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Title: Words and music in James Joyce's 'Sirens'
Authors: Frendo, Maria
Keywords: Music and literature
Joyce, James, 1882-1941. Ulysses
Modernism (Art)
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: University Publications
Citation: Frendo, M. (2016). Words and music in James Joyce's 'Sirens'. Humanities and Social Sciences Review, 6(1), 137-144.
Abstract: With Modernism, the move towards what Pater calls “aspiring towards the condition of music” seems part of the dialectics of modernism itself. What constitutes subjective consciousness, and the concern of what might be a representation of it are not simple things to segregate. “Music comes into the strain of modernism as expounded by Wagner, Mallarmé, and Pater, amongst others, as an articulation precisely of the problem of an inter-subjective possibility. Pound could not see the irony of this: Joyce could.”1 The reader, arguably, agrees that the ‘Sirens’ chapter of Ulysses is Joyce’s most popular example of what one could call ‘musical’ writing. From strictly a formal point of view, however, it is difficult to read the chapter as one would read a fugue. One understands that the entire Ulysses novel is an exercise in counterpoint, but this fact does not make it a fugue. In fact, the contrapuntal perspective of ‘Sirens’ is, for the most part, a representation of the goings on in what Bucknell calls the “various narrative spaces within the Ormond bar and across Dublin”2 as Boylan prepares to meet Molly Bloom. If anything, ‘Sirens’ is a parody of the both the musical and the poetic expression.
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