To the Continent

I often teach Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood to my students. I got my masters at O'Connor's alma mater, which was just about ten minutes away from her mother's ranch, Andalusia. Whenever we read the novel, or watch the movie, I try to assure my students: No, it's not as awful as it seems. This is funny. I promise it's funny. Flannery O'Connor was a very funny person. There is a moment in that novel where Hazel Moates, the approaches a landlord and announces his career as a fledling prophet. She responds by asking. "Is it protestant, or something foreign (European)." Hazel says, "No, ma'am, it's protestant," which reassures the landlord.  

The landlord echoes a sentiment in both Irish and American literature in the early twentieth century, the European continent was a waste of impossible evil and moral corruption, and therefore, well-adjusted citizens of other nations ought to stay away and tend to their own affairs.

Joyce believed the opposite. Dublin was paralyzed. Dublin was death. "The continent" as the Irish called it, was life. That's where things happened. The continent furnished the conditions by which an artist could create and could survive. To a certain degree, the boy in Araby's journey to the bazaar reflects Joyce's own escape from the "blind" corner of artless Dublin.

I put the four places Joyce lived in his life in order to illustrate that his self-imposed exile is nearly a straight line away from Dublin, as if he was contradicting Bloom's won judgement that "The Longest Way Round is the Shortest Way Home."

For Joyce, the shortest way round is the longest way home.