Vicki Mahaffey, Reauthorizing Joyce (Cambridge UP 1988), Introduction

Table of Contents
Acknowledgements xi
List of Abbreviations xiii
Introduction 1
1. The myth of the mastermind

2. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
3. Reflection and obscurity in Ulysses

4. Text styles, textiles, and the texture of Ulysses


Postscript: “Preseeding” authorities: reading backward

Works cited [215]; Index [219].

*See extracts from this chapter in RICORSO under Thomas Carlyle, Commentary, supra], and James Joyce, Notes [supra]. An extended version of her citations from Walter Pater, The Renaissance, is given under Pater in RICORSO Library, International Criticism, Walter Pater [infra]. [Return to these pages via the Front Page and relevance regions to retain the navigation bar.]


Ulysses, as Joyce’s most attentive readers have always known, is authorised by the two apparently incompatible points of view represented in the extreme of Dubliners and Finnegans Wake. (p.2)


Unlike some of his more doctrinaire descendents in the twin worlds of theory and practical criticism, Joyce is constantly alert to the potential as well as to the limitations and humorous possibilities of several different kinds of “logic”, or ways of organising and authorising perception, including what we now call logocentric or patriarchal logic. In the deeply divided world of literary studies as it is now constituted, that makes him almost unique. Instead of proposing to abandon the monological model of authority, he instigates a dialogue between “traditional” or logocentric methods of interpretation and those that have been excluded; between rational, scholaristic logic and the unschooled apprehension of complex interconnection; between an ethos of individualism and an ethos of community; between the world defined as “male” and its “female” [3] complement; between the referentiality of language and its materiality; between conscious and unconscious desire. (pp.3-4.)


Ulysses [...] represents a model of three kinds of authority derived from different combinations of two positions. Like Shem and Shaun, who can unexpectedly combine to form three in the Wake, the three forms of authority are composed of two opposites and, between them, a third possibility that is not a synthesis of the other two, but instead marks their simultaneous presence and absence. The pattern that emerges is not dialectical for three reasons: (1) there is no temporal or rational progression towards a higher, more synthetic consciousness - the same knowledge must be repeatedly relearned in reference to new oppositions; (2) the “third” possibility, while positioned midway between the other two, is not a compromise between them or a product of them; and (3) the relationship between the middle term and the two that bound it entails, paradoxically, both inclusion and exclusion: the middle term marks both the absence of the other two and their simultaneous presence. A perceiver positioned between two extremes will, according to Joyce’s model, neither try to work out a compromise between them nor choose one at the expense of the other, but will instead try to appreciate their simultaneous identity and difference, an effort that momentarily reconstitutes and deconstitutes the perceiver.

Of the three kinds of authority that structure Ulysses, the first is the patriarchal (Stephen might call it patristic), transcendent authority which Stephen recognizes. The second kind of authority is binary and paradoxical, an authority embodied by Bloom. The two authorities that authorize Bloom are represented by Stephen and Molly; most of what we know about Blook we know through these two characters. The third mode of authority is collective, [7] immanent, and largely unconscious, and it is associated most fully with Molly. The three kinds of authority seem to differ primarily in number: single, double, and multiple. However, each version of authority is defined not only by one of Joyce’s characters, but by a figure or image from the Odyssey, and this doubling of the text and context makes it clear that although the three kinds of authority form a spectrum of values bounded by individuality and plurality, all are defined by analogous contradictions. [...]

Overall, Joyce’s treatment of these three forms of authority suggest that each responds to a different aspect of the same controversial reality, a reality that is both singular and plural, and neither singular nor plural.

The simplest formulation of an argument with ramifications that can be quite complex is that contradiction is inevitable; discourse ambivalent; the body bilateral; authority double. By the dictates of [8] the Church, such a view is heresy, and more specifically, it has strong affinities with the gnostic heresy, which is defined partly by its philosophical dualism, partly by its syncretism, and partly by its roots in Hellenic philosophy [see note]. Stephen seems to be the champion of individual authority, but his theory of Shakespeare shows that he has begun to break down the distinction between individual and collective identity, without having realized the implications of his theories in practical, material terms. Molly illustrates the realization of Stephen’s theories in her openness to the interconnective potential of a wide range of material things, but she has no awareness of the individual pattern into which her apparent “randomness” resolves itself; she lacks Stephen’s analytical self-consciousness. Stephen “knows” the world in the abstract sense, Molly knows it in the carnal one; and Bloom knows, or comes to intuit, the interdependence of both perspectives.

In a work as conscious of the verbal condition of its existence as Ulysses, it is not surprising to find that Joyce’s three kinds of authority call into play three complementary modes of reading. A reading presided over by a mind like Stephen’s tends either toward the theoretical or the biographical (Stephen unexpectedly combines the two in his theory of Shakespeare). Biographical and theoretical readings are alike in their hunger for a meaning extrinsic to the vork, whether that meaning is displaced onto a philosophical or linguistic system or anthropomorphized into an author: despite their many differences, theoretical and biographical readings are equally authoritative in orientation. Conversely, the mode of reading associated with Molly might be described as a post-structuralist .Approach unhampered (and unaided) by the post-structuralist’s self-conscious awareness of the way language operates. On the surface, Molly’s mode of reading is the opposite and complement of Stephen’s, since it is oriented towards the reader rather than the author, and since it registers not purpose or intention but effect, playing [9] on our subconscious sensitivity to the networks of association set up by the way words look and sound. If a reader like Stephen has a stake in the extent to which meaning can be controlled by an author via the rules of definition, logic, and structure, a reader like Molly is equally invested in the case with which language can escape conscious control, establishing and dissolving rival systems of interrelationship. Molly’s mental world is unconsciously structured by the interconnective “logic” of puns; she understands, in an intuitive rather than a self-conscious way, that puns are not always as isolated and accidental as we tend to assume, but combine to form implied narratives, networks of underground, illegitimate “meaning.” The sensual and sensory logic of Molly’s subconscious is the logic that expands into Finnegans Wake, Joyce’s most sustained attempt to exhume the buried life of language. Although the dreams in the Wake seem to be governed by a male mind, the project of attending to the sensuality of language is one that Joyce associates with women, tracing the taboos against puns to the original sin, to woman’s hunger and plea for a more tangible, metaphorical, and etymological rather than strictly denotative “sense”: “so pleasekindly communicake with the original sinse” (FW 239.01-02).

It is possible to classify and schematize tendencies toward different kinds of authority, as Joyce does through his treatment of character in Ulysses, but as the structure of Ulysses suggests, the three main tendencies are interrelated; they are separable, but we need not experience them independently. The interdependence of alternative authorities is especially clear in the relationship between the authority acknowledged by Stephen and the plural authorities that govern Molly: whereas Stephen’s authority is a transcendent and primarily spiritual one, Molly’s authorities are immanent and physical; whereas his is sanctioned by his past but oriented toward the future, hers are nostalgic but sanctioned by a future that has recently come to pass. In political terms, Stephen’s authority is capitalist and Molly’s communist in the etymological senses of those words; in terms of sexual politics, his is a male authority and hers its female complement. Most significantly, his authority is institutionally recognized, hers disenfranchised, so that whatever authority Molly’s perspective may have is latent rather than generally accepted, or even acceptable. Stephen and Molly represent the boundaries of human moral authority as they have been culturally [10] defined, the margins of “good” and “evil.” What is most striking about the opposition between such extremes is the ease with which their values may be reversed; in fact, certain strands of feminism may be defined as an attempt to effect such a reversal, whereby the values characteristic of Molly become “good” and those respected by Stephen “evil.” Joyce’s point seems to be that such reversals are already implicit in the very posture of opposition: Stephen and Molly contain one another through the logic that makes it possible to define them as mutually exclusive. What defines both Stephen and Molly is their partiality to contrasting halves of human and verbal experience, but both their authorities are equally “partial.” What makes Bloom whole, and hollow, by contrast, is his partiality to both Stephen and Molly, despite the apparent incompatibility of the positions they represent. They mark his limits, even while they signal his limitlessness as a subject who has paradoxically allowed himself to be “framed.” (pp.7-11.)


[H]ow consistently Joyce exposes the hidden contradictions within whatever we tend to regard as unitary and uniform [12] … the equality of two participants in any productive exchange. (pp.12-13.)


The history of Ireland, its divisions and its continuing violence, is deeply implicated in Joyce’s relentless investigation of authority, until it finally erupts in competing narratives of invasion and assimilation in Finnegans Wake. There is an important book yet to be written on the charged relationship between Irish politics and literature written by Irishmen, such as Joyce and Beckett, that seems to present itself as more European than Irish; but that subject deserves fuller treatment than I could give it here. [...; 14]


One of the most concise and moving accounts of the freedom and the isolation of taking a truly egalitarian view of light and dark, the mental and the physical, is found not in joyce’s work but in that of his disciple Samuel Beckett. Beckett’s Murphy is a less optimistic counterpart to Bloom - less heroic, more pathetic, more subject to the black comedy of circumstance, less an epitome of epic endurance - but despite the differences, Murphy consciously tries to recreate the evenness of mind that Bloom restores to the universe of Ulysses. In the sixth chapter of Murphy, the narrator’s description of Murphy’s mind is furnished with a reading of Christianity as subject both to “the idealist tar- and “the ethical yoyo,” both of which Murphy has managed - not without some absurdity to elude [quotes]:

Murphy’s mind pictured itself as a large hollow sphere, hermetically closed to the universe without. This was not an impoverishment, for it excluded nothing that it did not itself contain. Nothing ever had been, was or would be in the universe outside it but was already present as virtual, or actual, or virtual rising into actual, or actual falling into virtual, in the universe inside it.
  This did not involve Murphy in the idealist tar. There was the mental fact and there was the physical fact, equally real if not equally pleasant.
  He distinguished between the actual and the virtual of his mind, not as between form and the formless yearning for form, but as between that of which he had both mental and physical experience and that of which he had mental experience [17] only. Thus the form of kick was actual, that of caress virtual.
  The mind felt its actual part to be above and bright, its virtual beneath and fading into dark, without however connecting this with the ethical yoyo. The mental experience was cut off from the physical experience, its criteria were not those of the physical experience, the agreement of part of its content with physical fact did not confer worth on that part. It did not function and could not be disposed according to a principle of worth. It was made up of light fading into dark, of above and beneath, but not of good and bad. It contained forms with parallel in another mode and forms without, but not right forms and wrong forms. It felt no issue between its light and dark, no need for its light to devour its dark. The need was now to be in the light, now in the half light, now in the dark. That was all. (Murphy, Grove Press 1957, pp.107-08.)

Murphy understands and needs the kind of binary authority embodied by Bloom: he, like Bloom, has intuited and appreciates the “evenness” in “evening,” and prefers it to a mode of feeling that requires the mind’s light “to devour its dark.”

Murphy is shot through with the effects of Joyce’s reading of light and darkness: Murphy is in love with Celia, whose name means “sky,” recalling Murphy to the light and darkness, heaven and hell, of creation. (Ibid., p.176.) Murphy is only at peace when he rocks, his gaze arrested looking down, then looking up: “Slowly he felt better, astir in his mind, in the freedom of that light and dark that did not clash, nor alternate, nor fade nor lighten except to their communion.” (Ibid., p.252.) Murphy is a Stephen Dedalus who never has and never will realize the values Bloom represents, except as dark “virtual” forms in his mind. [In a footnote, Mahaffey draws attention to the “artist” poems of Tennyson and Browning in which these authors appear to respect the “evenness” of dawn and dusk as a condition of self-awareness (vide “Ulysses”, “Tithonus”, “Andrea del Sarto”, and “Fra Lippo Lippi”.]


Molly’s realm, like that of Eve (and Eveline), is darkness: darkness the sky, the body, and the mind. Women in Ulysses become prominent only from dusk - when Bloom encounters Gerty - to dawn, when Molly weaves and unweaves her thoughts. The important point about the obscurity associated with Molly, though, is its relationship to enlightenment: knowledge of good and evil is only accessible through a taste of the carnal and material world that Molly revels in. Stephen’s one-sidedness cannot fully be conceived unless the reader adopts a mode of reading antithetical to the one Stephen authorizes in A Portrait, a habit of mind that takes puns seriously, approaching them not as isolated coincidences of two similar sounds but as clues to underground networks of meaning, th hidden coherency of unconscious relation.

What is most surprising about even a cursory examination of the interrelationship of words that look and sound alike is that the connections so frequently combine to create alternative narratives. Seen in such a light, language is not only a material construct, but one which owes its density to a constant crossing of opposites, a meshing of warp and woof that creates a paradoxical but strongly interconnective logic. The last half of Ulysses and much of Finnegans Wake play on the implicit relationship between texts and textiles, and on the interdependence of male and female styles. A look at language from what joyce presents as a “female” perspective demands an appreciation, not so much for any individual author, but for the millions of “authors” who have shaped the language over time simply by using it, listening to it, and unconsciously adjusting its similar sounds and images to reflect a poetic rightness of relation that counterbalances the authorized, and the intentional, meaning. If, as St. John asserted, God is the Word, that word is double: it is both abstract and material, transcendent and immanent, authorized from without by an individual author and from without by the multiple crisscrossing of the sights and sounds of words as they weave and unweave the material network of language. [19; End Introduction.]


The hidden “doubleness” or contradictory nature, of authority is apparent when we consider Joyce’s own authority, which takes two logically incompatible forms. On the one hand, Joyce is a canonical writer who possesses immense authority within the academic institution; on the other, he is an iconoclastic rebel who eludes or spurns institutional authority at every opportunity. The authoritative joyce is the incarnation of the artist as Stephen once conceived him, who, “like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails” (Portrait, p.215). However, the image of Joyce as divinely indifferent dissipates when he is examined, not as a hidden hand, but as a human being practically interested in the circumstances of his environment. As a nonviolent revolutionary who boycotted the institution of marriage, and who escaped the fetters of nationalism through exile and the Church through apostasy, Joyce demonstrates a serious respect for the repressive power of social institutions as well as an exceptional determination to distance himself from them. [26]

[...] Between then, Father Flynn and Stephen Dedalus define the possible extremes of male authority: simoniac worldliness and naive idealism, empty faith and faithful rebellion.

Father Flynn and Stephen Dedalus represent the interdependent limits of a patriarchal authority that Joyce subsequently attempted to circumscribe. [27]

‘How is it that we can admire Joyce’s “gnomic” technique and at the same time disdain Father Flynn as a “gnomon”?’ [29] Goes on to elaborate homonymic sense, ‘know-man’ and ‘no-man’. (idem.)

Note that Mahaffey reprints the diagram on FW293 [here p.36], with commentary: ‘as the surrounding commentary indicates, this figure imparts carnal knowledge to the children, a knowledge of their own bodily organs. (p.36.)

The children’s exclamations prompt us to see that this as a cubist portrait, designed to reveal the manysidedness of the human figure, as we can see when we realise that the two spheres give the corresponding view from the read: “me elementator joyclid, son of a Butt!” (302.12-13; here p.37.)

Joyce’s diagram is an affirmation of “hidden” human doubleness, and the potential that such doubleness represents. He suggests that triangular relationships are created by intersecting doubles, just as the children must draw two circles before they can construct an equilateral triangle within them. (p.44.)

Authority, when it takes the form of a single triangle authorised by the top half of a human body and maintained by the power of the “right” owes both its weakenss and its strength to its self-divisiion and resistance to change. (p.44; Mahaffey Compares this vision to Wallace Stevens’s, who also supplies the epigraph of her book; see also reference to Steven’s “particulars of rapture” in “Notes towards a Supreme Fiction” - cited here p.12-13.)


[Mahaffey reprints the sexual diagram on FW293.] The double history/hystera begins with Euclid’s challenge to construct an equilateral triangle [...; 36].

Viewed anatomically, Shem’s diagram can represent either the front or the rear, viewer or viewed, with a facility that stresses the interchangeability of both. Howver, the diagram is double in yet another way: it represents a “first cause” that is both material and rational. If, on the one hand, the tesxt traces human genesis to “our anmal matter” (animal matter, alma mater/fostering mother; FW295, n.5), it also represents that first cause as a logical reconstruction performed by a “geomater” in the tradition of ancient philosophy. The first cause, as represented by this figure of knowledge, is alternately material and immaterial; the drawing is at once a figure of flesh and a figure of thought. [...; 38.]

[...] The adjectives “wrong” and “wronged” are interchangeable, depending on which side is speaking.

The diagram at the center of Finnegans Wake represents the fruit that analysis [of the body as figure]. Instead of using a triangle to represent the upper half of a male body, Joyce uses it and its inverted double to depict the lower half of a female one, thereby equalizing the relationship beetwen physical and intellectual gensis. [43 ...;] Joyce’s diagram is an affirmation of “ ” human doubleness, and the potential that such doubleness represents. [44]


Explicitly in Finnegans Wake - the extent that anything can be explicit in Finnegans Wake – and implicitly in the works that precede it, Joyce attributes the phenomenon of oppression to the denial of human doubleness, a denial licensed by partiality towards any half of a human whole. (p.49).

[...] Joyce parodies Kierkegaard’s celebration of chosing between extremes (either/or), suggesting that a more wholesome course is to choose both (“And!”) and neither (“Nay, rather!”). (p.49.)


The comic “heroes” of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake all share a commitment to double vision, ranging from Bloom’s “ambidexterity” and the sexual and religious ambivalence it betokens to the visions of Einstein and Yeats at the borders of the Wake. “Doubllinnbbayyates” (FW 303.07-08) and the double gyres that structure A Vision are as relevant to the children’s studies in “Night Lessons” as the theories of Einstein, who changed the course of modern physics by demonstrating the unanticipated doubleness of physical reality, and in particular the complex interdependence of space and time, mass and energy (see “Eyeinstye,” FW 305.o6; “Ulm,” FW 293.14.)

From Dubliners through Finnegans Wake, Joyce illustrates the inevitability of doubling: denial of doubleness affects only our awareness of the extent to which we mirror our opponents, as the boy unwittingly comes to reflect the priest in “The Sisters”, or Farrington inadvertantly becomes the counterpart of Mr. Alleyne, or Gabriel Conroy the “living” equivalent of a dead man whose memory is very much alive. [...] In a Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Dublin represents the one paradoxical condition of his existence tha Joyce’s sensitive aspiring artist cannot appreciate. [50; End Chapter 1 & Part I.]


Text Styles, Textiles, and Textures

Joyce presents the Blooms’ fetishistic attitude towards clothing as natural, and even, in part, inevitable, since clothing affects the mind as well as the eye. Clothes are opaque to the eye, but they are transparent to the human imagination [...] In their power to exchange opacity for transparency, colothes complement language, which we learn to regard as transparent, but which, as Freud has shown, betrays its materiality to the imagination through jokes, slips, and dreams. The body, as the most familiar act of human existence, achieves new appearl when translated into clothing. Clothing then becomes a readily apprehensible fact that transforms the body back into an elusive and desirable fiction. As Joyce suggess more directly in Finnegans Wake, the interchangeability of fact and fiction is the basis of all appeal, whether sexual or aesthetic; this is his ripest contribution to the esthetic theory he devoted his life to evolving [quotes]: “Who is his heart doubts either than the facts of feminine clothiering ... may be taken up and considered in turn apart from the other?” (FW 109.30-36.) [158]


From the perspective of writers like Shakespeare, Carlyle, Ibsen [Peer Gynt - “designed for a shining button / On the vest of the world”: V.vii] and Joyce, the crucial philosophical problem is not to define the nature of the world, since from Plato onward earthly existence has repeatedly been defined in terms of “veils,” and language itself encodes an awareness that the material world is comprised of “material,” or fabric. The more pressing problem is rather to determine what these veils conceal, and the most familiar and accepted answer has been that they clothe some form of the ideal. However, those who, like Joyce and Ibsen, insist on the identity of extremes, that ideal also constitutes a perversion. Pursuit of the one necessitates flight from the other: every higher world calls a lower one into being, every God calls up a devil, every virtue a vice, as the pattern continues to reproduce itself with deadening regularity. Stephen Dedalus falls into this pattern in Portrait as he swings between obedience and apostasy; Bloom acts it out more personally in his relationship with Molly, who alternately appears before him as Calypso and Circe, goddess and whore. Ulysses suggests that [164] the only way out of this pattern is to redirect attention away from any fantasy of a world “beyond the veil,” and back to the world itself, in its motley, many-colored guises.

In Ulysses, Lear’s “Come, unbutton here” [III.iv] is replaced by the costume changes of “Circe,” followed by the “Bip” of Bloom’s back trouser button as it snaps, and finally, by the easeful unbuttoning, “process of divestiture,” in “Ithaca” (U 17.1434-91). As in King Lear, this unbuttoning signals an altered attentiveness to the language of clothes. Both Lear and Bloom begin to apprehend the inadequacy, and the danger, of rigidly defined, single roles, whether assumed oneself or assigned to others, since every role implies and even comprehends its opposite. Haughty king is powerless beggar; cuckhold [sic] is bawd; whore is virgin. Such dichotomizing kills; as Stephen remarks during his discussion of Shakespeare, the “Lover of an ideal or a perversion, like José ... kills the real Carmen” (U 9.1022-3). The directive to choose Scylla or Charybdis, to choose between opposites, is a dangerously misleading one, since, as the Odyssey shows, the traveller will invariably be propelled toward the other extreme by the flux and reflux of time.

[Circe: Fixed Versus Mixed Identity:] “Circe” is the first episode to be not only informed but shaped by the relationship between clothes and identity. Clothes in “Circe” sign the play of psychic as well as social roles, roles that, like the clothes that represent them, are both restrictive and variable [...; 165.]


Mesmerized by the apparent purity of the nymph over his bed and by the obscenity of his secret desire to subject himself to sexual degradation and defilement, Bloom is the captive of Calypso and Circe by turns, and cannot return home to the mortal, complex woman who is his equal in every way. His impotence is a product of the unacknowledged fact that he must see himself as he sees her, as either a bawd or a cuckold, when in fact, as Stephen says of Shakespeare, “he is bawd and cuckold. He acts and is acted on.” (U 9.1018-19.) But Bloom can only sense this when he sees that the woman he loves is neither totally etherial nor totally sensual, but as changeable as the words and habits that variously clothe her. The impulse behind “Circe” is the drive to show Bloom his own reflection in a whore’s mirror, and it is only after seeing his unacknowledged treacheries reflected there that “the spell,” in the form of his trouser button, is broken (U 15.3449), and he can return home. [167]

Mahaffey cites Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity (Boston: Beacon Prss 1958; 2nd edn. 1963) as ‘the best overall account of gnosticism’ and further remarks: ‘Joyce was certainly well versed in gnosticism from Epiphanius of Salamis - who may have had something to do with Joyce’s early interest in “epiphany” - through Origen and Valentius, an arch-heresiarch mentioned in Ulysses (U 1.658), to the Manicheans battled by Augustine.’ (n. p.9.)

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