“Falling through the universe”: the transformative power of language in James Joyce's the dead

Martin John Fletcher


ABSTRACT: James Joyce’s The Dead is recognized as a stepping stone towards the author’s more experimental fiction, as the end of the story foregrounds its own linguistic construction. In this paper I argue that Joyce also manages to subvert the power relations associated with language by his use of two particular leitmotifs: snow and music, which serve “oppositional” functions against the subjugating ideologies of everyday language and convention. Snow and music represent negations of or “flights” from language and its essentially controlling nature, its ability to shape and subjugate consciousness and identity. I argue that The Dead resists easy consumption and, as the story unravels and finally deconstructs itself – leaving the snow “falling faintly through the universe” – we, as readers, are left to contemplate the mysteries of identity, memory, romantic love and the seductive power of poetic language.

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DOI: 10.3895/rl.v19n27.3056


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Direitos autorais 2018 CC Atribuição 4.0

Licença Creative Commons
Esta obra está licenciada sob uma licença Creative Commons Atribuição 4.0 Internacional.


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