James Joyce’s Personal Obsession
The last task should be deciding what type of artistic creation is Giacomo Joyce. It would be helpful to begin reading with that task in mind. It might be a prose poem. It might be a diary, a confession, or an exploration of streams of consciousness. Joyce called the episodes sketches when Pound asked him for publishable work. Whichever form it is, it’s spiced with excitation, penanced with pain. Richard Ellmann’s introduction, perhaps three times the word count of the piece itself, says Giacomo Joyce is not strictly autobiographical. Joyce didn’t see his subject after 1909 if SHE is Amalia and her husband is to be believed, but some events in this work take place much later. There may be a second Amalia, maybe a third. That would be long after 1909. Joyce perseverated over the possibility that Martha Fleischmann might be Jewish too. This might also make her a candidate for the title of “Dark Who.” This would be dangerous speculation as fascism reared up, and not a possibility the Fleischmanns might like explored. Another possibility is that Amalia returns periodically as a specter even more ephemeral than the SHE of 1907 and 1908.
Joyce himself never put the title Giacomo Joyce to the pages. Certainly, the title refers to Casanova but written not by Joyce but by some unknown spirit. You might now suspect these pages are an undated diary, including flights of the imagination rather than a prose poem. There is a third possibility: despite the imposed title suggesting the subject is Joyce, the piece might be an authentic portrait capturing SHE at a moment in time.
For now, I’ll assign thoughts about Giacomo’s reverie to cantos. In the manuscript, SHE adorns her knotted hair like Beatrice Cenci’s. Raped by her father, that Beatrice murdered him and was beheaded. Thus the reader might infer the suggestion of punishment for an older man who defiles a young student. Ellmann also notes a connection to Dante’s ideal, Beatrice Portinari.
The most excellent testimonial from penurious Joyce is that he never submitted the work for publication or even had it typed. I have been guilty of undervaluing Joyce’s poesy excepting “Ecce Puer.” Like all the longer revered works, Giacomo Joyce is, I now think, also revolutionary, a hammered and tempered one-of-of-a kind monstrance of rococo silver with a golden chamber of adoration at the core.
Read the sixteen-page text of Giacomo Joyce here…
Copyright @ don ward, 2020