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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 4, No. 1 March 12, 1941

James Joyce

James Joyce

If ever a storm of discussion raged round any literary figure, it rages round that mysterious creature whom most people visualise as limping in tongues in his cradle, and spending his life in erratic polyglot conversation—James Joyce. So that when Modern Books were looking for a subject for their latest discussion evening, it was to this newly-deceased literary giant that they turned.


Professor Gordon was by far the best speaker of the evening. In a lovely Scotch voice, he traced the development of the Joyceian style from the letter-writing technique of the 18th century novelists, and pointed out that the stream of consciousness style was akin to the work of Fielding and Smollett. This led to a good deal of debate about this method in the course of the discussion. Most of the speakers agreed that it was finely effective in "Ulysses," but concurred with Professor Gordon when he suggested that in "Finnegan's Wake" it was carried to its ultimate limit, so that one was caught in a vicious spiral going downwards and inwards, till one came to pure Joyce, which of course could only be understood by the author.

"Finnegan's Wake."

The moment of "Finnegan's Wake" was mentioned, a lovely time was had by all. Nobody at the meeting had been able to read the book right through, and there was much argument as to whether it was worth writing, whether it had any meaning, and whether Joyce was breaking down mentally or not. An interesting interpretation of the plot was produced by Dr. Sutch, and various extracts read aloud and analysed. But it still didn't seem to mean much.

Professor Gordon pointed out that Joyce had an extraordinarily varied linguistic background. Born in Ireland, he spent his life wandering through Europe, and was a member of a family which habitually spoke Italian. With many modern and several dead languages to play with, he built up such combinations and allusions that it needs a man of startling erudition to follow him completely.

Food and Thought.

Supper interrupted the speakers from the floor, and argument was still being carried on as various small groups trailed away after all was over. . . These evening, which are organised by our only co-operative bookshop, can be recommended to students as well worth attending.