The Haunting of Stephen Dedalus: Walter Benjamin’s Theses on the Philosophy of History and Stephen’s Encounter with Cyril Sargent in “Nestor”

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Issue Date
2014-04-26
Authors
Pfeifer, Sean
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Abstract
According to the Gilbert schema of James Joyce’s Ulysses, the “Nestor” episode represents history. Placing “Nestor” in dialogue with Walter Benjamin’s Theses on the Philosophy of History, this essay argues for a Joycean understanding of history as nonlinear. By performing a detailed close reading of the short passage in “Nestor” in which Stephen is confronted by Cyril Sargent after class and interpreting this intertextually informed and politically engaged narrative interaction in terms of Benjamin’s Theses, this essay elucidates how history is a text that is read synchronically and recurrences in history are simultaneously arresting moments of repressed trauma confronting cultural consciousness and opportunities for Messianic redemption.
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