“Offers an array of insights, observations, and intuitions, and is bursting at the seams with one smart idea or curious fact after another.”—John Gordon, author of Joyce and Reality: The Empirical Strikes Back
“Witty and perceptive considerations of Joyce’s works via the prevailing metaphor of the centrifuge. Joyce’s works similarly reveal a wide range of backgrounds and influences, and their impact and interpretation have radiated outward throughout the modern era.”—Thomas Jackson Rice, author of Cannibal Joyce
At Fault: Joyce and the Crisis of the Modern University is an exhilarating celebration of risk-taking in the work of James Joyce. Esteemed Joyce scholar and teacher Sebastian Knowles takes on the American university system, arguing that the modernist writer offers the antidote to the risk-averse attitudes that are increasingly constraining institutions of higher education today.
Knowles shows how Joyce’s work connects with research, teaching, and service, the three primary functions of the academic enterprise. He demonstrates that Joyce’s texts continually push beyond themselves, resisting the end, defying delimitation. The characters in these texts also move outward—in a centrifugal pattern—looking for escape. Knowles further highlights the expansiveness of Joyce’s world by undertaking topics as diverse as the symbol of Jumbo the elephant, the meaning of the gramophone, live music performance in the “Sirens” episode of Ulysses, the neurology of humor, and inventive ways of teaching Finnegans Wake.
Contending that error is the central theme in all of Joyce’s work, Knowles argues that the freedom to challenge boundaries and make mistakes is essential to the university environment. Energetic and delightfully erudite, Knowles inspires readers with the infinite possibilities of human thought exemplified by Joyce’s writing.
Sebastian D. G. Knowles is professor of English at The Ohio State University. He is the author of several books, including The Dublin Helix: The Life of Language in Joyce’s “Ulysses.”