Book of the Week

Katherine Mullin, James Joyce, Sexuality and Social Purity, Cambridge University Press, 2003. This marvellous book by my friend Katy Mullin arrived yesterday. I’ve only just glanced through it, but it’s obviously going to be a cracking read. Against the dreary old image of Joyce as an apolitical writer whose innovations were primarily stylistic, Mullin anatomises Joyce’s lifelong interest in the complexities of early twentieth-century smut and details the ways in which his long-running and thoroughly political battles with the censors and the “social purity” movements of his day are carefully and rather deeply inscribed in his books, from the enigmatic encounter with the “queer old josser” in Dubliners through to the Nighttown episode in Ulysses. Everything is here, from masturbation to the mutoscope, in a riveting scholarly volume which makes the reader like and admire James Joyce even more than before.

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