University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Place of Publication
It is difficult to imagine a more elusive, polemical author than James Joyce. He is often spoken of as both a cosmopolitan and a nationalist, syphilitic madman and genius, and misogynist and writer of écriture feminine. This final paradoxical view of Joyce is one that I find most compelling. However, this is not a project in feminist historiography attempting to reclaim Joyce for feminism, but rather a demonstration of the pulsing bodies that already exist between the texts. When exploring this idea of écriture feminine in Joyce’s Ulysses, one might be surprised that Hélène Cixous refers to Joyce’s treatment of Molly in Ulysses as “carrying [it] off beyond any book and toward the new writing” (Laugh of the Medusa). Throughout the text she is fetishized for her foreign identity, objectified, and taken whether willingly or not by, what seems like, the majority of Dublin. However, the accounts of these events are all given to the reader by the men of Dublin, and it is not until the final chapter that we finally hear (and feel) the voice of Molly. In this final chapter Molly fondly recounts many of her sexual exploits; however, this is not a defense or even an apology, but rather a celebration of the female body. In a similar style to Tom Phillips’s work A Humument, I took the final chapter of Ulysses and created a new text through a form of textual violence. By marking out the majority of Molly’s monologue, I was surprised when I discovered all that was left was the language of the body: her body. Her language pulses through the final chapter, and this pulsing is brought to center stage when it is extracted from the surrounding text. However, this work with Ulysses, and Joyce’s other early works, acts as a stepping-stone that leads to Finnegans Wake. The Wake is one of the most famous and infamous texts in the literature, because of its near impossibility to read, let alone analyze. And yet with the use of écriture feminine we begin to see a text that is “a female story which appropriates the textual authority of the male master narrative, thereby deconstructing the linguistic codes which underpin western patriarchal culture” (Henke). The subjects of bodies, gender, and identity flow freely through the text, much in the same way we now understand they do in the social sphere. And just as real bodies are determined, or more accurately overdetermined, by lived situations, so too are the characters of Joyce’s works. For this portion of the project I will rely heavily on Marxist theory to unravel the complexities of daily lives, which are always, already defined by and limited by capitalism. These forces work to inscribe ideology on the bodies of the characters, some of which resist (Stephen and Molly), while others seem blissfully unaware to their submission to a system that works against them (Mr. Dedalus). Through the work of écriture feminine and Marxist analysis, the works of Joyce become liberating and visceral.
B. A.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Arts.
Elsea, Carter R., "Gender, consent, and hermaphroditic legibility in James Joyce's Ulysses and Finnegans Wake" (2017). Honors Theses.
Available for download on Monday, June 03, 2019