James Joyce and the Act of Reception: Reading, Ireland, Modernism
by John Nash
James Joyce and the Act of Reception is the first detailed account of Joyce's own engagement with the reception of his work. It shows how Joyce's writing, from the earliest fiction to Finnegans Wake, addresses the social conditions of reading (particularly in Ireland). Most notably, it echoes and transforms the responses of some of Joyce's actual readers, from family and friends to key figures such as Eglinton and Yeats. This study argues that the famous 'unreadable' quality of Joyce's writing is a crucial feature of its historical significance. Not only does Joyce engage with the cultural contexts in which he was read but, by inscribing versions of his own contemporary reception within his writing, he determines that his later readers read through the responses of earlier ones. In its focus on the local and contemporary act of reception, Joyce's work is seen to challenge critical accounts of both modernism and deconstruction.