A forgotten historical figure and his influence on the writing of James Joyce
“The first full-length study of a prominent figure in Dublin history, a figure Davison argues is an important influence on Joyce’s work. Readers interested in Joyce and in Irish history and culture will find this study useful and illuminating.”—Morris Beja, coeditor of Bloomsday 100: Essays on “Ulysses”
“A fascinating account of the life and times of Albert Altman, the first-generation son of Jewish emigrants, prominent in late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Dublin politics, whose character and controversies, politics and passions, find uncanny echoes in James Joyce’s representation of Leopold Bloom. This engaging telling throws much light on the nexus of Jewish diasporic and Irish nationalist concerns that are the warp and weave of Ulysses.”—Enda Duffy, coeditor of Joyce, Benjamin and Magical Urbanism
In this book, Neil Davison argues that Albert Altman (1853?1903), a Dublin-based businessman and Irish nationalist, influenced James Joyce’s creation of the character of Leopold Bloom, as well as Ulysses’s broader themes surrounding race, nationalism, and empire. Using extensive archival research, Davison reveals parallels between the lives of Altman and Bloom, including how the experience of double marginalization—which Altman felt as both a Jew in Ireland and an Irishman in the British Empire—is a major idea explored in Joyce’s work.
Altman, a successful salt and coal merchant, was involved in municipal politics over issues of Home Rule and labor, and frequently appeared in the press over the two decades of Joyce’s youth. His prominence, Davison shows, made him a familiar name in the Home Rule circles with which Joyce and his father most identified. The book concludes by tracing the influence of Altman’s career on the Dubliners story “Ivy Day in the Committee Room,” as well as throughout the whole of Ulysses. Through Altman’s biography, Davison recovers a forgotten life story that illuminates Irish and Jewish identity and culture in Joyce’s Dublin.
Neil R. Davison, professor of modernism, Irish studies, and Jewish cultural studies at Oregon State University, is the author of Jewishness and Masculinity from the Modern to the Postmodern and James Joyce, “Ulysses,” and the Construction of Jewish Identity: Culture, Biography, and "the Jew" in Modernist Europe.
A volume in the Florida James Joyce Series, edited by Sebastian D. G. Knowles
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