Sunday, April 3, 2011

Jackson's Tenuous Projection

In her analysis of Joyce's A Painful Case, Roberta Jackson identifies protagonist Duffy as a closeted homosexual, and gives compelling historical and biographical evidence that this character is based on Joyce's brother Stannie. While the possibility of Duffy's homosexuality is clear from the text of Painful Case, Jackson's assertion that the work represents Joyce himself reflexively asserting his heterosexuality by throwing his brother under the bus of society's judgement, is dubious at best. Duffy's reflective remark on the impossibility of love between men, only made after his rejection of potential lover Mrs. Sinico, is the most obvious, but also the most striking, evidence for Duffy as homosexual. Her claim that Duffy is modeled after Stannie is also well-corroborated by biographical evidence, especially the direct extraction of some of Stannie's actual diary entries for inclusion in "Duffy's" diary in A Painful Case. Jackson claims that Joyce, acting out of the "homosexual panic" defined by fellow critic Eve Sedgwick, used this fictionalization of his brother's dilemma to distance himself from homosexual identification. If Joyce, however, were truly trying to blot out any doubts as to his own sexuality from the public eye, it seems that he would have been more careful than to write a piece which shows such clear support and even compassion for the oppressed homosexuals of his time.

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