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Modern Fiction Studies 46.2 (2000) 529-531

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Book Review

Ulysses--En-Gendered Perspectives

Britain, Ireland, and Continental Europe

Kimberly J. Devlin and Marilyn Reizbaum, eds. Ulysses--En-Gendered Perspectives. Columbia, U of South Carolina P, 1999. xvii + 345 pp.

At the conclusion of a workshop on "The Maternal in Joyce" in Zurich in April 1993, Fritz Senn suggested to the participants that they create a symposium modeled after James Joyce's Ulysses: Critical Essays (1974). In that classic study, edited by Clive Hart and David Hayman, the semi-autonomous structure of the eighteen episodes of Joyce's work was reflected by the use of a different critic for each chapter. The Zurich symposium, widening its focus to cutting-edge "concepts of gender and engendering--hegemonic tropes in the larger ideological network that figurations of the maternal are enmeshed in," enlisted eighteen contributors to create Ulysses--En-Gendered Perspectives.

In their introduction, Devlin and Reizbaum describe gender in Joyce as "a form of overwriting, a term that implies both excess or layering," the result being "a palimpsestic process, a practice of writing over and on other entities, an imposition of a particular differential discourse on other [End Page 529] cultural structures [. . .]." Moreover, en-gendering is distinguished as "a cultural process, often invisible in its workings, yet overly visible in its effects: a process of production (and reproduction) of meanings, that generates (and regenerates) the categories of 'masculine' and 'feminine' by aligning them with other differential forms and positions."

Any common frame for critical discourse in the Zurich symposium, the editors concede, rests on the "new parallectic perspective" which depends on "the impact of feminist issues" or the accepted methodologies of historicism, psychoanalysis, postcolonialism, and cultural criticism. Although this may not provide a unifying theme, metaphor, or algorithm for the symposium, it does in fact encourage a good deal of ingenuity and enterprise. The result is a stimulating collection, enlarging the envelope more than pushing it.

There are three layers of Joycean gender studies merging here: the modernist, based on Sigmund Freud, Havelock Ellis, and Carl Jung; the postmodernist, based on Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Lacan, Michel Foucault, Luce Irigaray, and Julia Kristeva; and the contemporary, following Richard Brown, Judith Butler, Sander Gilman, David Lloyd, Mark Osteen, Eve Sedgwick, and Elaine Showalter. The old topics for gender studies in Joyce were anti-Semitism, castration anxiety, masculinity, the maternal, patriarchy, pornography, and prostitution; now the new topics include advertising, commodity culture, homosexual panic, hypermasculinity, the male gaze, popular culture, photography, and the subaltern. A simple way of grouping these essays is according to whether their main interest is, roughly speaking, in text, context, or theory.

Eight of the essays contain glosses, occasionally quite dazzling, on the text. Cheryl Herr contrasts male and female modes of knowledge of folklore and midwives in "Old Wives' Tales as Portals of Discovery in 'Proteus.'" Maud Ellmann explains the anthropology, medicine, and aesthetics of the epidermis and Joyce's use of anatomy in "Skinscapes in 'Lotus-Eaters.'" Karen Lawrence provides fascinating insights into motifs of the culture of foods in "Legal Fiction or Pulp Fiction in 'Lestrygonians.'" Bonnie Kime Scott examines the male/female dichotomy in habits of tenancy of space in "Diversions from Mastery in 'Wandering Rocks.'" Marilyn Reizbaum addresses the under-appreciated role of women in "When the Saints Come Marching In: Re-Deeming 'Cyclops.'" John Bishop analyzes the feminine/masculine partitioning of the chapter in "A Metaphysics of Coitus in 'Nausicaa.'" Margot Norris brilliantly explicates [End Page 530] words as aphrodisiacs and the pharmakos of their antidotes in "Disenchanting Enchantment: The Theatrical Brothel of 'Circe.'" And Christine Van Boheemen boldly reconsiders the image of Molly in "Molly's Heavenly Body and the Economy of the Sign: The Invention of Gender in 'Penelope.'"

Three essays deliver fresh historical contexts or intellectual settings. Robert Spoo explores the meanings, backgrounds, and resonance of nightmare/night-mère in "Genders of History in 'Nestor.'" Enda Duffy provides fascinating political and patriarchal backgrounds in "Interesting States: Birthing and the Nation in 'Oxen of the Sun.'" And Kimberly J. Devlin examines the gender division in...


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