James Joyce and the Act of Reception is a detailed account of Joyce's own engagement with the reception of his work. It shows how Joyce's writing, from the earliest fiction to Finnegans Wake, addresses the social conditions of reading (particularly in Ireland). Most notably, it echoes and transforms the responses of some of Joyce's actual readers, from family and friends to key figures such as Eglinton and Yeats. This study argues that the famous 'unreadable' quality of Joyce's writing is a crucial feature of its historical significance. Not only does Joyce engage with the cultural contexts in which he was read but, by inscribing versions of his own contemporary reception within his writing, he determines that his later readers read through the responses of earlier ones. In its focus on the local and contemporary act of reception, Joyce's work is seen to challenge critical accounts of both modernism and deconstruction.
Introduction: writing reception; 1. Boredom: reviving an audience in Dubliners; 2. Surveillance: education, confession and the politics of reception; 3. Exhaustion: Ulysses, 'Work in Progress' and the ordinary reader; 4. Hypocrisy: Finnegans Wake, Hypocrites Lecteurs and the Treaty; Afterword; Bibliography.
This is a detailed account of Joyce's own engagement with the reception of his work. An innovative book, this will illuminate not only Joyce's work, but also the way it has been read and received in the last century.