Beauty, Creativity, and Healing
Edited By Bandy Lee, Nancy Olson and Thomas Duffy
Writing Trauma: Narrative Catharsis in Homer, Shakespeare, and Joyce
by Richard Kearney
‘Myself unto myself do give
This name Katharsis-Purgative’ (James Joyce, ‘The Holy Office’)
James Joyce, in a letter to his brother Stanislaus on November 13, 1906, announces that he has just started a new ‘short story’. It is called ‘Ulysses’. He came up with the idea, he explains, because of a memory triggered by a recent mugging in a street in Rome. He had just been fired from his job at the Bank and drunk all his severance pay (which should have paid the rent and help provide for his one year old son, Giorgio). On his way home Joyce was robbed and left lying in the gutter, destitute, despondent and bleeding. And it was at that very moment that he suddenly remembered something: being assaulted several years previously (June 22, 1904) in Dublin and rescued from the gutter by a man called Hunter, ‘a cuckolded Jew’ who dusted him down and took him home for a cup of cocoa. ‘In true Samaritan fashion’, as Joyce put it. This repetition of woundings triggered a lost memory where an immigrant Jew came to the rescue of a wounded Dubliner and planted a seed of caritas in his imagination.
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