I read Alvin Jackson’s essay with delight and reservation: his central idea that “the Empire was both an agent of liberation […] and the shackles of incarceration” (p123, emphasis own) is certainly taken by me; yet, I oppose to his final argument for that notion rather strongly. Specifically, Jackson states that it is the “failure of the British to define Ireland either in fully metropolitan or colonial terms” (150) which had ultimately caused the “break [in] their hold over the island” (150).
This greatly disturbs me because it suggests that the colonized (here being the Irish) ought to accept their status as a colonial subject had the colonizer (the British) fully abrogated the colony’s political vis-à-vis socio-cultural identity. To me, the very act of an Ascendancy rule is itself a cause for “patriotic feeling” (151) – regardless of “the ambiguities of British rule in Ireland” (151), if any. As many post-colonial writers and critiques have argued, the quest for decolonization starts (or ought to have started) from the very moment of colonization itself.
While the “irony” (135) of a colony participating in Empire may in many ways be seen as inevitable, it is certainly not ironic that the Union – which I perceive as euphemized colonization – would thereby invoke the sentiments of “nationalism and the revolt against imperial rule” (136). Such is indeed the central preoccupation that I discern from the growing consciousness of Stephen in Joyce’s Portrait, of course, along with all the endearing aesthetics of modernist literature.