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"The Most Precious Victim": Joyce's "Cyclops" and the Politics of Persecution

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 46, Number 1, Fall 2008
pp. 75-95 | 10.1353/jjq.0.0113



Recent criticism has complicated the conventional view of James Joyce as a politically disinterested pacifist by restoring Ulysses to the Irish colonial context from which it originally emerged. Despite significant contributions, these critics have struggled to reconcile an "Irish Joyce" with a Leopold Bloom who was once seen as the mouthpiece for the author's pacifism. By reading the "Cyclops" episode through the lens of René Girard's theory of the scapegoat, this essay claims that the Jewish Bloom elucidates, rather than complicates, these postcolonial interpretations. Girard's theory exposes the violence connecting the disparate notions of history, mythology, and community that underlie "Cyclops" and the particular form of colonialism it represents. The essay concludes that Joyce reveals and disrupts the scapegoating process. In so doing, he undermines the civilization that both nationalism and colonialism insist upon and challenges the very nature of community.

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