Irish Writing pp 159-172 | Cite as

James Joyce: a Subversive Geography of Gender

  • Bonnie Kime Scott
Part of the Insights book series (ISI)


Gender works in its most subversive ways at the boundaries of Joyce’s texts: in the terminal settings of Dubliners stories, in the female-voiced codas of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, and on the geographic borders of Ireland. Such border situations include the placement of a character on a beach, as in the fourth chapter of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and the ‘Proteus’ and ‘Nausicaa’ chapters of Ulysses, and mental transport to the West, as occurs at the end of ‘The Dead’. Both Dubliners stories and Ulysses deliberately shift between territories identified with either the masculine or the feminine, assuming gender-related languages associated with these places.1 It is in feminine territory that male characters are least able to hold to patriarchal values, and it is at the terminal borders of his texts that Joyce seems to have felt the need for a feminine voice.


Male Character Terminal Setting Feminist Criticism Fourth Chapter Geographic Border 
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  1. 1.
    For further discussion see B. K. Scott, James Joyce (Brighton: Harvester, 1987) ch. 3: ‘Gender Discourse and Culture’.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    E. Showalter, ‘Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness’, in E. Showalter (ed.), The New Feminist Criticism: Essays on Women, Literature and Theory (New York: Pantheon, 1985) pp. 243–70.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    M. Jehlen, ‘Archimedes and the Paradox of Feminist Criticism’, Signs 6 (Fall 1981) 582.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    J. Kristeva, ‘From “Oscillation between Power and Denial”’, tr. M. A. August, in E. Marks and I. de Courtivron (eds), New French Feminisms: An Anthology (New York: Schocken Books, 1981) p. 165.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    J. Joyce, Selected Letters, ed. R. Eilmann (New York: Viking Press, 1975) p. 285.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    M. French, The Book as World (Sphere, 1982) p. 259.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    See C. Van Boheemen, The Novel as Family Romance: Language, Gender, Authority from Fielding to Joyce (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987) p. 177ff;Google Scholar
  8. and R. Battaglia, ‘Stages of Desire in Joyce’, in B. K. Scott (ed.), New Alliances in Joyce Studies: ‘whan it’s aped to foul a Delfian’ (Newark, Del.: University of Delaware Press, 1988) pp. 37–47.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    M. Seidel, Epic Geography: James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976).Google Scholar
  10. For a discussion of women in urban geography, and a survey of attitudes toward the mythic parallels, see S. Benstock, ‘City Spaces and Women’s Places in Joyce’s Dublin’, in B. Benstock (ed.), James Joyce: The Augmented Ninth (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    See B. K. Scott, ‘Appraisals: Thomas Kettle, 1880–1916’, Journal of Irish Literature 3 (1974) 74–91. Kettle’s struggles over Irish nationalism corresponded to Joyce’s, and sympathy for the small country of Belgium cost him his life in the First World War. B. Ghiselin, ‘The Unity of Joyce’s Dubliners’, in Scholes and Litz, Dubliners: Text, Criticism and Notes pp. 320, 329, 320, 318.Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    S. A. Henke, ‘Stephen Dedalus and Women: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Misogynist’, in S. A. Henke and E. Unkeles, Women in Joyce (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982) p. 93.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    J. Joyce, ‘Epiphany 28’, in R. Scholes and R. M. Kain (eds), The Workshop of Daedalus (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1965).Google Scholar

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© The Editorial Board, Lumiere (Co-operative) Press Ltd 1991

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  • Bonnie Kime Scott

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