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Eating and Digesting "Lestrygonians": A Physiological Model of Reading

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 46, Number 3-4, Spring-Summer 2009
pp. 469-479 | 10.1353/jjq.2008.0046



In this article, I propose that, beneath a deceptively simple story-line, "Lestrygonians" functions like a living entity, one through which Bloom unknowingly traverses. First, there is Joyce's familiar Dublin, on a macroscopic level, and, second, there is the episode's narrative, personified by a gigantic female organism, in whose digestive tract Bloom has been reduced to Lilliputian size. Some critics have noted the importance of the physiological details of digestion here; no one, however, has noted to what extent the structure of the episode is represented by the digestive model. My final claim about the episode's digestive proclivities concerns its effects on the reader. If "Lestrygonians" replicates alimentary functions by propelling both its characters and the reading process along, it also elicits, in the reader, the synesthesia of reading with autonomic sensations.