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"Their Pineal Glands Aglow": Theosophical Physiology in Ulysses

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 46, Number 3-4, Spring-Summer 2009
pp. 509-527 | 10.1353/jjq.2008.0054



This article argues that Joyce's engagements with the Theosophy of the Dublin literary world amount to more than simple parody. In Ulysses, Joyce portrays Theosophy's efforts to offer an alternative understanding of physiology to that of the medical establishment as a form of boundary work, an adaptation of the discourse of modern medical research to fashion modern mysticism as a science. Ultimately, Joyce rejects Theosophical physiology and its evolutionary scientism because it provides an unsatisfactory rhetorical body, a failed attempt to renegotiate the boundaries between scientific materialism and spirituality in the awkward modernity of Dublin in 1904.

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