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Epilogue Privacy in Bloom Ever since I first read Ulysses, Leopold Bloom has provided the clearest and most dependable image I’ve found of the kind of person I’d like to be, someone who lives an ordinary life and survives it with optimism, good humor, integrity, and dignity. A thirty-eight-year-old canvasser for ads, a graduate of what he terms the “university of life” (U 15:840, 17:555–56), a Jewish outsider in lower-middle-class Catholic Dublin, Bloom lives through one day in all its twists and turns and ups and downs. In many ways, June 16, 1904, is an ordinary day—“the dailiest day possible,” Joyce’s fellow novelist Arnold Bennett called it—but Bloom does attend the funeral of an acquaintance who died suddenly earlier in the week from an alcohol-induced heart attack and, most important, lives through the hours knowing that at 4:00 his wife will be unfaithful to him (and, in the second half of the book, has cuckolded him) with her concert manager.1 From the outside, and to his fellow Dubliners , Bloom is practically invisible and silent. They acknowledge him only to scorn him. Joyce gives us access to Bloom’s inner life, however, and it is his thoughts, responses, reactions, daydreams, and fantasies that make him, for me, a figure of great sympathy, even of heroism. We have access to a full range of Bloom’s thoughts during his day—serious thoughts, trivial ones, happy, sad, generous, selfish, licit, illicit. Joyce lets us eavesdrop on his plans for his own life and his ideas for improving Dublin civic life (bury people vertically to save space in cemeteries), and on his attempts to recall poems and plays he has read and seen, often with mistakes. We also accompany him into his outhouse where we watch him and eavesdrop on his thoughts as he defecates: “Hope it’s not too big bring on piles 186 Epilogue again. No, just right” (U 4:509–10). Later, we read the hilarious account of him masturbating and then follow his post-orgasmic thoughts, and we share his recollections of connubial lovemaking with Molly and his only half-serious plans, if even that, for his own adulterous affair with Martha Clifford. In one of the most extraordinary sections of Ulysses, we witness, as if paraded on a stage, Bloom’s unconscious mind, the desires and drives, fears and wishes to which he has no conscious access. He would surely be mortified to learn that anyone else knew about this part of his being, or even to know about it himself. (Declan Kiberd remarks about even Bloom’s conscious thoughts that if they “were to be made public, there would be outrage.”)2 If Leopold Bloom is a sympathetic, dignified, and heroic character, he is also one who has had much of what we would consider his privacy ripped from him by his creator. I’ve thought about Leopold Bloom in many ways over the years, but never before in terms of privacy. He is a literary character, after all, a creation of words. But my sense of his dignity and heroism is connected to my voyeuristic interest in his inner life, to my access to what, if he were a living human being, he surely would want to keep private. And, of course, the playing field is uneven: I don’t have to give anything away, or expose any part of myself, as I read Ulysses—except privately. No one knows how much or how little I’m affected by the book, how deeply or shallowly I respond, with how much interest or boredom, sympathy or hostility, unless I choose to make those reactions public. Because I’m a professional literary critic and scholar, and a university professor , I do reveal at least some of those responses. Like most academics, I have made a tacit deal regarding my privacy. When I write literary criticism or scholarship, I write about an author or a work, not directly about myself. This ensures me a kind of protection, since I communicate through my ideas, my ability to discover and marshal evidence, and my skill at writing clear, relatively neutral, academic prose. I speak to a small audience, in most of my writings to those people interested in Ulysses. Within this tiny group I become a semi-public or sometimes public figure. Likewise, at my university, along with my colleagues I become a figure of interest...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813036564
Related ISBN
9780813034980
MARC Record
OCLC
664428153
Pages
272
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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