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Just a few quick thoughts on Motherhood

Monday, October 26, 2009; 04:11 pm Leave a comment Go to comments

Due to travel complications I’m just going to post a few thoughts on these chapters and them update for Wed.

Invisibility of Mothering:

1) Cissy’s Visible Mothering vs. Gerty invisible Mothering

Cissy’s mothering of her younger siblings appears campy and low (it almost makes her unfeminine) where as Gerty appears elegant although she is “just like a second mother house, a ministering angel too with a little heart worth its weight in gold” (291.)

2) Cissy attempting to teach her little brother to say “papa” despite the fact that he receives care from women (mothers.)

3) Smell as the “Source of Life” (307) and the idea of “Mansmell” (307.)

“And then she told him to say papa. ‘Say papa, baby. Say pa pa pa pa pa pa pa” (292.)

Also the hypocrisy of the men in 14 towards motherhood. They uphold the importance of motherhood and then disrespect mothers and the process of birth. (The idea of Mother Ireland.)

This is the new stuff and there will be more, I’m just behind…

I’m having a really hard time tying together notions of motherhood in chapter 14. There is so much going on its overwhelming.

1) The idea of the Minotaur reoccurs in this chapter. Page 327 runs through a whole vignette of women attracted to a bull. Later the idea of the minotaur sparks “an outlandish debate” in support of “the theory of copulation between women and males of brutes, his authority being his own avouchment in support of fables such as the Minotaur which the genius of the elegant Latin poet has handed down to us in the pages of his Metamorphoses” (336.) This response confronts the preceding theory that uterine development of humans with genetic disorders stopped at “some stage antecedent to the human” (336.) I wonder what to do with this idea of human birthing animal and the idea of human who are not fully human. Motherhood seems to blend human and animal. Bloom repeats his description of Milly as a filly, “She follows her mother with ungainly steps, a mare leading her filly foal” (338.) Following the drunken debate over humanimals Joyce writes, “Elk and yak, the bulls of Bashan and of Babylon, mammoth, and mastodon, they come trooping to the sunken sea Lacus Mortisi” (338.) We already seen motherhood equated with death – the return to the womb, the unconsciousness state – here animals return to a universal womb.


Bloom possesses an exaggerated fascination/connection with birth/maternity. “The man hearkened to her words for her felt with wonder women’s woe in travial that they have of motherhood and he wondered to look on her face that was a fair face…” (316) Furthermore Joyce parallels Blooms entrance to the maternity ward with an allusion to another Leopold entering a castle in search of care for a phallically incurred wound. “ Leopold came here to be healed for he was sore wounded in his breast by a spear wherewith a horrible and volatile salt and chrim as much as he might suffice” (317.)


At times Joyce even masculinizes birthing. His characters discuss “the prolongation of labour pains in advanced gravidancy by reason of pressure on the vein, the premature relentment of the amniotic fluid (as exemplifies in the actual case with consequent peril of sepsis to the matrix” (335.) These frame birth in phallic language.


We also see a return to the discussion of the Mulligan’s masculine pregnancy. “Mr. Dixon, to turn the table, took on to ask of Mr. Mulligan himself whether his incipitant ventripotence, upon which he rallied him, betokened an ovoblatic gestation in the prostatic utricle or male womb or was due, as with the noted physician, Mr. Austin Meldon, to a wolf in the stomach” (330.)

3) The commodification of motherhood/ reproduction.

When the drinking mates ask Bloom whether he would save the Mother’s life or the child’s life he responds that “it was good for that mother church belike at one blow had birth and death pence” and this seems to solve the matter (319.) Mulligan’s idea of Omphalos commodifies the male end of reproduction.

4) When Lynch pushes Dedalus to finish his work, Lenehan reassures Lynch that Dedalus will finish by saying “He could not leave his mother an orphan” (339.) Does anyone have any ides on this sentence?

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