‘land of breach of promise’: James Joyce and America

Brian Fox

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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What did America mean to James Joyce? Little work has been done on the subject, despite a number of works documenting America’s dealings with Joyce. This reflects a flagrant and very significant anomaly. American intellectuals, scholars and critics have long dominated the Joyce industry. They have tirelessly promoted his work, both during his lifetime and posthumously. The most prevalent views of Joyce ― whether as an international modernist or a postmodern liberal ― have been of an author ‘invented by Americans’, in Flann O’Brien’s phrase. This thesis will reverse the vector in question. It will integrally address the question of Joyce’s attitude to American history, politics and culture. In doing so, it will aim to raise important questions regarding the ‘automatic fit’ between America and Joyce that criticism has tended to take for granted. It will thus have important implications for future work on Joyce’s literary practice and political and historical principles.
The first chapter will focus on the presence of American literary culture in Joyce’s works. The second chapter will develop a composite, historical reading of the meanings and functions of American popular culture in selected parts of Joyce’s texts. It will focus on a ‘mediated America’ in Joyce’s works as opposed to his allusive use of it. It will consider the question of how far Joyce’s writings deal with an America mediated through European and, above all, British and colonial channels which markedly inflect its significance. The third chapter will deal with Joyce and Irish America. My research will focus on three key areas: Irish emigration to America; America and Irish nationalism, including Fenianism and American support for it; and American-Irish culture. The final chapter will focus on Joyce’s responses to the American reception of his work in the twenties and thirties, and their incorporation into Finnegans Wake.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Gibson, Andrew, Supervisor
Award date1 Dec 2014
Publication statusUnpublished - 29 Aug 2014


  • James Joyce
  • American Literature
  • Ireland history

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