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G&S Typesetters PDF proof Unveiling Desire: Pleasure, Power and Masquerade in Joyce’s “Nausicaa” Episode PHILIP SICKER In his 1897 treatise Auto-eroticism, Havelock Ellis offers a provocative illustration in support of his claim that “the more or less voluntary pressure of the thighs . . . brought to bear on the sexual regions” is alone sufficient to produce female orgasm. Recalling a young woman whom he had “observed unnoticed” as she sat in a provincial train station, Ellis offers documentary evidence that “thigh friction” is often “so comparatively decorous a form of masturbation that it may even be performed in public places.” She was leaning back with legs crossed, swinging the crossed foot vigorously and continuously; this continued without interruption for some ten minutes after I first observed her; then the swinging movement reached a climax; she leant still further back, thus bringing the sexual region more closely in contact with the edge of the bench and straightened and stiffened her body and legs in what appeared to be a momentary spasm; there could be little doubt as to what had taken place. A few minutes later she walked from her solitary seat into the waiting-room and sat down among the other waiting passengers, quite still now with uncrossed legs, a pale, quiet young woman, possibly a farmer’s daughter, serenely unconscious that her maneuver had been detected, and very possibly herself ignorant of its true nature. (180) Readers of Ulysses will note striking similarities between this scenario of male voyeurism and female sexual arousal and the one that Joyce Studies Annual, Volume 14, Summer 2003© 2003 by the University of Texas Press, P.O. Box 7819, Austin, Texas 78713-7819 06-T2928 3/3/04 11:02 AM Page 92 G&S Typesetters PDF proof philip sicker 93 1 Bloom confirms that Gerty sits in this position when recalling their encounter: “Suppose it’s the only time we cross legs, seated” (.1086 –87). All quotations from Ulysses cited in the text are from the 1984 revised edition of the novel, edited by Hans Walter Gabler. 2 The rising rhythms of Gerty’s sexual arousal not only provide an outlet for her “pentup feelings” (.191), but also transform her stilted, third person, novelette-style prose into a lyric, first-person stream of consciousness—particularly at the moment of her climax. Leopold Bloom and Gerty MacDowell enact on Sandymount Strand in the “Nausicaa” episode of Joyce’s novel. Like her nameless counterpart , pale and modest Gerty is seated in a public space that also affords her relative privacy, particularly when her friends Cissy and Edy run down the beach with the children for a closer look at the fireworks . Bloom, meanwhile, observes the spectacle of Gerty’s erotic pyrotechnics, not with Ellis’s quasi-clinical detachment (a subject position that could only amuse Joyce), but with unreserved scopophilic delight. Before his eyes Gerty offers a similar bodily display and performs the same sequence of disguised autoerotic gestures that Ellis describes. Sitting on a rock with legs crossed,1 she swings her foot to the rhythms of the nearby church music; then, “tingling in every nerve,” she more vigorously “swung her foot in and out in time” (13.514, .498). As she leans further and further backward, ostensibly to view the Roman candles overhead, she is “trembling in every limb” (.728), and the pressure of her “nainsook knickers, the fabric that caresses the skin,” contributes to an orgasm that mimics the bursts of color rising in the evening sky: “and it gushed out of it a stream of rain gold hair threads and they shed and ah! they were all greeny dewy stars falling. . .” (.738– 40).2 After this momentary spasm Gerty, like Ellis’s young woman, walks slowly away from her solitary seat and rejoins the social collective. The detailed resemblance of these passages seems more than coincidental . Yet Joyce disparaged early psychoanalysis, disavowed any interest and denied all influence, most famously perhaps in response to his friend Ettore Schmitz’s enthusiastic support of the discipline: “Well, if we need it, let us keep to confession” (Ellmann 472). Coming in 1919, at the time he was drafting the Gerty section of “Nausicaa...


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