Fragments of the Feminine Sublime in Friedrich Schlegel and James Joyce

By Ginette Verstraete

Subjects: Comparative Literature
Series: SUNY series on the Sublime
Paperback : 9780791436288, 280 pages, January 1998
Hardcover : 9780791436271, 280 pages, January 1998

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents




1. Friedrich Schlegel's Theory of the Fragment

2. A History of the Sublime

3. Gender and Genre in Aristophanes

4. The Romantic Novel: Lucinde

5. From Addressing to Cross-Dressing: Some Afterthoughts on Lucinde

6. Joyce's Drama and the Conflicts of Realism

7. The Gender Politics of Joyce's Theory and Practice of Drama

8. "From the Sublime to the Ridiculous Is But a Step"

9. Medicine, Midwifery, and the Making of Childbirth: Horne's "Sublime Porte" in Ulysses

10. In the Wake of Criticism



List of Works Cited


Traces the early German Romantic origins of Joyce's modern and postmodern innovation of the novel.


This is the first book to extensively study Joyce's work in the context of Germanic Romantic literary theory. It illustrates how Joyce's modern and postmodern innovation of the novel finds its theoretical roots in Friedrich Schlegel's conception of the Romantic, fragmentary novel. Verstraete discusses the relevance of Schlegel's early Romanticism to the young Joyce's essays on symbolic-realistic drama and argues that what has traditionally been described as Joyce's personal appropriation of Hegel's dialectics can better be understood in terms of Schlegel's ironic approach to philosophy. She relates Schlegel's concepts of irony and of the fragment to his feminist critique of nineteenth-century bourgeois art, and of Kant's categories of the beautiful and the sublime. She argues that Schlegel's ironization of the sublime yields a rhetorical subversion of the opposition between male artist and female model, art and reality, as well as between the sublime and the beautiful. Verstraete illustrates this critical and political force of what she calls the "feminine sublime" at work in Schlegel's essays on Greek comedy and in his novel Lucinde. The book demonstrates how the Romantic (feminine) sublime, as the site where autonomous art generates its own critique, offers us the tools with which to interpret Joyce's postmodern innovations of Romantic art.


"Fragments of the Feminine Sublime in Friedrich Schlegel and James Joyce is a well-researched work of comparative literature/comparative poetics. It juxtaposes two extremely important figures from Romantic and post-Romantic European culture, Friedrich Schlegel and James Joyce. Verstraete provides a provocative reading of each author's complex relationship with the Romantic idea(l) of the literary fragment. Her discussion of what she calls the 'feminine sublime' in Schlegel's Lucinde and of Joyce's 'demystification' of Schlegelian ideals in the 'Romantic' Portrait, 'modern' Ulysses, and 'postmodern' Finnegans Wake is convincing; and her claim that Joyce criticism fails to recognize its own (and Joyce's) 'conceptual foundations among the German Romantics' is well taken. " -- Brian W. Shaffer, Rhodes College

"Verstraete's style has suppleness and wit and sweeps the reader along to its inevitable conclusion. " -- G. Lernout, University of Antwerp