Suzette A. Henke, James Joyce and the Politics or Desire (1990) - extracts

How can a feminist begin to approach the writings of James Joyce? … male linguistic mastery … signifier of signified, the Freudian phallus … recreate the world in his own mental image … [2] Joyce’s putative feminism … virgin and whore … [2]

In Joyce’s canon, women both subject ad object of desire … [2]

Both Catholic piety and Celtic sentimental attitudes cloak repressed sexual hostilities that adhere to the dark underside of Irish life. [4]

Exiles … Bertha … proves to be a fiery, autonomous individual who rebels against Richard’s arrogant manipulations and demands recognition in her own right as a central a centrally heroic figure in the play. [6]

Joyce’s anti-patriarchal obsession … [7] ALP, the she-truth of female jouissance and the ultimate limit of any discourse articulated by man [7]

[I]n Finnegans Wake a male master narrative gives way to a fluid feminine story in a linguistic bricolage that valorises non-mastery and explodes the perpetual western preoccupation with a Neitszchean will to power. [8]

Biographical evidence suggests that Joyce eventually came to terms with the kind of adolescent misogyny earlier exhibited by his fictional surrogate Stephen Dedalus. [8]

the seamless unified self … which is commonly called ‘Man’ … is in fact a phallic self, constructed on the model of the self-contained, powerful phallus … phallogocentric. [10]

His writing introduces a lexical play-field that challenges the assumptions of traditional culture, including phallocentric authority and logocentric discourse … subverts the name and the law of the Father and delights in the subvocal utterances of ‘granda’s grammar’, that fluid and elusive semiotexte …’ [11]

Father Flynn’s rigor mortis … phallic stiff rod … [12]; females … unable to master male discourse … function as servants to the cultural imperatives [15]

Mr Duffy: because he had once aspired to Oedipal union with her idealised figure, he now feels horror and repulsion at the though of shameful incestuous congress [36] … he at last confronts the reality of existential isolation [37]

In an atmosphere of backbiting and petty-mindedness, the noble ideals of the Celtic Renaissance envisaged by William Butler Years, John Millington Synge, and Lady Gregory are shockingly absent from Irish cultural practice. [41]

By offering a vivid myth of salutory passion, Gretta rejuvenates the moribund spirit of her husband and … emerges as the first of Joyce’s extraordinary female characters. [48]

Casey: Spitting in her eye, he symbolically achieves a talismanic victory through sexual violation of the threatening phallic mother. [57]

Emma: above all, to preserve her virginity as a commodity of exchange on the competitive Dublin marriage market.

Vilanelle: the poem that he pens provides an emotional circuit of substitution that short-circuits libidinal drive and sublimates Eros to the symbolic order of Daedalus/Byron/ Stephen/Father/Joyce. [63]

Henke ascribes inter faeces et urinas to Augustine, not Tertullian. [64]

19th c. Irish Catholicism demands that he psychologically castrate himself by consenting to the grotesque dissociation of ego and id. [71]

Bird-girl: the boy’s fantasy recreates a repressed vision of female genitalia spreading in luxuriant pink-rose petals before his aroused phallic consciousness … woman’s body revealing its vulvular mysteries and palpitating with the crimson flush of physical stimulation.

Leaden analogy with Keats [101]

The Catholic priesthood offers Stephen a chance to consummation this narcissistic love-affair with his psyche. [73]

Bound together in a piquant discourse of their amorous longing, the couple has left a gap in experience, creating a phallic wound of ever-living doubt that will, through a reversal (and triangulation) of metaphorical insemination, penetrate and impregnate the womb of Richard’s own artistic imagination. [102]

luminosity of doubt … ‘wounded him there where love lies bleeding … darkening even his own understanding of himself’ [U] [104]

Throughout Ulysses, ‘Baby Bloom’ finds himself tantalised by purportedly feminine pulsions that replicate the infantile attachment to the imaginary body of a beneficent and powerful phallic mother. [106]

although he has crassly reduce women to figures of an oral, genital, and anal absence (‘three holes’) … [109]

The primordial sign of Bloom’s maleness, his phallus, is first symbolically presented, thenabsent in the game of sexual metamorphosis … that entails cross-dressing [111]

… the phallic icon of Bloom’s socially sanctioned manhood … [111]

… the impotent Bloom … is defined in terms of phallic lack [112]

… as woman/Jew/victim, the hapless Poldy is reduced to a cypher of racial and sexual oppression [115]

The presence-absence of Boylan’s ithyphallic member signifies for the excited onlooker both masochistic humiliation and scopophiliac jouissance. [118] …

Libidinal desire gives rise to a polymorphous dissemination of sexual signifiers that destroy the univocal, phallocentric drives of masculinity and articulate deep-seated transexual fantasies embedded in the psyche of Joyce’s womanly man. [119]

Bloom’s memories of Howth: obsessively tires to go back to that far-off time of his inaugural love-making … Warm female flesh signifies a prtextive matrix of maternal and spousal love that once valorised Baby-Bloom in a position of an integrated subject and sheltered him from the confusions of psychic fragmentation. [123]

can(n)on; (M)Other love; his-story

Molly: while searching for the lost mother of childhood fantasy, she is simultaneously compelled to re-enact the family romance of Oedipal attraction. She suffers from a proverbial Freudian separation of emotional and erotic satisfactions. [135] On the afternoon of June 16, Molly is enacting a psychological drama patterned on unresolved Oedipal fixations. [136]

Although she recognises the inequities of Edwardian sexual scripts, Molly never seriously contemplates the possibility of altering those cultural and political structures responsible for gender discrimination. [142]

In an open market geared to the demands of a male libidinal economy … [142]

affair with Boylan her first complete sexual act in ten years [151]

The emotional gaps in Molly’s past engender, throughout ‘Penelope’ a subvrsive feminine discourse that defies logocentric boundaries, borders on the margins of hysteria, and, in its melancholic quest for the absent (M)Other, longs to suoture the wound of pre-Oedipal separation.’ [161]

Molly and Leopold handle the Lacanian experience of radical ‘lack’ by nostalgically endowing one another with theological wholeness and plenitude. [162]

Wake readers are plotters and textists. [165]

Anna bears in her wake the mysterious forces of the id and the buried libido erupting from the subterranean world of a farriginous textual consciousness. [166]

Either/or interpretation of Prankquean. [168-8]

Through FW, man disposes and disperses; he erects, then destroys … it is the female, in contrast, who burrows in the dungheap of dissonant experience and rescues the orts, scraps, and fragments of a more tentative and polyvalent bricolage constituent of ‘femaline’ culture. [167]

[Henke interprets Kevin:] he succombs to the latent temptations of the female and immerses in her stream. Joyce revises the myth of Kevin so as to show the monk forgetting his celibacy and seducing - with admirable foreplay - the aquacious female.

The elusive concept of feminine writing has recently been instantiated by such diverse critics as [and then she names a host of very similar feminist ideologues.] [205]

The archetypal patriarch, … longs to inscribe his phallocentric signature onto the resistant body of a resilient Mother Earth. [210]

From certain parallactic perspectives, Joyce’s postmodern oeuvre can be envisged as contiguous with the projects of feminist fabulation … his writing annuls classical notions of identity and origin, of metaphysical authority and textual closure…. it plays with the endless dissemination of secul[ar] difference that eludes the Oedipal configurations of patriachal power. [211]

Ftn: ‘Bloom is suffering from secondary impotence, the inability to complete the sexual act for reasons of anxiety or trauma [though] Bloom clearly retains the ability to experience both erection and ejaculation … [his] usual practice is to kiss Molly’s bottom and bring himself to orgasm on her backside.’ [255]

Summarises the pros and cons of Joyce in feminist criticism in her Ricorso.


[ back ]
[ top ]