Posts Tagged ‘Obsession’

Broad Broad Overview/Penelope’s Father

Monday, November 16, 2009; 06:43 am Leave a comment

Broad overview of Fatherhood:

Stephen obsesses over his mother but there is little or no mention of his father.  Bloom thinks about himself as a father, what that means, and what makes or doesn’t make him a father.  Stephen argues about the consubstantiality of father and son.  Then we get the elevation of androgynous production. Then we see in Eumaeus and Ithaca the actual existence of a father-son relationship.  We see that unfold.  In Penelope something weird happens.  Molly romanticizes her father.  She seems to have made him the epitome of manhood.  She thinks about Bloom “I wish hed even smoke a pipe like father to get the smell of a man”  A good man in her mind is a man like her father.

It’s weird that Molly has this view of fatherhood.  I’m not sure what to do with this.  What does this have to do with her marriage? With her feelings about Rudy? about Stephen? about Milly?  What does this do to our perceptions of Molly? Also, I think there’s more to fatherhood in this episode than just this romanticization of her father… but I’ll try to add more about that when I know more after class on Monday and another read through.


Paternity and Circe

Monday, November 2, 2009; 04:36 am Leave a comment

What I’m seeing so far with fatherhood in Circe is a conflation of the generations, which we’ve seen before. Bloom becomes Virag, the grandfather, the father, etc. And He’s also simultaneously Henry Flower… all the versions of his last name are present. Morphing of surnames, all the linguistic and semantic play Joyce has exercised before. There’s also a lot of development of Joyce’s views of the genders. How he creates Bloom as a womanly man, and how he moves to give that validation. Also, Virag gives a lovely summary of the development of gender roles on page 423:

“Woman, undoing with sweet pudor her belt of rushrope, offers allmoist yoni to man’s lingam. Short time after man presents woman with pieces of jungle meat. Woman shows joy and covers herself with featherskins. man loves her yoni fiercely with big lingam, the stiff one…Then giddy woman will run about. Strong man grapses woman’s wrist. Woman squeals, bites, spucks. Man, now fierce angry, strikes woan’s fat yadgana.”

Virag then “(chases his tail)” and makes nonsense sounds, both things that serve to confound man with animal as well. I hope we can dissect this passage a little in class, because there’s also the aspect of the Orient, as Virag uses the Hindu terms for the genitalia.

Also in this chapter, Bloom’s dream of becoming a father is realized when he becomes the mother of 8 male children, healthy, who grow up to be smart guys who work in positions that Bloom would value. I’d love to work with Amy to figure out how Bloom’s birthing here works with past male pregnancies and the androgyny of Bloom.

Another thing that popped up during Bloom’s stint as Lord Mayor is the idea of male virginity. Greg brought this up in class on wednesday and how it cannot be verified, for there isn’t any physicial proof. Dr. Mulligan in Circe claims “I have made pervaginal examination and, after application of the acid test to 5427 anal, axillary, rectoral and pubic hairs, I declare hiim to be virgo intacta.” Is Bloom’s virginity able to be verified because he is womanly? Because he’s able to give birth in this hallucination, and because he’s doing immaculately? On this topic, I’d love to hear Mari’s take on his comparison to Mary. (And how does this affect our view of him compared to Marion/Molly?)

Oh. And his testicles are “off side.” Hilarious. and “heavier.” Because he hasn’t been sexually active? He isn’t using his semen to create children…. so that’s waste for you… waste of the potential for fatherhood.

Can’t wait to talk about this incredibly funny chapter… oh Joyce, you surprise me with your humor.

Fatherhood: Scylla and Charybdis and Cyclops. (Updated w/ some Judaism)

Monday, October 12, 2009; 06:11 am Leave a comment


On Wednesday, my group discussed fatherhood mainly in relationship to motherhood.  Throughout Scylla and Charybdis both begetting and creating as  a father and bearing and birthing as a mother are mentioned.  Joyce starts to confound the maternity and paternity and constructs an idea that perhaps androgynous birth is best.  Both ways of producing an offspring, contained in one person.

The image of the ultimate match of male and female figures prominently in the chapter.  The image described by Stephen of  the phallic, bloody, violent mulberry tree, upright planted in the loving, accepting mother earth is a fitting support of my theory on androgynous production.  The phallus causes death, the yoni accepts the body back into her, just as the phallus engages the womb in production, and the womb bears the offspring.

Another image that makes a bold impression in Scylla and Charydis is Stephen’s thought about Eve: “Naked wheatbellied sin. A snake coils her, fang in’s kiss.”  The ultimate mother, coiled within the snake phallus, about to give birth to mankind. Powerful.

A man who can absorb qualities of women is somewhat bouyed up by Joyce. Stephen is elated to discover he can fit in women’s shoes in Proteus and Stephen wonders in Scylla: “what name Achilles bore when he lived among women.”  And in Stephen’s argument for Shakespeare being the father of the ghost, the prince and the son of the ghost and prince and Hamlet his own grandfather (or whatever) he says that in the economy of heaven there will be “glorified man, an androgynous angel, being a wife unto himself.”  The ultimate being, having qualities of men and women, production in both ways.

Buck Mulligan (of all people) personifies the feminine birth inside a masculine form when he has an idea for a play: “Wait.  I am big with child.  I have an unborn child in my brain…. He clasped his paunchbrow with both birthaiding hands.”  What’s interesting about this imagery is that it is alludes to Zeus’s takeover of the women’s role in child birth.  A God took the child from a woman and birthed a woman from his creative brain.  The Man (buck) takes and idea from God and bears it femininely to fruition with “birthaiding” hands.


From Scylla to Cylops there is not much in the way of fathers, but in Cyclops there is one mention: J.J. O’Malloy commentson the Jews waiting for their Messiah: “every jew is in a tall state of excitement, I believe, till he knows if he’s a father or a mother” (277, gabler edition)  This is interesting. It’s not in the line of the other aspects of parenthood that I’ve discussed so far.  Here, it seems suggested, the parent’s role depends on whether the child is male or female, since the child’s gender is usually the thing parents are all “in a tall state of excitment” over.  This twist of a familiar concept lands the importance of gender (and  therefore parenting style?) on the parent, which connects to the conversation on incest that we’ve been continuing throughout the book.  If a mother acts as a father in the parenting role, does her son covet her?  If a father acts feminine, does the daughter end up with an Electra Complex… I don’t know.  This will have to be developed more.   


Since Catholicism is patrilineal and Irish, and Judaism is matrilineal and not Irish, as we’ve been seeing… then when Bloom thinks about his line ending earlier on in Cyclops, he is thinking of himself decidely as more Irish than Jewish.  (and I think he can be both… but he is definitely NOT acceptig his Irishness here.)  Because Rudy has died, he considers his line ended, but only his patrilineal line is over, Milly is alive and kicking… and in the Jewish faith, that would be enough.  (But there’s always the complication that Molly isn’t Jewish… and she certainly isn’t Irish.)  Since Bloom doesn’t have a son to be a father for, he seems to have become feminized so he can be a mother for Milly.?  This is a possible direction to go here.  From what I know of the rest of the book, we’re just waiting for Bloom and Stephen to link up so Bloom can act as Father and Stephen can act as Son, and everyone can feel better about everything…..  We’ll see how it goes.

Structure of Fatherhood and Authorship

Wednesday, October 7, 2009; 03:16 am Leave a comment

“Making a Name for Himself: Paternity, Joyce, and Stephen’s Adolescent Identity Crisis” by Kent Baxter

This essay has a first section entitled “What’s in a Name” dedicated to discussing the relationship Joyce had with his own name, and the relationship  the modernist perspective perceives adolescents have with their surname.  To make it quick, since it has little to do with Ulysses and less to do with what I would like to focus on regarding my obsession of Paternity: Adolescents are striving to “make a name” for themselves and there’s a conundrum because they want to distinguish themselves within society using their name, but their name stems from their fathers’s and they struggle to separate themselves from the father as well.

The next section in the essay is “The Name Game.”  Baxter describes Stephen’s dissection of his name and multiple possible fathers in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Stephen renounces his biological father, Simon, then renounces the Church fathers because he does want to become one of a mass of priests, and at the end of Portrait he remakes his name anew, a morphed version of his father-given name, but it is his own because he was reworked.

In “The Sons of Shakespeare,” Baxter refers to the Scylla and Charybdis episode where Stephen contemplates what he had done with his name in Portrait.  Baxter emphasizes that the Scylla and Charybdis episode is where Stephen is at his most creative, producing his individualized thoughts and as Baxter says: “mak[ing] a name for himself.”   At the same time, Stephen “debunks” the names of the fathers through the “legal fiction” of Shakespeare’s writing himself a son in Hamlet, and writing himself into Hamlet as a father, and, as Baxter notes, “bastardizing” the men’s surnames who are listening to his theory on Hamlet.  In Scylla and Charybidis, Stephen is upending the whole idea of fatherhood, causing it to be a fluctuating, unstable category.  According to Baxter, this is the way Stephen is renouncing his literary fathers.  Baxter then goes on to say something that I find pushing it a little too far.  And by a little, I mean a lot!  I like tangible reality and space and time as concrete things in discourse at least, because how are we going to have a conversation without those things!?   So Baxter says:

what Stephen does …is even more radical than a new way to theorize Shakespeare.  Stephen questions the linearity of time, the                          notion that something always comes before.  And by questioning the linearity of time, he casts doubt on the belief that                                          Shakespeare came before his texts… that there is a literary tradition that comes before and defines what makes a legitimate                                  artist.

He continues saying that through the episode, Joyce is using Stephen to “debunk the notion that… a literary tradition comes before its artists” and therefore attempt to become a legitimate individual artist.  I would like to think that Joyce WISHES he could turn time and space topsy-turvy and not have the literary tradition behind him, pressuring him, molding him, but I just don’t think it’s possible.  Luckily for me, Baxter addresses this.  He goes on to say that the very act of attempting to overthrow the father is something that fathers have done, and therefore is within tradition, literary or otherwise.  Adolescents have attempted to escape the father’s influence and in doing so have completed an act which the father has already done, thus they become the fathers.

Baxter’s best sentence summarizing this cyclical conundrum would be: “the ultimate irony inherent in Stephen and Joyce’s attempt to overthrow the father arises because to make a name for oneself means both to make a name represent oneself as an individual and to affirm the impossibility of this very individuality. ”  Ultimately, Baxter argues that Stephen, in a step between childhood and adulthood, ends up exposing the structure of authorship and fatherhood and this allows Joycean followers to see that structure and work off it.

Baxter, Kent. “Making a Name for Himself: Paternity, Joyce, and Stephen’s Adolescent Identity Crisis” Naming the Father edited by Eva Paulino Bueno et. al.

Life/Death Animals/Humans

Monday, October 5, 2009; 12:54 am Leave a comment

In an earlier obsession post covering episodes 4-6, I pointed out that in Bloom’s mind there seems to be little separation between humans and animals. One example I used to back up this statement was Bloom’s observations on rats eating human corpses (94). In his observations Bloom rationalizes the rats’ food choice by connecting it to humans’ food choices (“Well and what’s cheese? Corpse of milk”). In episode 10 I encountered new references to animals, which cause me to believe that Joyce is more concerned with connecting animal life and human death (and vice versa) than he is about showing how Bloom views animals.

The first example in episode 10 that shifted my view on Joyce’s goal comes from the scene where Bloom is looking at books. After flipping through a few books, Bloom thinks “infants cuddled in a ball in bloodred wombs like livers of slaughtered cows” (193). While this comment surely shows that Bloom is still struggling with the thought of animals being butchered for food, the decision to connect this animal’s slaughter to a child’s birth begs for a deeper reading. Especially when a few pages later, during the section of episode 10 focusing on Mr. Kernan, he describes dogs licking up blood of executed humans from the streets (197).

As to why Joyce wishes to make this life/death connection between animals and humans, I’m not sure yet. Likewise, I’ve been struggling to tie any significant meaning to the horse betting that is repeatedly brought up. I did find out that horse betting was popular in Ireland at the time Ulysses was published, so it makes sense that it would be a common topic of conversation. However, given what I’ve learned about Joyce, there’s most likely some deeper significance to Joyce’s continual horse betting references. Maybe it’s a warning to the reader not to misread his text (Bantam Lyons misread Bloom’s comments as hinting that he should bet on a horse named Throwaway back on page 70).


I just have a few short anecdotes and ideas for this obsession update:

1) The scene a couple episodes back where Bloom feeds the geese may seem to stand in sharp contrast to my idea that humans and animals are often connected through death in this novel. However, immediately after feeding the geese Bloom ponders how various animals taste, which directly connects to animal death. Likewise, Bloom’s interaction with his cat is also tied to animal death as he’s obsessed with meat at the beginning of episode 4, and he also thinks about the cat killing mice during this scene.

2) I decided to try and find out if Joyce was a vegetarian. From my limited research I’ve found nothing stating that he’s a vegetarian, but I did find an article that said he often ate at a vegetarian restrauant where he was amused by how the vegetarian dishes were made to look like meat dishes.

3) As Professor Simpson pointed out in class, the blood that the dog licks off the street in episode 10 belongs to Robert Emmet. Emmet was an Irish patriot who led a rebellion in 1803. After spending some time in hiding following the rebellion, Emmet was caught and executed in Thomas Street. Emmet’s speech after being sentenced is worth checking out.

Paternity in 4-8

Monday, September 28, 2009; 03:47 am Leave a comment

The idea of Fatherhood and of original creation comes into play in chapters 4-8 more as a way for Joyce to develop other themes, allude to creative works, and to build his own creative work, wordplay and thematic tracing. In Calypso, Molly’s shrewd businessman Major Tweedy father has expensive furniture, rose in the ranks of the military. Bloom might feel pressured by this overhanging idea of fatherhood, what makes a good man. Don’t women look for their father when they look for a husband? Molly and Milly are confounded in Bloom’s mind He acts as a father to Molly, his wife, (makes breakfast, like Mulligan for Dedalus) and acts as… something else to his daughter Milly. An absent father, a man, worried about a woman’s sex life, not like a father there.

In Lotus Eaters, Bloom thinks about the suicide of his father and his father’s theater tastes, giving Joyce an excuse to bring up Leah, and the wordplay with Bloom’s last name (Virag to Bloom to Flower). Bloom also thinks about the advertisement he puts in the paper, describing himself as a “gentleman” doing “literary work” and that is how he begins his unsubstantial affair with Martha. His part with Martha is definitely an unproductive, not only does the relationship not become “real,” but he creates nothing out of it. We don’t see any of his writing to her (though we hear about it) and their relationship is not consummated. How can he father anything on this path? At the very end of The Lotus Eaters, Bloom is again shown as a useless father, his “limp father of thousands, a languid floating flower” could be the father of thousands if he could get it up, but he’s been cuckolded by his wife, his son has died, he can’t create in an original way, he can’t consummate a relationship with a mistress, he has no creative juices flowing through him, only calculating economical juices, not enough to really produce!

In Hades, Bloom thinks on his Father’s suicide and the note he wrote, leaving Bloom his faithful dog, Athos. Bloom thinking about his father here allows Joyce to work with dogs as a motif, and also as a way to bring more genres of writing into the story. The 6-word-will and suicide note. Also in Hades, the story of Reuben J Dodd figures into the father-son relationship because his son almost drowns (purely because he is sending him away from his lady-love) and the Dodd pays the man who saves him 2 shillings and the joke is that it is one and eight pence too much. There is also the scene of the dead bastard child. All-around there is a feeling of fathers not being around and also being inefficient as fathers. Dignam’s boy is now without a father, he is only just food for rats and can’t be there for his son. Bloom feels that he is an unrealized father too, since Rudy has been dead 11 years and Bloom never got a chance to really be his father.

In Aeolus, Bloom recalls his father reading the hagadah book on passover, backwards… Blooms father gives Joyce a medium to create more codes, more traces of ideas… a reason to mention opera, a way to talk about reading backwards. A way for Joyce to draw his own creative conclusions, produce his own progeny of word-play. Stephen wonders whether he could write propaganda, write for his father country… Submit to Ireland, the way Ireland is submitting to England. He feels that writing propaganda wouldn’t be fostering his productive capacity.

In Lestrygonians, Bloom sees Simon Dedalus as being a poor father when he sees Dilly Dedalus, undernourished, and thinks that with so many children and the mother gone, how can Simon provide for all of those mouths and clothe all those bodies? Bloom briefly contemplates how vegetarianism begets poetic creativity. Saying that one “couldn’t squeeze a line of poetry “ out of “policemen sweating Irish stew,” but that “only weggebobbles and fruit” “was that kind of food you see produces the like waves of the brain the poetical.” Bloom takes the “blind stripling” as being somewhat of a child when he leads the youth across the street, but this thought isn’t thoroughly followed through. According to the Bloomsday book, Stephen is the son that Bloom is searching for, and the blind man provides a momentary substitution. I didn’t get much of a chance to obsess over my obsession while reading chapters 7 and 8.

Generally, we’ve seen perverse father-figures in the book: Buck is superficially jocose. Laughs at death etc. while Bloom is sexually perverse, why? He’s amoral and he sees through various lenses. Obsessed with word “parallax” because he sees parallaxically. When it comes to creative fatherhood, Bloom is a maker: he poops, he makes food, he collects Molly’s words on his “cuffs.” His originality is in borrowing? Isn’t all originality? Stephen, however, never creates because he is constantly in a negative feedback loop with other’s words. He allows the words to drag him down instead of build his ideas up, like Bloom does.

If I were to rewrite this post, I  would start with the title: “Ideas of Fatherhood as Medium for Joyce’s own Creative Expression”

On Paternity (and please forgive the sloppiness, and lateness but I lost the first version of this that I wrote to an overheated computer.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009; 04:39 am Leave a comment

Michael Murphy’s article entitled “‘Proteus and Prose: Paternity or Workmanship?”  is a focused interpretation of the tension Stephen Dedalus deals with in the 3rd episode of Ulysses.  Murphy displays Stephen’s struggle as one with issues of creation.  Murphy emphasizes the difference between begotten and made and proclaims: “Stephen is wrong about his own conception and birth.”  Stephen was begotten just like all mankind except Adam and Eve, the artifices of God.  The distinction that Murphy develops is that artifice is in words and creations but children are only products of lustful coupling.  Daedalus is the artificer and Stephen is striving in Proteus to become more like the Dublin authorfathers he dwells on throughout the chapter.  Stephen is caught within a cyclical trap of other men’s words, other men’s work.  He hears only the same authors over and over in his head when he is trying to create a lasting product for his own immortality.  Murphy develops the idea that immortality comes not with the fatherhood of children but the fatherhood of words:  “the pen is mightier than the penis or the womb.”   Stephen also discovers this issue, according to Murphy, and in Aeolus, he finally creates “not something he has emitted; [but] it is something that he has made.” Not just in the Daedalus sense of artifice, of a constructed, stable object, but one of Stephen’s own protean works.  Murphy claims finally that the reader of Proteus is “present at the founding of a new church of one,” where Stephen’s means of production is finally developing into his own changing voice.   Stephen has aspects of creation that do vary from from the authorfathers he quotes from repeatedly.  According to Murphy they are:  Stephen’s “mint[ed] neologisms,” his use of archaic words, and his onomatopoeia.   These don’t help him write a poem about his mother, something he fails miserably at on the strand that morning.  His output that morning is a 16-word poem of little literary merit, claims Murphy, but later, when he writes for himself, he is able to use his personal protean language to immortalize himself on paper.

In this article, Murphy develops an “obsession” in Ulysses in depth in one chapter, and connects it to mainly one other episode, Aeolus.  Paternity as a creation is quite dissected, but something that is lacking is mention of Buck Mulligan.  Where is the father-figure who emits nothing but rubbish in Murphy’s article?  How come Mulligan, who spouts nothing that will make him immortal, nothing that will keep him in the world’s view, quoted by following artificers, doesn’t get pulled into Murphy’s argument as a counterpoint for Stephen.  Proof that Stephen should be contemplating his emissions as much as he does in Proteus.  A link to another chapter outside of Proteus and Aeolus would solidify Murphy’s argument as being more far-reaching throughout Ulysses, instead of an argument that seems only to hold for this one chapter.

From James Joyce Quarterly, v. 35, no. 1, p. 71.