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Motherhood in the End

Monday, November 16, 2009; 03:11 pm Leave a comment

The final chapter of this book seems to place the emphasis regarding women’s reproductive capacity on its ability to give pleasure (and be pleasurable) vs. its ability to produce children. Molly spends almost the entire chapter reminiscing on and yearning for pleasure none of which come from the sanctioned means of her husband. She thinks about her earlier adulterous rendezvous with Boylan, “I wish he was here or somebody to let myself go with and come again like that I feel all fire inside me.” She also thinks about her ability to independently gain pleasure through masturbation, even describing her use of a banana at one point.

Finally the later part of this chapter focuses on menstruation, not as some romanticized proof of female reproductive potential but as a terrible burden that impedes sexuality. Furthermore it provides proof of unfulfilled reproduction of non-motherhood. “O patience above its pouring out of me like the sea anyhow he didn’t make me pregnant as big as he is,” Molly thinks (633.)

In class on Mon. we talked about Molly’s separation from motherhood/ maternity and its genesis in Rudy’s death.  “I suppose I oughnt to have buried him in that little woolly jacket I knitted crying as I was but give it to some poor child but I knew well I d never have another our 1st death too it was we were never the same since O Im not going to think myself into the glooms about that any more, “ (640.) Instead of this conception of a Molly simply disinterested in mothering we realize a Molly still very much affects/ in denial of the death of her son.  However we see Molly maintaining the connection between herself and the bovine (like Bloom) instead of the equine (like Boylan.) After the Rudy’s birth partly because he’s not there to suckle, she produces an incredible quantity of milk. She literally begins fulfill the role of a commercial milk producer. Bloom milks her into his tea stating that “it was sweeter and thicker that cows” (621.) When Boylan slaps her on her bottom she reprimands him “Im not a horse or an ass am I” (610.) Despite her burying of the wool sweater she continues to feel a connection to the procreative nature of sex (partially because the absence of this connection (at least nominally) would link her to prostitution.)

Molly seems to feel almost shock yet she thinks “what was the good in going into mourning for what was neither one thing nor the other the first cry was enough for me I heard the deathwatch to ticking in the wall” (637.) I thought that this quote makes an interesting comment on the female/ mother ability to understand life and death realistically. As an intermediary between life and death, Molly unlike Bloom recognizes that her child’s feebleness.

Given these bovine illusions I kind of want to talk about Molly’s continual connection of herself with the butcher. On page 626, for example, she thinks “I never thought that would be my name Bloom when I use to write it in print to see how it looked on a visiting car or practicing for the butcher.”

I didn’t feel like we fully teased out the significance of Molly’s the potentially Oedipal relationship between herself and Stephan. We talked about it as another form of mixing the generations.

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Androgyny.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009; 04:34 pm Leave a comment

Rado, Lisa. “Hypsos’ or ‘Spadia’? Rethinking Androgyny in Ulysses with Help for Sacher-Masoch.” Twentieth Century Literature. 42.2 (1996): 193-207. Electronic.

 

Despite the age of this article, Lisa Rado makes an interesting argument about Joyce’s use of androgyny to critique gender hierarchy. She focuses specifically on the last four chapters of the Novel and particularly on the Bello episode in Circe. As her title suggests, Rado enlists Sacher- Masoch’s Venus of the Furs to aid her analysis (an idea we talked about in class last week.) She spends much of the first part of her paper explaining the analogy to Venus in the Bloom/Bello relationship. According to Rado, Joyce critiques Bloom’s “fetishistic and masochistic” reversal of gender roles in Circe by “comparing it to the transcendental experience of the sublime” (200.) Rado describes “dynamic parallels between the two experiences: the perilous confrontation with an all-powerful and transcendent other; the wish to merge with that other; the terror of being overcome and inundated; and the pleasure associated with the knowledge that utter annihilation with not occur” (200.) She argues that Joyce views “ hierarchy and domination” as a never-ending cycle that perpetuates “ rebellion and reversal” not enlightened equality (202.) Bloom leaves Bello’s grasp and almost immediately finds himself in another masochistic situation, peeping on Molly and Boylan through a keyhole. Bloom’s inability to escape this cycle points to the societal pressures that make escape nearly impossible. Rado concludes that this fact points to Joyce’s own inability to “come to terms with” the “radical cultural change” surrounding him while he wrote Circe (205.)

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Motherhood in Circe

Wednesday, November 4, 2009; 09:54 am Leave a comment

On Monday we discussed Cissy Caffrey’s role in this nightmare episode. In Nausicaa she provides the realistic mother figure and in this chapter she transforms into “only a shilling whore” (479.)  Her young charges run rampant in the night world of Dublin while she sings dirty songs about duck legs and cajoles with soldiers. Her female maternal capacity makes her part of the link between the nebulous world of non-existence (the space before birth and after death) and existence. We see this in the previous chapter, “The aged sisters draw us into life: we wail, batten, sport, clip, clasp, sunder, dwindle, dies: over us dead they bend” (322.) We also see this in the repeating dual images of the young fertile womb and the old “dead sea” womb of death. By disavowing her mother role Cissy breaks the bridge she, as woman, provides into existence. When she instigates a fight between Stephan and the Soldiers, Bloom implores her “Speak, you! Are you struck dumb? You are the link between nations and generations. Speak, woman, sacred lifegiver” (488.) Given the inability of men to connect life and death, the possibility of women rejecting motherhood would seem nightmarish especially in this deeply misogynist chapter. This could possibly play into the first wave (ish) feminism that was historically occurring in Ireland at the time of Ulysses publication (especially given that prostitution serves as an extreme form of female entrepreneurship – selling their own bodies.)

Interestingly the idea of “lesbic” shows up in this chapter. Lesbianism represents the ultimate female rejection of the heteronormative procreator/maternal role. Stephan says, “Caoutchouc statue woman reversible or lifesize tompeeptom of virgins nudities very lesbic the kiss five ten times (465.) Zoe also “seizes” Florry to waltz with her (472.) Later they are identified as a couple, “All wheel whirl waltz twirl Bloombella Kittylynch Florryzoe jujuby women” (472.) I’m not really sure how to unpack this idea further.

Stephan’s mother also shows up again in this chapter. I must confess I do not completely understand her presence. She seems to show up as a reminder of the inevitability of death. Stephan imagines his father breaking in to dancing revelry by saying “Think of your mother’s people” and Stephan responds “Dance of Death” (472.) Annotated Ulysses identifies this as referring to the “literary or visual presentation of the power of death over the lives of all men” (516.) Later the mother reminds Stephan “All must go though it, Stephan. More women than men in the world. You too. Time will come “473.) This passage also seems to draw a connection between birth and death in her specific reference to women and her lack of specificity in the word “all.” This makes sense with her connection to the watery womb ocean from which we have all come and will all return to. “Our great sweet mother! Epi oinopa ponton,” exclaims Buck Mulligan (472.) She appears as an ultimate mother, praying for her sons soul when he neglects to pray for hers (except that she is decomposing.) She almost represents the underworld version of the virgin Mary or somehow the fall of the virgin. The mother says “(with the subtle smile of death’s madness) I was once the beautiful May Goulding. I am dead” (473.) Also she appears wearing a wreath of faded orange blossoms and a torn bridal veil” (473.) The orange blossoms symbolize  of the virginal bride on her wedding day but the tear in her veil implies violation.

I will add more to this post.

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Motherhood at a Glance

Monday, November 2, 2009; 08:33 am Leave a comment

This chapter makes Bloom’s femininity blatant, actually labeling him a “womanly man” (403.) He admits he secret desire to give birth,  “O, I do so want to be a mother,” he dreams. (403.) Then in this dream he does actually birth 8 sons. What can we make of Bloom’s desire for motherhood and his dream that his gives birth? Does this link in with the desire to birth ideas or is he birthing a nation?

Also the Man in the Macintosh accuses Bloom of actually having the last name of Higgins — his mother’s maiden name. “Don’t you believe a word he say,” the Macintosh Man exclaims, ” That man is Leopold LMIntosh, the notorious fireaiser. His real name is Higgins.” (395.) This speaks claim speaks to the certainty of motherhood versus the unprovable   nature of fatherhood.

Also Bloom gets described as “the white bull mentioned in the Apocalypse.” (401.) In this position he becomes the father of the minotaur.

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Just a few quick thoughts on Motherhood

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

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.

2)

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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Molly Bloom Masquerader

Wednesday, October 14, 2009; 09:29 am Leave a comment

Devlin, Kimberly J. (1991.) Pretending in “Penelope”: Masquerade, Mimicry, and Molly Bloom. NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, 25(1), 71-89.

Although Devlin published this article in 1991, I think that it presents a number of helpful interpretations of femininity and specifically the complicated femininity of Molly Bloom. Devlin presents the idea that the femininity Molly depicts represents a calculated gender performance and not passive compliance with a gender stereotype. This idea of Molly the actress provides the main focus of the article. Molly traverses contrasting and often conflicting femininities based on their ability to serve her interests. Devlin asserts that Molly “conceptualizes” these experiences as a “dramatic performance for a posited general audience, a performance that might be followed by a write-up in the newspaper,” (and draw greater attention to her vocal career) (Devlin, 78.) While most of Devlin’s analyses of Molly focuses on the last chapter, Penelope, I thought that this idea of the female masquerade might apply to Miss. Douce and Miss. Kennedy in chapter 12. Joyce draws a parallel between these girls and Molly by linking both to images of the sea. We talked on Monday about the shear number of eyes that weigh down on them; they perform for an audience as well (especially given that their blatant flirtations with much older men result in more drinks, more profit for them.) We also talked on Monday about opposition of two women’s interaction between themselves and their performance once these intrusive men enter their conversation. I also thought about the idea of performance and mimicry in terms of Molly’s relation to the mermaid image.  I thought about the littlest Mermaid masquerading as human in order to earn the affection of the prince and ultimately failing. This idea of mimicry also brings up the idea of transvestitism that we’ve been talking about. Devlin writes, “Although critics sometimes assume that Molly wants to be a man, her language makes it clear that she simply wants to try on the part, and only temporarily” (88.) Devlin holds this depiction of transvestitism as an important point of resistance to dominant discourses. “Putting on ‘womanliness’ that repeatedly puts on ‘manliness’ allowed Joyce to articulate one of his canniest critiques of the ideology that produces the oppressive categories themselves” (89.)

Devlin also deconstructs Molly’s place in the nature vs. culture, the feminine vs. masculine dichotomy. “Molly’s position as critic of cultural fraudulence might seem to align her with nature,” writes Devlin and she explains that many critiques accept Molly as natural. (81.) However Devlin complicates this idea by stating “Molly understands the cultural so thoroughly” (81.) She describe Molly as a woman who “challenges cultural pretense – not through the ‘alternative’ of nature – but through parodies of cultural pretense, through hyperbolic elaborations of it” (81.)  I didn’t know exactly what to do with this but I’ve been thinking about this in relation to the idea of the mermaid as well. This idea of the half-human/half-natural hybrid that Bloom continuously links Molly with. In her conclusion Devlin writes, “Writing Molly, Joyce forges a female voice that exposes, in gestures of travestic imitation, the en-gendered linguistic performances of her culture” (89.) The sentence presents the idea of a “her culture” that is uniquely female and crosses the divide between the masculine culture and the feminine nature by creating a feminine culture.

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Obsession: Maternity

Monday, October 5, 2009; 09:28 am 1 comment

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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