Sunday, April 3, 2011

Joyce and the Heterosexual Norm

“Joyce must assert his heterosexual identity through ignorance of its opposite” (331).

Joyce, James. Dubliners. Ed. Margot Norris. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006. Print.

This quote, which is from Roberta Jackson’s “The Open Closet in Dubliners: James Duffy’s Painful Case” stuck out at me. When I first read Joyce’s “A Painful Case” (which the article critiques) the homosexual undertone somehow slipped past me. After reading Roberta Jackson’s article, however, my eyes became opened and I could not believe that I had missed this in Joyce’s story. In her article, I notice that she discusses the ideas of the heterosexual norm and homosexual panic and ties it into both Joyce and his story. At the end of her article she writes that Joyce had a case of homophobia. She shows this by writing that to Joyce his brother is, “…the person socially adjacent to him who could most easily be disowned” (329). By using his brother as the inspiration for the character Duffy, Joyce attempts to draw the readers from assuming that he is a closeted homosexual (a good example of his homophobia). Earlier in the last paragraph of Jackson’s article, she states that, “Joyce’s use of material drawn from his brother’s diaries and his own dreams allow him to embody his own experience of homosexual panic and subject it to analysis” (341). From the data that she provides in her article I do in fact see this.

In her article, Jackson talks about how homosexuality was not looked on in a positive manner at the time. Because of this, and the fact that she said Joyce liked controversy, I think that he wrote this short story in an attempt to address an important topic in Dublin (among other locations) at the time, homosexuality.

After reading over “A Painful Case” again, this time knowing that it had homosexual undertones, I would assume that Joyce is simply portraying what life is like for a closeted gay man (Duffy) in Dublin at the time. When Jackson writes in her article that, “Duffy’s daily habits have the numbed, wary regularity of someone always under surveillance…,” I get the feeling that he is forced to repress his sexual feelings because he fears what others may think (337). The fact that he feels like he is always under “surveillance” seems to me to be an accurate assessment of how a closeted homosexual would feel (which would probably be scared or nervous and wondering if anybody can tell). In Duffy’s case, he is shown to be different from other men, as he is represented through his daily routines (on page 91). Through his routines he comes off as being a loner and trying to remain isolated from the world around him. It can definitely be argued that this isolation represents his being in the closet. By portraying Duffy in this manner, it appears that Joyce is definitely trying to say something about this topic and this type of person.

1 comment:

  1. Joyce is definitely addressing the issues of homosexuality in Dublin. Though, I find it absurd that Joyce would criticize his own brother, the same brother who kept Joyce in touch with Dublin politics while he was studying in Italy. Joyce exemplifies paralysis through Duffy, a man who follows routines and avoids his hometown, which is not too far away from where he lives in the story (I believe three miles or so). This reflects two things Joyce was concerned about: how the Irish have seemingly empty responses to British oppression, yet still complain and the culture of Irish nationalists. Duffy is trapped in a culture that is not accepting of his sexuality. He cannot achieve happiness nor can he get far enough away from Dublin to explore a solution to his anxiety. By avoiding his hometown, he is "avoiding" western Ireland, which is where Irish nationalism was strongest. Overall, Duffy's homosexuality is an example of paralysis.