As the altar of a church would present but a barren stylization but for the uncalculated offerings of the confused and humble; as the corsage of a woman is made suddenly martial and sorrowful by the rose thrust among the more decorous blooms by the hand of a lover suffering the violence of the overlapping of the permission to bestow a last embrace, and its withdrawal: making a vanishing and infinitesimal bull’s-eye of that which had a moment before been a buoyant and showy bosom, by dragging time out of his bowels (for a lover knows two times, that which he is given, and that which he must make)—so Felix was astonished to find that the most touching flowers laid on the alter he had raised to his imagination were placed there by the people of the underworld, and that the reddest was to be the rose of the doctor.
from Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood
[pp. 30-1 in NDP98]
Authenticity comes from a single faithfulness: that to the ambiguity of experience.
M. H. Abrams notes that Joyce was also interested in producing aesthetic objects embodying “purposiveness … without … a purpose” as he pursued a “systematic translation of religious formulas into a comprehensive aesthetic theory, in which the artist, or artificer, undertakes to redeem both life and the world by recreating them into a new world. Joyce’s new world, however, is radically opposed to Wordsworth’s, for it is no other than the work of art itself.” Put another way, Joyce rejects the acquiescence to the natural world central to poems like “Tintern Abbey,” the “Intimations” ode, and The Prelude, works in which the self is recovered, albeit bedimmed. Instead, in what I am suggesting is characteristic of the fundamentally Coleridgean model that Joyce employs, the world is entirely rebuilt—purified by imaginative revelation. Nevertheless, my intention here is not to make the familiar suggestion that Joyce is essentially a Romantic nor to imply that Coleridge is something of a proto-modernist but rather to note their common aesthetic endeavor, in which the self is subsumed in the aesthetic form or the vision itself. As a theory, this enterprise derives from Coleridge’s intellectual engagement with Kant, specifically his dissatisfaction with the inaccessibility of noumena. In practice, however, Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” and “The Ancient Mariner” establish the tradition of determined aestheticism that runs from Keats through Wilde, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, D. G. Rossetti, Robert Browning, W. B. Yeats, and Ezra Pound before reaching Joyce. In tracing this broad trajectory, I stress the prevalence of the supernatural, or of a pursuit of beauty, that goes beyond achieving a tolerable representation of the physical world.
Brad Bannon, “Joyce, Coleridge, and the Eastern Aesthetic” (JJQ
48.3, 2011). (via grandhotelabyss