James Joyce and the Revolution of the Word by Colin MacCabe - review by Bernard Sharratt

Bernard Sharratt

MacCabe’s Joyce

James Joyce and the Revolution of the Word


Macmillan 186pp £8.95 order from our bookshop

Joyce’s later fiction is now, alas, widely tolerated in English Departments and the general reader of an uncut Ulysses is unlikely to be prosecuted, even, now, yet. Colin MacCabe's long-advertised book should change all that. It won't, of course, since the toleration rests on well-tried liberal techniques: marginalisation and common-sense discrimination. By now, Joyce merely excuses restricted enclaves ('I'm working on the comma in Finnegan's Wake.' 'Oh, which one?'), occasions instant editing ('I get lost round about Wandering Rocks, and the whole thing tails off at Oxen.') or cures common-room nostalgia ('Clive Hart once told me that my edition of Wake has 11 misprints- I've been trying to find them ever since.'). But where has all the indignation gone?

Gone to young men, apparently, though (not yet) to every one. MacCabe's title isn't kidding: the revolution means what you think it means. Though not, quite, what Leavis meant.

Let's backtrack. In I933 Leavis published his put-down in Scrutiny: 'James Joyce and the revolution of the word': 'To judge the Work

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