Against Joyce: Ulysses, Authorship, and the Authority of the Reader

Corser, Sophie. 2018. Against Joyce: Ulysses, Authorship, and the Authority of the Reader. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis considers James Joyce’s Ulysses as a text that plays with its own relationships to the author and the reader. It draws out the complexities and contradictions of a Joycean – and Barthesian – sense of ‘play’, by exploring the activity of reading prompted by the novel’s intertextuality and narrative. Alongside such investigation, I trace the history of approaches to the author within and without Joyce studies – to unravel how reading Ulysses interacts with such shifting sand. Through a methodology of ‘reading reading’, I analyse overlooked layers of Homeric orality and scholarship in ‘Eumaeus’, the development of Joyce studies from the 1920s to the present, modern understandings of the concept of the author, irreverent approaches to biography, and how reading ‘Calypso’ and ‘Wandering Rocks’ enacts a clash of readerly and authorial authority. This results in an unusual, looping structure, alternating analysis of Ulysses, Joyce studies, and other texts: exhibiting the impossibility of separately discussing author, reader, text, or – as chapters progress – critic. The thesis asks how one can place limits on where readings of Ulysses take us; how to discuss anti-authorialism in a field as author-centric as Joyce studies; and how the oft-asserted idea that opposites can be simultaneously true in Ulysses offers a valuable way to approach and query critical and theoretical understandings of how authors, readers, and texts interact. Writing ‘against Joyce’ (resisting, preparing for, leaning on) responds to theoretical and critical approaches and habits that pitch reader against author: that declare the birth of the reader must come at the cost of the author, or give greater currency – however veiled – to an author’s understanding of their text, over a reader’s. Above all else, this thesis proposes that to unpick the author question we should focus our attention on the activity of reading: self-aware, self-interrogative reading.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


James Joyce, Ulysses, Roland Barthes, Homeric Question, Samuel Butler, Tom Stoppard, Zachary Mason, Homer, the Odyssey, authorship, anti-authorialism, intertextuality, literary criticism, Joyce studies, death of the author, authority, author, reader, literary theory, rewriting

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


31 May 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

05 Jul 2018 14:12

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:13


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