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Joyce in Transit: The “Double Star” Effect of Ulysses

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 48, Number 2, Winter 2011
pp. 291-304 | 10.1353/jjq.2011.0037



Building on the critical work around “parallax” in Ulysses, this study applies new evidence from Sir Robert Ball’s The Story of the Heavens to the relationship between Stephen and Bloom and the novel in general. In his popular astronomical primer, which inspires Bloom’s queries regarding “parallax,” Ball introduces such phenomena as the transit of Venus and the “double star,” both of which raise questions about the position of bodies within the novel’s space. Ball’s explanation of the “double star” encourages the reader of Ulysses to see the “eclipse” of Bloom and Stephen as only the momentary effect of parallax; by applying this astronomical metaphor to the text as a whole, the reader is reminded of the basic instability of interpretation, which is itself, this study suggests, subject to the laws of time, space, and motion.

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