Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Mr. Garza, Hockaday, Araby, and Eveline
And Mr. Garza, both I and my students thank you for all you added to the conversation, especially the challenging questions you repeatedly raised. I am sure Socrates, somewhere, was smiling! We all learned much from you, and, as a teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed the dialogue between you and my students as well as between you and me. What fun!
As Mr. Garza points out, one dynamic of the conversation arose from the philosophical base from which my students (and I) are approaching these texts, given the necessity of doing so in this Literature and Philosophy course and where Dubliners naturally falls in the calendar of the curriculum. However, another dynamic (in my view) was that the students, as young women, were reading these texts as women, meaning they read as resistant readers of a male text, seeking subtexts that made sense to them as women.
I saw this in their analysis of “Araby,” showing a reluctance to understand the young boy's infatuation with Mangan's sister as an encounter with "Love" in the terms Plato offers (sometimes) as an experience of Enlightenment in the Forms. As you point out, Mr. Garza, many students did see the boy as immersed in the world of the particulars, and if I heard them right, they also wondered to what extent he objectified the girl to suit his needs. Not as silent as I might have been, I'm sure I encouraged this view in that his idealization of her seemed to fill his own needs more than do anything to understand her. As Mr. Garza points out, however, his “love” of her might be the first rung on Diotima's ladder, and if we want to invoke the chariot metaphor, perhaps we can understand his infatuation as his soul's reminder of its original "life" in the Forms, so that in experiencing her he is "remembering" what he already knew. Finally, I think these Hockaday students were a bit suspicious of his experiences in that they saw this young guy as still in the Cave, duped by shadows. Mangan's sister was just Mangan's sister, but he thrust upon her a construction of (religious) representations rather than seeing her as who she is (whatever that might mean).
As for "Eveline," I'm not so sure the Hockaday students felt that Frank was the door to freedom--in spite of the rhetoric of his name, to which Mr. Garza called attention, balancing the conversation in doing so. Speaking for my students (I hope) and definitely for myself, the fact might be that Joyce understands Frank as a way out of Eveline’s stifling world full of duty, but for her the trip with Frank might have just been a step into another world where her duties are merely to another man, not her father but her husband. Is this freedom? Those seas that "tumble her heart" signal to her "he would drown her," suggesting that she fears an obliteration of the self in spite of Frank’s good intentions.
Whether these interpretations derive from text or subtext I'm not sure, for certainly Joyce, presenting these stories, distrusts love as an escape from the particulars of life. If we might imagine love can release us from the Caves of our lives in the phenomenal world, we are doomed for disappointment. While Plato might suggest that Eros can lead to the numenal world of Beauty and Truth, Plato blindly discounts the power relationships that are part of lived experience between men and women--and this power relationship might be something Joyce reveals -- in spite of himself.
Posted by Deborah Moreland at 12:54 PM