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“INDISPENSABLE WIRES”: JOYCE’S ULYSSES AND THE ORIGINS OF PUBLIC RELATIONS TIM ZIAUKAS in Ulysses, an encyclopedic celebration of Dublin life in 1904, James Joyce offers a carefully nuanced portrait of a new kind of urban worker, choosing the burgeoning practice of public relations as the profession for his twentieth-century everyman, Leopold Bloom. Even Joyce, a consummate self-promoter who would have been delighted by today’s global Bloomsday festivals, might have been stunned by his prescience. Bloom’s nascent efforts at public relations have blossomed into what is arguably the archetypal profession of our time: the manager of communications, the spin doctor, the flack. The novel, as it turns out, offers the early whispers of what will become a chorus of voices that now dominates our social and cultural landscape, yet this aspect of the text has been largely ignored. An inventory of public relations materials in Ulysses, I contend, shows that Joyce used the new profession as an organizing principle, and that these public relations materials provide a specialized commentary on the events and characters in the novel. Ulysses is the story of three Dubliners—Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom, and Bloom’s wife, Molly—on a single day, 16 June 1904. Using their narrative, and an elaborate system of allusion, Joyce attempts to show us how the ordinary comings and goings of these everyday people contain the seeds of the heroic, perhaps even the eternal. He attempts to make his book complete, encyclopedic, to contain all Dublin events of the period he is depicting and to dramatize all the activities of its inhabitants. To that end, then, someone dies and another is born; someone urinates, another defecates; people work and play, make love and fornicate; someone even picks his nose. There are royals and rogues in a cast as complete as Chaucer’s pilgrims. At the center (like the Knight, perhaps) is Bloom, who, by day’s end, may be happily returned to his wife and may be Dublin’s JOYCE’S ULYSSES AND THE ORIGINS OF PUBLIC RELATIONS 176 moral compass—the conscience of them all. I’m suggesting here that Joyce uses the public relations materials in the novel to dramatize Bloom’s transformation from comic cuckold, who is his wife’s “handler” and promoter, to reinstated husband—a process central in a book, it could be said, about processes. Bloom is a canvasser. Finding himself, according to one critic, “in the classical squeeze between the Scylla of pleasing the client, and the Charybdis of getting cooperation from his own publication” (Berger 26), he solicits ads for The Freeman’s Journal and National Press, a Dublin morning daily. Yet in spite of current critical assumptions, his job involves far more than selling advertising. Colin MacCabe maintains that “[w]hen Joyce chose for the hero of Ulysses a canvasser of advertising, he was not just choosing an occupation amongst others, but a crucial nexus in the organization and circulation of information” (151). Yes, but Bloom is not, as many of the studies of Ulysses suggest, in advertising—Mark Osteen’s excellent The Economy of Ulysses: Making Both Ends Meet, among others, notwithstanding. Bloom is, in fact, the proto-public-relations man of the twentieth century, insofar as practitioners themselves define their profession . A closer examination of Ulysses—situated in the early history of public relations—is long overdue. The period depicted in the novel—the first decade of the twentieth century —is a formative era in the history of public relations. Between the turn of the century and World War I, the field emerged as a distinctive vocation , separate from, yet incorporating elements of, advertising and marketing . In his pioneering study of the early years of public relations, Alan Raucher describes the development of a new and distinctive entrepreneurship accompanying an emerging “stream” of information (vii). To some extent, this first generation of public relations experts developed in response to the muckrakers—reform-minded editors and journalists who successfully reached a growing national audience through the popular press and national wire services (Cutlip 100). As figures like Upton Sinclair and Ida Tarbell lashed out at the excesses of the American industrial revolution , public relations—or the...


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pp. 176-188
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