The Representation of Gender and Sexuality in Ulysses
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Gerty is industrious and painstaking in her particular occupation, tirelessly focused on achieving her goal of wooing a means of financial security and companionship. Her pride in her looks is not vanity, but necessity and clever opportunity. Her exhibitionist display later on, Katherine Mullin points out, is pointedly reminiscent of a new and popular technology in erotica of the time—the mutoscope, a hand-crank individual moving picture device. The moving pictures were most often shots of girls scarcely—or not—clothed, with the pretense of looking through a peephole.
The mutoscope machine is manually operated by a hand-crank that allows the viewer to control the speed at which the pictures move, drawing out and even pausing to fully relish a particularly appealing still. Gerty deliberately makes use of this tableau technique in her innocent statuesque pose at the opening of the narrative and throughout her exhibition. She willingly participates in and shrewdly steers their interaction, both maximizing her effect on him and taking pleasure in his reaction.
Molly is an unashamedly sexual character and is not in danger of being labeled frivolously romantic or trampled and male-identified the way Gerty can be, but her sexuality is prone to judgmental dismissal as crude, wanton, and immoral. I was kissed. All yielding she tossed my hair. Kissed, she kissed me. Both of their memories place her in the typically male role of engineer and conductor of the relationship. She also recalls her other lovers as having been chosen and won by her. She casually considers the idea of leaving Bloom. Gerty MacDowell and Molly Bloom are very different characters who share a tendency to be oversimplified and stereotyped.
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They are easily relegated to the realm of hackneyed, meaningless characters before the complexities of their sexualities and identities are understood. Gerty is not a flighty, vain, hopeless romantic who is swallowed up by the male sexualities that dominate her world, but a skillful opportunist working towards a practical goal in an extremely competitive environment. Molly is not simply indulgent and ruled by her carnal desires, but asserts her own equality by claiming the right to sexual agency and self-determination. Brown, Richard. James Joyce and Sexuality.
Cambridge: Cambridge UP, Doing a double shuffle with the top travellers. It is very much easier, it seems to me, to discern the thematic significance of the Homeric parallels in the scheme and that is difficult enough in some cases than to relate each art to its episode in a convincing manner. In Calypso the relationship may be more thematically integral than this allows. The episode is clearly about appetite, consumption and waste, about desire and failed fulfilment, about images and commodity fetishism. There he identified drawing on Marx and the Marxist historian of modern Britain, E. Hobsbaum , a stage in British history when imperialism sought to solve, by exporting surplus populations and by the exploitation of cheap natural resources, a crisis bred of disequilibrium in the Free Market of classic liberalism.
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The result is the economics of over-production and the exploitation through advertising of appetitive, irrational impulses that cannot be satisfied — a political economy of imperialist predators, of desire, consumption and evacuation so that the market may voraciously sustain its uncontrollable growth. Her nature. Curious mice never equal. Economics, predatory appetite and unsatisfied desire seem accordingly aspects of irrational impulse in Calypso , animalistic and even perverse. These are merely sausages as Mr.
Throughout there is no sense of economic life obeying rational, self-regulating principles as it was assumed to do under liberal capitalism and a free market. It is grounded in as primal and as irrational a level of human identity as hunger and libido. And even human culture which the modern economy delivers in proliferating, mass-produced printed form in novels like those by Paul de Kock and prints like Titbits is simply another example of consumption and evacuation.
We see therefore Molly searching through her book with a hairpin because her fingertips are greasy with butter, that is when her husband has rescued it from under the bed beside the chamber pot; Bloom reads Titbits at stool; each of them enjoying the somatic pleasures of the text. In such an explanatory context it does not then surprise that Ulysses in the Calypso episode at the very least, should employ a radically Modernist method, in which no perspective is granted priority and mimesis is not implied as a normative artistic mode, to exhibit the irrational, instinctual and predatory quality of the economic factor in human life.
It was in artistic practices rooted in theories of myth as a mode of primitive consciousness that embodied truths in narrative acts rather than in the discursive propositions of rational thought, that writers as different as T. Eliot, W. Yeats, and D.
Lawrence sought to re-invest with meaning what was reckoned a meaningless world. Superficially considered, the Joycean project in Ulysses can seem to be similarly directed. Calypso supplies a pertinent occasion. How precisely this set of circumstances relates to the episode under discussion is, to say the least, not entirely clear.
Is Molly Calypso? Or is that a simple-minded question?
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Does not the mythology of gods and goddesses, of enchantresses, speak only to us of the fact that all deities reside within the human breast and that a man can see a woman at different times as a Calypso Nymph , a Circe Whore , a Penelope Wife? If we see this artistic representation as the Calypso of the chapter we can I think read the Homeric parallels more satisfyingly in the company of Adaline Glasheen in her fascinating study of the episode 5. The nymph is an image of that purity and idealised sexuality, without the risks of marital congress with its pregnancies, pains and dead child, which has kept Bloom from full, procreative sexual intercourse with his wife for a span of years, just as Odysseus was kept from Penelope by the nymph on her island.
And there is too an image of Circean sexuality in the episode, an image that calls to mind that other temptress who by contrast with Calypso tempts Odysseus and his companions to dally in a perverse, hoggish wallowing in the mire of dark bestiality. He turned over the smudged pages. Ruby: the Pride of the Ring Hello. Fierce Italian with carriagewhip. Must be Ruby pride of the on the floor naked.
Sheet kindly lent. The monster Maffei desisted and flung his victim from him with an oath. The mythic world of epic does not therefore lie beneath or above the text in Calypso as a principle of meaning and order, or as an ideal by which the contemporary is mock-heroically reduced or comically ennobled.
Rather it is revealed in this episode, so preoccupied with the economic basis of the world it embodies, to be merely textual, to occupy the zone of the semiotic if you like, as mere cultural artifact, sign rather than significance in a world of signs. For Bloom and Molly, Blazes Boylan, Milly and her student, do not come into existence in this episode as characters in a realist fiction who can be assumed to inhabit a stable reality, adequately mirrored by the procedures of the prose itself. Rather they exist as products of a textuality whose varying deployments are, as we have seen, attuned in method to moments of consciousness and of history, both driven by the irrational, predatory forces of desire, consumption, evacuation, by a political economy indeed of gross disorder, in which the mythic is merely one more constituent of that disorder.
For the enchantress Calypso is here simultaneously sexual fetish, commodity and leader item in a marketing strategy. Stript of her ontological status in the prior order of myth, she enters the world of mere supply and demand and the distorting imbalances between them. She is indistinguishable from those things which constitute to a depressing degree what we are pleased to call the modern.
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Calypso, I am arguing, is a brilliant diagnosis of that condition as it presented in its early symptomatic pathology. You can suggest to your library or institution to subscribe to the program OpenEdition Freemium for books. Feel free to give our address: contact openedition. We will be glad to provide it with information about OpenEdition and its subscription offers.
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OpenEdition is a web platform for electronic publishing and academic communication in the humanities and social sciences. Desktop version Mobile version. This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access. Armstrong, PaulB. Play andthe Politics ofReading. The Social Uses of Modernist Form. Ithaca: Cornell UP, Google Scholar.
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Babcock, Barbara A. The Reversible World. Symbolic Inversion in Art and Society. Benstock, Bernard, ed. CriticalEssays on James Joyces Ulysses. Boston: Hall, Blamires, Harry. The New Bloomsday Book.
London: Routledge, Budgen, Frank. Bernard Benstock. Eco, Umberto. The Middle Ages of James Joyce. The Aesthetics of Chaosmos.