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This essay aims to capture some of the future effects that result from A Portrait's manipulation the artist novel genre. Drawing on Ernst Bloch's distinctions between the detective and the artist novel genres, this essay views A Portrait as a hybrid of both genres, at once obsessed with detective fiction's 'darkness at the beginning' (as emblematized by Stephen's anxiety surrounding the Foetus inscription) and the artist novel's 'not-yet' (as emblematized by the wish image of Stephen's green rose). A Portrait's status as an artist novel is complicated by Stephen's reprisal in Ulysses, but this essay argues that, despite its deflationary view of Stephen's earlier aspirations for flight and artistry, Ulysses does not exhaust the hope potential in the earlier novel. Through a reading of the novel's often overlooked 'wishful tissue', such as the family singing scene that occurs after Stephen rejects the priesthood but before he embraces his identity as an artist, the essay argues that A Portrait is a novel fundamentally oriented toward the future and open to possibility, especially in forms that cannot be anticipated in advance. Finally, the essay argues that A Portrait's anxiety about the past is due not to Oedipal anxiety, but rather to material and historical anxiety whose root is physical hunger. Together, Joyce's anxious hunger and wishful future orientation suggest a novel way of imagining the political function of A Portrait.

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James Joyce Research Centre at University College Dublin


Dublin, Ireland

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Dublin James Joyce Journal