“Inevitable Omissions”: The Art of the ‘Unsaid’ in James Joyce’s “Dubliners”

By James Balakier.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

As Wolfgang Iser observes in “The Reading Process”: “it is only through inevitable omissions that a story gains its dynamism. . . [for] whenever the flow is interrupted and we are led off in unexpected directions, the opportunity is given to us to bring into play our own faculty for establishing connections--for filling the gaps left by the text itself. Iser has called attention to the role played by such omissions or “blanks”--which are “empty spaces in textual structures” with “no existence of their own” – in provoking readers of James Joyce’s novels to discover meaning in his texts. Iser does not, however, provide an extended analysis of the range of Joyce’s gap techniques and strategies; nor does consider their widespread use in the short stories comprising of The Dubliners, the writing of which predates his novels. The present study argues that explicit gaps in Joyce are an integrated aspect of his art from the composition of his earliest fiction in The Dubliners. A close examination of critical gaps in a selection of these stories will demonstrate their function as transitional nodes or points of intersection between one level of knowledge and experience and a potentially more developed one. It will also clarify the meaning of Joycean epiphanies, for which they are often textual correlates.

Keywords: James Joyce, Dubliners, Short Fiction, Narrative Art

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp.237-246. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 613.774KB).

Dr. James Balakier

Associate Professor of English, English Department, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, South Dakota, USA

James J. Balakier is Associate Professor in the English Department of the University of South Dakota, where he began teaching in 1982. He has published literary criticism in numerous journals including English Studies, English Language Notes, Papers on Language and Literature, The McNeese Review, and The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies. His book Thomas Traherne and The Felicities of the Mind is in press.


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