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7 - Gender and sexuality

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 July 2009

John McCourt
Affiliation:
Università degli Studi Roma Tre
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Summary

‘I hate intellectual women’, James Joyce once complained to Mary Colum (JJ 529). Taken at face value this quip might present a serious challenge to women like Colum or me who have been inspired by and spent a great deal of time thinking about this author's work and who, by virtue of our desire to read his books, might of necessity be described as intellectual women. The easiest way to understand Joyce's lapse in judgement and manners would be to dismiss the statement either as ironic or as a flutter of annoyance preserved by virtue of his literary import and better forgotten. Indeed Richard Ellmann explains that Joyce was responding to Gertrude Stein who claimed, first, that Three Lives anticipated Ulysses and, second, that Joyce's influence was likely to be local and narrowly Irish. But Frank Budgen also records an egregious comment in which Joyce claims not just to hate intellectual women but actually to believe that we do not exist; in James Joyce and the Making of ‘Ulysses’ Budgen remembers his friend was unusually irritable when he opined that women ‘“write books and paint pictures and compose and perform music”’. However, Joyce also asserted that there were limits to these intellectual accomplishments: ‘“You have never heard of a woman who was the author of a complete philosophic system. No, and I don't think you ever will.”’

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2009

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