Population control was endlessly discussed during Joyce’s lifetime, and he was as acutely aware of western civilization’s restrictions on artistic and spiritual freedom as on physical fecundity.
Lowe-Evans’s book explores the specific influence of this controversial debate on Joyce’s works, from Dubliners to Finnegans Wake, as well as that of other key historical events such as the Great Famine, the Malthusian doctrine, the international birth control movement, the Catholic church, and postwar populationism.
As Michel Foucault observed, “one of the great innovations in techniques of power in the eighteenth century was the emergence of ‘population’ as an economic and political problem.” Similarly, Lowe-Evans examines Joyce’s works as the product of countless rhetorical pressures and trends, including histories of Ireland, the Irish Homestead, and reports of the obscenity trial of Margaret Sanger.
Joyce once wrote his good friend Frank Budgen that the idea underlying the famous “Oxen of the Sun” chapter in Ulysses (set in a maternity hospital) was “the crime committed against fecundity by sterilizing the act of coition.” Drawing upon this and numerous other instances, Lowe-Evans demonstrates how Foucault’s theory of the deployment of sexuality is borne out both in Joyce’s work and in the debates that helped to produce it.
In Crimes Against Fecundity, Lowe-Evans reveals new and fascinating aspect of this great writer·s work, which will be of great interest not only to literary theorists and Joyceans but to literary scholars in general.
Mary Lowe-Evans is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of West Florida. She has contributed articles to Studies in the Novel, the James Joyce Quarterly, the Journal of Modern Literature, and the Encyclopedic Handbook of American Women's History.
6 x 9, 124 pages