The Gender of Travel in ‘The Dead’

Citation metadata

Editor: Lawrence J. Trudeau
From: Short Story Criticism(Vol. 186)
Publisher: Gale, a Cengage Company
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 4,354 words

Document controls

Main content

Article Preview :

[(essay date 1992) In the following essay, first presented at a conference in 1991, Ingersoll reads “The Dead” as a narrative of gender-based conflict between Gabriel and his wife and, more generally, in the domestic sphere in which the story takes place. Ingersoll regards Gabriel’s clashes with Gretta, Lily, and Miss Ivors as prompting him to rethink his relationships, not in terms of gender difference but in terms of shared humanity.]

One indication that Jacques Lacan’s Ecrits is beginning to have an impact on Joyce studies is the attention recently directed to Dubliners. As has been the case with the application of other critical approaches to Joyce’s work, Lacanian readings, which began with Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, have begun to move “backward” through A Portrait to Dubliners. Longer studies offering Lacanian readings of Joyce’s work after Dubliners include Margot Norris’s The Decentered Universe of “Finnegans Wake” (1976), Beryl Schlossman’s Joyce’s Catholic Comedy of Language (1985), Patrick McGee’s Paperspace: Style as Ideology in Joyce’s “Ulysses” (1988), Sheldon Brivic’s The Veil of Signs: Lacan, Joyce, and Perception (1991), and Kimberly Devlin’s Wandering and Return in “Finnegans Wake”: An Integrative Approach to Joyce’s Fictions (1991). Among the Lacanian critiques of Dubliners beginning to appear is Garry Leonard’s perceptive article on “The Dead” in the recent issue of JJQ devoted to Dubliners.1 Leonard focuses usefully on Gabriel’s three major encounters with women—Lily, Molly, and Gretta—as evidence of the masculine subject’s desperate efforts at validation in relation to The Woman. Now that Leonard has begun the application of Lacan to “The Dead”, I would propose shifting the ground from the more clearly psychoanalytic “Lacan” to those aspects of his Ecrits which allow for explorations of the interrelations of literary genre, the tropes of metaphor and metonymy, and insights into gender.2

The linguistic aspect of Lacan’s thought is nowhere as evident as in what is probably his most famous statement: “the unconscious is structured like a language.”3 As Anthony Wilden has suggested, the Lacanian unconscious is related to the language of the conscious through metaphor and metonymy.4 These tropes represent for Lacan the intertextuality of the conscious and the unconscious, with far-reaching implications for our understanding of gender as well as genre. Lacan discovered in Roman Jakobson’s studies of aphasia5 a physiological foundation for the two major principles of similarity and association which are central to Freud’s interpretation of dreams and to Saussure’s binary oppositions of “synchrony” and “diachrony.” Lacan follows Jakobson in linking metaphor with poetry and with “romanticism and symbolism,” while linking metonymy with prose and “realism,” with its narrative emphasis upon contiguity and “synecdochic details.”6

These genre implications of metaphor and metonymy are extended by feminist readers of Lacan who find gender implications in metaphor and metonymy. Of particular pertinence is Jane Gallop, who finds metaphor “male” and metonymy “female”:

Metaphor is patent; metonymy is latent. The latency, the hiddenness of metonymy, like that of the female genitalia, lends it an appearance of naturalness or passivity so that “realism”—“which we...

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420116422