Holes, Piers and Canyons: Absence as Emancipatory Space in Ulysses

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In this article, I suggest that James Joyce creates newly active reading practices through his use of textual gaps in Ulysses. I propose that instead of presenting readers with difficulties or frustrations these gaps can be seen as emancipatory, asking readers to choose their own path, create their own meanings, and sit with uncertainty. I focus on how textual gaps are created within the ostensibly traditional forms of ‘Circe’ and ‘Ithaca’, represented as a play-script and a catechism respectively. I metaphorically characterise these empty spaces in the text as a hole in rock, a pier, and a canyon to think through the different readerly responses they facilitate and inspire. I argue that whether readers choose to move through the hole in rock, remain contemplative at the end of the pier, or shout across Joyce’s authorial canyon represents a democratic choice, giving us the important space to engage with Ulysses on our own terms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-43
JournalJoyce Studies in Italy
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 28 Jun 2021


  • Ulysses
  • Gaps
  • Absence
  • Reading Practices
  • Space
  • James Joyce


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