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How Joyce Acquired the “Stale Smut of Clubmen”: Photo Bits in the Early Twentieth Century

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 46, Number 2, Winter 2009
pp. 255-268 | 10.1353/jjq.0.0159



This article contends that Joyce endowed middlebrow hero Leopold Bloom with avant-garde tastes in his pornographic reading and that this portrayal offers an unusual glimpse of the earliest British mass-market fetish publications and their middle-class audience. It argues that Joyce relied on anachronistic, explicit versions of Photo Bits, a comic newspaper considered to be the first pin-up magazine, to contextualize Bloom’s sexual interests. The article compares Photo Bits in 1904 and 1909 and provides correspondences in Ulysses for details in the advertisements and language in 1909, conjecturing that Joyce may have seen the magazine during his trip to Dublin that year. It also offers a potential source for a still-undiscovered novel, Sweets of Sin, that plays a recurring role in Ulysses.

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