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
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