Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
The grotesque can be defined as an incoherent combination of opposite imagery that generates creativity and innovation. In Ulysses, the most important form of the grotesque is fertile death, which can be defined as a grotesque combination of fruitfulness and deathly qualities in a single entity. Several of Ulysses’ female characters represent a distinctly fertile-dead figure in medieval Irish mythology, the Sovereignty goddess, who functions as the mythical embodiment of Ireland and its landscape. Throughout Irish mythology, Sovereignty appears as an old woman, and after choosing the next Irish king and sexually or maritally uniting with him, she transforms into a young maiden. Ulysses’ protagonists encounter several Sovereignty-like women in their peregrinations, and like the medieval mythic kings of Irish mythology, they are tasked with uniting with these Sovereignty figures in different ways. Like T. S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land, which is in many ways a response to Ulysses’ mythic structure, Ulysses is also a modernist work concerned with cultural stagnancy, particularly, regarding British colonization of Ireland and consequent Irish nationalist sentimentalism. Sovereignty’s two forms can be associated with the stages of Ireland’s Waste Land condition, positioning the rejuvenation of Sovereignty figures in Ulysses as the cultural reinvigoration of Ireland. Throughout the Telemachiad, Stephen Dedalus fails to see Sovereignty figures as artistic inspiration; rejecting the grotesque and perpetuating Waste Land state of his nation, he instead gravitates towards the antithesis to the grotesque: classical binarism. In the Bloomiad, Bloom publicly and internally accepts the grotesque, particularly regarding national and gender identity. This acceptance prepares him for his reunion with his Sovereignty-like wife. Ulysses’ medieval Sovereignty structure ultimately functions as an Irish solution to an Irish problem, positing neomedievalism as a productive way forward.
Zimmerman, Sydney, "“Shall I At Least Set My Lands in Order?” Gender, the Grotesque, and the Waste Land Cycle of Rejuvenation in James Joyce’s Ulysses" (2022). Honors Theses. 291.
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