“A fascinating revelation of the importance of geometry and topography in Joyce’s work. Basing his study on rich close readings and a complex conceptual construction, McMorran connects Joyce’s linguistic experiments with non-linearity to non-Euclidean conceptions of space.”—Valérie Bénéjam, coeditor of Cognitive Joyce
“In writing Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, Joyce admitted to being preoccupied with ‘squaring the circle.’ McMorran sees more than a passing metaphor here and discerns in these ‘polyhedrons of scripture’ a genuine and informed interest in post-Euclidean geometry.”—Tim Conley, author of Useless Joyce: Textual Functions, Cultural Appropriations
In a paradigm shift away from classical understandings of geometry, nineteenth-century mathematicians developed new systems that featured surprising concepts such as the idea that parallel lines can curve and intersect. Providing evidence to confirm much that has largely been speculation, Joyce and Geometry reveals the full extent to which the modernist writer James Joyce was influenced by the radical theories of non-Euclidean geometry.
Through close readings of Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, and Joyce’s notebooks, Ciaran McMorran demonstrates that Joyce’s experiments with nonlinearity stem from a fascination with these new mathematical concepts. He highlights the maze-like patterns traced by Joyce’s characters as they wander Dublin’s streets; he explores recurring motifs such as the topography of the Earth’s curved surface and time as the fourth dimension of space; and he investigates in detail the enormous influence of Giordano Bruno, Henri Poincaré, and other writers who were critical of the Euclidean tradition.
Arguing that Joyce’s obsession with measuring and mapping space throughout his works encapsulates a modern crisis between geometric and linguistic modes of representation, McMorran delves into a major theme in Joyce’s work that has not been fully explored until now.
Ciaran McMorran is an independent scholar based in Scotland.