Backus, Margot Gayle. Scandal Work: James Joyce, the New Journalism, and the Home Rule Newspaper Wars. Univ. of Notre Dame. 2013. 296p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780268022372. pap. $37. LIT
This excellent study explores the intersection of newspaper journalism and literary production in Ireland at the end of the 19th century. Backus (English, Univ. of Houston) has written a thoughtful analysis of the early years of scandal journalism and, more particularly, the effects of this journalism on Irish politics and the writing career of writer James Joyce (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man). She opens with a discussion of the Oscar Wilde scandal and the Charles Stewart Parnell trials, as well as W.T. Stead’s notorious “Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon,” a series of newspaper articles that exposed child prostitution in London in 1885. Backus proceeds to conduct a fascinating exegesis of Joyce’s 1922 novel Ulysses. She theorizes that Joyce was influenced by childhood exposure to coverage of the Parnell scandal, among other events, and that this early experience shaped his later work. VERDICT A fascinating addition to the literature, not only on the work of Joyce but also on Irish journalism. Extensive notes and a select bibliography make this a valuable academic resource. Joyce scholars will find Backus’s focus on Ulysses attractive, and readers with a broad interest in the history of journalism, scandal, Ireland, and their interrelationships will find her insight thought-provoking.
Ebest, Sally Barr. The Banshees: A Literary History of Irish American Women Writers. Syracuse Univ. (Irish Studies). Oct. 2013. 272p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780815633303. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9780815652403. LIT
Ebest (English, dir. of gender studies, Univ. of Missouri–St. Louis, coeditor, Reconciling Catholicism and Feminism? Personal Reflections on Tradition and Change) undertook this study because other than an earlier collection of essays she coedited, Too Smart To Be Sentimental: Contemporary Irish American Women Writers, prior titles on Irish American writers have largely focused on men, and books about American feminism did not acknowledge the major role played by Irish American women writers in addressing women’s issues. “Banshee” is used here in the sense of war goddess as well as harbinger of death, in this case of women’s rights. Arranged chronologically, the chapters provide the historical context of specific works and successfully show how each writer reflects the position of women at that time—e.g., Ebest details prejudice against working women following World War II. Since most Irish American women are from the Roman Catholic tradition, the church figures prominently throughout the book, which describes clerical efforts to control women’s lives, as in banning birth control. Among the writers considered are Kate Chopin, Nellie Bly, Dorothy Day, Flannery O’Connor, Mary McCarthy, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Joyce Carol Oates, and Mary Gordon. VERDICT This insightful volume will appeal to students of Irish literature, feminism, and 20th-century American sociopolitical history.
Wright, David G. Dubliners and Ulysses: Bonds of Character. Joker. (Transference). 2013. 164p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9788875363222. pap. $27. LIT
Author James Joyce (1882–1941) intended that his novels The Dubliners (1914), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), and Ulysses (1922) constitute a single, interactive entity. One of the ways to accomplish this was to “redeploy” characters from one book to another. Here, the late Joycean scholar Wright (English, Univ. of Auckland, New Zealand; Ironies of Ulysses; The Characters of Joyce) focuses on Dubliners characters who reappear in Ulysses, which Joyce was writing at the same time he was proofing Dubliners and which he envisioned as the final story in the trilogy before he decided to expand the novel. Thus, Wright contends, Dubliners is the most helpful “source” for Ulysses. While in Dubliners the characters seem isolated from one another, in Ulysses they are connected, with protagonist Leopold Bloom as the common link. VERDICT Although readers may note the recurrence of names from one work to the other, Wright’s study is the first to provide as much detail on the subject and to focus extensively on Joyce’s design. An appendix identifies all the occurrences of each character in each book. Of interest to Joyce fans and scholars.