When a correspondent from Missouri wrote to Hugh Kenner and asked that he elaborate on his assertion that “Joyce began Ulysses in naturalism and ended it in parody,” Kenner answered with this book. Joyce’s Voices is both a helpful guide through Joyce’s complexities, and a brief treatise on the concept of objectivity: the idea that the world can be perceived as a series of reports to our senses. Objectivity, Kenner claims, was a modern invention, and one that the modernists—Joyce foremost among them—found problematic. Accessible and enjoyable, Joyce’s Voices is what so much criticism is not: an aid to better understanding—and enjoying more fully—the work of one of the world’s greatest writers.
Hugh Kenner (1923-2003) was perhaps the greatest Anglophone literary critic of the 20th century: no other figure has been so instrumental in our understanding of modernism and its key figures, or so crucial to the development of new ways to think about new literature. He was that rare thing, a critic whose writing is so deft and mind so vivid that his criticism attains the condition of poetry; in that sense, he must be ranked beside Benjamin, Coleridge, and Goethe. He also wrote a book-length study of Chuck Jones cartoons, an introduction to geodesic math, and one of the first user’s manuals for personal computing. Kenner taught at UC Santa Barbara, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Georgia.