Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0015663, Fri, 9 Nov 2007 15:18:14 -0200

[Nabokov-List] [QUERY] Joycean Epiphanies, Bliss and Visitation
Dear List,

We remember that Nabokov accused James Joyce of having given "too much verbal body to his thoughts" for he believed that we think "in shadows of words" and that Joyce's soliloquacious "stream of consciousness" originated from a mere stylistic convention, so literal that it "altered the time element" and "placed too great a reliance on typography." And yet, James Joyce also cultivated a particular vision of "shadows", since he considered "all art as a shadow of the Incarnation" and borrowed from the Catholic religion the term "epiphany" which, in some respects, is strongly reminiscent of VN's experience of "aesthetic bliss".

"By an epiphany" Joyce's protagonist Stephen Hero, means "a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in memorable phrase of the mind itself", and that "it was for the man of letters to record those epiphanies with extreme care, seeing that they themselves are the most delicate and evanescent of moments." In A Defense of Poetry (1819),Shelley qualifies the shock of poetic inspiration as a visitation: "We are aware of evanescent visitations of thought and feeling ... sometimes regarding our own mind alone". For him, "reason is to imagination as the instrument to the agent, as the body to the spirit, as the shadow to the substance." While I was trying to compare VN's idea of "aesthetic bliss" and Joyce's three-step exercise to attain "quidditas" in an epiphany, I was surprised by the similarity btw Shelley's words and Stephen Hero's.

I am not a scholar & therefore I am unfamiliar with the vast bibliography concerning Joyce's work. This is why I would like to enlist your help to learn about those essays which deal with Joyce's epiphanies as they are glimpsed through Shelley's concept about poetry and "visitation". Thank you!

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