Author: Zach Muhlbauer

Temporality & Ulysses: Diachronic Narration in Postcolonial Ireland

By: Zachary Muhlbauer

Ubiquitous to bourgeois realism and traditional accounts of history, the structure of diachronic narration predicates how conventional storytelling transmits knowledge to its listeners. A foundational Western narrative such as The Odyssey, for instance, operates in this manner by constructing a chronological progression of causally dependent events, centralized around Odysseus, its hero, who begins in one location and ends in another. Not without its problems, though, this mode of narration has inhibited the maturation of cultural autonomy in subjugated states such as Ireland, where the temporal logic of postcolonial narratives has manipulated and constricted Irish thought. In an ironic correspondence to the chronological procedures of The Odyssey, furthermore, James Joyce’s Ulysses subverts the historical conventions of diachronic narration in an attempt to isolate Irish consciousness from its historical baggage as a nation. Together with auxiliary material from further episodes, the structural and thematic implications of Stephen’s interior monologue in “Proteus” and Molly’s soliloquy in “Penelope” expressly animate criticism of this narrative practice. Before explicating such textual dynamics, however, it is important that the paralytic influences of Irish postcolonial narratives first be recognized, so that is where we will begin. Read more