TWO WORDS FOR JAMES JOYCE, by Dirce Waltrick do Amarante
Atualizado: Mar 16
TWO WORDS FOR JAMES JOYCE
12 de Abril de 2025
Dirce Waltrick do Amarante
For a long time, 21 years, I have been studying James Joyce’s work and following what scholars are saying about the Irish writer at events at some places in the world. These days I was looking at photos from events on James Joyce’s work, when I suddenly realized that there were no black or indigenous people in those pictures. I asked myself whether they are not interested in Joyce or have other reasons unknown. There are articles about Joyce and Africa, but as far as I could see, they were not written by black scholars. Of course, this doesn’t mean, that white scholars shouldn’t write about this issue, but I just wonder why we can’t listen more to other voices as well, something that would certainly add a lot to the discussion on Joyce’s work. As a matter of fact, to increase the number of voices on Joyce or allow other people to speak about his writing has a lot to do with his own work. In his last book, Finnegans Wake, Joyce embraces different languages and cultures. He welcomes foreign people from all over the world, we owe that to him. Joyce also fought all his life against the colonial powers, in particular the British Empire. As a researcher I wondered how black and indigenous people read Joyce, how they related Joyce to their own culture. What does Joyce say to them? I wanted to listen to these new readers, to an outsider point of view (outsider meaning a voice not from the Joycean groups). Where are those readers? Why don’t they speak up? Maybe they try, but maybe their works do not engage meaningfully with the significant body of work on Joyce that has already been done, as some scholars use to say. Once I read the end of Ulysses with an indigenous woman. She was amazed, and told me that it was a poem, a kind of prayer that a shaman might say. She was impressed that Joyce said that God was “a shout in the street”, in her culture God is everywhere, and have different forms. She was also amazed by the fact that Joyce worried about nature, as he alerts in Ulysses about the deforestation in Ireland and Portugal. I also read some passages of Finnegans Wake, and she got impressed with the way Joyce listened to nature in this book. She realized that he knew that human beings, were trees, birds, clouds before becoming humans, like the indigenous people believe. Maybe, for some scholars, these issues will add little or no substance to Joyce’s works. Anyway, I think that we should let those voices be heard. Another difficulty in approaching Joyce from this indigenous point of view is that you would need a new bibliography, perhaps one that contains various books written in Portuguese, like, for instance, A vida não é útil (The Live is not Useful) by Ailton Krenak or Um peixe olhou para mim: o povo Yudjá e a perspectiva (A Fish Looked at Me: Yudjá People and the Perspective), by Tânia Stolze Lima. For some publications on Joyce, however, it is mandatory to quote only books that are published in English. Besides all that, some journals on James Joyce say that their readers expect the work they publish to be engaged with that larger conversation and to orient its key claims around it. As a result, this kind of approach maybe just doesn’t fit for their journals. But Here Comes Everybody!