Tim Conley’s Useless Joyce provocatively analyses Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake and takes the reader on a journey exploring the perennial question of the usefulness of literature and art. Conley argues that the works of James Joyce, often thought difficult and far from practical, are in fact polymorphous meditations on this question. Examinations of traditional textual functions such as quoting, editing, translating, and annotating texts are set against the ways in which texts may be assigned unexpected but thoroughly practical purposes. Conley’s accessible and witty engagement with the material views the rise of explication and commentary on Joyce’s work as an industry not unlike the rise of self-help publishing. We can therefore read Ulysses and Finnegans Wake as various kinds of guides and uncover new or forgotten “uses” for them. Useless Joyce invites new discussions about the assumptions at work behind our definitions of literature, interpretation, and use.
"Useless Joyce provides an implicit defense of literary pleasure, with the teacher-critic serving as mediator of that pleasure."