chapter  6
22 Pages

HAMLET’S GHOSTS

From Shakespeare to Joyce

This chapter is about ghosts. Ghosts who haunted the unconscious ofShakespeare and, refusing to go away, reappeared as central figures in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Both texts, I will argue, address the question of memory. They show how certain traumatic experiences resurface in ‘sublimated’ works of literary remembering. In short, my hypothesis is that what cannot be recalled in life, because no mourning is adequate to the sense of loss or rupture, may be either repressed (and repetitively acted out) or retrieved into poetic works. This act of creative return may itself take the form of a narrative of memory: a replay of the theme of memory in the text itself. Such, I will suggest, is the case in both Hamlet and Ulysses. Moreover, the fact that part of Joyce’s novel – the National Library episode – is itself conceived as a literary reprise of Shakespeare’s play, adds a further twist to this uncanny doubling of memory. Not surprisingly, we will be encountering many spectres, Doppelgängers and phantoms along the way.