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Mahon, E. (2001). The Cast of Characters: A Reading of Ulysses: Paul Schwaber New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999, 224 pp., $30.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 49(1):311-315.

(2001). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 49(1):311-315

The Cast of Characters: A Reading of Ulysses: Paul Schwaber New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999, 224 pp., $30.00.

Review by:
Eugene Mahon

In this remarkable study of James Joyce's Ulysses, Paul Schwaber brings his background as Freudian analyst and literary scholar to bear on the exegesis of a text that is considered by many the quintessential twentieth-century novel, unequaled in its experimental daring since its publication in 1922. Joyce's book made “stream of consciousness” a household notion, much as Freud's psychoanalytic technique made the similar concept “free association” accessible to the public at large. And yet Sigmund Freud and James Joyce would probably not have liked each other very much, despite the breathtaking scope of both their intellects: Freud, the scientist trying to pour the quicksilver of the mind into generalizable nosological vessels, and Joyce the artist, who once remarked in disgust at such generalizations, “Psychologist! What can each man know but what passes through his mind?” And yet philosophically they had much in common. While “joy” lies at the linguistic root of both surnames, it was the whole range of polymorphous perverse possibility, as well as its more sublimated forms that the renunciation of instinct demands, that was the affective “depth psychology” both men were attempting to plumb, and that Schwaber addresses so profoundly in this book.

Joyce is particularly interesting to psychoanalysts since, like Freud, he saw through the “heroics” of “modern” man, heroics that led to a Great War and then another before numbers were necessary to distinguish one atrocity from the next. For Joyce, power and cruelty were the enemy. What needed to be celebrated was not the heroics of war but the human in all its frailty and tenderness, its fear and folly, its ridiculous sublimity, its sublime ridiculous laughter and yearning.

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