An essay by James Goodwin and Bloom’s relation to teleology and the orgasm
Eisenstein, Ecstasy, Joyce, and Hebraism by James Goodwin, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 26, No. 3
*Before I get into it I’d like to apologize to Josh for stepping on the toes of his obsession and simultaneously snagging an article we discovered in equal parts!
keywords: endings, bowels, humor, Freud
Because this article deals a lot with Sergei Eisenstein, a little with Joyce, and a little less with Freud, I’ll try to highlight the pertinent areas, though I strongly recommend the article for anyone interested in the intersections of psychoanalysis, and film, and orgasms.
James Goodwin’s article “Eisenstein, Ecstasy, Joyce, and Hebraism” sketches a rather neat comparison between the drawings of Soviet filmmaker, and pioneer of the visual arts, Sergei Eisenstein and James Joyce’s Ulysses (more specifically Joyce’s character Mr Leopold Bloom). For Goodwin, Eisenstein and Joyce, share a similar aversion to the Freudian wedding of all religion to the orgasm (the male one obviously). Yet, he argues, they display this conceptual aversion in a paradoxical and perhaps quintessentially Joycean way “by making “sexual and spiritual motifs equally explicit” (554).
According to the article, Joyce thought little of psychoanalysis, even referring to it as “a form of ‘blackmail’”, an allusion, Goodwin suggests, to the way in which humor is seen in a psychoanalytic mode as an incriminating view into one’s unconscious. Moreover, as Bloom’s introduction makes explicit, Joyce “staunchly rejected mystifications of the drives and instincts, and he favored instead the mysteries and multiplicity of consciousness,” (555). Now how does this all relate to Bloom, my obsession of beginnings and endings, religion and the orgasm, well here goes…
First of all there is Bloom as a representation of “The Wandering Jew”. As I discussed in my previous obsession post, the metaphor of the Wandering Jew stands in opposition to teleological modes, both of history and religion—think Deasy’s conception of history, and the redemptive/heavenly aspect of Catholicism. The formulation then follows that teleology in Joyce’s mind is connected with notions of climax, orgasm, etc.
What do we do then with Blooms obsession with the phallus, fellatio, and the color white? Returning to Goodwin’s argument, it would appear that Joyce uses Bloom’s overemphasis of the sexual aspects of religion in general as a way of wedding spirituality and sexuality with one another and thereby downplaying the repressive, orgasmic and teleological organization (pun intended) that characterizes the Catholic Church. Blooms association with the phallus, the Wandering Jew, feminization, and un-climactic (not anti-climactic) endings supports this interpretation. Bloom is in no doubt sexualized, yet there is something odd about him. He is phallic, but so are the women he ogles (i.e. the woman carrying sausages), he hyper-sexualizes the church, but ends a chapter staring at his limp penis. We may even tie in the regularity of Bloom’s bowel movements and inability to tell a joke, as examples of his disconnect from strains of teleology. After all isn’t the end result of constipation (think Freud’s anal stage) an orgasm of sorts, and aren’t punch-lines, especially for Freud, ejaculations of the unconscious?
All this is to say, Bloom literally embodies the metaphor of the Wandering Jew, and lets keep an out for how this embodiment develops… Future question: How does Bloom find closure? How does all this relate to Bloom’s cultural relativism, and apparent amorality?