Gestures in Dubliners, which often resemble stage directions in naturalist drama, testify to Joyce’s reading of playscripts, but also to his prolific theatre-going, during which he developed an infatuation with the Italian actress Eleanora Duse. The chapter investigates strong parallels between the influence of naturalist performance on Joyce, and Henry James’ transformative encounter with Ibsen, his consequent failure as a playwright, and his writing’s thematised split process of reading and spectating. Joyce’s resistance to Yeats and Revivalism overturns the conventional distinctions between a politically progressive modernism and an ideologically conservative naturalism. The chapter situates Exiles within the performance culture of its time, and Joyce’s reading of Freud. The chapter then argues that the cross-pollination, in the ‘Circe’ chapter of Ulysses, of a language of performance with subjective focal points, unavailable in drama for the proscenium stage, is written both as an affront to the theatrical institutions which rejected him, and as a fulfillment of a long-held and keen awareness of cinema.
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