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Title: 'The drama of dedication and betrayal' : betrayal in the life and works of James Joyce
Author: Fraser, James A.
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis offers an account of the role of betrayal in the works of poet, playwright, novelist, and occasional journalist, James Joyce. Moving away from pathologizing conceptions of Joyce as “obsessed” with betrayal, I follow the development of this theme throughout a range of Joyce’s writings. Joyce came to an understanding of the workings of this narrative as a young child, experiencing the national trauma of the downfall of Irish politician Charles Stewart Parnell and the fallout of this affair in his own household. At his father’s promptings, Joyce learned to experience betrayal as an active, though invisible force in Irish affairs, from the quotidian to the grandiose. This thesis contends, however, that this early understanding of betrayal as an “immanent” force gives way to a highly self-aware investigation into the dramatic and narrative potential of betrayal as a structuring principle in human relationships. Looking in detail at three of Joyce’s literary works—A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Exiles, and Ulysses—as well as a selection of Joyce’s Triestine journalism and criticism, I attempt to offer a narrative account of how the theme of betrayal operates in and is operated on by Joyce’s texts. In Joyce’s non-fiction we find a reliance on betrayal as a means to introduce a note of melancholic pathos to nominally journalistic pieces. But in betrayal Joyce also finds a way to critique Irish constructions of heroic failure and to support the healthy antagonism necessary to his principled exile. In Portrait, Joyce studies the positive potential of betrayal as a tool of self-narration. Stephen is seen to achieve a narratively satisfying break with his community that is made possible by his imputation of Irish betrayal. In Exiles, the central dynamic of betrayal—that it is present as a possibility in any relationship—is taken to its extremity and ultimately rejected. In Ulysses, Joyce denies Stephen the narratives he had formerly relied on and studies instead the pathos of his painfully incomplete severance. In the same book, Joyce turns his attention once again to adultery. Molly’s sexual affair with Hugh “Blazes” Boylan offers Joyce a way of critiquing accepted conventions of the cuckold and the “adulteress” in favour of a far more nuanced understanding of the human impact of betrayal. Ultimately, the idea of betrayal is itself destabilized to the point that Molly’s act of extramarital sex can no longer be maintained as in any simple sense a betrayal.
Supervisor: Attridge, Derek Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available