Joyce′s Book of Memory

The Mnemotechnic of Ulysses

Joyce′s Book of Memory

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: Published: January 1999

Author: John S. Rickard

Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory

For James Joyce, perhaps the most crucial of all human faculties was memory. It represented both the central thread of identity and a looking glass into the past. It served as an avenue into other minds, an essential part of the process of literary composition and narration, and the connective tissue of cultural tradition. In Joyce’s Book of Memory John S. Rickard demonstrates how Joyce’s body of work—Ulysses in particular—operates as a “mnemotechnic,” a technique for preserving and remembering personal, social, and cultural pasts.
Offering a detailed reading of Joyce and his methods of writing, Rickard investigates the uses of memory in Ulysses and analyzes its role in the formation of personal identity. The importance of forgetting and repression, and the deadliness of nostalgia and habit in Joyce’s paralyzed Dublin are also revealed. Noting the power of spontaneous, involuntary recollection, Rickard locates Joyce’s mnemotechnic within its historical and philosophical contexts. As he examines how Joyce responded to competing intellectual paradigms, Rickard explores Ulysses’ connection to medieval, modern, and (what would become) postmodern worldviews, as well as its display of tensions between notions of subjective and universal memory. Finally, Joyce’s Book of Memory illustrates how Joyce distilled subjectivity, history, and cultural identity into a text that offers a panoramic view of the modern period.
This book will interest students and scholars of Joyce, as well as others engaged in the study of modern and postmodern literature.


“[E]xplores the operation of memory in Ulysses with a lucid, carefully elaborated, and frequently illuminating theory.” — Sheldon Brivic , Journal of Modern Literature

“[F]resh and insightful. . . . Rickard articulates a clear and convincing theory that sheds considerable light on several Joycean cruxes.” — P. D. O’Connor , Choice

“The most comprehensive and convincing treatment of its subject to date. . . . Joyce’s Book of Memory is one of those studies that actually changes the way one thinks about its subject; indeed, it is one of the best new books on Ulysses in recent memory.” — Brian W. Shaffer , English Literature in Transition

“Though he guides us down a well-traveled road, [Rickard] manages to captivate our attention continuously and often offers us new views of Ulysses: this is an elegantly written book, carefully structured, closely argued, and everywhere illuminating. — Fakrul Alam , South Carolina Review

“Rickard approaches his subject from a primarily historicist rather than a psychoanalytic perspective. In so doing he highlights a compelling and overlooked set of tensions in the text that opens up new readings of many frequently discussed sextions of Ulysses. . . . One of the strengths of Rickard’s book (and perhaps a testament to his own memory!) is the impressive mastery of the details of Ulysses that he brings to his argument. . . . Joyce’s Book of Memory is certainly an exhaustive and provocative reading of the role of memory in Ulysses, and it helps confirm the value of the work done over the last decade or so by Joyce scholars to open up his work to new historical investigations.” — Mark Morrisson , Modernism/modernity

“This is a study that will reward the careful attention not only of Joyce scholars, but of those interested in the relationship between memory and modernism more generally. By expanding the field of Joyce’s influences to include previously unexamined figures and ideas, particularly those that have been dismissed as dated, naïve, or unfashionable, Rickard has opened up Ulysses itself to new avenues for contextual research. Even more significantly, his characterization of memory as a dynamic and proleptic textual force allows his study to bypass the well-rehearsed problem of memory’s adequacy and accuracy as an instrument of historical retrieval. Rickard’s analysis instead heightens one’s sense of memory’s mysterious role in the fashioning of human subjectivity. At the same time, he invites a deeper and fuller awareness of Joyce’s strange and wonderful capacity to capture and explore that dynamic in Ulysses, his ‘book of memory.’” — Nicholas A. Miller , James Joyce Literary Supplement

“By reading Joyce’s concept of memory within the context of the current cultural studies movement, Rickard has deepened the idea and made it more flexible. Although a number of critics have explored this subject in one way or another, Rickard’s is easily the richest and most thorough treatment. ” — R.B. Kershner, University of Florida

“I am dazzled by what Rickard has accomplished. He articulates an approach to Joyce’s canon remarkably different from any previously published. This study will profoundly influence the next generation of Joyce scholars.” — Michael Patrick Gillespie, Marquette University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

John S. Rickard is Associate Professor in the Department of English at Bucknell University.

Table of Contents Back to Top


1. Personal Memory and the Construction of the Self

2. The Past as Obstruction

3. Memory, Destiny, and the Limits of the Self

4. Joyce's Mnemotechnic: Textual Memory in Ulysses

5. Intertextual Memory





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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2170-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2158-3
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