Martello tower, photo by Erik Simpson

Culleton, Claire A. Names And Naming In Joyce. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.

Related topics:

Creation and Making
Irish History Transformed
Language and Linguistics

Culleton introduces her book as a "theoretical and conceptual study of onomastics in Joyce" (4), framing her work with a brief preliminary discussion about Joyce's selection of character names, his superstition about names, and his extensive "nominal play" (7). In the first chapter, "Naming and Allusion in Joyce," Culleton examines the "allusive method" of Joyce's naming in his work (8). According to her analysis, name selection is characterized by punning, verisimilitude, and "his use of names as literary and cultural echoes" (21). She examines the use of such allusive names to deceive and misdirect the reader, citing "Eumaeus" (U 16) as "an episode that questions the very constructs of naming" (22). She also considers aliases and false names in Joyce's work with a close reading of the name "Henry Flower" (U 5, 11, 15, 17).

Culleton examines "the metamorphoses of names, their constant states of flux, their teasing randomness, and their historical significance" in the second chapter, "Naming and History" (45). In particular, she focuses on "Oxen of the Sun" (U 14), paying attention to the episode's transformations of Irish patronymics in genealogical history (49). Culleton discusses the way in which Joyce's practice of naming allows him to reconstruct and rewrite his own version of history.

Culleton deals with women's names in Joyce's works in the third chapter, "Naming and Gender," exploring how names are tied to economics and gender politics. She traces the political duality of women's names in Joyce's work; that is, how they move between empowering "autonomastics" and "character-deflating" diminutives (94). The idea of insult and revenge links this chapter with the next—"Naming, Nameplay, and Revenge"—in which Culleton points to instances in "Scylla and Charybdis" (U 9) of Stephen's "retributive" nominal play (99). She argues that Stephen's distortions of patronyms in the library discussion about paternity and literary creation function as a sort of revenge through naming (U 9.918, 9.1129, 9.900, 9.728).

The final chapter, "Naming and Identity," considers "the deterministic power of names" to fix and predict identity (122). Culleton concludes that Joyce's naming works to inscribe in his writing what she refers to as "our onomastic obsession" (125).

Citations and Related Sources

Ellmann, Maud. "Polytropic Man: Paternity, Identity and Naming in The Odyssey and Portrait." In James Joyce: New Perspectives, edited by MacCabe, Colin. Sussex: Harvester Press, 1982.
Ragussis, Michael. Acts of Naming : The Family Plot in Fiction: The Family Plot in Fiction. Oxford University Press, 1987.
Seeman, Mary V. "The Unconscious Meaning of Personal Names." Names A Journal of Onomastics 31, no. 4 (1983): 237–44.
Senn, Fritz. "Naming in Dubliners (a First Methermeneutic Fumbling)." James Joyce Quarterly 24, no. 4 (1987): 465–68.

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