Useless Joyce: Textual Functions, Cultural Appropriations
University of Toronto Press, 2017
Tim Conley’s Useless Joyce provocatively analyses Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake and takes the reader on a journey exploring the perennial question of the usefulness of literature and art. Conley argues that the works of James Joyce, often thought difficult and far from practical, are in fact polymorphous meditations on this question. Examinations of traditional textual functions such as quoting, editing, translating, and annotating texts are set against the ways in which texts may be assigned unexpected but thoroughly practical purposes. Conley’s accessible and witty engagement with the material views the rise of explication and commentary on Joyce’s work as an industry not unlike the rise of self-help publishing. We can therefore read Ulysses and Finnegans Wake as various kinds of guides and uncover new or forgotten “uses” for them. Useless Joyce invites new discussions about the assumptions at work behind our definitions of literature, interpretation, and use.
"There is little question that this is an outstanding production in the field of Joyce studies, and of very high standard. Tim Conley’s knowledge of the existing critical literature is excellent; his close readings rich and sound. Useless Joyce is also an extremely agreeable book to read – well written, never boring, always thought-provoking, and at times particularly witty."
-Valérie Bénéjam, Maître de conferences, Université de Nantes
"[A] superb book . . . I can’t imagine that a wittier book than Conley’s has ever been written about such complex subject matter – namely what it means when we speak, in relation to the works of Joyce, of the 'uses' of a text, and in particular the distinction between 'the liberal arts' and the 'useful arts' – although even Conley, in mentioning theFinnegans Wake 'reading' groups he has set up, is doubtful whether that verb is entirely apt. Why bother reading Joyce at all, then? Because, says Conley, as soon as we ask how any of his books might be useful to us, and let go of any predetermined conceptions, we can start to interpret them in new and stimulating ways."
--- Gerri Kimber, Times Literary Supplement
"By suggesting ways in which one might read Joyce's work as grief-counseling, legal, self-defense, medical, shopping, and even home-decorating manuals, Conley performs the useful service of entertaining readers while exposing them to the practicalities inherent in an aesthetic tool. . . . Highly recommended."
See the publisher's website for more information.