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Joyce’s Utopian Machine: The Anti-Tyrannical Mechanics of Ulysses

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 48, Number 1, Fall 2010
pp. 55-74 | 10.1353/jjq.2010.0037



This essay argues that James Joyce’s Ulysses is preoccupied with the problem of mechanization. The electrical and steam-driven machines of the early twentieth century appear in the novel as instruments of tyrannical power—man-made monsters of social and political domination. Ulysses, however, resists the forms of mastery it depicts in its machines. Recognizing its implication in the processes of industrial modernity, it turns itself, formally, into a machine for the disruption of its own technological monsters. It becomes a utopian machine: a self-subverting, self-deconstructing machine built to resist the forces of instrumental domination.