Episode 3:”Proteus,” ~pp 37-51

What They Are Saying, Episode 3

Are Stephen’s fragments of consciousness “getting along nicely in the dark?” Schopenhauer would think so. He believed that creativity depended on shutting out all that suggests ineluctability.

In “Joyce’s Ulysses, A Schopenhauerian and Freudian Reading” (academia.com, 2007), Stephan Rowntree proposes that darkness of a kind is essential to creativity. According to Rowntree’s interpretation of Schopenhauer, man’s internal life is based on a duality of focus on the external world. On a “willful” level, creativity is blocked since man’s inevitable self-interest hijacks the train of thought. It is through the suspension of self-interest that willessness sparks creativity. Then the creative urge wriggles free. Willlessness “…cannot (emerge) with biological or psychological strivings, but rather with aesthetics apprehension….” If Schopenhauer and Rowntree are correct, Stephen’s musing in snippets separates him from his prejudices and anti-creative learned lessons. 

Willlessness offers escape from the prisons of the material world and biological imperatives. Then logic may be temporarily suspended to enter a creative state. Certainly during the writing of Ulysses Joyce had to satisfy the worldly needs of feeding his children and paying his considerable bar tab. This was complicated by insisting on some degree of creative integrity.

 Joyce tried to balance the worldly with the worldless. Faulkner may have been less willing to bend to the worldly. Scott Fitzgerald was far more willing. If there is just one fountain of creativity, then it must rest outside the artist in some platonic plain, in some spark of divinity, or some Jungian spring of the collective unconscious.

The application of Freud’s theories to Ulysses centers exclusively on the stream of consciousness as free association by the three protagonists : 

Through the process of repression, censorship impedes the progress of unwanted imageries from gaining access to the conscious. Free association in analysis, and stream-of-conscious in writing, allow for the expression of these images in narrative, or as in Ulysses, inner narrative. 

This offers little help in considering the origins of creativity as in Schopenhauer. For Freud, all is self-interest tempered more or less by the superego. Sigmund would leave us with only recycled repressed memories. Only the ability to accept now what we formerly rejected remains. As we said, Jung offers the option of a universal body of primordial knowledge.

Of these the most appealing seems to be the way of Schopenhauer. The acceptability of this solution is harder to be willless about when you consider Rowntree’s summary: “Of course this disinterested disinterestedness has consequences for Schopenhauer’s theory of disinterestedness, pushing back the notion of disinterested aesthetic to a higher order disinterestedness’ that precede the first order disinterestedness. “

Much like contemplating the omphalos, eh?

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