Joycean Lice and the Life of Art
"This essay offers an analysis of the problem of literary
'parasitism' in James Joyce's work. Joyce's
recurrent use of parasitism as a trope for the absorptive properties of
literary texts, and of his own art in particular, illuminates various
issues important in Joyce studies today including recent scholarship on
Joyce's work as metatextual commentary on its own extreme
allusiveness, the evolution of his thinking about aesthetics, his vision
of the relation between art and the body, his intense focus on
life's quotidian details, his attitude toward Catholicism and the
Jesuits, his perceived relationship to his time and his colonized
people, and the function of cultural and individual memory in Ulysses.
Joyce the aesthetician and Joyce the lover of the minutiae of everyday
life find common ground in his earthy, ironic conception of words and
ideas as contagious parasites, entities to be both coveted and dreaded
for their stealthy, propagatory power.
James Joyce's literary weapon of choice is neither the
metaphor, nor the epigram, nor even the well-crafted image. Rather, it
is -- as the copious tomes of explanation and annotation indicate -- the
allusion. If one were to leach the allusions from Ulysses so that they
came only as frequently as they do in, say The Sun Also Rises, the
novels 700-odd pages might be reduced to fifty But an art form based so
fundamentally on allusion can feel like an overly derivative art:
derivative of the ideas of other people, their linguistic styles, their
personalities, their cultures. In short, an art founded on allusion
faces the fundamental difficulty of being parasitic. Richard Ellmann
puts Joyce's quandary in sunnier terms, but it amounts to the same
thing: "his method of composition was very like T.S. Eliot's,
the imaginative absorption of stray material. The method did not please
Joyce very much because he considered it not imaginative enough, but it
was the only way he could work" (Ellmann 1959, 250). The question I
wish to consider here is how Joyce came to transform his penchant for
parasitism, his dependence on complex allusions, and the
"absorption of stray material" into thematic substance for his
As Ellmann's biography carefully documents, Joyce recognized
early on that his foremost strength as an artist was his ability to
borrow from, quote, imitate, reference, parody and steal from other
texts and other people in cunning and pleasing combinations. However,
rather than judging his parasitic predilection as a negative, ugly
thing, he seems to have made peace with it by turning it into an object
of aesthetic exaltation. If parasitic allusion was to be Joyce's
primary artistic procedure, then parasitism itself would have to be
elevated from minor sin to cardinal virtue. In the discussion that
follows I offer an analysis of the intellectual pathways that appear to
have enabled Joyce to put his literary parasitism on a pedestal.
Although the importance of allusion and other forms of intertextuality
to Joyce's work has been remarked upon often enough, Joyce's
recurrent use of parasitism as a trope for the absorptive properties of
literary texts, and of his own art in particular, illuminates various
issues important in Joyce studies today, including recent scholarship on
Joyce's work as metatextual commentary on its own extreme
allusiveness, (1) the evolution of his thinking about aesthetics, (2)
his vision of the relation between art and the body, (3) his intense
focus on life's quotidian details, (4) his attitude toward
Catholicism and the Jesuits, (5) his perceived relationship to his time
and his colonized people. (6) and the function of cultural and
individual memory in Ulysses. (7) Joyce the aesthetician and Joyce the
lover of the minutiae of everyday life find common ground m his earthy
ironic conception of words and ideas as contagious parasites, entities
to be both coveted and dreaded for their stealthy, propagatory power.
Joyce's early thinking about an art form founded on a type of
"appetite" appears in his writings about Thomistic aesthetics
from his 1904 Pola notebook: "Bonum est in quod tendit appetitus.
The good is that towards which an appetite tends: the desirable. ...
Truth is desired by the intellectual appetite which is appeased by the
most satisfying relations of the intelligible; beauty is desired by the
aesthetic appetite which is appeased by the most satisfying relations of
the sensible" (2000, i05). Through the lens of this culinary credo,
I wish to suggest that literary allusion would have seemed a
particularly savory device to the voting Joyce because it could appeal
to both of these Thomistic appetites. An allusion can be considered Awe
by virtue of referring to something that exists in the verifiable,
indexical 'thereness' of a prior text; it should thus appease
the intellectual appetite as Joyce describes it. An allusion can be
considered beautiful if it recalls a pleasing passage, phrase, rhythm,
image, or idea, and does so in a technically pleasing way; it should
thus appease the aesthetic appetite as well. This thinking may have led
Joyce to a conclusion he expresses in Stephen Hero: "For the artist
the rhythms of phrase and period, the symbols of words and allusion,
were paramount things" (Joyce 1963, 30). Therefore, in the
"paramount" device of literary allusion, which became vastly
more conspicuous in his later work, Joyce may have believed he had found
a way to satisfy both of the Thomistic "appetites," the
intellectual and the aesthetic. But Joyce was destined to blur the
boundaries between the corporeal appetite for nourishment and the mental
appetites of Aquinas in a way that Stephen never does. The emblem for
this synthesis of cravings appears in the form of a remarkable, ravenous
beast -- a louse on Stephen's nape that appears toward the end of A
Portrait of the Artist as Young Man (Joyce 2003, 233).
In 2001, Jean-Michel Rabate took notice of this louse and argued
that for Joyce in general "lice embody the stubborn resistance of
nature or the body to ideas," and that "the image of lice
follows a complex evolution in Joyce's works" (Rabate 2001,
86, 90). Rabate's fascinating study is the most valuable
contribution to date on the thematic appearances of lice and other
insects in Joyce's work, and his analysis in many ways forms the
basis for my arguement here. (8) Nevertheless his guiding thesis, that
lice represent a kind of resistance to the proliferation of ideas, seems
to miss a larger issue: namely, that Stephen's louse-parasite
allows Joyce to acknowledge the parasitism that was becoming evident in
his own increasingly intertextual literary methodology. In this essay I
chart the process through which Joyce elegantly recognizes his own
parasitic tendencies, and then patterns them into the text and texture
of his subsequent work. We will return to Stephen's mighty louse
presently, but first we must consider its forerunners in Joyce's
writings. They begin to hatch in Paris.
As Rabate points out, Joyce's early conception of lice derives
from Aristotelian abiogenesis, the notion that small living organisms
can develop from non-living matter. In the Paris notebook of March 1903,
when Joyce had just turned twenty-one, he comments on the famous axiom
from Aristotle's Physics, "e tekhne mimeitai ten physin."
Joyce writes, "This phrase is falsely rendered as 'Art is an
imitation of nature.' [But) Aristotle does not here define art; he
says only, 'Art imitates Nature' and means that the artistic
process is like the natural process" (Joyce 2000, 104). Two days
later, Joyce gives what he considers an actual definition of art,
derived from Hegel:"Art is the human disposition of sensible or
intelligible matter for an aesthetic end" (2000, 104). (9) And a
day after that, he writes:
This grouping of non-artistic "human products" includes
"lice" in a list with "excrement" and
"children" not only for the sake of smirking incongruity but
also because of Aristotle's belief in the spontaneous generation of
lice by the human body as expressed for example in the
Problems:"the brain is moist; consequently the head is always
moist. This is obvious from the fact that most hair grows there. The
dampness of this region is most liable to produce lice" (Aristotle
1926, 63).As Rabate correctly points out, "Aristotle believes that
lice are self-generated and equates the production of lice with the
activity of the brain" (Rabate 2001, 88). However, Aristotle's
conception of the "activity of the brain" was very different
from Joyce's, since Aristotle thought the heart was the scat of the
mind, and the brain merely a mechanism for cooling blood (Bear, Connors,
and Paradisa 2001, 128). Joyce and everyone of his milieu knew
otherwise, which means that for Joyce, the lice produced by a human
brain were also produced by a human mind.
Although Joyce may have entertained Aristotle's theory of
abiogenesis at age twenty-one, Rabate assumes that twelve years later,
when Joyce transfers his notebook's question about excrements,
children, and lice to the final chapter of Portrait, no change has taken
place in his conception of lice -- no evolution of his thinking about
lice nor the parasitism they represent. About Stephen, Rabate writes
that, "Like Aristotle, Stephen believes that lice are
self-begotten" (Rabate 2001, 88). While this is true as far as it
goes, Rabate does not go on to differentiate between Stephen's
brassy philosophizing about lice, representative of the artist as a
young man in 1903, and Joyce's deliberate deployment of them in
1915. The difference, however, makes itself felt in the following
exchange between Stephen and his friend Lynch in chapter five of
Lynch's quip that Stephen's line of questioning has
developed "the true scholastic stink" pokes fun at the
Aristotelian thinking we have seen in Stephen's -- and Joyce's
-- intellectual history. But Lynch's derisiveness also suggests
that Stephen's questions about the possibility of art emerging from
excrements, offspring, parasites, or furious random actions may not be
Joyce's question anymore. Rather, the term "scholastic
stink" applied to the questions Joyce had scribbled in his notebook
twelve years earlier may be a sign that Joyce has evolved a certain
irony toward his younger self. As Ellmann observes of the composition of
Portrait, Joyce "needed to endow Stephen Dedalus not only with an
aesthetic theory that closely resembled the one he had himself developed
in Pola [and Paris], but with examples of aesthetic practice.... He
remains a young man, and Joyce was to emphasize later that his title
said so" (Ellmann 1959, 354-55; emphasis in original). Since
Stephen must come across as a fledgling artist in this novel, it would
seem Joyce makes sure his aesthetic ideas are still swaddled in the
swathe of scholasticism.
It is crucial to register this difference between author and
character if we are to understand the pivotal link between
Stephen's "scholastic stink" and the most significant
appearance of lice in the novel. A few pages after mentioning those lice
in his mock-catechism with Lynch, Stephen sees an attractive female
passerby at twilight and recalls a line of verse from Thomas Nash:
"Darkness falls from the air!" Stephen is pleased with this
recollection, particularly the word "Darkness," describing the
verse's "dark vowels and its opening sound, rich and
lutelike" (Joyce 2003, 233; emphasis in original). Stephen then
experiences a sort of predatory thrill: "Vaguely first then more
sharply he smelled her body. A conscious unrest seethed in his blood.
Yes, it was her body he smelt" (233). Unfortunately for Stephen,
these pleasantly predacious stirrings are interrupted by a parasitic
predator somewhat closer to home:
Stephen's hallucinatory musings about lice here are linked to
the conversation with Lynch by the same "scholastic stink"
Lynch had whiffed: Cornelius a Lapide was a seventeenth-century
theologian in the scholastic tradition who thought that "Ike,
flies, maggots and the like" were so beneath significance in the
cosmic order that God would not have stooped to create them. (10) Joyce,
however, delights in turning this stodgy attitude upside down by
including such parasites prominently in the cosmos of his own work, as
he does with other "ugly" aspects of the world such as
urination, defecation, and masturbation. Since thoughts in the form of
lice ("His mind bred vermin. His thoughts were lice") are
conceived here to be generated in the "human sweat" of Stephen
Dedalus -- the burgeoning artist -- Joyce wryly suggests that works of
art and other products of the artists brain, like Cornelius a
Lapide's "lice born of human sweats are a type of organism
"not created by God with the other animals on the sixth day."
The implication would be that artists, not God, are the creators of
their thoughts and their inventions; artists, not Cod, generate
parasitic "animals." or thought-lice, in the "sweat"
of their creative labor. And such labor is a form of conduct that
Stephen bitterly predicts will be disregarded by the woman he lusts
after as, an unathletic life of "sloth." Angrily, he thinks,
"Well, then, let her go and be damned to her. She could love some
clean athlete who washed himself every morning and had black hair on his
chest. Let her" (Joyce 2003, 234).But in Joyce's mind, of
course. Stephen's fertile generation of thought-lice is the
highest, most spiritually athletic calling of all.
In a contrary vein, Rabate reads Stephen's louse not as a
thought in the form of a parasite, but rather as "the stubborn
resistance of nature or the body to ideas" (Rabate 2001, 86). On
the face of it, this appears to make some sense. Stephen has
misremembered Nash's line and associates this error with the louse,
which is "born in the sweat of sloth" because Stephen has not
studied hard enough to keep his trove of memorized verses pure. But here
again. Joyce's symbolic deployment of the louse should not be
confused with Stephen's self-flagellation, and Stephen's harsh
opinion of himself should not be confused with Joyce's opinion of
Stephen. For one thing, Joyce is representing a significant improvement
in Stephen's performance, rather than the total failure Stephen
makes of it. In the novels previous chapter, Stephen draws forth a
phrase from "his treasure" of memorized literature and murmurs
it to himself: "A day of dappled seaborne clouds" (Joyce 2003,
166). In a reverie similar to the one that will be evoked by Nash's
verse in chapter live. Stephen enthuses about the synesthetic
associations that the recollected words provoke in him: "Was it
their colors? He allowed them to glow and fade, hue after hue: sunrise
gold, the russet and green of apple orchards, azure of waves, the
greyfringed fleece of clouds" (166). But as Don Gilford shows, what
goes unmentioned here is that Stephen's "treasure"
derives from a similar phrase in a book by Hugh Miller: "a day of
dappled breeze-borne clouds" (Clifford 1967, 219; emphasis added).
The younger Stephen of chapter four does not even realize he has made a
mistake (the substitution of "sea" for "breeze"),
nor does he demonstrate any awareness of where his precious phrase was
picked up. By contrast, although the older Stephen in chapter five at
first misremembers Nash's line, his memory is more rigorous now,
and so he is able to correct himself. The moment of this correction
occurs when Stephen sees, with eyelids closed, the dream-like vision of
"brittle bright bodies of lice filling." It is the brightness
of the falling louse-bodies he imagines that catalyzes his corrective
remembrance of the word "brightness" from Nash's line:
"Yes; and it was not darkness that fell from the air. It was
brightness." Thus, while Stephen's response to this process of
recollection and self-correction is to conclude with disgust that
"His mind bred vermin," there would seem to be a delicate
Joycean irony here: for it is precisely the brightness of the imagined
vermin that sparks his maturing capacity for self-correction (Joyce
The progress from the unnoticed error in chapter four to the
noticed one in chapter five recalls Tim Conley's tracing of
"an emergence of an awareness, an aesthetic of error" in
Joyce's work that intensifies as it flows toward Finnegans Wake:
"There is a clear sequence of literary self-awareness in
Joyce's publishing history, wherein each new text emerges as a
meta-text reassessing those that have appeared previous to it"
(Conley 2003, 15). Although Stephen's mind does breed vermin in
chapter five, and his thoughts are certainly represented there as lice,
Joyce is working at a remove from Stephen's consciousness, and can
thus deploy the precarious survival of those lice as a symbol of the
precarious, parasitic nature of intertextual circulation itself. While
Miller's "breeze-borne clouds" have dissipated into
Stephen's "sea" of youthful oblivion, Nash's line
manages to survive as a "brittle bright body" in
Stephen's memory -- it is a thought-parasite generated by Nash that
now inhabits Stephen's brain, twinkling with an autonomous,
artistic life. If this reading of Stephen's gathering powers of
memory is correct, then his shift from blithe error in chapter four to
savage self-control in chapter five would seem to justify his comment to
Eglinton in Ulysses: "Bosh! Stephen said rudely. A man of genius
makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of
discovery" (Joyce 1961, 243). From "breeze" to
"sea" from "brightness" to "darkness,"
from thoughts to lice "born of the sweat of sloth"--these are
the portals through which we must pass in order to understand this
important early stage in Joyce's aesthetic of error.
It is also worth observing that in the louse passage of Portrait
Joyce seems to register an elegant awareness of the Greek root-word
parasitos, "beside the grain." When Stephen sees the louse
with his artist's eyes, he likens it to a "grain of rice"
and thereby reverses its parasitic relationship with him, converting the
louse literally into "grain" or "food" for his art.
This recalls Joyce's 1904 comments to his brother about his
artistic project in relation to another type of sites, or grain-product:
"I am trying ... to give people some kind of intellectual pleasure
or spiritual enjoyment by converting the bread of everyday life into
something that has a permanent artistic life of its own" (quoted in
Ellmann 1959, 163). In the conversation with Lynch, lice had merely been
a philosophical idea that Stephen borrows from Aristotle. By contrast,
the empirical louse that Stephen expertly catches is transformed from a
parasitos feeding on him to a "grain" of the "bread of
everyday life" that he will transubstantiate into "something
that has a permanent artistic life of its own" -- a Eucharistic
conversion metafictively evident in the very passage in question, For
just as Stephen lets the louse "fall from him and wondered would it
live or die" the writer who publishes Portrait wonders whether it
will have "a permanent artistic life of its own." and wonders
whether his own "word-grains" will take root, flourish, and
achieve the Life-status of a major artistic accomplishment.
Seen in this light, the louse passage can also be understood to
mark an evolution and a sharp departure from Stephen's famous image
of the "fingernails" that the detached, god-like artist is
constantly paring. Prior to the louse passage, Stephen had boasted to
lynch;" The artist, like the Clod of the creation, remains within
or behind or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence,
indifferent, paring his fingernails" (Joyce 2003, 215). But now,
when Stephen rolls the louse "between thumb and forefinger"
and then lets it fall, he is markedly not indifferent to his
"handiwork." Stephen wonders whether his mind-bred louse will
"live or die"; he closes "his eyelids in a sudden spasm
of despair" as he takes stock of the "life of his body
illclad, illfed. louse-eaten"; he has a vivid vision of "the
brittle bright bodies of lice falling from the air and turning often as
they fell" (234). There is no indifferent, God-like artist here. If
the lice are embodiments of the artist's thoughts, then these
details point to a self-image quite different from the haughty
performance put on in Stephen earlier pronouncements to Lynch. Now
Stephen is alone, vulnerable, anxious -- and therefore intensely
affected by the falling of the louse from his fingertips. He may not
know it yet, but he is becoming invested in the thought-parasites his
brain generates, since the question of whether they will "live or
die" in the world corresponds to whether his words will "have
a permanent artistic life" -- to whether or not they will leap to
new hosts, replicate and proliferate through new brains (234, 215).
Through this subtle change in Stephen, Joyce seems to suggest that such
parasitic transmission is the only immortal divinity available to the
artist, and that Stephen is beginning with some despondence to recognize
this facet of his fate. If so, Stephen's bleak conclusion that his
"mind bred vermin" and that his "thoughts were lice born
of the sweat of sloth" would be accurate in Joyce's mind.
However it is important to remain aware that Joyce is representing a
younger version of himself, and that he may therefore be positing
Stephens realization that his thoughts are lice as a genuine artistic
epiphany, but one whose power Stephen is not yet mature enough to
comprehend. I wish to suggest that Joyce intends Stephen to gain an
insight into the parasitic nature of ideas and poetic language, but not
yet to recognize that powerful words and ideas are inherently parasitic,
nor that those which do thrive do so by spreading ferociously. The key
to understanding the evolution of Joyce's thought here is seen in
several references to lice and other contagions that he makes between
the writing of the Paris notebook and the writing of Portrait.
Parasites and Thought Contagions
In Rome in 1907, Joyce writes to Stanislaus, "On Saturday last
I went up to the headquarters of the black lice to find out if they had
chosen their general.A carman told [me] they had elected a German and
now were at their pranzo" (Joyce 1966, 160). The "black
lice" in question are the Jesuits, who had elected Francis Xavier
Werns as their General and whose Dublin counterparts were responsible
for Joyce's education. This aggressively negative parasitic image
of the Jesuits, with whom Joyce was at "secret war," (11)
echoes Stephen's vision in Stephen Hero of a "plague of
Catholicism" which, in the form of a "plague of locusts"
blots out the sun for European civilization, and, in the form of
"black tyrannous lice," swarms over Europe's collective
"body," sucking dry its will and its natural joy in life:
Written in 1904, just a year or so after the Paris notebook entry,
this passage provides strong evidence that Joyce's thinking about
mental parasitism had already moved beyond Aristotelian abiogenesis to a
conception of ideas and systems of thought as infectious contagions.
Much later, Joyce puts a concept of civilization itself as a contagion
into the mouth of the Citizen in the "Cyclops'' episode
of Ulysses: when Bloom praises English "colonies" and
"civilization;' the Citizen fires back, "Their
syphilisation, you mean. ... To hell with them!" (Joyce 1961, 325).
The Citizen also refers to the arrival of Jews in Ireland in terms
similar to those of the Stephen Hero passage: "Those are nice
things, says the Citizen, coining over here to Ireland filling the
country with bugs" (323).The "bugs" in Stephen Hero are
"vermin begotten in the catacombs in an age of sickness and
cruelty" a "plague of locusts," and "black tyrannous
lice," all representing the "plague of Catholicism" that
has "beset the body" of Ireland and the rest of Europe (Joyce
1963, 199). Furthermore, in his 1904 diary Stanislaus writes, "He
talks much of the syphilitic contagion m Europe, is at present writing a
series of studies in it in Dublin, tracing practically everything to it.
The drift of it seems to be that the contagion is congenital and
incurable and responsible for all manias" (S.Joyce 1962, 51).
Stanislaus dubs it "his theory of the contagion," a European
affliction that leads people to "delight in the manias and to
humour each to the top of its bent" (51). Although Stanislaus
admits he does not entirely follow his brother's thinking, this
diary entry draws a remarkable parallel between the notion of a
"syphilitic contagion in Europe" and the "plague of
Catholicism" described the same year in Stephen Hero, suggesting
that Joyce saw powerful idea-systems like Catholicism as examples of the
"manias" that informed his "theory of the
contagion." In sum, these various parallels suggest that the
figurative use of lice, plagues, and syphilis as a topological cluster
to represent mental "contagions" had achieved a level of
complexity in 1904 that would be retained by Joyce and incorporated in
his later work.
It must be observed that Rabate seems to assume that in nature all
lice are black and that Joyce always represents them as such (Rabate
2001, 9(1). In fact, lice vary in color from "dirty-white to rust
to grayish-black " and head lice in particular "can change to
become the color of the hosts hair"12 Consequently not all lice are
black for Joyce -- they can also be "white," I like the ones
that appear in a 1922 poem about the hunger strike of the lord Mayor of
Cork: "White lice and black famine / Are the mayor of Corks
supper" (quoted in Ellmann 1959, 533). Or, more to the point, lice
can be "bright," like the lice in Portrait There seems to be a
significant difference between the black lice that represent the odious
"plague of Catholicism" in Stephen Hero, and the "brittle
bright bodies of lice" of Stephen's vision in Portrait. The
difference is telling, for it corresponds with the recurrent trope of
the parallel Joyce sets up between the thought-contagion of Catholicism,
with which he was at war, and the contagious literary fervor he wanted
his own art to breed. In Ulysses, Murphy the sailor denounces black
lice, and only black lice: "It's them black lads 1 objects to.
I hate those buggers. Sucks your blood dry they does" (Joyce 1961.
631). But intriguingly the color of the lice on Murphy's body is
never made explicit. He opens his shirt to reveal them, but ends up
displaying his three tattoos instead, suggesting a fluid, associative
relation between the invisible lice, emblematic of thought-organisms,
and ink-drawn signs such as tattoos, or words in a text.
Of course, Joyce was hardly the only thinker of the early twentieth
century to figure the transhistorical 'life' of language in
biological terms: variations on this theme appear in linguistics,
philosophy, sociology, and psychology. But there is one theorist who
stands out for articulating a model remarkably congruent with the
Joycean thinking we are tracing here: Mikhail Bakhtin. Stephen's
misremembering of "Darkness" for "Brightness" in
Nash's original line is a superb novelistic representation of an
aspect of linguistic dialogisim that Bakhtin calls the "intense
interaction and struggle between one's own and another's
word" (Bakhtin 1981, 354-5). Although Bakhtin's rhetorical
tendencies are too celebratory for him to figure ideas as parasites, as
Joyce does, Bakhtin frequently uses terms that liken the novel genre to
a young species engaged in a struggle for survival with other genres:
"The novel appears to be a creature from an alien species. It gets
on poorly with other genres. It fights for its own hegemony in
literature; wherever it triumphs, the other older genres go into
decline" (4). This Darwinian conception of the evolution of genres
as a 'struggle for survival' offers a good example of the
"biological thinking" that Michael Holquist has argued is
central to Bakhtin's work (Holquist 1993, 171). It suggests an
affiliation with the biological thinking that Joyce manifests in
Stephen's thought-lice in Portrait and in certain aspects of
Ulysses, especially the gestational/evolutionary "Oxen of the
Sun" episode. (13) Such biological thinking no doubt draws on
nineteenth-century discourses of organicism, which held that everything
from societies to works of art were analogous in their functioning to
organisms. However, both Bakhtin and Joyce go beyond organicism to
something more like 'intertextual ecologism,' seeing textual
productions across vast expanses of time and geography as being
analogous to the functioning of dynamically evolving ecosystems, rather
than discrete, finite organisms.
In a remarkable parallel to Stephens ecologically circulating
thought-lice, Bakhtin describes something like a conceptual parasite as
a constituent element of an 'ideology'." When a character
articulates a distinctive way of viewing the world, she serves as an
"ideologue," while the constituent elements of the articulated
worldview are called "ideologemes." Bakhtin writes, "The
speaking person in the novel is always, to one degree or another, an
ideologue, and his words are always ideologemes.A particular language in
a novel is always a particular way of viewing the world" (Bakhtin
1981, 333). The closeness of these concepts to the concept of
Stephen's substitution of "Darkness" for
"Brightness" as the production of an independent and parasitic
"thought-organism" can be seen when Bakhtin discusses the
agonistic "transmission" of ideologemes in everything from
quotidian discourse to major works of literature:
Bakhtin repeats this idea in a myriad of forms and contexts, but
the gist is quite similar to the notion of parasitism that Joyce allows
Stephen to develop: the utterance is an "organism" that
possesses a degree of agency above and beyond "the intention of the
person uttering it," and it may live or die, replicate itself or
not, in the utterances of others.
Stephen, unlike Nash, is inspired by the coming on of
"darkness" and finds the word "rich and lutelike"
(Joyce 2003, 233). Indeed. Stephen's consciousness is moved by life
and lust to utter the line he does, while Nash's poem. "Song
in Time of Pestilence," is a morose meditation on the inevitable
withering of beauty and life, written in the midst of a plague in 1592:
When Stephen bitterly chastises himself for his substitution of
"Darkness" for "Brightness" he is also foregrounding
his substitution of what Bakhtin would call his "ideology" or
"way of seeing the world" -- a hopeful and lascivious one --
for the despondent, deathly perspective expressed in Nash's poem of
"pestilence." It is the brightness of hope that fills from the
air in times of plague and death, rather than the "rich and
lutelike" darkness evoked by Stephen's optimistic sex drive.
But the bite of the louse, which leaves Stephen's mind "red
and raw" and prompts him to recognize his misquotation of Nash,
sends him spiraling into an abyss like the lice he envisions. It is
ironically the louse, a sign of "pestilence" that causes
Stephens mood to shift closer to Nash's gloomy "way of seeing
the world" during plague-time. Bakhtin's idea that such a
switch, from hope to hopelessness, can be effected by the restoration of
a single original word to reintegrate a prior ideology therefore
receives brilliant expression in the imaginary "bright lice"
that cause Stephen to recall Nash's falling "brightness"
in the middle of a plague. With the words "His mind bred vermin.
His thoughts were lice born of the sweat of sloth," Joyce
crystallizes the Bakhtinian concept of the word-organ-ism, or
"ideologeme," by showing how the substitution of a single word
in Stephens quotation radically alters the "way of seeing the
world" expressed in Nash's poem. As a result, the nature of
the "complex and dynamic organism" in Nash's original
line of verse is radically altered.
The Louse in the Looking Glass
Recognition of the peculiar importance of lice in Joyce's work
gives a new inflection to Buck's dig in the "Telemachus"
episode of Ulysses about Stephen's "lousy leer and [...]
gloomy Jesuit jibes" (Joyce 1961, 16). Since we have seen how Joyce
tends to link lice with Jesuit priests and the Catholic
thought-contagion they represent, it would no longer seem incidental
that Buck chides Stephen for his "lousy leer" and "jesuit
jibes" in the same breath. There may be a subtle inversion here: if
Joyce associates Stephen's artistic poiesis with the production of
lice, then in Joyce's mind Buck's disparagement of
Stephen's "lousiness" would unwittingly insult the very
creativity he covets in Stephen. The possibility that Stephen's
thoughts are figured as lice not only in Portrait but also Ulysses gains
strength when we examine another passage in "Telemachus" in
which Buck teases Stephen with a mirror:
This subtle passage is laced with references to various sorts of
parasitism, and repays close inspection. Buck's comment regarding
"general paralysis of the insane" refers to a rumor
circulating in the Ship tavern that Stephen's whoring has
parasitized him with syphilis -- or as we have seen the Citizen call it,
"syphilisation," a concise portmanteau word that describes
civilization as a colonizing, biological, sexually transmitted pathogen.
(14) Buck implicitly theatens to "flash the tidings" of this
rumor further, thus menacing Stephen with a thought-parasite at least as
contagious as the slender, spiral spirochete he is accused of hosting.
The description of Buck's "curling shaven lips" and
"the edges of his white glittering teeth" are perfectly
appropriate for the hostile, voraciously parasitic role he will assume
as the Homeric Antinous of the novel; so when he bids Stephen "Look
at yourself ... you dreadful bard," we may read his mock-aggressive
words as a genuine psychological onslaught. With the mirror, Buck has
chosen his weapon well, since what Stephen sees does not please him.
There is an implication that he sees or imagines lice crawling through
his "hair on end," because the words that pop into his mind,
"As he and others see inc." are an allusion to Robert
Burns's 1786 poem. "To a Loose; On seeing One on a Lady's
Bonnet at Church":
The possibility that Stephen sees or imagines lice in the mirror is
reinforced by his glum reaction to his visage: "Who chose this face
for me? This dogsbody to rid of vermin" These thoughts recall the
passage from Portrait in which Stephen despairs of "The life of his
body, illclad, ilifed, louse-eaten," and in which he concludes that
his "mind bred vermin" (Joyce 2003, 234). Since Buck and
Haines want to exploit Stephen, his brooding as he looks in the looking
glass suggests that he imaginatively embodies his ideas and aphorisms in
the mirror's image as lice or vermin produced by his teeming brain.
This in turn gives Buck's later jab about Stephen's
"lousiness" its ironic doubleness: though Buck has referred
condescendingly to Stephen as a "poor dogsbody," meaning
"a servant who does odd jobs," when Stephen sees himself
"as others see me" as a "dogsbody to rid of vermin,"
he may be thinking of the epigrams that Buck and Haines want to steal:
they mean to "rid" him, or take from him, his creative ideas
(Joyce 1961, 6).
Furthermore, since Stephen is looking into a mirror when he
mentally repeats the word Buck has applied to him, "dogsbody"
can be understood as a mirror-reversal of "God's body," a
Eucharistic transformation refracted out to the limits of the
novel's artistic universe by the representational properties of the
looking glass. As Buck attempts to "rid" Stephen of his
creative thought-vermin -- to consume them, as it were -- they and
Stephen are transubstantiated by the mirror to become an immortal
"God's body," a consecrated "host" for the
mock-Mass that Buck has been conducting from the first sentence of the
novel a sentence in which the same mirror appears: "Stately, plump
Buck Mulligan came on the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a
mirror and a razor lay crossed" (Joyce 1961, 1). As others have
pointed out, the word "stately" can be understood to invoke
the colonizing state forces of England with which Buck allies himself
and against which Stephen rebels, but the word "plump" in this
context would therefore seem to reference the parasitism that both
England and Buck represent -- the self-engorging hunger that yearns to
feed pitilessly on the fat of Ireland, and on the "God's
body" of Stephen's talent.
Moreover, when Buck brags that he has "pinched" the
mirror "out of the skivvy's room," he reveals that he,
like England, is happy to steal from those less powerful. And when he
complains that his aunt "always keeps plain-looking servants for
Malachi," he suggests he has a reputation for being predatory on
women of lower station than himself. The hint of this more taboo, sexual
form of parasitism leads directly to an even darker one: when Buck takes
"the mirror away from Stephen's peering eyes," he laughs
and exclaims, "The rage of Caliban at not seeing his face in a
mirror If Wilde were only alive to see you," an overt allusion to
Wilde's famous dig against Philistinism: "The
nineteenth-century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his
own face in a glass. / The nineteenth-century dislike of Romanticism is
the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass" (Wilde
2004, xxiii). On the one hand, since Caliban is also a victim of
colonization, Buck's 'Calibanizing' of Stephen merely
reveals that Buck's affiliation with Oxford has infected him with
what L.H. Piatt describes as "centuries of cultural imperialism
which had stamped on English minds an indelible image of native Irish
primitiveness" (Piatt 1989, 78). But on the other hand, since
Caliban's name is a well-known anagram for "cannibal,'
Buck's quotation can also be understood as a
'cannibalizing' ofWilde's epigram, which adds cannibalism
to the dense cluster of ideas associated with appetite, feeding, and
parasitism in this dialogue.
Stephen, however, offers a retort that leaves Buck momentarily
speechless: "it is a symbol of Irish art.The cracked lookingglass
of a servant" (Joyce 1961, 6). It is tempting to interpret this
phrase as Buck does, and as Haines will -- an original, Wilde-like
epigram and thus a sign of creative genius. And yet, as Gifford and
Seidman's annotation reveals, Stephen's rejoinder is also
'cannibalized' from Wilde, though Stephen keeps its provenance
conveniently unmentioned: in The Decay of Lying, Cyril says to Vivian,
"I can quite understand your objection to art being treated as a
mirror. You think it would reduce genius to the position of a cracked
looking glass" (Gifford and Seidman 1988, 16). So while Buck has
lifted his looking glass from his 'skivvy" or servant. Stephen
has lifted his looking glass from another Irish "servant":
Wilde, whom Joyce derides as a "court jester to the English"
is his 1909 essay, "Oscar Wilde, the Poet of Salome" (Joyce
2000, 149). Joyce does therefore suggest that the looking glass is a
symbol for Irish art, but not merely because it is cracked or of a
servant. Rather, it also symbolizes Irish art because it has been
stolen. Joyce thus impishly implies that Irish art, exemplified by
Stephen's art, and by extension his own art, is primordially
parasitic -- it depends on borrowing, citation, quotation, imitation,
allusion, and stealing. In Finnegans Wake, Joyce would give expression
to his parasitic brand of storytelling" with the oft-quoted term,
"stolentelling" (Joyce 1939, 424). But already in the first
pages of Ulysses, the cracked looking glass epigram that Buck contrives
to steal from Stephen, a "dogsbody to rid of vermin" with a
'Mousy leer" is in fact a thought-parasite -- like those of
Nash and Miller in Portrait -- that originated with another writer.
Buck will soon convey the "cracked lookingglass" line to
Haines, who will also fail to recognize the plagiary, and therefore will
begin to hunger for more of Stephen's dictums:
A surface reading of Stephen's unspoken response to
Haines' offer is that, as with Lady Macbeth, nothing can remove the
"spot" on Haines' "conscience" left by
Britain's mistreatment of the Irish. But at the same time, since
Stephen may also sense here that Haines and Buck are plotting to
"wash and tub and scrub" him for his ideas, this passage links
back to Stephen's apprehension that these "others see me"
as a "dogsbody to rid of vermin," and that this scrubbing will
therefore be a metaphorical delousing of his valuable thought-parasites
(Joyce 1961, 6).
Haines's colonizing/parasitizing desire to pick Stephen clean
in this way is aptly underscored by the information that colonizing,
swindling, and deparasitizing are all traits inherited from his father:
Buck has told Stephen that Haines's "old fellow made his tin
by selling jalap to the Zulus or some bloody swindle or other"
(Joyce 1961,7)."Jalap" is a herbal purgative derived from a
vine in Mexico that would have been imported by colonizers to Africa
primarily for use as a vermifuge to expel intestinal worms (Grieve
1971). In other words, Joyce has set up an amusing symmetry between the
"swindle" practiced by the elder Haines on the native African
Zulus and the swindle being attempted by the younger Haines on the
native Irish Stephen: they both seek to make their "tin" by
employing deceptive colonizing tactics that result in a
'deparasitizing' of their victims. Such an example allows us
once again to see the intricacy with which the dynamics of parasitism
are built into the opening episode of Ulysses. But if the parasitism of
Haines's father is described as a "bloody swindle," one
would expect blood to be associated with Stephen's prolific lice as
Blood of the Artist
In the examples of Stephen's louse parasitism we have examined
so fir, Joyce shows a preoccupation with the abiogenetic production of
lice by Stephen's artistic mind. These thought-lice spring
spontaneously from Stephen, but are not explicitly seen to take
sustenance from him in return: Joyce makes no mention of the blood that
lice normally parasitize from their hosts. This changes significantly in
"Telelemachus" when Stephen ruminates about his mother's
dying days in a passage that problematizes the parasitic essence of
With the words "Where now?" Stephen wonders where May
Dedalus's "secrets" or memories have gone after her
death. He imaginatively ponders a series of memories she might have had,
memories of "toys" such as "fans,"
"dancecards," "amber beads," and a girlhood
"birdcage" lost objects that are now "folded away in the
memory of nature." The Theosophist concept of a universal memory in
which all moments and thoughts are stored, first propounded by Alfred
Percy Sinnett in 1896, surfaces several times in Ulysses (Clifford and
Seidman 1988, 19), and also in Joyce's essays on James Clarence
Mangan and William Blake (Joyce 2001, 136, 179). In the Blake essay for
example, Joyce writes, "I am trying to the best of my ability to
recall Blake's spirit from the twilight of the universal mind and
to hold it fast for a moment to investigate it" (Joyce 2000, 179).
As Ellmann relates, "Joyce was skeptical ofTheosophy [but] was
genuinely interested in such Theosophical themes as cycles,
reincarnation, the succession of gods, and the eternal mother-faith that
underlies all transitory religions" (Ellmann 1959, 99). Although in
Ulysses Joyce delights in poking fun at Theosophy particularly in
"Scylla and Charybdis," Sinnett's idea of a
"universal mind" seems to have served a serious function for
Joyce. This is not surprising, since it offered a neutral, indifferent
alternative to the Catholic tradition of a stern God, who not only
remembers but also judges all thoughts and actions. Moreover, it offered
a metaphysical paradigm for the ultra-comprehensive project of Ulysses
itself, which can be understood as a kind of centrifugal cross-section
of what a universal memory might record in the course of a single Dublin
When Stephen wistfully comforts himself by imagining that the
memories and thoughts produced by his mother's consciousness are
not nihilistically lost with her death but are rather "Folded away
in the memory of nature," he is suddenly overwhelmed by his own
memories of his mother: "Memories beset his brooding brain"
(Joyce 1961, 10). These memories can be understood to "beset his
brooding brain" in a sort of mental onslaught, or to he parasitic
thoughts that are themselves "brooded" by his brain
abiogenetically. Joyce will link memory with parasitism again in
"Circe" when Blooms grandfather, Virag, exhorts him to
"Exercise your mnemotechnic" in order to remember a cure for
warts. Bloom responds, "Rosemary also did I understand you to say
or willpower over parasitic tissues" (Joyce 1961, 514). On the free
of it, Bloom appears to be offering the herb rosemary and simpie
willpower as ways of getting rid of warts, or "parasitic
tissues!' But Gifford and Seidman note that rosemary fits into a
larger symbolic game in "Circe" that deploys the
"language of herbs" in complex ways (494); rosemary symbolizes
"remembrance" in this language, and therefore Blooms response
can be understood to equate remembrance with "willpower over
parasitic tissues." The figuration of memories as "parasitic
tissues "perhaps similar to warts, and of remembrance as a form of
"willpower" over those tissues, offers a useful way of
thinking about Stephens relationship to his mother's memory in
Ulysses.For Stephen, the central conflict of the novel will be to exert
his willpower over his painful memory of May's death and of his
refusal to repent at her bedside. These guilt-ridden memories have
become "parasitic tissues" that rankle malignantly within him
like the tumor that killed her.
Stephen's stubborn resistance to his mother's demand
"For those words," for the speech act acknowledging the
Catholic God, symbolizes the "secret war" between his life as
an artist and the life Catholicism would prescribe for him (Ellmann
1959, 169). Therefore, May's bloody squashing of the lice on her
children's shirts can be understood as an attempt to protect them
by "squashing" any thought-parasites that might infect them
with apostasy -- especially, one might assume, those generated by their
eldest brothers rebellious mind. At the same time, the image of blood on
May's fingertips in "Tclemachus" -- "shapely
fingernails reddened by the blood of squashed lice from the
children's shirts" (Joyce 1961, 10) -- can be understood to
use those lice to make a wry parasitic allusion to Horner's
trademark evocations of the red-tipped fingers of Eos,
"rosy-fingered Dawn," thus underscoring Joyce's linkage
of literary allusion with parasitism (Homer 1900, 13).
Moreover, Joyce has carefully positioned Stephen's remembrance
of May bloodying her fingers with her children's lice as the
trigger for a dream-recollection in which his guilt-ridden memory of her
death has itself become a parasitic ghoul, an inimical memory-parasite
that lives in his mind by chewing on his memory of May's corpse.
The dream marks a new development in Joyce's thinking about
parasitism, because now the dead and the memory of the dead have become
parasitic on the living, just as dreams are parasitic on waking life:
In dialogue with Telemachus's boisterous repudiation of
Penelope's authority in the Odyssey, Stephen inwardly resists his
mother's demand that he repent, calling her a "Ghoul! Chewer
of corpses!" (Joyce 1961, 10). It is a strange accusation on
Stephen's part, since on the face of it there is no evidence of May
chewing on any corpses. But when this conflict of wills conies to its
dramatic apex in "Circe" May appears to Stephen again and
demands that he "Repent! O, the fire of hell!" to which
Stephen rejoins, "Corpsechewer! Raw head and bloody bones"
(581). This allusion to Christ's crown of thorns and his sanguinary
flagellation gives the clue that Stephen is referring to the consumption
of wafer and wine in the Eucharist. Stephens reiterated description of
his mother as a "corpsechewer" underscores the parasitic and
cannibalistic implications of the Eucharists eating of the
"host," which is the very "corpsechewing" May is
insisting Stephen perform in order to repent. She responds to
Stephen's rebellion with a gruesome lunge:"(She wises her
blackened, withered right arm slowly towards Stephen's breast with
out-stretchedfingers.) Beware! God's hand! (A green nab with
malignant red eyes sticks deep its grinning claws in Stephen's
hearty (582). Here the theme of parasitism emerges at the moment many
consider the novel's climax. For May's green, bilious cancer
is figured as a zodiacal "crab," a horrible parasite living in
her body that plunges its "grinning claws into Stephen's
heart." suggesting that "Gods hand" -- the Catholic
church on Earth -- is nothing more than a metastatic parasite on the
corpus of humanity much like the "plague of Catholicism" and
the "black tyrannous lice" that "beset the body burdened
and disaffected in its members" in Stephen Hero (Joyce 1963, 199).
Stephen must summon all his "willpower over parasitic tissues"
to resist her parasitic crab, her parasitic cancer, her parasitic memory
and her demand that he join the parasitic "Corpsechewers" of
Catholicism -- those who chew the bread (sitos) of the Eucharistic
"host" (Joyce 190K 514, 581). Stephen follows Bloom by
exercising his "mnemotechnic," drawing a single word from his
" intellectual imagination" (582) to transform his ashplant
walking stick into "Nothing" (583), which sounds like
'Nothing,' but which is actually the name of Siegfried's
magic sword in Wagner's Die Walkure, a sword hidden by a god in the
heart of an ash tree ("ashplant"). Thus Stephen defeats the
ghoulish parasite that is his mother's memory by means of an
elegant parasitic allusion -- the forged blade of allusion that will be
the preeminent weapon of his future art.
It may not be mistaken to think Joyce represents parasitism in key
passages of his novels because he sees it as a sometimes distasteful but
always necessary aspect of art, civilization, and biological life
itself. His deployment of lice as an emblem for this parasitism bespeaks
an unflinching attitude toward art that obligates the artist to engage
the ungainly but pervasive dynamics of parasitism in human existence. I
wish to suggest that this approach is the result of a certain tragic
lucidity: the recognition that even in the rarefied sublimity of
'high' art. something as universally and instinctively
abhorred as parasitism permeates everything. But the final implication
Joyce foregrounds. I think, is a comic one. His clean clinical
perspective on the dynamics of intertextuality and societal relations
reveals with wry irony that something civilization tends to elevate --
art -- turns out to depend upon something civilization tends to revile
Aristotle. 1926. Problems. Trans. W.S. Hett. London: Heinemann.
Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1981. The Dialogic Imagination. Tram. Michael
Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Bloom, Harold, ed. 2009. Bloom's Modem Critical Views: James
Joyce. New York: Chelsea House.
Brown, Richard, ed. 2006. Joyce, "Penelope," and the
Body. European Joyce Studies 17. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
Bear, Mark E, Barry W. Conners, and Michael A. Paradisa. 200l.
Nruroscience: Exploring the Brain. Baltimore: Lippincott.
Brivic, Sheldon. 2008. Joyce Through Lacan and Zizek. Basingstoke,
Bock, Martin. 2007. James Joyce and Germ Theory: The Skeleton at
the Feast." James Joyce Quarterly 45.1: 23-46.
Conley, Tim, 2003. Joyce's Mistakes: Problems of Intention,
Irony, and Interpretation. Toronto: Toronto University Press.
Ellmann, Richard. 1959. James Joyce. Oxford: Oxford University
Ferris, Kathleen 1994 James Joyce and the Burden of Disease.
Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky.
Gibson. Andrew. 2002. Joyce's Revenge: History, Politics and
Aesthetics in Ulysses. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gifford, Don. 1967. Notes for Joyce: Dubliners and a Portrait of
the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Dutton.
Gifford, Don with Robert J. Seidman. 1988. Ulysses Annotated. 2nd
ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Gordon, John, 2004. Joyce and Reality: The Empirical Strikes Back.
Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.
Gottfried, Roy and Sebastian Knowles. 2008. Joyce's Misbelief.
Gainesville: University of Florida Press.
Grieve, M. 1971. "Dindweed, Jalap." In A Modern Herbal
New York: Dover, available at Botanical.com,
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. 1905. Introduction to Hegel's
Philosophy of Fine Art. Trans. Bernand Bosanquet. London: Kegan Paul,
Holquist, Michael. 1993. Late Soviet Culture; Prom Perestroika to
Novostroika. Eds. Thomas Lahusen and Gene Kuperman. Durham: Duke
Horner. 1900. The Odyssey. Trans. Samuel Butler. London: Fifield.
Joyce, James. 1968. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Ed.
Richard Ellmann. New York: Viking Press.
--. 2003. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Ed. Seamus
Deane. New York: Penguin..
--. 1967. Dubliners. Ed. Robert Scholes in consultation with
Richard Ellman. New York: Viking Press.
--. 1939. Finnegans Wake. New York: Viking Press.
--. 1966. Letters of James Joyce. Ed. Stuart Gilbert. Vol. 2. New
--. 2000. Occasional, Critical, and Political Writing. Ed. Kevin
Barry Oxford: Oxford University Press.
--. 1963. Stephen Hero. Ed. John J. Slocum and Herbert Gaboon. New
York: New Directions.
--. 1961. Ulysses. New York; Random House.
Joyce, Stanislaus. 1962. The Complete Dublin Diary of Stanislaus
Joyce. Ed. George H. Healey. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Knowlton, Eloise. 1998. Joyce, Joyceans, and the Rhetoric of
Citation. Gainesville: University of Florida Press.
Lawrence, Karen, ed. 1998. Transcultural Joyce. Cambridge:
University of Cambridge Press.
Lowe Evans, Mary. 2008. Catholic Nostalgia in Joyce, and Company.
Gainesville: University of Florida Press.
Mahon, Peter. 2007. Imagining Joyce and Derrida: Between Finnegans
Wake and Glas, Toronto: Toronto University Press.
McHugh, Roland. 1976. The Sigla of Finnegans Wake. London: Edward
Miller, Nicholas Andrew. 2002. Modernism, Ireland and the Erotics
of Memory, Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.
Olson. Mesh 2009. Modernism and the Ordinary
Oxford: Oxford University Press. Orr, Leonard. 2008. Joyce,
Imperialism and Postcolonialism. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.
Quiller-Couch, Arthur, ed 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse
1250-1900. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Platt, L. H. 1989. "The Buckeen and the Dogsbody: Aspects of
History and Culture in 'Tetemachus'" James Joyce
Quarterly 27.1: 77-86.
Rabate, Jean Michel. 2001. James Joyce and the Politics of Egoism.
Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.
Rickard, John. 1998. Joyce's Book of Memory: The Mnemotechnic
of Ulysses. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Salgado, Cesar Augusto. 2001. from Modernism to Neoharoque: Joyce
and Lezama Lima. Cranbury; Associated University Presses.
Schork, R.J. 1998. Greek and Hellenic Culture in Joyce.
Gainesville: University of Florida Press.
--. 1997. Latin and Roman Culture in Joyce. Gainesville: University
of Florida Press.
--. 2000 Joyce and Hagiography: Saints Above! Gainesville:
University of Florida Press.
Tvedten Steve. n.d. The Best Control accessed November 8, 2011,
Van Hulle, Dirk, 1999. "Reveiling the Ouragan of Spaces in
Less Than a Schoppinhour." In Genitrickslin Joyce, ed. Sam Slote
and Wim Van Mierlo, Huropean Joyce Studies 9. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
Wilde, Oscar. 2004. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York: Modern
(1.) For two excellent, diametrically opposed approaches to
Joyce's metafictive intertextuality, see John Gordon's Joyce
and Reality: The Empirical Strikes Back (2004) and Peter Mahon's
Imagining Joyce and Derrida: Between Finnegans Wake and Glas (2007); see
also Eloise Knowlton's Joyce, Joyceans, and the Rhetoric of
Citation (1998); and see Sheldon Brivic's Joyce Through Lacan and
Zizek (2008) for a fresh analysis of the Homeric allusions in Ulysses.
(2.) For a variety of stimulating perspectives on Joycean
aesthetics, see Harold Bloom's Modern Critical Views: James Joyce
(2009); see also Andrew Gibson's Joyce's Revenge: History,
Politics and Aesthetics in Ulysses (2002);Tim Conley's Joyce's
Mistakes (2003); and Cesar Augusto Salgado's comparative study,
From Modernism to Neobaroque: Joyce and Lemma Lima (2001).
(3.) For a recent collection of criticism on Joyce, art, and the
body, see Joyce, "Penelope," and the Body, edited by Richard
(4.) See in particular Declan Kiberd's Ulysses and Us: The Art
of livery day Living in Joyce's Masterpiece (2009) and Liesl
Olson's Modernism and the Ordinary (2009).
(5.) See for example Roy Gottfried's and Sebastian
Knowles's Joyce's Misbelief (2008), Mary Lowe Evans's
Catholic Nostalgia in Joyce and Company (2008), and R.J. Schork's
Joyce and Hagiography: Saints Above! (2000).
(6.) Transcultural Joyce, edited by Karen Lawrence (1998), remains
a key reference for postcolonial Joyce studies; see also Leonard
Orr's Joyce, Imperialism, and Postcolonialism (2008).
(7.) See John Rickard's Joyce's Book of Memory: The
Mnemotechnic of Ulysses (1998), and Nicholas Andrew Millers Modernism,
Ireland and the Erotics of Memory (2002).
(8.) A preliminary list of works that feature some consideration of
insects in Joyce would include Roland McHugh's The Sigla of
Finnegans Wake (1976), R.J. Schork's Greek and Hellenic Culture in
Joyce and Latin and Roman Culture in Joyce (1998), and Dirk Vam
Hulle's "Revelling the Ouragan of Spaces in Less Than a
(9.) Barry points out in Occasional, Critical, and Political
Writing (Joyce 2000, 3l2n) that Joyce here condenses chapter 3,
"The Conception of Artistic Beauty," in Introduction to
Hegel's Philosophy of Fine Art (Joyce 2000, 43-106).
(10.) See Seamus Deane's notes to Portrait (Joyce 2003, 324).
(11.) As Joyce once put it, "I made secret war upon [the
Catholic church). By doing this I made myself a beggar but I retained my
pride" (quoted in Ellmann 1959, 169).
(12.) See Tvedten, The Best Control, (n.d.).
(13.) Bakhtin drew explicit parallels between his ideas and the
discoveries of Galileo and Einstein, but not with those of Darwin. It
may not be mistaken to think chat he chose to be circumspect in relating
literary evolution to Darwinian evolution under a Soviet regime that
officially resisted Darwinism in favor of Lamarckism.
(14.) For useful discussions of syphilis and the germ theory of
medicine in Joyce's intellectual history, see Kathleen Ferris,
James Joyce and the Burden of Disease (1994) and Martin Bock,
"James Joyce and Germ Theory: The Skeleton at the Feast"
James Ramey is Associate Professor of Humanities at Universidad
Autonoma Metropolitana-Cuajimalpa in Mexico City. His publications
include articles in Comparative Literature, James Joyce Quarterly, and
Comparative Literature Studies.
Question: Why are not excrements, children and lice works of art?
Answer: Excrements, children, and lice are human products - human
dispositions of sensible matter. The process by which they are
produced is natural and non-artistic; their end is not an aesthetic
end: therefore they are not works of art." (Joyce 2000, 104)
-- Can excrement or a child or a louse he a work of art? If not,
-- Why nor indeed? said Lynch, laughing.
-- If a man hacking in fury at a block of wood, Stephen continued,
make there an image of a cow, is that image a work of art? If not,
-- That's a lowly one, said Lynch, laughing again. That has the true
scholastic stink. (Joyce 2003, 214)
A louse crawled over the nape of his neck and, putting his thumb and
forefinger deftly beneath his loose collar, he caught it. He rolled
its body, tender yet brittle as a grain of rice, between thumb and
forefinger for an instant before he let it tall from him and wondered
would it live or die. There came to his mind a curious phrase from
Cornelius a Lapide which said that the lice born of human sweat were
not created by God with the other animals on the sixth day. But the
tickling of the skin of his neck made his mind raw and red. The life
of his body, illclad, illfed, louse-eaten, made him close his eyelids
in a sudden spasm of despair: and in the darkness he saw the brittle
bright bodies of lice falling from the air and turning often as they
fell. Yes; and it was not darkness that fell from the air. It was
Brightness falls from the air.
He had not even remembered rightly Nash's line. All the images it had
awakened were false. His mind bred vermin. His thoughts were lice born
of the sweat of sloth. (Joyce 2003, 233-4)
In a stupor of powerlessness he reviewed the plague of Catholicism.
He seemed to see the vermin begotten in the catacombs in an age of
sickness and cruelty issuing forth upon the plains and mountains of
Europe. Like the plague of locusts described in Callista they seemed
to choke the rivers and fill the valleys up. They obscured the sun.
Contempt of human nature, weakness, nervous trembling, fear of day and
joy, distrust of man and life, hemiplegia of the will, beset the body
burdened and disaffected in its members by its black tyrannous lice.
(Joyce 1963, 198-99)
In the makeup of almost every utterance spoken by a social person
-- from a brief response in a casual dialogue to major
verbal-ideological works (literary, scholarly, and others) - a
significant number of words can be identified that are implicitly or
explicitly admitted as someone else's, and that are transmitted by a
variety of different means. Within the arena of almost every
utterance an intense interaction and struggle between one's own and
another's word is being waged, a process in which they oppose or
dialogically interanimate each other.The utterance so conceived is
a considerably more complex and dynamic organism than it appears when
construed simply as a thing that articulates the intention of the
person uttering it. (Bakhtin 1981, 354-55)
Beauty is but a flower,
Which wrinkles will devour;
Brightness falls from the air;
Queens have died young and falls;
Dust hath closed Helen's eye.
I am sick, I must die;
Lord have mercy on us. (Quiller-Couch 1919, 202)
-- That fellow I was with in the Ship last night, said Buck Mulligan,
says you have g.p.i. He's up in Dottyville with Conolly Norman.
General paralysis of the insane.
He swept the mirror a half circle in the air to flash the tidings
abroad in sunlight now radiant on the sea. His curling shaven lips
laughed and the edges of his white glittering teeth. Laughter seized
all his strong wellknit trunk.
-- Look at yourself, he said, you dreadful bard.
Stephen bent forward and peered at the mirror held out to him, cleft
by a crooked crack, hair on end. As he and others see me. Who chose
this face for me? This dogsbody to rid of vermin. It asks me too.
--I pinched it out of the skivvy's room, Buck Mulligan said. It does
her all right. The aunt always keeps plain-looking servants for
Malachi. Lead him not into temptation. And her name is Ursula.
Laughing again, he brought the mirror away from Stephen's peering
-- The rage of Caliban at not seeing his face in a mirror, he said.
If Wilde were only alive to see you.
Drawing back and pointing, Stephen said with bitterness:
-- It is a symbol of Irish art. The cracked lookingglass of a servant.
(Joyce 1961, 6)
O wad sonic Power the giftie gie us
To sec oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder tree us.
An' foolish notion, (quoted in Clifford and Seidman 1988, 16)
-- I intend to make a collection of your sayings if you will let me.
Speaking to me. They wash and tub and scrub. Agenbite of inwit.
Conscience. Yet here's a spot.
-- That one about the cracked lookingglass of a servant being the
symbol of Irish art is deuced good. ...
-- Would I make money by it? Stephen asked.
Haines laughed and. as he took his soft grey hat from the holdfast,
of the hammock, said:
-- I don't know. I'm sure. (Joyce 1961, 16)
Her door was open: she wanted to hear my music. Silent with awe
and pity I went to her bedside. She was crying in her wretched bed.
For those words, Stephen: love's bitter mystery.
Her secrets: old feather fans, tasselled dancecards, powdered with
musk, a gaud of amber beads in her locked drawer. A birdcage hung in
the sunny window of her house when she was a girl. ...
Folded away in the memory of nature with her toys. Memories beset his
brooding brain. Her glass of water from the kitchen tap when she had
approached the sacrament. A cored apple, filled with brown sugar,
roasting for her at the hob on a dark autumn evening. Her shapely
fingernails reddened by the blood of squashed lice from the
children's shirts. (Joyce 1961, 10)
Her shapely fingernails reddened by the blood of squashed lice from
the children's shirts.
In a dream, silently, she had come to him, her wasted body within
its loose graveclothes giving off an odour of wax and rosewood,
her breath bent over him with mute secret words, a faint odour
of wetted ashes.
Her glazing eyes, staring out of death, to shake and bend my soul.
On me alone. The ghostcandle to light her agony. Ghostly light on
the tortured face. Her hoarse loud breath rattling in horror, while
all prayed on their knees. Her eyes on me to strike me down. Liliata
rutilantium te confessorum turma circumdet: iubilantium te virginum
Ghoul! Chewer of corpses!
No mother. Let me be and let me live. (Joyce 1961,10)