The Intellectual Exile

Stephen’s decision to exile himself from Ireland “to forge in the smithy of [his] soul the uncreated conscience of [his] race” (276) got me thinking of Edward Said’s Representations of the Intellectual, where he devotes a chapter entitled “Intellectual Exile: Expatriates and Marginals” to discuss the predicament of the intellectual exile. In it, Said differentiates between the physical condition of exile—rooted in an ‘assumption that being exiled is to be totally cut off, isolated, hopelessly separated from [one’s] place of origin’ (48)—and the metaphysical condition of exile; characterised by ‘restlessness, movement, constantly being unsettled, and unsettling others’ (53). In this sense, it is interesting to think of Stephen as an exile even in Ireland in a metaphysical sense, through his status as an individual at odds with his society, and therefore an outsider and exile so far as privileges, power and honours are concerned. In this light, perhaps Stephen’s physical exile at the end of the novel underscores that instead from escaping from Ireland, he escapes with it.

Said also furthers his discussion on the intellectual exile by inscribing Theodor Adorno’s comment in Minimia Moralisa that ‘for a man who no longer has a homeland, writing becomes a place to live’ (58). In this light, it is noteworthy that the novel ends with Stephen’s journal entries, indicative of an execution of his artistic talent to supplant a void within him. Keeping in mind the novel’s semi-autobiographical nature, I believe the novel somewhat traces Joyce’s own progressions as an intellectual exile, and perhaps for Joyce too, writing becomes a place for him to live.

References

Said, Edward W. Representations of the Intellectual. New York: Vintage Books, 1996. Print.

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