, Volume 94, Issue 1, pp 151-163

First online:

The Mother and the word known to all men: Stephen’s Struggle with amor matris in James Joyce’s Ulysses

  • Benjamin BoysenAffiliated withDepartment of Literature and Semiotics, University of Southern Denmark Email author 

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In this article I will pursue the meaning of the word known to all men in Joyce’s Ulysses. The sentence appears three times in the novel in three different locations that each adds meaning to it in diverse ways. First it appears in ‘Proteus’ where it is associated with Stephen’s amorous longings; latter is turns up in ‘Scylla and Charybdis’ where it is inscribed within a scholastic and Thomistic discussion of love; eventually it appears in ‘Circe’ where the anguished Stephen is confronted with his dead and dreaded mother, who reminds him of the interdependence of maternal love (amor matris) and the inescapable common lot of all, namely death. The importance of love to the understanding of the sentence is, in addition, deepened by the circumstance that Bloom, as an embodiment and representation of love, is present at all of the textual locations of the sentence.


Modernism Subjectivity Love