The Cast of Characters

A Reading of Ulysses

Paul Schwaber

View Inside Price: $26.00


October 1, 1999
256 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
ISBN: 9780300194678
Paper

Also Available in:
Cloth

Published in assistance with the Mary Cady Tew Memorial Fund

Contemporaries in imagination as in fact, James Joyce and Sigmund Freud pondered the complexities and depths of human consciousness and found distinct ways to represent it—the one as a great novelist, the other as the first psychoanalyst. In this book, Paul Schwaber, both a professor of literature and a psychoanalyst, brings a clinician’s attentiveness and a scholar-critic’s literary commitment to the study of characterization in Ulysses. Alert to form, style, and innovation, and respecting continuities and uniquenesses of character, he offers discerning explanations of why Leopold Bloom, who knows he isn’t Jewish, clearly feels Jewish to himself and others; how Stephen Dedalus’ intricate theory of Shakespeare reveals core aspects of his own inner struggles; and why Molly Bloom’s adulterous aftermath registers with her, at the end of the day, as sleeplessness. Schwaber also offers intriguing commentary on the novel’s narrator.

Not imposing formulations but subtly drawing them from the text, Schwaber reads openly—as an analyst listens—and illuminates the extraordinary psychological mimesis of Ulysses. He invites his readers to appreciate the brilliance and fun of Joyce’s book, and in so doing he brings psychoanalysis as a mode of inquiry to the test of great literature.

Paul Schwaber is professor of letters at Wesleyan University and a psychoanalyst in private practice.

A selection of Readers’ Subscription

"This book is enlightening, sound, and original in a constructive sense."—Stanley Sultan, Clark University

"In A Cast of Characters, Paul Schwaber invites his readers to understand how the fictional reality of Joyce's characters assume psychological depth and resonance. The words that Schwaber uses to describe Joyce describe Schwaber as well: 'a performing narrator who stays attuned to the inner lives of his characters.' His prose is crisp, careful, descriptively concentrated and alive, economical, and sharp. And his relentlessness and joyous return to the text reminds us of what reading can be at its very best. Here is an example of a capacious and responsive critic who teases gently from Leopold to Molly Bloom, from Stephen Dedalus, and Gerty MacDowell a layered and unpredictable world of sexual inhibition and release, the shaking of both masculinity and femininity and their recomposure, anger in its unexpected lyricism, the paths of mourning, fantasy, narcissism, as they bind and unbind those who live them. Schwaber gives us a brilliant illustration of how psychoanalysis can help us grow tender toward Joyce's text, refusing impositions, and listening with enormous care."—Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, University of California at Berkeley

"In A Cast of Characters, Professor Paul Schwaber looks at the most famous personae in modern fiction—Leopold Bloom, Stephen Dedalus, and Molly Bloom—and has done something wonderful: he has illuminated their 'characters' in their deepest common humanity. They stand before us here in all their complicated vulnerability, phoenixes arising again and again from the ashes of their experience. Bloom's Jewishness—long and enigma to Joyceans—is treated with acute and original insight by Professor Schwaber, combining psychoanalytic insight with humane wisdom; he leads us with Bloom, Stephen and Molly through their day of grief, sexuality, anger, mourning and laughter, only to arrive where we begin, wiser and larger. For as Professor Schwaber has shown us, these characters are us, only in different tonalities. Schwaber writes astutely and movingly: a brilliant book," —Daniel Stern, author of Twice Told Tales

"Schwaber reminds us of what reading can be at its very best. Here is an example of a capacious and responsive critic who gently teases from Leopold and Molly Bloom, from Stephen Dedalus, and Gerty MacDowell a layered and unpredictable world of sexual inhibition and release, the shaking of both masculinity and femininity and their recomposure, anger in its unexpected lyricism, the paths of mourning, fantasy, narcissism, as they bind and unbind those who live in them. Schwaber gives us a brilliant illustration of how psychoanalysis can help us grow tender toward Joyce's text, refusing impositions, and listening with enormous care."—Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley

"Schwaber writes astutely and movingly: a brilliant book."—Daniel Stern, author of Twice Told Tales

"Schwaber teases psychoanalytic formulations out of Ulysses, instead of imposing them on it. His book is enlightening, sound, and original in a constructive sense."—Stanley Sultan, Clark University

"Schwaber gives us a brilliant illustration of how psychoanalysis can help us grow tender toward Joyce’s text, refusing impositions, and listening with enormous care. His relentless and joyous return to the text reminds us of what reading can be at its very best."—Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley

"Combining psychoanalytic insight with humane wisdom, Schwaber writes astutely and movingly; a brilliant book."—Daniel Stern, University of Houston

"Brilliant. Schwaber brings to the study of Ulysses a psychoanalytic understanding of development, of affective life, of defensive structure, all so fully integrated in his own beautifully written narrative that the reader is not aware of being led to a psychoanalytic reading of the text, but rather of seeing the humanity of the characters more fully and more empathetically—and the magnificence of Joyce's achievement more dazzlingly."—Katherine Dalsimer, author of Female Adolescence

"[A] brilliant work of criticism."—C. Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times

"One of the strengths of The Cast of Characters is its ability to defamliarize a Bloom with whom we thought ourselves totally familiar. . . . The first tool of the analyst is his/her own character itself: his/her own balance, experience, flexibility, sympathy, tolerance for mystery and ambiguity, discrimination, curiosity, experience of life, experience of books, and something like a tinker’s passion for understanding how things work. It is fair to say that Schwaber, in bringing his brand of psychoanalysis into play in reading character in Ulysses, demonstrates these qualities in abundance and that what is most appealing about his book is what is most personal about it: his own generosity of character in recognizing the vitality in others. . . . The Cast of Characters is a strong and clear-minded contribution to Joyce studies, in which Paul Schwaber permits himself what in his clinical practice is forbidden (we trust): to be in love with his characters."—Mark Shechner, James Joyce Quarterly

"[G]enius and explication meet each other halfway in an aesthetic act of free-associative wonder that characterizes literary investigation at its finest and fullest. . . . Joyceans and even more casual readers of Ulysses are forever in Schwaber’s debt."—Eugene Mahon, Journal of the American Psychonanalytic Association

"[P]rofoundly illuminating and richly entertaining. . . . For anyone who cares about the literature of our time or about the ‘application’ of psychoanalysis to humanist studies, The Cast of Characters is essential reading."—Aaron H. Esman, International Journal of Psychoanalysis

"A practicing psychoanalyst and Joyce scholar, Schwaber combines his two vocations in an engaging exploration of the major characters in Ulysses. . . . Schwaber’s reading of Ulysses is a thoughtful and enlightening one for scholars at the upper-division and graduate level." —Choice

"Paul Schwaber has a lot to say and he does it with ‘precision, clarity, subtlety, and availability’ as promised in the introduction. . . . The Cast of Characters recommends itself as a must read for anyone interested in psychoanalytical approaches to Ulysses, through its beautiful language, clarity, insight, and professionalism."—Rodica Ieta, Literary Research

"One of the virtues of Schwaber’s The Cast of Characters is the unfeigned delight and enthusiasm it takes in teasing out the hidden motivations in Joyce’s heroes and heroines. It is written with an easy elegance and manages to feel like an introduction to Joyce without being simplistic and unoriginal, and as a specialist study without being jargonistic or inaccessible."—Ronan MacDonald, Irish Studies Review