Posts Tagged ‘Masochism’

The end (or mostly a lack of endings)

Sunday, November 15, 2009; 11:47 pm Leave a comment

Bloom’s own ambivalent relationship to Judaism underscores the importance of the theme to Ulysses as a whole. This is interesting considering the history of criticism surrounding the novel, which until very recently tended to push Bloom’s Jewishness, and Bloom as a whole, to the side in favor of Stephen (more on this for Wednesday). Bloom’s relationship to Judaism oscillates between total identification (in Cyclops) and total disavowal (in Eumaeus and elsewhere), and this is underscored by the fact that his actual religious connection to Judaism is tenuous at best. Leopold’s father Rudolph converted from Judaism to Protestantism and Leopold himself converted to Catholicism, so he’s two steps removed from his ancestors’ religion. Furthermore, Bloom’s mother is a Protestant, so in a matrilineal religion like Judaism he’s the “last of my race” (11.1066) from the start. Penelope does throw in a really interesting alternative to this, as Molly’s mother is ostensibly a “Jewess” (18.1184), so Jewish blood technically runs not only through her (a Catholic religiously), but also through Leopold’s kids (and it’ll continue through Milly).

So there’s that. Given the fact that Bloom has himself converted to Catholicism, it makes sense that his Jewishness is almost exclusively cultural, without knowledge of the Hebrew language or much else besides rudimentary ceremonial procedures and the like (17.743-4). It’s especially tragic that Bloom faces anti-Semitism around Dublin despite not even being technically Jewish; he’s thrust into the societal position of a Jew, and consequently exhibits traits of femininity and masochism highlighted by Marilyn Reizbaum and others, in some sense (especially in Circe) seeming to enjoy the amount of abuse he receives.

Bloom understandably he puts a lot of thought into ways to solve the question of what to do with nationless Jews in a Europe that’s divided by nation-states. In Calypso, he comes across a pamphlet advertising Agendath Netaim (4.191), a planters organization in Palestine for Jews to return to their ancestral homeland. Bloom is pretty critical of this solution to the Jewish question, thinking that the Agendath scheme seems like a money-grabbing scam, and besides, Bloom considers himself Irish and thinks that he ought to be accepted by Ireland first and foremost. Nevertheless, despite eventually burning the Agendath pamphlet in Ithaca, his dream of a New Bloomusalem in Circe features Bloom as a distinctly David-like king, showing that even his conception of an ideal nation devoid of oppression is headed by a Jewish leader (that he’s a king, that this isn’t a Sinn Fein democracy, is important too, as is the fact that this is in a dream featuring talking soap and Bloom himself giving birth to eight children).

I’m still not sure how or even if Ulysses resolves Bloom’s quest for a homeland. He ends Ithaca literally kissing Molly’s ass, which smells of milk and honey, but so what? Maybe Bloom’s metempsychotic relationship with Moses (and his constant wandering and like every other way Bloom is characterized throughout the novel) means that he won’t live to see any kind of resolution, whether in Israel or Ireland.

The other facet of my obsession relates to how others view Judaism in Ulysses. There’s a lot of Irish nationalists who invoke the ancient Israelites as a precursor to Ireland and its striving for freedom from outside rule. This first serves as a contrast to the non-Jewish characters’ occasionally flagrant anti-Semitism (as in Aeolus and Cyclops), but also sets up a dichotomy that I haven’t yet been able to parse out entirely, that of Hellenism and Hebraism. Buck Mulligan says in Telemachus that Ireland ought to be Hellenized by the likes of himself and Stephen (1.158), in order to make it less Hebraic (using a dichotomy set up by Matthew Arnold and others in the 19th century). Throughout the novel there’s a distinction between Greeks and Hebrews, which can perhaps be tied to Nietzschean slave/master moralities, text versus sight, et cetera. I also want to further explore the Circe conflation of the two (“Jewgreek is greekjew” (15.2097-8)) and the recurring image of Michelangelo’s Moses (again, a unification of the two sides?).

Wait, what? (Some mysteries in Ithaca!)

Monday, November 9, 2009; 04:10 am Leave a comment

I’m going to focus on Ithaca, and specifically two parts in Ithaca that I just don’t get. But first, here’s a basic outline of developments in the chapter (I didn’t really find much pertinent material in Eumaeus):

Bloom is finally embracing his Judaism in a big way. He sings Hatikvah (763-4), a Zionist anthem, to Stephen, and he sort of sees himself as a Moses figure, “with the light of inspiration shining in his countenance and bearing in his arms the secret of his race” (339-40) here to bring “Light to the gentiles” (355). There’s also a weird way that Bloom simultaneously gives up any dreams of Zionism (he burns the Agendath prospectus (1325-6)) while achieving his own personal Zion through entry into Molly’s bed (her butt is “redolent of milk and honey” (2232-3) and “plump mellow yellow smellow melons” (2241), which have been associated with Israel for a while now)).

There’s also an account of the day through the lens of Jewish ceremony (2044-58), which is both cool and also characterizes all of the actions of the day as working towards Bloom’s salvation of some sort (I’m particularly struck by the bookhunt as representing Simchath Torah (2049), the simultaneous end and beginning of the reading of the Torah, and all the stuff about atonement and repentance). Seeing all the suffering Bloom endures (much of it intentional) as a means to salvation and the only way to return to Molly/Israel maybe legitimizes his masochism in ways that just calling him self-hating doesn’t.

But then there’s the weird stuff. When Bloom sings to Stephen Hatikvah, Stephen responds with a really anti-Semitic song about Jewish ritual murder (802). Stephen! Way to ruin the mood! I don’t particularly understand why Bloom is smiling (810), but I really don’t understand why Stephen would sing such a song in the first place! In the Marilyn Reizbaum book I read a few weeks ago, she explained that it’s proof that Stephen is just as much a part of Ireland as other less palatable characters like the Citizen and thus acts just as anti-Semitically, but is that it? Why is Stephen doing this?

Also, one of the most perplexing things I’ve found yet in Ulysses occurs on page 563, when Stephen and Bloom are writing Irish and Hebrew letters. “Stephen wrote the Irish letters for gee, eh, dee, em, simple and modified, and Bloom in turn wrote the Hebrew characters ghimel, aleph, daleth and (in the absence of mem) a substituted qoph, explaining their arithmetical values as ordinal and cardinal numbers, videlicet 3, 1, 4, and 100” (736-40). The perplexing thing is that neither GEDM (in Gaelic) nor G’DQ or G’DM (in Hebrew) means anything! I don’t think these lines are just a rehash of the “Aleph Beth Ghimel Daleth Hagadah Tephilim Kosher [. . .]” (15.1623) line from Circe, but then if it isn’t that, what is it? Online Hebrew root dictionaries have yielded absolutely nothing for GDQ or GDM, and another source I found said that GEDM is not an Irish word by any stretch.

Edit: After Monday’s class, I have answers for both of these questions. As we discussed, it appears that Stephen is singing an anti-Semitic song either a) to consciously distance himself from Bloom and his household, or b) because he’s totally clueless and values his end point so much more than the means by which he gets to that point that he accidentally offends Bloom without meaning to.

My other question, about the incomprehensible letter choices that Stephen and Bloom use to illustrate their languages, maybe has an answer in Professor Simpson’s analysis of initials in Ulysses. Neither G’DQ/G’DM or GEDM means anything inherently in Hebrew or Gaelic (which makes sense, since neither Stephen nor Bloom possess any knowledge of these languages other than “certain grammatical rules of accidence and syntax and practically excluding vocabulary” (17.743-4)). In a way this seems to echo the “U.P: up” initials: neither Bloom nor Stephen understand what they’re writing, but they’re nevertheless able to create a union between themselves through the initials (which are indecipherable to both them and us). “G’DM” and “GEDM” look a little like “goddamn” too, if that’s something.

What else I can add basically just layers more levels of symbolism on top of what we talked about on Monday. Kosher law forbids mixing milk and meat because it removes the potential for reproduction (drinking the mother’s milk while eating the baby), so Bloom’s lack of adherence to it adds to his egg eating and his desire to make Molly use an umbrella.

We also talked a lot about moderation as the key to Ulysses on Monday, and I’m unsure how Bloom’s politics of Judaism fits into that. I haven’t totally resolved New Bloomusalem in my mind—it’s not really moderate in scope, but it’s the only approach Bloom considers that incorporates both Zionist and assimilationist ideas, and it’s at the same time the one that clearly exists solely within his head. Somehow the conclusion of Ithaca, with Bloom laying his head on Molly’s milk-and-honey butt, doesn’t seem like a satisfying conclusion to me in terms of Bloom’s politics and his place in Irish society.

Bloomusalem in the Nova Hibernia of the future

Wednesday, November 4, 2009; 05:52 am Leave a comment

There are a few really essential moments relating to Judaism in Circe, so I’ll deal with those here:

As I mentioned in my notes for Monday, the Bloom-as-King-Daniel scene is really odd, but it shows the kind of society in which Bloom can live and so I think it’s the most useful scene to my obsession in the chapter. It’s prefaced by the question of whether he’s a “Messiah ben Joseph or ben David” (15.1834) (that is, a messiah who will establish Israel or one who will bring about a new world) and his answer, “You have said it” (1836), makes him both. Thus, he creates a (literal) dream world where “Bloomusalem in the Nova Hibernia of the future” has among other things “Esperanto the universal language with universal brotherhood” (1544-5, 1691-2). Bloomusalem is the perfect solution to Bloom’s problems—it’s at once a Jewish state and an Irish state, but also an explicitly international state which seems perfectly inclusive of Bloom who doesn’t fit into one nation or another. That this is a dream, and that this is all a pretty empty idea (Bloom’s speech, “Aleph Beth Ghimel Daleth Hagadah Tephilim Kosher Yom Kippur Hanukah Roschaschana Beni Brith Bar Mitzvah Mazzoth Askenazim Meshuggah Talith” (1623-5), is actually just nonsense) makes me hope that Joyce provides some real way for Bloom to live with his identity instead of this totally idealized one that’s derived from the Biblical past rather than the present (a divide that Bloom hasn’t really crossed before now).

Bloom’s masochism really shines here too, and it’s brought out most extremely by Bella Cohen, who happens to be a Jew herself. The fact that Bloom focuses so intently on tying a shoe on her (cloven unkosher) horse hoof (2810), and then the hoof talks to him, adds a dietary aspect to his hangups which are otherwise mostly about sex and power. That the Bella-as-Bello section ends with a Jewish funeral service (3219) seems to explicitly tie together the total and utter masochism of the section with Judaism in the most explicit way yet.

I also want to talk about the phrase “Jewgreek is greekjew” (2097-8). The Hellenism/Hebraism debate has been conflated but I don’t know how this came about (except for, as the Blaimres says, with the joining of Bloom and Stephen, but there’s certainly more here).

Also, what’s with the backwards writing section? “Htengier Tnetopinmo Dog Drol eht rof, Aiulella!” (4708) explicitly connects right-to-left Hebrew writing (later referenced again with the appearance of Rudy) with dogs? And dog worship? And Bloom’s connection with dogs? In a way I’m worried that Joyce has been writing secret “Hebrew” clues backwards throughout the book and that now I have to go back and find them.

(P.S. There’s a second reference to Michelangelo’s Moses in this chapter (From the forehead of Judge Frederick Falkiner, notable Dublin anti-Semite, “arise starkly the Mosaic ramshorns” (1164-5), so here’s a link to an image of that. Look at ’em ramshorns!)

Some Freud and Nietzsche and masochism and cuckoldry

Wednesday, October 28, 2009; 06:23 am Leave a comment

Reizbaum, Marilyn. James Joyce’s Judaic Other. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999.

I found a good book, but one that I won’t by any means be able to fully summarize in this post. For now I’ll focus on the first and third chapters as the second is largely historical background and the fourth is called “The Temptation of Circe” and since I haven’t read Circe yet it might be better to proceed after I do that.

The first chapter, “Thematics of Jewishness” outlines basic themes tied to Judaism that are present in Ulysses. A lot of this simply confirms and elaborates on what I’ve been noticing myself: in addition to themes of Zionism, Jews as usurers, etc., it also discusses the fundamental ‘impossibility’ of Jews as both insiders and outsiders; they’re simultaneously seen as fundamentally different from Irish/European society and assimilated to the point where they’re totally unrecognizable, at once unwilling to embrace the “true god” and totally “’modern’ and secular” (30). Reizbaum explains that the constant otherness of Jews results them being “in the untenable position of being always fixed in a stereotype and hence ostensibly identityless in any conventional sense” (34). That Bloom is mostly defined as Jewish externally (with the exception of his declaration in Cyclops) seems to confirm this impossible notion.

The third chapter, “Poetics of Jewishness,” delves a lot deeper. Using the works of Nietzsche, Freud and Otto Weininger (all of whom the author contends Joyce had on his bookshelf and thus read), Reizbaum discusses “how the central issues and concerns of Ulysses—such as belonging, betrayal, irresolution, reunion—are necessarily (although not exclusively) informed by the figures and figurations of Jewishness” (51). I’m not as well-versed in Nietzsche and Freud as I should be in discussing this, but I’ll explain what I’ve found useful. Sorry in advance if this part is a mess.

There’s a lot of talk about Jewish self-hatred and masochism present in Bloom and elaborated by Freud and Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s notion of a slave morality (as developed by the Jews, and in contrast to the Hellenic master morality) places nobleness in the realm of the oppressed, but in order for the oppressed to remain noble they must keep an other around to do the oppressing.  Tying in Freud, Reizbaum explains that the oppressed group will “both internalize contempt experienced from without and identify with the source of the contempt in an effort to emulate and escape” (59), resulting in self-hatred. So, Bloom “seems to participate in his own victimization/self-sabotage, and to take a certain relish in his own suffering. Bloom, in one way, perpetuates his position as underdog, as betrayed, as cuckold, at the same time that he suffers from these positions. He has a certain investment in himself as victim” (67).

There are also numerous discussions about Jewishness’s intersections with gender, largely through the work of notable sexist and anti-Semite (and converted Jew!) Otto Weininger. For Weininger, all people are part man and part woman, with the male part being “positive, productive, logical, conceptual, capable of genius (56), and the female part being pretty much a lack of these things. For Weininger, Jews are much more female than most men, and that’s the problem with them. This notion of Jews and lack (oh hey, circumcision!) is a trope maybe worth following in the novel.

Reizbaum also talks about cuckoos and cuckoldry. Since cuckoos are birds that lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, it’s possible to see Joyce’s cuckoos in Nausicaa as representing Irish racialist nationalism’s notion of Jews as invading the Irish nest (that they can’t go home to their own nest then ties into Zionism again). Also maybe syphilis and disease in general?

Finally, Reizbaum writes that Nietzsche “admires the Jews for their suffering, their perseverance, and their ability to violate their own dogma in the interest of enlightenment” (55). This supposed characteristic of Judaism might explain both Bloom’s lack of interest in keeping Kosher and his mental excursions into unappealing territories.

So yeah! Sorry this is so long and convoluted and maybe depressing. I feel like this is a pretty touchy subject in that Joyce seems to be working uncritically with a lot of pretty terrible stereotypes about Jews but it’s maybe unreasonable to expect him to do otherwise given his time and place.

Ulysses Sources

Wednesday, September 16, 2009; 10:38 pm Leave a comment

Group 1: Zyme Burris, Amy Haddow, and Mariot Huessy

Ulysses Sources and Reviews Below:

The New Bloomsday Book: A Guide Through Ulysses; James Joyce Quarterly; Joyce and the Victorians; and Recognizing Masochism: Psychoanalysis and Politics of Sexual Submission in Ulysses

The New Bloomsday Book: A Guide Through Ulysses – Zyme Burris

The first Bloomsday Book was published in 1966 by Harry Blamires, an Anglican theologian, literary critic, and novelist. His purpose then was to ease new readers of James Joyce into the complexities of Ulysses while making the work itself more available to a broader audience.

“I should like to think that, used alongside the text, The Bloomsday Book will enable the reader to get from his first reading of Ulysses an understanding which, without my guide, it might have taken him several readings to arrive at.”

– Harry Blamires, in the 1966 Introduction.

In keeping his Book accessible to beginners, Blamires deliberately avoids developing and elaborating upon the critical discussion surrounding Ulysses, and instead focuses on the widely known and universally accepted critical interpretations of the structures, motifs, symbols, allusions, and cultural and literary references employed throughout the book. He accomplishes this by delivering a page-by-page cross-referential summary of the book, broken into its three parts and eighteen episodes with their Homeric titles. The Book’s Third Edition (c.1996) continues to cater to the new reader, offering updated page numbers in the margins for the current editions of Ulysses (Gabler in normal type, Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics in italicized, and Oxford University Press World Classics in brackets), a Bloom and Dedalus Family Tree, and minor additions and alterations to the content.

The New Bloomsday Book: A Guide Through Ulysses has become a staple of Joyce scholarship, especially for first time readers of Ulysses. As such, most scholars start with it, but quickly move beyond it after the first few read-throughs. Perhaps because of it being a straightforward paraphrase of Ulysses there is little in the way of literary reviews in journals (online or offline) for the Third Edition. provides supplemental citations of the texts discussed in the Book that could be used to further one’s research: .

James Joyce Quarterly – Mariot Huessy

Published by the University of Tulsa, The Quarterly is a peer-reviewed journal collecting recent Joycean scholarship every quarter year. The publishers’ aim is “to provide an open, lively, and multidisciplinary forum for the international community of Joyce scholars, students, and enthusiasts” (JJQ Website). Not only does the quarterly publish articles, but it also keeps lists of Joyce related events throughout the year (making it a more scholarly form of a fan site), as well as reviews, Joyce-related literature, and notes on texts. Our library has every year’s compilation of four journals on the fourth floor, from the fall of 1963 to 2007’s issues. There are over 40 journals available in Burling, and while the first few are neat, slim volumes, the Quarterly quickly expanded in size and breadth of topics.

The good news is that there is a lot to choose from. The bad news is that you can’t just pick up the first volume and page through until you find something that looks useful and interesting. The first volume that any of us will want to begin with is volume 40, which contains a cumulative index of all the articles ever published by the Quarterly. There have been four more journals published since volume 40, but going straight to the index will cut the search time. It is also possible to search through the journals on EBSCOHost (make certain that you specify the James Joyce Quarterly when using advanced search) but no online version of the articles exists to my knowledge, so we can’t just print them out and mark them up. Still, EBSCO will tell you the volume you’re looking for when you search for the full text which is useful if you don’t want to hang around the fourth floor of Burling all that long.

The index is huge, if you’re looking through the hard copy. While trying not to limit yourself, I would suggest going directly to the section of the index where the articles specifically about Ulysses are listed. This section is cunningly entitled Ulysses. Work your way out from there, into the Notes, Reviews, Poetry and Prose of Joyce, if you can’t find enough work relating to your topic just in the immense section dedicated to our particular book. This is a brilliant resource, but it will require a lot of sifting in order to find what you need.

Other Resources:

James Joyce Quarterly Website:

Amy Hadow

Schwarze, Tracey Teets. Joyce and the Victorians. Florida: University Press of Florida, 2002. Print.

Tracey Schwarze’s, Joyce and the Victorians, offers chapters that unpack a variety of gender issues in James Joyce’s Ulysses. This makes it a particularity useful text for information on my obsession – motherhood. Initially chapter titles like “Female Complaints: ‘Mad’ women, Malady, and resistance in Joyce’s Dublin,” and “New Women, male Pests, and Gender in the Public,” caught my eye. This book also features a chapter on masculinity in Ulysses entitled “’Do you call that a man?’: The Discourse of Anxious Masculinity in Ulysses.” The person obsessing over Paternalism might find this chapter relevant. However, in order to engage a larger audience with my analysis I will focus on a less gender specific chapter. In “Colonial Pathology and the Ideology of Irishness in Victorian and Edwardian Dublin,” Schwarze situates Joyce among the discourses of Irish Nationalism prevalent in Ireland during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Schwarze draws on letters and lectures contemporary with Joyce and also secondary sources. Of the secondary sources he uses, David Lloyd’s Anomalous States: Irish Writing and the Post-Colonial Movement might provide valuable additional reading on this subject. Schwarze reads Ulysses as a challenge to “the discourse of cultural essentialism.” (Schwarze, 33) Joyce, contends Schwarze, realizes the impossibility of a “colonized nation” successfully purifying itself – “to recreate, recover, or return to a culture unaffected by colonization.” (32) Furthermore, writes Schwarze, Joyce understands that this truth extends to language –languages also interact with each other and experience cross-culturization. This pits Joyce against Gaelic revivalists who advocated uniting behind the Gaelic language. It also separates him from Literary Revivalists. Although Literary Revivalists shared Joyce’s support of linguistic hybridity, they deviated from him by imposing “moral restrictions” on artistic freedom. (35) They justified these impositions in the name of building a distinctly “Irish” literary tradition.  According to Schwarze, Joyce discredits both philosophies through his main character Stephan Dedalus. “In Stephan’s eyes,” writes Schwarze, both represent “yet another attempt to rewrite Irish political history by exclusion and elision.” (35) Ultimately they prove another example of the “self-betrayal of the nation” and its repeated “failure to recognize its own.” (23) The chapter gives particularly relevant context for the milkmaid incident in chapter one of Ulysses.

Recognizing Masochism: Psychoanalysis and Politics of Sexual Submission in Ulysses – Mariot Huessy

Recognizing Masochism: Psychoanalysis and Politics of Sexual Submission in Ulysses by Thomas P. Balázs is fascinating, and not just because the concept is one that most people find disturbing. Balázs tries to redefine literary psychoanalysis to be more in tune with current psychoanalytic thought in the psychology profession. He argues that literary criticism is too heavy handed, using a clumsy version of Freudian analysis which has been refined, and challenged by plenty of psychologists since the 1920s, and that new criticism should take into account the Anglo-American psychoanalysis that has developed since the seventies (169). Connecting back with the book, Balázs uses his new method to analyze Bloom’s actions. A key part of his analysis is a reaction to previous analysis of Bloom’s character in sexual moments as a symbol of political liberalism, or masculinity at the mercy of feminism. Balázs sets out to prove that first one should take character as the primary motivator of action, before attaching symbolic meaning to those actions (170).

In order to argue his case for a new approach to literary criticism he examines the kinds of analysis that have held literary attention, and how they have been applied to Ulysses. After using each example Balázs then pokes holes in each, and uses his brand of analysis to make up for the weaknesses. Going further, he then pulls out other texts from Joyce’s real life, and literary career, and fits them neatly together, to argue that the author cannot ever be truly separated from his creation, and one must look at both in order to understand the motivations of the fictional counterpart (169). Balázs proceeds to analyze Bloom after having built this framework for the reader, which clearly articulates his point.