drawing on Lacan’s theorization of the look and the gaze, I contend that Joyce conducts a literary traversal of fantasy, a working through of symptomatic nationalism. The interpretation of ‘fantasmatic’ working offers an alternative reading to the historicist approaches and critiques of Gibson and Nolan. I also argue that neighbour love has already prefigured in ‘Cyclops,’ in Bloom’s proclamation of the ideal of universal love and in the poetic justice of Bloom’s escape from his xenophobic, Cyclopean neighbours. The psychoanalytically-inspired theory of ‘de-activation of the law’ and Badiou’s conception of ideological ‘subtraction’ are enlisted in my interpretation of neighbour love.
I read ‘Circe’ as Joyce’s experiment with a sinthomatic construction of subjectivity, contending that there is a constant process of unknotting and reknotting in the construction of textual subjectivity. I examine whether the sinthomatic construction of subjectivity, as it is evidenced in the fantasmatic episodes, truly invents a new structural stratification of subjectivity and alternative libidinal organization. By way of Lacanian psychoanalysis and Žižek’s theory, I argue that masochism in ‘Circe’ is not necessarily ethical but can function as a preparatory step towards the true ethical act. Pseudo-messianism and masochism are opposed to the true messianism manifested through neighbour love as a genuine ethical act. Enlightened by Lacan’s complex theory of the psychoanalytic act and Badiou’s idea of new neighbourhood, I try to capture the ethical impact of genuine messianism.
I interpret Joyce’s modern version of ‘Penelope’ as a sinthomatic writing as well, finding this female countersign to be problematic by way of an ethical evaluation of the sinthome as a (singularised) sexual relation and an investigation of Joyce’s belief in his sinthome. Furthermore, my ethical reading is also explored through the productive tension between what I term ‘sinthomatic eroticism’ and love. I invoke both Lacan’s idea of love as ‘compensaiton’ of the non-existence of sexual relationship, and Badiou’s work on love as a way of creatively carving out what I term ‘the ethical space of love’ as a space (not entirely disengaged from but) distinct from the psychoanalytic domain of sexual desires or eros.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Ulysses, James Joyce, Jacques Lacan, Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizek,love, ethics, subaltern subjectivity, sinthome, Circe, Penelope, Scylla and Charybdis, Cyclops, neighbour love, the singular universal, Antigone, the act.
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:19 Aug 2014 11:12

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