• Suzette A.Henke, James Joyce and the Politics of Desire (New York and London: Routledge, 1990), 288 pp., $45.00 (hardback), $15.95 (paperback) • Patrick McGee, Paperspace: Style as Ideology in Joyce’s Ulysses (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988), 243 pp., $25.00 • R.B.Kershner, Joyce, Bakhtin, and Popular Literature: Chronicles of Disorder (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 338 pp., $34.95
I have selected Suzette A.Henke’s, Patrick McGee’s, and R.B.Kershner’s books for this review article because poststructuralist, postmodernist critiques of Joyce’s texts appropriately place them in the rapidly growing body of modernist works being studied in light of the perspectives and insights gained by such investigations. Although Joyce’s works are of the high modernist period, they become central in postmodernist critique because of Joyce’s deconstructive tendencies in writing. All three authors are concerned with the language of Joyce, a field ripe for such inquiries, as well as the issue of the subject, and studies of desire are undertaken by Henke and McGee. Kershner’s endeavour is to appropriate Bakhtinian readings of Joyce’s texts, a most relevant effort because of the current abundant attention given to Bakhtin and the recuperation of his concepts and theories in postmodernist criticism. Although Henke’s attention to the play of desire in Joyce’s texts and McGee’s analysis of Joyce’s style through Lacanian theories of language are clearly evident as postmodernist critical readings, the rediscovery of Bakhtin in a later context and the use of his theories by Kershner with respect to Joyce’s texts and their relation to popular literature provide us with not only a compendium or source-book of the popular texts resonating in Joyce’s works but also an occasion for understanding Joyce’s major works in the context of the plurality of voices playing against the concepts, in Stephen Dedalus’s words in Portrait, of consonantia and integritas, or the totalized harmony of the literary text. Kershner’s effort fits in well with the strategies of postmodernist criticism because he indicates through the play of dialogism and heteroglossia Joyce’s undermining of closure and wholeness and his intentions in working against logocentric assurances in the literary text, in contrast to the claims of traditional criticism, which tried to coerce readings of Joyce’s texts as integrated and holistic.