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Obsession: Maternity

Monday, October 5, 2009; 09:28 am Leave a comment Go to comments

Joyce plays with the idea of paternity much more than maternity in these chapters. Understanding maternity means teasing out the opposite of paternity. This fits with the place of women, especially in chapter nine. Like Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway, they exist between the lines.  “Paternity,” according to Stephan, “may be a legal fiction.” (170) On the other hand, Maternity serves as reality. “Amor matris, subjective and objective, may be the only true thing in life.” (170) This creates an interesting parallel between maternity and the rationality. Alternately paternity, by virtue of its uncertainty, becomes the realm of belief. Stephan goes so far as to as to hold paternity as the reason for the Churches founding. “On that mystery and not on the Madonna which the cunning Italian intellect flung to the mob of Europe the church is founded and founded irremovably because founded, like the world, macro and microcosm, upon the void. (170) Dedalus questions belief and thus paternity in these chapters preciously of it’s intangibility.

Similarly the trope of maternity a pregnancy provides language for the conception and dissemination of ideas. “Wait,” exclaims Mulligan, “ I am big with child. I have an unborn child in my brain.” (171) Later he identifies this thing as a play that he wants to “parturiate.” (171) However Mulligan ironically continues to identify with fatherhood even as he uses the language of motherhood to describe this idea. “Himself his own father, Sonmulligan told himself.” (171) Mulligan creates this sort of androgynous mixture of motherhood (birth) and fatherhood (because he is a man.) He also directly addresses the idea of androgyny. “…but that in the economy of heaven, foretold by hamlet, there are no more marriages, glorified man, and androgynous angel, being wife unto himself,” and thus, like Mulligan, mother unto himself. (175)

I’m not exactly sure what androgyny achieves however?

This is something I would like to address in class. I guess I see it as a solution. We can’t rely on paternity, because it is a fiction, neither can we take store in maternity because maternity itself arises from sin/ the original sin. (To support this, we see repeated references to Eve and the female adulterous.) Mixing maternity and paternity results in the best/ most virtuous conglomeration of the two.

Chapter 10 ushers the resurgence of the idea of unplanned motherhood. We see the young couple coming out from behind a bush.

Also Molly Bloom, per usual, mothers lazily by giving money. We see her reach out the window and drop money down to some street urchins. (185) She obviously feels some maternal pull because their voices incite her to act yet she wants to mother from her bed so she simply gives money.

I wanted to discuss this quote.

“Crooked botched print. Plates: infants cuddled in a ball in bloodred wombs like livers of slaughtered cows. Lots of them like that at this moment all over the world. All burning with their skulls to get out of it. Child born every minute somewhere. Mrs. Purefoy.” (193)

I guess I see this quote once again linking the dissemination of ideas to birth. In that this sloppily conceived idea/ capturing of an idea gets linked to a miscarriage or an abortion.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Wednesday, October 7, 2009; 03:10 am at 3:10 am

    I didn’t get to ask this in class, so I thought I ought to shoot it out to you. What do you think of Molly as per her role the “Angel in the House”? I realize that this is more of a maternal tangent than anything, but ideally Molly is doing exactly what she should be doing, staying at home, unnoticed, as Bloom imagines her making the beds with their maid. Her mothering, however distant, seems to fit the stereotype of the “Angel” at first glance, what with the money scene that you mentioned. Yet she’s engaged in the middle of an obvious affair, basically estranged from her daughter, who has gone into business through the onus of her father, and basically seems to be the prime example of bad mothering. What do you think Joyce is doing with the “Angel” stereotype?

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