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The Declension of Bloom: Grammar, Diversion, and Union in Joyce’s Ulysses

  • Author(s): Goralka, Robin
  • et al.
Abstract

James Joyce’s novel Ulysses applies the ambiguities of classical grammar and syntax to the English language in order to multiply meanings. He introduces the idea of subjective and objective genitives to illustrate the reciprocal love between a mother and a son. In addition, he declines the name of the character Bloom as a neuter noun rather than a masculine. Reading Bloom as a neuter character connects him to ideas of sterility and childlessness, since a sterile woman is also described in the book as being neuter. This conflation of the feminine and the neuter foreshadows Bloom’s transformation into a woman in the ‘Circe’ chapter, where his name is declined as a neuter noun. The flux of gender in this chapter is also seen in the character Bella/o, who switches between feminine and masculine pronouns. However, the necessity of the grammatical neuter circumscribing Bloom’s gender as simultaneously masculine and feminine is evidenced by the inability of Bella/o’s end-word gender signifiers to represent more than one gender at once. Therefore, Joyce borrows from classical grammar to introduce concepts that English cannot illustrate. In Ulysses, the application of classical grammatical forms is used to unify meanings that are contradictory or inexpressible in conventional English grammar.

James Joyce’s novel Ulysses applies the ambiguities of classical grammar and syntax to the English language in order to multiply meanings. He introduces the idea of subjective and objective genitives to illustrate the reciprocal love between a mother and a son. In addition, he declines the name of the character Bloom as a neuter noun rather than a masculine. Reading Bloom as a neuter character connects him to ideas of sterility and childlessness, since a sterile woman is also described in the book as being neuter. This conflation of the feminine and the neuter foreshadows Bloom’s transformation into a woman in the ‘Circe’ chapter, where his name is declined as a neuter noun. The flux of gender in this chapter is also seen in the character Bella/o, who switches between feminine and masculine pronouns. However, the necessity of the grammatical neuter circumscribing Bloom’s gender as simultaneously masculine and feminine is evidenced by the inability of Bella/o’s end-word gender signifiers to represent more than one gender at once. Therefore, Joyce borrows from classical grammar to introduce concepts that English cannot illustrate. In Ulysses, the application of classical grammatical forms is used to unify meanings that are contradictory or inexpressible in conventional English grammar.

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