Monday, June 6, 2011

"The Sisters" By James Joyce: Evolution of Secondary Sources

As a side note, if anyone has a better title I am all ears.

“The Sisters”

“There was no hope for me this time: it was my third stroke. Night after night I knew I was not long for this world. I kept waiting for the boy to come but he never did. I couldn’t blame him. I wouldn’t; I couldn’t.

My mind was; almost as clear as it had been before the incident. I believed it was God’s way of saying he forgave me; I wanted it to be. What I had done warranted no forgiveness. When Father O’Rourke left is when I felt the peace, the clarity in mind. It was when I knew I was not long for this world. I hoped heaven would receive me.”

Wait . . .stop . . . this is not James Joyce’s story! The short story “The Sisters” from the collection Dubliners is actually told from the point of view of an unnamed boy. This boy had been friends with a priest, Father Flynn who had just passed away. The boy had been waiting for his death but after the death the boy was didn’t know how to deal with death. He knew he was supposed to pay his respects but was afraid. The story is unique because Joyce does not give us all the information and leaves it to the audience to make conclusions.

So where does this other story come from? It is not written by James Joyce but by me. It is what we call fan fiction. There is a website dedicated to stories such as these, It is a site that people can recreate their own story based on another tale.

Researching in the digital age has changed rapidly over the last few years. The reason? It is because there are so many resources and information that we can look at by just using the Internet.

There are so many mediums to consume literature with and so many ways you can find and procure information about the literature you have read. It is not difficult to get online and type a question into the search engine. Within seconds your answer will appear and you will no longer be confused about the issue. Literary criticism is changing because of the digital age.

During my research of James Joyce and his book Dubliners I was no longer restricted just to the library. I had many forms to gather my information from. I would read blogs, go on forums, join discussions, and read fan fiction. These may not seem like official scholarly sources and these sources teachers usually don’t accept when writing a formal research paper.

Yet, these sources I was able to find out the same information, if not more, about James Joyce and Dubliners as if I had used official scholarly sources. The evolution of secondary sources is changing just as our modes of interpretation and ways of reading the text is changing. Secondary sources are changing from the formal to informal, from inactive to interactive, and from unsocial to social.

Maybe in formal writing secondary sources have remained relatively the same but informal secondary sources have sprung up everywhere today. People are writing blogs or joining forums to discuss the books that they have been reading. They are not scholars but some of them make the same points that scholarly papers do.

In my research I was able to contact several people about their readings of James Joyce. I felt like this was very useful in my research. One blog I came across was from a woman who actually lives in Ireland. It was interesting to see that her perspective on Dubliners changed as she spent more time in Ireland. She noted, just as James Joyce did, that people in Ireland do experience a sort of paralysis or at least a loyalty to their country and a reluctance to leave it.

These informal secondary sources raise the question of whether or not they are legitimate. Knowledge is not limited to what is inside our head any longer or what is on paper. It is so easy to find the information that we need. These sources are legitimate even if they don't have the stamp of scholarly attributes because they contribute. They contribute in an analytical, and social ways. We are part of a big collaborative world and most information is within easy reach.

Just as I did informal research I was able to find information I needed from the approved scholarly sources. In an article by James Sullivan, he writes about a friend of James Joyce, Padraic Colum, who assisted the author in publishing Dubliners.

James Joyce wrote about things he knew. His characters were often based on people he knew and he didn't hide that fact. That was one of the reasons why it was so hard to publish Dubliners and some of his other works. Another reason that he had a hard time getting his work published was because of the content. His stories were often a little inappropriate and made some people feel uncomfortable. James Joyce was creating something that had influenced his life, his time in Dublin. He was reproducing what he saw which is something we all do in an attempt at understanding.

Rob Tocalino remarks about James Joyce and his writing habits. James Joyce did not look kindly on the Dublin people. He wrote about situations and Dublin in a more negative light. Joyce believed that the people in Dublin were in a sort of paralysis, unable to really progress until they moved away from Dublin. The characters in his stories often wish to escape but few can really escape.

These sources helped me understand James Joyce and his stories just as blogs and forums did. I enjoyed my reading more when I was reading blogs than when I was reading articles. The article seems dead. The person who published it, I could try to contact, but it might seem pointless. However, on blogs and forums contact is encouraged.

We research and write to understand. When we read we try to interpret and understand the words on the page (or that we have listened to). In order to understand we research, whether it is informal or formal. After we have done research we then try to create or write. By following this process our thoughts are able to mature and grow.

Just as I created the fan fiction about “The Sisters” to understand the story, we all participate in creation. I tried to put myself in the priest’s shoes. Tried to imagine what it would feel like to be dying. After reading some blogs and forums I realized that perhaps the priest was dying because of a disease he had contracted. My version of the story may not be what James Joyce had intended but it allowed me to connect to the characters in a way that I had not before.

Secondary sources whether they are informal or formal help us in our reading process. The secondary sources are evolving and moving away from the scholarly. The information that is shared on these sites are not taking away from knowledge but helping it to grow because of the many minds that are now able to share and exchange information.

When writing a research paper about James Joyce blogs may be helpful to refer to just as a fan fiction story. These informal sources are interpretations of the text just like an article.

Works Cited

Sullivan, James P. "Padraic Colum's "James Joyce as a Young Man."" James Joyce Quarterly. Volume 45.3 (2008): 339-347. May 2008.

Tocalino, Rob. "James Joyce." Bookmarks 2011/05 2007: 14. Print.

Em, “Dubliners, by James Joyce.” C’est la Vie. January 9, 2011. Retrieved May 23, 2011.

1 comment:

  1. I liked the opening (though an epigraph can be better formatted as set apart somehow). This is an important topic and I'm glad that you are addressing it.
    --The generalizations about there being so much info on any topic on the Internet are not interesting or unexpected in any way. I would more quickly move to your main claim: "The evolution of secondary sources is changing just as our modes of interpretation and ways of reading the text is changing. Secondary sources are changing from the formal to informal, from inactive to interactive, and from unsocial to social."
    --That is a great claim, but I think you need to come through more strongly in contrasting traditional scholarly sources with the others that you used. Right now, it isn't all that clear that you found valuable info about the setting via a social, online source (the woman in Dublin) and via a traditional scholarly source (an article about Dublin back in the day). And be careful about claiming too readily that you can get all the same info from online or social sources. That's a claim that would be hard to believe or to prove, and I don't think it is necessary to your larger point about the general nature of secondary sources changing.
    --Can you find a source that talks about the legitimacy of fanfiction or other kinds of social/informal engagement with literature? How does this accomplish something similar to or as important as traditional literary research or writing?
    --I wish you hadn't dropped the links and references from your prior draft that you refer to obliquely in this draft.

    A solid draft to build upon.