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Staging Social and Political Spaces: Living Theatre in Joyce’s “The Dead”

Rita Sakr


Le but de cet article est d’explorer la théâtralité dans la nouvelle “The Dead” de James Joyce. En effet, on identifie un nombre considérable d’éléments dramatiques dans cette nouvelle et ces éléments, particulièrement le son et l’espace, contribuent aux significations politiques et sociaux dans la narration. Au début, je résume les influences théâtrales sur l’œuvre de Joyce et spécifiquement sur “The Dead”. Puis, j’étudie le rôle que jouent la musique et la chanson, en outre le rire et l’applaudissement, dans la signification sociale et politique de cette nouvelle. Finalement, j’analyse l’utilisation de l’espace: l’enchainement de deux actions simultanées et/ou réparties sur plusieurs niveaux spatiaux ; les contrastes entre les différents espaces théâtraux; et la fonction politique des monuments qui prennent le rôle d’objets à caractère symbolique.

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Studied authors :

James Joyce

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1In his study of the modernist short story, Dominic Head argues that: “The problem facing short story critics is to find a way of escaping their own reductive formulae” (21). The critical framework that the subject of “theatricality in the short story” sets is one of several means to escape reductive formulae in short story criticism. Above all, such a critical framework enables the envisioning of a more productively malleable definition of the genre of the short story in relation to other genres. The required definition would potentially reflect the need for flexibility which seems to be recurrently emphasized but rarely satisfied in discussions of the genre of the short story. One example of these discussions is an essay entitled “Destabilizing Frames for Story” in which Ian Reid touches upon the adaptation of the story “Monsieur Seguin’s Goat” in Alphonse Daudet’s Letters from My Windmill into a play entitled L’Arlésienne (The Girl from Arles). Through this discussion, Reid shows that the text of Daudet’s story “signals its status as a meetingplace for various generic tendencies” (306).

2Studying short stories in relation not only to dramatic works and theatrical productions but also to the wide array of dramatic and theatrical devices and effects is, in many respects, a step towards articulating a flexible definition of the short story. This revisiting of the genre acknowledges the ways in which the short story functions as a space of hybrid relations among generic tendencies. One fertile area for exploring such relations is James Joyce’s works which operate playfully in relation to the laws of genre. This playfulness reveals itself in Joycean works that more or less respect the laws of their genre while capriciously flirting with other generic tendencies. In this paper, I explore this apparent Joycean paradox by examining aspects of theatricality in Joyce’s short story “The Dead.” My major argument is that certain elements which suggest theatricality in “The Dead” contribute to a virtual staging of the social and political spaces with which Joyce’s story is engaged.

3First, I briefly trace the theatrical influences that affected the making of this short story. Then, I discuss the role of performance-oriented dramatic devices, namely sound and space, in voicing and embodying the social and political dimensions of “The Dead.”

  • 1  Critics including Austin Briggs, Emer Nolan, Andrew Gibson, and Mark Osteen have pointed out a num (...)

4In a thought-provoking essay on “Joyce, Genre, and the Authority of Form,” Marian Eide contends that: “More than any other writer of the formally experimental modernist period, Joyce explored the varieties of generic structure. In genre conventions he found the constraints of aesthetic precedent and reader expectation that would enable his own creative resistance” (98). Joyce’s creative resistance to genre restrictions is played out in all of his works and even in individual parts of these. While Joyce’s play Exiles was interpreted by many as a lyric despite its conventional dramatic form, the “Circe” episode of his unconventional novel Ulysses has been repeatedly approached as theatre.1 Joyce’s “The Dead,” while highly representative of the modernist short story, includes a great number of devices which produce a theatrical effect.

5An effective means of entry into the theatrical spaces of “The Dead” is a review of the drama masters whose plays indirectly set the stage for this short story. A few details will suffice. Two major influences on Joyce’s writings are the works of the Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen and those of the German dramatist Gerhart Hauptmann. In an essay entitled “Ibsen’s New Drama,” Joyce extols Ibsen’s genius to the point of stating that: “It may be questioned whether any man has held so firm an empire over the thinking world in modern times” (48). Joyce’s praise for Ibsen’s use of “hardly a superfluous word or phrase” (“Ibsen’s New Drama” 49) in his plays may well serve as an appropriate critique of Joyce’s own technique of spareness and minimalism in his short stories.

6Critics have had much to say on the influence of both Ibsen and Hauptmann on Joyce’s oeuvre. In an article published as early as 1962, James R. Baker attributed Joyce’s idea of the living dead to Ibsen’s influence. Three years later, Hugo Schmidt briefly outlined the impact of Hauptmann’s Michael Kramer on Joyce’s “The Dead.” Schmidt pointed out the combination of realistic and symbolic techniques to render the idea of spiritual death and the concept of “death as the most beautiful form of life” (142). A more recent article by Theoharis C. Theoharis argues that “The Dead” is “partly constructed around a sustained analogy to [Ibsen’s play] Hedda Gabler” (791). Theoharis reads the main characters in “The Dead,” the couple Gabriel and Gretta Conroy, and the secondary one, Gabriel’s aunt Julia, as “reincarnations of George Tesman, Hedda Gabler, and Tesman’s Aunt Juliana [in Ibsen’s play]” (792). As for Ibsen’s When We Dead Awaken, Kathleen Ochshorn finds elements of it in Joyce’s Exiles and Adrienne Auslander Munich parenthetically mentions its influence on “The Dead.”

7What is striking here is the fact that these critics read the influence of Ibsen’s and Hauptmann’s plays on Joyce’s “The Dead” in terms of characters, themes, and symbolic elements outside the context of theatricality and theatrical effects. In this paper, I will elucidate some significant points concerning theatricality in “The Dead.” My concern here is not the ways in which theatrical elements in Joyce’s short story reflect or refract theatrical devices in Ibsen’s, Hauptmann’s, or any other dramatist’s works. Rather, I am interested in the role of these effects, specifically sound and space, in negotiating the social and political trajectories of “The Dead.” Theatricality is understood here in its broad imaginative sense. As Josette Féral argues in her examination of theatrical language, “[b]y examining conditions that accompany various manifestations of theatricality both on and off stage, one can demonstrate that theatricality is not strictly a theatrical phenomenon” (95). From this perspective, I approach sound and space in “The Dead” as manifestations of theatricality in narrative form and as devices that produce theatrical effects outside the frameworks of the play-text and the performance. Before addressing sound and space, I briefly look at what may be interpreted, within the imaginative framework of theatricality in “The Dead,” as dialogue and stage directions.

8In reading dramatic texts, critics have often pointed out the ways in which dialogue acts in conjunction with or in tension against stage directions (Wallis and Shepherd 9). The text of “The Dead,” up until its last few pages, juxtaposes straightforward pieces of lively dialogue with narrative and descriptive passages which may indirectly be read as stage directions. The speeches of the characters include exchanges in dialogue with varied dynamics and illocutionary force (especially between Gabriel and Molly Ivors and Gabriel and his wife). They also include thematically functional monologues (as in Gabriel’s speech at the dinner table) and comic intervals (by two of the not so welcome guests Freddy Malins and Mr Browne).

9As for the descriptive passages, these include extensive descriptions of the characters after they enter the imaginary stage implied by the narrative. The action focuses on the night of an annual dance to which the guests arrive successively. The narrative is interrupted with what would, in drama, amount to descriptive stage directions marking the appearance of every new character. Yet, the position of such descriptive passages twists the comparable dramatic convention of descriptive stage direction which usually precedes the first words of each new character. Thus, the description of the main character in “The Dead,” Gabriel Conroy, is placed within the latter’s dialogue with Lily the servant who welcomes him at the door. Likewise, the description of the hostesses, Aunt Kate and Aunt Julia, follows rather than precedes their first appearance. Still, these passages, as they focus on precise details of facial and bodily features and punctuate the pieces of dialogue, are curiously reminiscent of descriptive stage directions in plays.

10Notwithstanding the importance of dialogue and stage directions, the most astounding theatrical effect in “The Dead” emerges in the narration of movement which incorporates two basic theatrical devices, sound and space. The element of movement is central since the focal event of this short story is a dance and since important sections of the text are consecrated to narrating details of the two dances, quadrilles and lancers, in which the characters get engaged. Dance implies music and the narrative of “The Dead” presents a lively orchestration of various musical and sound effects.

11In an extensive article on Joyce and music, Arthur Nestrovski analyses the critical place of music in Joyce’s oeuvre. Nestrovski makes a number of contentions that are significant here. He argues that: “Once subjected to the exigencies of style, Joyce’s treatment of music—often highly sentimental on the surface—becomes charged with a political meaning that is not always apparent thematically” (Nestrovski 7). He adds that music in Joyce’s writings is “often, if not always, coupled with sexuality” (7). Approaching the “musical horizon” of characters whom he reads as “staged forms” in Joyce’s texts, Nestrovski finds that this horizon is largely “determined by ideological closure”(19) and by “the structural limits imposed upon thought by class positioning within the social totality” (19). Moreover, Nestrovski considers “The Dead” as the Joycean text “in which music is most conspicuously a central theme, at once the symbol and the ambience of life and of death” (13). Ironically, Nestrovski does not provide an in-depth analysis of the important presence of music in “The Dead.” Studies by critics including Zack Bowen, David L. Mosley, Jack Morgan, Seamus Reilly, and some of the essays in the collection edited by Sebastian D. G. Knowles shed a light on different aspects of the relation of “The Dead” to music. However, none of these works approaches musical elements and effects as specifically a component of theatricality in “The Dead.” In the subsequent discussion, I focus on these musical effects, their theatricality, and their function as political, social, and sexual critique.

12Joyce’s short story opens with a waltz played on the piano. Piano playing is almost always in the background of the dialogues and the movements in “The Dead.” In Ibsen’s plays A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler, the piano is also a significant object, and music and dance function symbolically. Between the quadrilles and the lancers, the narrative of “The Dead” resounds with the Academy piece played by Kate’s and Julia’s niece, Mary Jane. The difficulty and dullness of Mary Jane’s piano piece, its interruption by the narrative of Gabriel’s thoughts and the description of young men leaving the room and returning only after the piano had stopped all intimate the bracketing of the lives of the three spinsters (the aunts and Mary Jane) in the social world in which they occasionally intervene. In contrast to this sense of living death communicated by the interrupted narrative of the piano piece, the following dance stages a lively dialogue between Gabriel Conroy and his colleague, Molly Ivors. The name of the dance, lancers, and the kind of movements it implies, signal the type of exchange that takes place between Conroy and his dance partner. Just like lancers in a battle, Gabriel and Molly attack each other aggressively. Their battleground is the political stage wherein the cosmopolitan Irish, Gabriel, struggles against the claims of the nationalist Irish, Molly. Their rhetorical attacks in dialogue are synchronized with their movements in dance.

  • 2  Due to the limits of this paper, I will not discuss the difference between song and instrumental m (...)

13In several instances in “The Dead,” the tunes played on the piano are accompanied by lyrics. Songs, like instrumental music, are key theatrical devices, and in “The Dead,” they function as vehicles to some of the social and political subtexts implied by the narrative.2 The songs that we hear through the narrative of Joyce’s story are Arrayed for the Bridal which Aunt Julia sings and The Lass of Aughrim which the tenor Bartell D’Arcy sings. In between is the sound of everyone singing “For they are jolly gay fellows” as a response to Gabriel’s speech after the dinner. The importance of these songs is primarily related to their role in articulating a tragicomic sense of the state of the women portrayed in the narrative. Aunt Julia’s song bleakly conveys a macabre celebration of marriage in the voice of a dying spinster. Mr D’Arcy’s song musically narrates the tragic fate of a woman and her child as they are abandoned by an aristocrat. In contrast to the dreariness of these two songs, there seems to be some sense of joyful relief in the collective singing that follows Gabriel’s speech in which he praises the hospitality of his two aunts and Mary Jane whom he calls “the Three Graces of the Dublin musical world” (“The Dead” 233). However, this sense of relief is only illusory. The song which thrice repeats “For they are jolly gay fellows” and then affirms “Which nobody can deny” is quickly interrupted by a disturbing “Unless he tells a lie” (“The Dead” 234-35). The interrupting phrase conveys an implicit duplicity, lying to others and to oneself, in Gabriel’s attitude towards these three women and also towards Molly and his wife Gretta. This orchestration of songs thus shows the social world of the women, the women in the songs, the ones who are singing, and the ones who listen, as marred by various forms of denial and deception by men.

14Moreover, The Lass of Aughrim resonates with political echoes that harmonize with the dynamics of the dialogue and the implications of the narrative. Aughrim is the site of a historically significant defeat of the Irish by the army of King William III on 12 July 1691 and a signifier of the subsequent surrender of Ireland to British domination. The question of Irish nationalism and its geopolitical quandaries emerges in the main narrative of “The Dead” and in the embedded narrative in Gabriel’s story of his grandfather’s horse who scandalously circled King William’s statue. It also figures in the dialogues between Gabriel and Miss Ivors and between Gabriel and his wife Gretta at the end. As such, the theatrical effect of the songs in the narrative reflects the sense of dynamic immediacy characterizing the social and political questions with which these songs are engaged.

15Besides the piano playing and the songs, the most conspicuously resonant sound effects in the narrative are applause and, more prominently, laughter. The positioning of applause in the narrative is significant. Applause precedes and/or follows Mary Jane’s piano piece, Aunt Julia’s singing, and Gabriel’s speech. In all three cases, the context of the applause reveals that the reaction is not entirely genuine. We learn that Aunt Julia’s singing is preceded by “[a]n irregular musketry of applause” (“The Dead” 219). After Mary Jane’s piece, “[t]he most vigorous clapping came from the four young men in the doorway who had gone away to the refreshment-room at the beginning of the piece but had come back when the piano had stopped” (“The Dead” 213). Similarly, at the end of Aunt Julia’s song, “loud applause was borne in from the invisible supper-table” (“The Dead” 220), and it is the alcoholic Freddy Malins who overwhelms the elderly singer with exaggerated compliments and applause even after everyone has stopped clapping. As for Gabriel’s speech, it is greeted with an equivocal response mixing applause from the visible and invisible rooms with a half joking/half serious doubt that Gabriel’s compliments may be a lie. As such, the underlying subtext of the applause in the three instances comprises an implicit critique of the hypocritical manners of the social world portrayed in the story. Furthermore, the applause contributes to a dynamic theatricality both through its effect as sound and through its role in implying a spatial continuity between a visible onstage fictional space and an invisible neighbouring offstage.

16Even more than applause, laughter creates a distinctively pronounced and ambiguously overwhelming theatrical effect in the space of “The Dead.” This ambiguity is part of the construction of character and theme in Joyce’s story. There is a clear contrast between Gabriel’s “nervous” and self-conscious laughter (“The Dead” 205), on the one hand, and the noisily energetic laughter of Freddy Malins, Mr Browne, and the female characters in the story. On the scale of laughter and the implied scales of liveliness and sympathy, Gabriel is the most death-like of the characters in “The Dead.” Still, what is most striking here is the sheer abundance of laughter in the narrative of a short story entitled “The Dead” and in a textual space animated with talk and memories of the dead. Laughter seems highly ironic and even Gothic in the atmosphere of death. The Gothicism of laughter in “The Dead” is only tentatively affirmative and regenerative. As women are primarily the ones who continuously laugh in Joyce’s short story, the Gothic undertones seem to conspire with a tentatively feminist subtext. Yet, drowned in the vivacious torrent of laughter is a deathly social fabric in which women are silenced in various ways. If my reading here accords with Kelly Anspaugh’s interpretation of intertwined feminist and Gothic threads in “The Dead,” I do not completely espouse Anspaugh’s optimistic view that “the Gothic actually works to support an affirmative reading to Joyce’s story, that it does indeed contribute to a theme of regeneration and rebirth” (1). Rather, I find that the narrative negotiation of social and political questions does not yield such positive answers in “The Dead.”

  • 3  Dominic Head’s argument runs counter to readings which seek to resolve ambiguity in Joyce’s short (...)

17This paradoxical coexistence of life and death is communicated not only through laughter but also through the other sounds in the narrative. The piano, the songs, the applause, the laughter, and the other sounds including those of “the wheezy hall-door bell [which] clanged again” (“The Dead” 199), “shuffling […] feet” (202), “clacking […] heels” (203), “clatter[ing]” cutlery (218, 228), “unsettling of chairs” (230), and “skirts sweeping” (230) produce an ambience of living theatre. Such an ambience apparently jars with the theme of paralysis and deathliness repeatedly mentioned in critical interpretations of “The Dead.” The contradiction is only a façade for the deeper layers of rich ambiguity that eschew any simplistic reading of Joyce’s short story. Thus, the varied effects of sound in “The Dead” disrupt any critique in terms of closure or single monolithic meaning. As Dominic Head argues with respect to the stories in Dubliners, “Joyce’s ironic use of structure and plot is one source of this (partially) disruptive tendency, which is extended through the development of a dialogized narrative style” (77).3 One level of this dialogized narrative consists of the various sounds which, while producing a theatrical effect, flow with and against the multiple trajectories of Joyce’s short story.

  • 4  The meaning of each of these terms emerges implicitly in the subsequent discussion. Due to the lim (...)

18Besides sound, space is a fundamental element which produces a theatrical impression in “The Dead.” The schema of political trajectories in “The Dead” is embodied in the architecture of spaces implied by the narrative and descriptive text. Discussing the basics of theatricality, Féral contends that: “Space seems fundamental to theatricality, for the passage from the literary to the theatrical is first and foremost completed through a spatial realization of the text” (96). Interestingly, the architecture of spaces in Joyce’s short story displays several characteristics that recall theatrical space or that can be imaginatively visualized in theatrical terms namely, levels, the three regions of fictional space, hinterlands, and significant objects.4

  • 5  My interpretation here relies particularly on similar analysis in Studying Plays in which Wallis a (...)

19The space of the main action in the greater part of “The Dead” is a house with two levels. At the beginning of the story, the movements of the maid Lily greeting the guests and engaging in a nervous discussion with Gabriel at the door on the ground floor are synchronized with the ladies’ activities on the upper floor. This pattern is repeated at the end of the party as the guests leave and Gabriel remains on the ground floor admiring his wife while she stands on the stairs listening to Mr D’Arcy singing The Lass of Aughrim. This synchronization of action on the two levels of the house produces the effect of an important theatrical device, that of simultaneous action. In both cases of simultaneous action on the stage of the Misses Morkan’s house, there is a physical and symbolic sense of separation which punctuates the characters’ relationships and which is reminiscent of a similar patterning in a number of plays prior and subsequent to the publication of “The Dead.” A striking example from the first category (before “The Dead”) is Shakespeare’s plays, namely Troilus and Cressida and Romeo and Juliet, where the characteristic separation between the stage and the balcony suggests gender distinctions. In the second category (after “The Dead”), I mention Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman where spatial levels symbolize levels of experience and distance is both literal and metaphorical.5

20As for the three regions of fictional space, the structuring of these in “The Dead” shifts as one space gets foregrounded in one scene of action while it gets removed to the background in another. The narrative in the first parts of the story moves among the spaces of the drawing-room, the refreshment-room, and the supper-room, spaces that recall the setting of naturalist drama. In these spaces, the most significant object, which recalls the stage sets of naturalist drama (especially Ibsen’s), is the piano that hints at the Misses Morkan’s social and cultural interests. If we are to read the movements between the different spaces in theatrical terms, we may say that they orchestrate alternations from onstage fictional space to neighbouring offstage fictional space. As I mentioned earlier, certain sound effects in the narrative (laughter, applause, and other sounds) create continuity between these spaces even when the narrative points out the spatial invisibility of one or more spaces in a specific instance. In the last part of “The Dead,” when the action shifts to the room in the Gresham hotel, the implied neighbouring offstage is the space of the street below. Between these two narratives, at the party and at the hotel, there is the short journey through the main Dublin streets, in which monumental landmarks emerge as politically symbolic objects.

21From the perspective of theatricality, each monument in “The Dead” functions similarly to a significant object which, in the space of the theatrical stage, “makes meaning, signifies, in its own right” (Wallis and Shepherd 129). Yet, in Joyce’s short story, the significance of these objects does not emerge merely from the sum of their individual meanings but also, and more importantly, from the relations between them. In this context, the irreducible complexity of Irish-British relations and the rejection of simple political conclusions in Joyce’s story are communicated in the narrative through the spatial positioning of the monumental symbols of colonial domination and Irish nationalism.

22In “The Dead,” the spatial symbols of the political conflict include, on the colonial side, Trinity College, the Four Courts, and the Gresham hotel along and against, on the Irish side, the statue of Daniel O’Connell. The complex ambiguity is mainly the result of the selectiveness of the list which suggestively lacks Nelson’s Pillar, the most obtrusive monument to the British Empire in the street which ends with the Gresham. Such complex ambiguity is further enhanced in Gabriel’s familiar greeting to O’Connell’s statue “Good-night, Dan” (“The Dead” 245) after the fiery conversation which ended with Molly Ivors calling him a “West Briton” (“The Dead 216). However, it would be a mistake to hastily interpret this greeting as a nationalist gesture since the monument to Daniel O’Connell memorializes the hero of Catholic Emancipation, a cause which did not coincide with Irish nationalism. As such, the monuments named in the narrative space of “The Dead” function similarly to significant objects which possess complex symbolic importance and not only aesthetic and mechanical importance in the space of the theatrical stage.

  • 6  A number of critics, including Anne Fogarty and Michael Murphy, have analysed the political meanin (...)

23The most symbolically functional monument, the Wellington Monument, which figures repeatedly in the narrative is nowhere in the immediate surrounding of the Misses Morkan’s house on Usher’s Island. Yet, this spatial symbol that emerges in Gabriel’s thoughts twice before his speech creates a link between the domestic interior and the public space outside. Similarly, the West of Ireland, which occupies the memories and thoughts of the Conroys at the end, is beyond the immediate space of action. On the surface level of the narrative, the space of the Wellington Monument, associated with the British Empire, is set as ideologically antagonistic to the space of the West of Ireland, associated with Irish nationalism. However, translating the architecture of the spaces in the narrative into an imagined theatrical space allows us to unravel ambivalent spatial politics. These spaces which are neither inside and around the Misses Morkan’s house nor on the way to the Gresham suggest virtual offstage fictional spaces. They thus appear as symbolically distant and dissociated from the real space of immediate experience. This space of immediate experience is embodied in the descriptive text and can be imaginatively read, as I have already argued, in terms of onstage and neighbouring offstage spaces. The distant spaces of the Wellington monument and the West of Ireland symbolically represent ideological sites both of which are outside the realm of the characters’ ordinary material experience. Yet, while the West of Ireland and the rest of the Irish landscape are totally covered with snow, the Wellington Monument stands out flashing as a symbol of imperial military might which overpowers the colonized space of Ireland.6 Imagining the space of “The Dead” in theatrical terms, one way to spatially translate the ideological distinction between the Wellington Monument and the West of Ireland is to represent the former as a silhouetted form behind the onstage fictional space. As such, the Wellington monument would appear in the hinterlands which, according to the theatrical definition, “mediate between the onstage fictional and offstage virtual spaces” (Wallis and Shepherd 128). Thus, a theatrical reading of the architecture of spaces in “The Dead” helps elucidate the overdetermined texture of social and political meaning in the narrative. These meanings, that combine connection and separation in various respects, overflow at the end of the story in an acoustic-visual drama when Gabriel “heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead” (“The Dead” 256).

  • 7  A fruitful critical task—in a larger space than the present article affords—would comprise two dim (...)

24In considering sound and space in “The Dead,” I have made a number of imaginative leaps between genres to develop the implications of theatricality in this short story. My aim, however, has been to show that these elements, sound and space, which are reminiscent of theatrical devices, function as mediators of the social and political subtexts in Joyce’s story. I have emphasized that the orchestration of elements which imply theatricality in “The Dead” prevents a reading in terms of simple unified meaning and reveals, instead, a complex ambiguity irreducible to binary oppositions. As the title of my paper suggests, Joyce’s “The Dead” stages not the deathly paralysis of rigid discourses but the living theatre of social and political spaces.7


1  Critics including Austin Briggs, Emer Nolan, Andrew Gibson, and Mark Osteen have pointed out a number of theatrical elements as central to the “Circe” episode.

2  Due to the limits of this paper, I will not discuss the difference between song and instrumental music in “The Dead.” Arthur Nestrovski makes several points concerning the significance of this difference in the context of Joyce’s works, but he curiously omits “The Dead” from his list of Joycean works that include instrumental music.

3  Dominic Head’s argument runs counter to readings which seek to resolve ambiguity in Joyce’s short story. This trend of readings is exemplified in Austin M. Wright’s essay in which he argues that the “final recalcitrance” in “The Dead” is eventually resolved in the “discoverable form” of Joyce’s story (121-23).

4  The meaning of each of these terms emerges implicitly in the subsequent discussion. Due to the limits of this paper, I do not dedicate an introductory section to specify the definition of these theatrical terms.

5  My interpretation here relies particularly on similar analysis in Studying Plays in which Wallis and Shepherd discuss the significance of levels in Shakespeare’s and Arthur Miller’s plays.

6  A number of critics, including Anne Fogarty and Michael Murphy, have analysed the political meaning(s) of the Wellington Monumentin “The Dead.” Fogarty notes that the fact that Gabriel thinks of both the Wellington Monument and the West of Ireland—associated with nationalism—shows “the impossibility of clear lines of demarcation or of affiliation in a colonial country” (“Remapping Nationalism” 92). In contrast to Fogarty, Murphy sees that Joyce deliberately emphasizes the link between Gabriel’s unsettled relations with Ireland and the Duke of Wellington’s notorious repudiation of the land of his birth (113). I find that neither reading fully explains the distinct political significance of the Wellington monument in Joyce’s text. The crucial detail is that Gabriel reflects on the West of Ireland under the paralyzing effect of the Wellington Monument which, unlike other parts of the described Irish landscape, is able, despite the snow, to flash out as a beacon and a symbol of power.

7  A fruitful critical task—in a larger space than the present article affords—would comprise two dimensions: the study of the various implications of Joyce’s appropriations and transformations of stage devices in “The Dead” and the other stories in Dubliners and the comparison/contrast of reception patterns by the readers of the short story and the audience of its staged version.

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Rita Sakr, « Staging Social and Political Spaces: Living Theatre in Joyce’s “The Dead” », Journal of the Short Story in English [En ligne], 51 | Autumn 2008, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2011, consulté le 27 mars 2017. URL :


Rita Sakr

Rita Sakr is a 3rd-year PhD student at the University of Nottingham. She has completed a thesis on the representation of monumental space in the novels of James Joyce, Rashid al-Daif, and Orhan Pamuk. Her research interests include postcolonial theory and literature, James Joyce, Middle-Eastern literature, cultural geography, and performance theory. She previously taught a course on Drama and the Stage for two consecutive years at the Lebanese University. Among her publications are the two essays “Monumental Space and the Carnivalisation of Power in Joyce’s Ulysses and al-Daif’s Ghaflat al-Turab” in Quest 4 (2007) and “‘That’s new…That’s copy’: ‘Slightly Rambunctious Females’ on the top of ‘Some Column!’ in Zola’s L’Assommoir and Joyce’s Ulysses” which is forthcoming in a collection of essays on Joyce and the nineteenth-century French novel.

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