James Joyce’s “Ivy Day in the Committee Room” and The Five Codes of Fiction

  • Raymond J. WilsonIIIEmail author
Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 109)


James Joyce’s short story “Ivy Day in the Committee Room” from his book Dubliners has often been criticized for being chaotic or at least random. Traditional methods of analysis, such as plot analysis, do not yield an idea of coherent structure. They thus appear to support the criticisms. However, when the story is subjected to an analysis based on Roland Barthes’ five codes from his book S/Z, the story is revealed to have both an overall structure and an intricate, detailed sub-structure of twelve scenes. The overall structure is largely provided by the operation of what Barthes called the Enigma Code. The detailed structure is provided by what Barthes called the Action Code. Barthes suggests using the Action Code to create a table, and one appears in this article. Barthes says that the elements in the table will “articulate” with each other; and an examination of the table created to Barthes’ specifications shows that the elements do indeed articulate both horizontally and vertically. Thus, an interesting irony arises in that both Joyce’s story and Barthes’ book have been accused of anarchistic construction, yet when Barthes’ system is applied to Joyce’s story the rigorous structure of the story emerges and the orderliness of the five code system is confirmed.


Action Code Textual Element Symbolic Code Political Corruption Socialist Party 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Loras CollegeDubuqueUSA

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