Joyce, Husserl, Derrida: calculating the literary infinite
Abstract:In this article, I try to show that Joyce's weird mathematical calculations in the Ithaca episode of Ulysses present, despite many errors, an equivalent of textual infinity. This concept of the infinite is a 'Homeric correspondence' with the bow and arrows with which Ulysses kills the suitors in the Odyssey. To achieve this, Joyce had to read Bertrand Russell on mathematics carefully. A detour through Derrida's close reading of Husserl on the origin of geometry shows that the invention of infinity was not limited to mathematics but also included geometry. The gnomon with which Dubliners opens thus sends us back to Euclid, and hence to a new 'barrier of infinity' – a term deployed by Hermann Broch in his fiction and in his commentaries on Joyce. Not only do most modernist writers posit (consciously or unconsciously) a certain concept of the infinite, they also allow readers to transcend it by providing a sense of what it means to calculate the literary infinite.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: December 1, 2007
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- Journal of Romance Studies promotes innovative critical work in the areas of linguistics, literature, performing and visual arts, media, material culture, intellectual and cultural history, critical and cultural theory, psychoanalysis, gender studies, social sciences, and anthropology. The primary focus is on those parts of the world that speak, or have spoken, French, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese, but work on other cultures may be included. Issues cross national and disciplinary boundaries in order to stimulate new ways of thinking about cultural history and practice.
Published in Association with the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London.
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