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James Joyce has written that `the man of genius makes no mistakes; his errors are the portals of discovery.` In Joyces Mistakes, Tim Conley explores the question of what constitutes an `error` in a work of art. Using the works of James Joyce, particularly Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, as central exploratory fields, Conley argues that an `aesthetic of error` permeates Joyce`s literary productions; readers and criticism of Joyce`s texts are inevitably affected by a slippery dialectic between the possibility of mistake and the potential for irony.
Outlining modernism`s struggle with textual authority and completion, Conley locates Joyce among his literary contemporaries, including Herman Melville, Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, and Marcel Proust. He finds that Joyce`s reconfigurations of authorial presence and his error-generating methods problematize all attempts to edit, anthologize, and even quote or cite his texts. Yet Conley goes well beyond cataloguing the instances where error is at issue in Joyce`s canon; he offers a comprehensive, engaging look at theories of error. He extends his analysis of Joyce to examine the radical reshaping of cognition by `the textual condition` (McGann), and suggests that the act of reading`s propensity for diversity of error makes `misreadings` valuable critical experiments and the basis of literary theory.
Joyces Mistakes is an absorbing and sophisticated work, a portal of discovery in its own right.