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Acciarino - Literature and Limits
[author: Teresa Acciarino - postdate: 2007-12-17]

In mathematics, the limit of a function is a fundamental concept in analysis. Informally, a function f(x) has a limit L at a point p if the value of f(x) can be made as close to L as desired, by making x close enough to p.

In literature, the concept of limit is re-interpreted by Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Coetzee considered as a limit of power in reshaping previous forms of literature.

The study of the novel and the creation of new novels has the aim to experiment its general potentialities, both syntactical and thematic writing may provide.

Both modern and postmodern literature represent a break from 19th centurynarrative tradition and its way of rendering "reality" whereas a story was told from an objective or omniscient point of view. In character development, both modern and postmodern literature explore subjectivism, turning from external reality to the investigation of inner states of consciousness (interior monologue or stream of consciousness by Virginia Woolf and James Joyce respectively or explorative poems like The Waste Land by T S Eliot).

In addition, both modern and postmodern literature explore fragmentariness. Postmodernism emphasizes fragmentation as a feature of the 20ieth century but differently from Modernism, postmodernism accepts fragmentation and tries to find in the absence of a centre its meaning. Postmodernists often demonstrate that chaos is insurmountable; the artist is powerless. In Coetzee's Postmodernism, according to the conventions of deconstruction, decentralization and the presence of many points of view about reality is considered as the only possibility for knowledge (knowledge as limit)

In his "Divina Commedia", Dante recounts " Ulysses's death caused by his desire for knowledge: he went beyond the Pillars of Hercules. The voyage represents the will to overcome the limits of human knowledge. His action is condemned because of the effort to overcome the limits of the human being (that is something limited, differently from God) and because he does not consider himself a simple creature; his research for ("virtute e canoscenza") virtue and knowledge that may be considered positive become negative since it was seen as an unreasonable negation of limits.

Joyce's Ulysses is considered innovative and experimentalist.

The centre of narration is focused on characters' consciousness. The flux area that cannot be stopped and in which all time collides is presented as past memories and future expectations. Differently from the adoption of the interior monologue where, despite the eclipse of the narrator, the intelligent reader can still recognize some connectors and linkers, the adoption of the stream of consciousness technique disregards syntax and punctuation and therefore reading the novel is really demanding. James Joyce adopted rhythms, forms, themes and sources from an extensive archive, in the hope and effort to convey the idea of reality that seemed easier to remind what really happens inside one's consciousness if conbveyed through such media.

Joyce develops a technique that reflects chaos, but he uses myth to add his writing a certain degree of coherence; Myth and ritual (the use of anthropological material) are a potential means of ordering and transforming into significance contemporary experience.

Ulysses is a sort of summa anthropologica of the whole body experience of man and the negation of his metaphysical experience.

Joyce's experimentalism is expressed in his efforts to overcome the limits of writings.

  • Absence of division into section
  • Disruption of syntax
  • Back to a specific episode in the past (Molly's past youth in Gibraltar) and memories of the past
  • Triumph of sensuality