James Joyce : the sexual pretext : an examination of sexual themes in Joyce's reading and the engagement of his writings in contemporary discussions of sexuality
After an introduction describing our knowledge of
Joyce's reading and reviewing the critical discussion of
Joyce and sexuality, the thesis falls into five chapters.
In the first chapter I outline contemporary debates
about marriage and divorce. The facts of Joyce's life
suggest a participation in these debates and I describe
and discuss his reading on marriage law, adultery and
Free Love and the contribution made by such issues to
In the second chapter I define the notion of
"sexuality" as an entity separate from reproduction which
is essential to twentieth century liberalism and argue
that Joyce arrived at a modern position through his reading
of some nineteenth century and theological works on the
In the third chapter I discuss Joyce's problematic
relationship to feminism. His publication was aided to
a surprising degree with the help of feministically
conscious women and his writing displays a highly sophisticated
interest in sexual identity and role, in female dominance
and in prostitution.
The final chapters discuss Joyce's conflict with the
censorship of sexual material in literature and attempt
to show that writing about sexuality was fundamental to Joyce's
own literary critical notions and not as incidental or
subsidiary to his achievement as has often been supposed.
~ This entails both a re-examination of Joyce's practical aesthetic priorities and of other less apparently literary
motivations for his work.
In conclusion I discuss wider implications of the
critical method here adopted of discussing an author's work
primarily in relation to the books that he read. With
regard to recent theories of "intertextuality" I suggest
some relevant forms of relationship between texts and
argue for the value of the term "pretext" in understanding
the role of Joyce's reading in this field.