Help My Unbelief: James Joyce and Religion

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Leading Joyce scholar, Geert Lernout, argues that Joyce's work can only be fully understood in the context of his unbelief. From the very beginning James Joyce's readers have considered him as a Catholic or an anti-Catholic writer, and in recent years the tendency has been to recuperate him for an alternative and decidedly liberal form of Catholicism. However, a careful study of Joyce's published and unpublished writings reveals that throughout his career as a writer he rejected the church in which he had grown up. As a result, Geert Lernout argues that it is misleading to divorce his work from that particular context, which was so important to his decision to become a writer in the first place. Arguing that Joyce's unbelief is critical for a fuller understanding of his work, Lernout takes his title from Ulysses , 'I believe, O Lord, help my unbelief. That is, help me to believe or help me to unbelieve?', itself a quote from Mark 9:24. This incisive study will be of interest to all readers of Joyce and to anyone interested in the relationship between religion and literature.