Hypercanonical Joyce: Ulysses, The Lonely Londoners, and Transcultural Influence

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Roughly two-thirds of the way through Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners (1956), there is a section highly redolent of the ‘Penelope’ episode of Joyce’s Ulysses (1922): a block of text, without punctuation or paragraph breaks, describing the experiences of the novel’s main characters and their friends as they ‘coast’ Hyde Park for sexual encounters. Commonly referred to as the ‘Summer’ section, the similarity to ‘Penelope’ has not gone unnoticed among either Joyce or Selvon scholars; to date, however, only J. Dillon Brown (2013) has offered a substantive reading of the connection. This article seizes on the relative absence of critical discussion of Selvon in Joyce studies to consider what might be the particular responsibilities that Joyce studies bears when reading Joyce’s transcultural influence.

Drawing on critical debates around the concept of global modernism, and considering the examples of Ezra Pound, Charles R. Larson, Franco Moretti, and Pascale Casanova, I trace the use of Joycean influence to advance ‘diffusionist’ models of literary history and propose that transcultural Joycean influence study should seek to avoid repeating such inevitably Eurocentric models. Building from Kandice Chuh’s (2019) analysis of hypercanonicity, I contend that transcultural Joycean influence study should aim rather to unsettle our understanding of Joyce, influence, and culture—and that, in ‘Summer,’ Selvon presents a creative disaffiliation from Joyce that makes for an exemplary model of Joycean influence through contestation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTextual Practice
ISSN0950-236X
Publication statusSubmitted - Dec 2020

ID: 249906393