Home > Uncategorized > “A nation is the same people living in the same place”: Basically everything I wrote about last time, redux

“A nation is the same people living in the same place”: Basically everything I wrote about last time, redux

Monday, October 12, 2009; 02:27 am Leave a comment Go to comments

Oh man, “Cyclops” pretty much brings all of the things I wrote about last week regarding Judaism and Irish nationalism (and by implication, Zionism) together, so that’s great. It seems like the citizen and co. have a pretty conventionally anti-Semitic view of Bloom (comparing him to Shylock and saying that “beggar my neighbor is his motto” (1491)—although I may be missing something more complex here) but the really interesting parts are how their view of their own nation contrasts with Bloom’s.

Bloom’s conception of a nation is “the same people living in the same place” (1422-3), and consequently he sees himself as Irish because he “was born here” (1431). This contrasts with the citizen’s idea of a much more racialized nation, which at once allows for a “greater Ireland beyond the sea” (1364-5) and means that Bloom belongs either to Hungary or Israel but emphatically not Ireland (the narrator’s use of Bloom’s alleged ‘Hungarian name,’ Lipóti Virag (1816), confirms that he thinks that ‘Leopold Bloom’ is some sort of pseudonym instead of his real name). It makes sense that the citizen would yell “Three cheers for Israel!” (1791) if it means that the Jews will leave Ireland for their own racialized nation once and for all (that this makes the citizen more of a supporter of Israel than Bloom himself is a pretty weird thing, nevertheless). All of this relates to what I wrote about in my last post about Bloom’s relationship to Zionism as well; Bloom thinks that he belongs in Ireland, so he’s not a fervent Zionist (even if a Jewish state would ideally provide refuge from people like the citizen).

So Bloom doesn’t see his Jewishness as a factor in which nation he is a part of. What’s strange, however, is how when Bloom fights back against the citizen’s words, he says “Mendelssohn was a jew and Karl Marx was a jew and Mercadante and Spinoza. And the Saviour was a jew and his father was a jew” (1804-5), which is true and all except for the fact that pretty much everyone he mentions renounced Judaism at one point or another (like Bloom’s father). I don’t yet know what this means, but I think it complicates the issue of Bloom’s Jewish identity in ways which will hopefully become apparent later.

The very end of “Cyclops” is also worth noting. Bloom escapes from the scene as if he were the prophet Elijah ascending to heaven in a golden chariot. With the “Elijah is coming” note that we’ve seen floating all over Dublin and the claim that Bloom is “the new Messiah for Ireland” (1642), this is basically setting up Bloom to save someone already (like Stephen?) when he reemerges.

Lastly, although this is only tangentially related to Judaism, I noted at the end of my post last week that there seems to be this parallelism between nationalism and masculinity (as was the case with Dlugacz, the deep-voiced Zionist), and all the talk about penises among the nationalists in this chapter (talk about Jewish circumcision (19), about Ireland having “the third largest harbour in the wide world with a fleet of masts,” (1303-4), etc.), and all the peeing (and, um, the fact that this is a chapter about a nationalist one-eyed monster) seems to reinforce this in a big way.

Update: We talked in class about how Judaism is matrilineal, and since Molly’s not Jewish that means that Bloom doesn’t have the means to transfer his religion onto his children (“Last of my race” he says (11.1066), and even though he thinks for a second that Rudy being alive would somehow fix this, it ultimately wouldn’t have any effect). This further plays into Bloom’s total emasculation, as a result, from his exclusion in a totally masculine space of Irish racial nationalism (I mean come on, when Bloom and company are looking up at “old Dan O’s” (Daniel O’Connell’s) “lofty cone” in Hades (6.642-3), they’re looking at this and look at that! It’s phallic and it has a big cross on top! What could exclude Bloom more?!). If Bloom’s emasculation somehow results in his exclusion from the Irish nation though, I wonder how both the Sirens chapter and, later, the introduction of Molly’s voice, change things for him? Do they at all?

Man, I keep trying to steer away from talking about Judaism’s relationship to nationalism but it just keeps coming back to that. I’m not sure if that’s the text’s doing or mine.

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  1. Ann
    Tuesday, December 4, 2012; 05:53 am at 5:53 am

    Hi there! Interesting post, you’ve brought up many points I hadn’t considered. I’ve just finished reading Cyclops and was wondering if you had any insight as to what Bloom means by what he says about the nation?
    I don’t entirely grasp why they laugh afterwards…

    What is it? says John Wyse.
    —A nation? says Bloom. A nation is the same people living in the same place.
    —By God, then, says Ned, laughing, if that’s so I’m a nation for I’m living in the same place for the past five years.
    So of course everyone had the laugh at Bloom and says he, trying to muck out of it:….

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