Neither/Nor: The Birth of the Text-as-Subject in James Joyce's Ulysses

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Contemporary literary criticism can be divided into two modes of reading. One mode looks for unity in a text, the other looks for disunity. These modes can be referred to as the modernist mode of reading versus the postmodernist mode of reading. Roughly, the first mode claims that a text has a unified meaning, while the latter celebrates the lack of resolution and claims a text can have an infinite number of meanings. These opposing views are commonly held to be incompatible. This study will argue that neither the modernist tradition, nor the postmodernist tradition are adequate ways of doing justice to a text. Instead, this study focuses on Roland Barthes’ concept of the “Text-as-Subject” and uses his “Step-by-Step Method” to read James Joyce’s Ulysses from a synthesised viewpoint. In doing so, this study will illustrate how unity and disunity, are, in fact, compatible. Development in James Joyce Studies is often held to mirror literary criticism in general. This is primarily due to Ulysses’ uniqueness and complexity. In that regard, even though this study’s conclusions do not go beyond James Joyce’s Ulysses, its implications might reap more results in future research which consider other novels.
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