The Dublin Museum’s pervasive and persuasive force in Ulysses is manifested in a number of intersecting themes, among them classical aesthetics and the Hellenism of which it forms a part. I begin by comparing Leopold Bloom’s and Buck Mulligan’s very different versions of this cultural agenda with Matthew Arnold’s plan for reforming British society. Arnold invokes the free play of consciousness and presses aesthetics into the service of civilization. Bloom evokes the freer play of the appetites and accommodates desire and the body to his aesthetics, while Mulligan parodies the Victorian cultural mission to improve people through art. Next, I analyze the Dublin Museum in relation to Irish nationalism to reveal their mutual implication in and out of the novel. At the turn of the twentieth century, nationalist discourse often invoked the Irish myths of a Golden Age of cultural achievement and political and ethnic unity, followed by a decadence that resulted from the English invasions, and the possibility of a resurgent Ireland based upon a return to the values of the past, as expressed in the country’s archaeology and antiquities. Finally, I study the relation of elite to popular culture as articulated by Bloom in his museum-going and –gazing. His engagement with both the Dublin Museum and that museum for the masses, the World’s Fair Waxwork Exhibition, challenges critical accounts of modernism and the avant-garde that reify the “institution of art” and the “great divide” between high art and mass culture. Bloom’s artistic experiences in both locales also underscore the limits of the Dublin Museum’s discursive power and, in the process, challenge Victorian assumptions about the educability of the masses and the civilizing influence of the museum.


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pp. 287-306
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