Indeed, the climax of my obsession in Ulysses occurs in Penelope when Molly says “lick my shit” (642). This is the point of no return, where the fine line that may or may not have existed between ingestion and excretion is completely obliterated. I must admit I’ve shied away from the economic nature of this moment (brought up briefly in class discussion) but I will also admit that this passage is the one that I simply cannot ignore any longer. The fierce intertwining of sex, transaction, and consumption culminate in Molly’s imagining Bloom worshipping her ass and also paying her (£1) for the experience, as she commands him to consume everything that comes out of her. Bloom obviously prefers this kind of sensual interaction, and Molly’s voice in Penelope shows her revulsion toward it but also her acceptance of it, as she says that she will “let out a few smutty words” that she knows will arouse him.
Looking back at the bread and butter theme, the two are almost always associated with Molly, but she never actually gets around to consuming bread with butter throughout the novel, at least not to my knowledge. In Calypso, Bloom remembers: “thin bread and butter she likes in the morning,” and in Penelope, Molly recalls the day she realized Boylan’s foot fetish, as she was “waggling [her] foot we both ordered a teas and plain bread and butter” (613). On the next page as she remembers her series of affairs she recalls the “main with the curly hair” she noticed when she was “tasting the butter” (614). Here, we have butter but no bread, and Molly is actually consuming it. I’m not sure if this is even remotely relevant, I was just fascinated by the association of Bloom with kidneys/organs and Molly with bread/butter.
This in no way consolidates my thoughts on the subject but in my defense: hey, it’s Ulysses.
Throughout Ulysses, my obsession of ingestion and excretion has led me mainly toward Bloom for several reasons. First, he is the character that seems to embody the complete in-and-out cycle, as we first see him in Calypso devouring very visceral food in great detail, and at the close of the chapter we also see his great satisfaction with his successful bowel movements in the latrine. Second, Bloom is the mot sensory character in the novel, not only with his obsession with ingestion and excretion but also his fixation on smells and taste. Finally, Bloom acts as an opposite of Stephen, who doesn’t seem to care much about anything sensory, and whom we rarely see ingest or excrete anything except booze and the occasional pee in the sea. However, in reading Penelope, I was pleased to find that my obsession relates nicely to Molly as well, providing yet another link between her and Bloom.
In Molly’s mind, food and sex are intertwined. The image of oysters is dominant in this chapter, having significance both in relating to femininity (being cloven) and also as a food that happens to be an aphrodisiac. While pondering Bloom’s affairs and recalling the time she fond long hairs on his coat, Molly muses “it was all his fault ruining servants then proposing that she could eat at our table on Christmas day if you please O no thank you not in my house stealing my potatoes and the oysters” (p609). Here, Bloom’s infidelity with the servant is worse when he asks Molly if she can eat with them, and not only that, but also to eat oysters. Molly’s thinking is also directed toward food in the domestic sense, as when she becomes distracted in thought about what to make for dinner tomorrow and she decides to make cod as a break from meat (641).
Ingestion and excretion are conflated in the image of putting Molly’s breast milk into tea. She seems simultaneously comfortable and uncomfortable with her own excretory processes, releasing blood and urine into the chamber pot and also taking the time to break wind. However, she does express anxiety about Bloom’s presence when she farts, as she wishes he would “sleep in some bed by himself with his cold feet on me give us room even to let a fart. . . that was a relief wherever you be let your wind go free” (628).
I’m also trying to trace the theme of bread, particularly buttered bread, in relation to Molly but I haven’t made a ton of progress. I’ll let you know if I’m onto anything substantial.
“Ulysses Upon Ajax? Joyce, Harington, and the Question of ‘Cloacal Imperialism.’” Author: Kelly Anspaugh.
Source: South Atlantic Review, Vol. 60, No. 2 (May, 1995). Pp. 11-29
So, I found a source that somewhat addresses my fascination with the Roman sewage system and how it relates to British imperialism and Irish nationalism in Ulysses, and also, conveniently, with poop. However, the passage addressed in this source is in Aeolus, which we passed over quite a long time ago. Nevertheless, I refuse to let go of this idea so I suppose you will have to bear with me for the time being.
The author lays out a set of premises in this article, some of which I had considered and some which I had not. She comes out and states that Joyce, “like Swift, . . . has a cloacal obsession,” quoting the English novelist H.G. Well’s review of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Yes, this has been established. However, the main point of her argument is that while Joyce’s obsession with excretion does relate to the concepts of British imperialism and Irish nationalism, she maintains that Joyce himself was not making an anti-imperialist statement in his extensive use of shit imagery throughout his works and mainly throughout Ulysses.
The passage referenced in Aeolus is under the subheading “THE GRANDEUR THAT WS ROME,” in which Professor MacHugh says, “think of Rome, imperial . . . What was their civilization? Vast, I allow: but vile. Cloacae: sewers . . . The Roman, like the Englishman who follows in his footsteps, brought to every new shore on which he set his foot (on our shore he never set it) only his cloacal obsession” (108).
Anspaugh brings up the connection between Joyce’s cloacal obsession that he apparently shared with the Cloacal Romans and the politically allegorical work of John Harington, A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, called the Metamorphosis of Ajax (1596). The English courtier, writer and inventor of the watercloset, could never again separate his literary achievements from his controversial piece, especially after he became renowned for inventing the flushing toilet. Anspaugh maintains that if Joyce learned anything from reading this piece by Harington, it was related to the use of mock indignation in satire. Obviously it’s not easy to pin down exactly how Joyce viewed British imperialism and Irish nationalism, especially when you throw shit into the whole equation, but at least now I know who to blame for the downfall of the British empire with their flushing toilets: it was all that bastard Harington’s fault.
I was struck by the pervasive toilet imagery present in the second half of Circe, with most of it occurring as Bloom hallucinates about becoming a dominated, feminized figure. The image of the rump is repeated several times, my favorites of which being “buttocksmothered” (p.436) “rumping jumping general” p.435) and if I’m not crazy I swear that “rumpsmothered” occurs also but I can’t find it at the moment. The theme surrounding the rump or the “end” (with the mouth being the beginning) relates to Bloom’s retransformation back into a submissive figure. Along with this are the images of enclosed spaces such as latrines/water closets, chamber pots, and coffins (the last is obviously not completely excretion-related but I kept seeing it come up and I didn’t want to forget about it). Bello tells Bloom on p.429 that his punishment will be “by day you will souse and bat our smelling underclothes also / when we ladies are unwell, and swab out our latrines with dress pinned up and a dishclout tied to your tail. . . you will make the beds, get my tub ready, empty the pisspots in the different rooms…” (3066). Clearly the most horrendous punishment one could think of is cleaning the toilets and soiled underwear of women who are unwell. Also, around line 3210 is also where Bello tells Bloom that they will “bury [him] in shrubbery jakes. . . suffocated in one cesspool. . . we will manure you, Mr Flower!” These enclosed places of shit remind me that Bloom now has a vulva (3089), thus banished to an embodied by the feminine association enclosed spaces, which is now inextricably tied to shit.
The other great moment that I wanted to point out is what I refer to as Guts or The Gut Episode, occurring on p.484-5. Not only do we get to see more of my favorite, hanging erections, but we also get the added bonus of ripped, smoking entrails in a draw-and-quarter session. This enclosed, private space of the intestines has been grossly violated in the drawing-and quartering process.
I also loved how the episode wraps up with the image of the “sow that eats her own farrow,” a lovely self-referencing image from Portrait.
I loved reading Circe because it seemed like elements of my obsession brought up previously in the novel just went and exploded, diarrhea-like, all together in the first part we read for today. The main actions associated with ingestion and excretion occur early on in the beginning of the chapter, with the mock-farting noises made by the officers (50), the mock-ingesting actions of Bloom with the stuffing of bread and chocolate into his pockets (he’s stuffing food somewhere, but not down his gullet), and finally the pervasive action of ass-wiping, which occurs mostly related to Bloom’s profession as an author, cue jokes about needing something with which to wipe one’s ass…how about the Freeman’s Urinal (810)? This reference struck me in particular as it directly links excretion with language, and the “bad” use of language involved in advertising.
One overarching image throughout Circe is breeches, specifically stained ones. In line 195, the Motorman refers to Bloom as “shitbreeches” and at the end A Voice instructs “Hold that fellow with the bad breeches” (2616). These references to soiled underpants painfully remind me of the lovely letters Joyce sent to his wife in which he praises her um… skid marks? I’m sorry, I digress.
The other dominant images of this section relate directly to pigs and pork and more organs, kidneys in particular. While these images are obviously linked with the Circe episode of the Odyssey in which Circe decides to transform all of Odysseus’ crew into pigs, these images hold a special meaning for Bloom in that they represent his deep-seeded anxieties of the soiled, the unkosher, and the unclean. He then feels guilty about buying the meat yet still refuses to waste it, instead feeding it to a dog. The fact that it Bloom can’t stop eating organs repeats itself almost obsessively in this chapter, with images of pork sausage, pork kidney, etc. popping up everywhere. I mean, in 1549 the room is shaped like a pork kidney. Good. Ness. PORK ON THE BRAIN. But no brains, thank god.