Self, the Other and the Semiotic chora in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses
This thesis seeks to explore the semiotic traces in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses with the hope to map Joyce''s increasing tendency to embrace the unnamable semiotic, which is foregrounded not so much to threaten as to nourish an artist''s imagination. It is my hope to demonstrate the constant tensions between the Symbolic and the semiotic in Joyce''s texts. To borrow Kristeva''s words, I hope to show that in Joyce''s text "language and its rhythm [are] never one without the other, and [artistic] formulation will continue as long as the struggle does" (Kristeva 1980, 29). In so doing, I hope to read Joyce''s texts, especially Ulysses, as signifying practice Kristeva proposes-- to "demystify...the community of language as a universal and unifying tool, one which totalizes and equalizes" (Kristeva 1986, 210) and to demonstrate "the multiplicity of every person''s possible identifications" (Kristeva 1986, 210), acted out by Bloom and Molly.
Lacan’s theorization of the Symbolic order enables us to read Stephen Dedalus’s psyche in A Portrait of the Artist as an Young Man as a subject of Cartesian cogito, and thereby uncovering Joyce’s critique of Stephen’s assumptions of art and life. It is not difficult for us to see that Stephen’s growth fits quite neatly to Lacan’s early theorization of the mirror stage. By tracing Stephen’s growth as a budding artist in A Portrait, we can discover a trajectory of Stephen’s subject formation as a process of further entanglement with the symbolic order, which dominates Stephen''s imagination with a network of signifiers.
After invoking Lacan''s psychoanalytic insights, I draw on Kristeva’s theorization of the semiotic. Kristeva’s engagement in unraveling the process of abjection extends dimension to Lacan’s subject theory. In my opinion, her theory can help me to discuss the indeterminacy of Joyce’s language and the unnamable jouissance inherent in Joyce’s writing. In “poetic language,” Kristeva discovers the signifying process constituted by a dialectical interaction between the symbolic and the semiotic. Kristeva’s unique reading of language points to the gap of language which has the power to subvert the rigidity of the “signifying system” proposed by Lacan. If Kristeva’s semiotic is more important to my thesis, it is not due to my stronger belief in her theory instead of Lacan’s. Rather, it is due to the fact that the language in Ulysses often points to the possibility of such a semiotic reading. I propose to investigate Joyce’s implicit desire in A Portrait of the Artist as an Young Man and Ulysses as an attempt to explore the scope beyond the Symbolic. In my thesis, I underscore the mother as a powerful authority to battle with the Symbolic order in Joyce''s texts. Further, by investigating the maternal traces Joyce presents in these two novels, I discover mother in Joyce’s text a valuable space for me to see how Joyce pushes the boundary of the symbolic towards the semiotic.
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