Nationalism in James Joyce´s "Ulysses"

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2011

15 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Nationalism linked to Irish Historical Past
2.1. Stephen-Subject to Exploitation by Colonizer
2.2. Irish-Jewish Parallel

3. Nationalism associated with Religious Conflict
3.1. Religion and Joyce
3.2. Stephen- Subject to the “Holy Roman Church”

4. Concept of Nation in Joyce´s Perception: “Cyclops”
4.1. Nation and Joyce
4.2. Bloom and the Citizen

5. Narrative Composition-Decoding Meaning: “Cyclops”

6. Conclusion

7. Bibliography

1. Introduction

The beginning of the twentieth century was accompanied by omnifarious events changing the worldview of people: various teachings, scientific progress, First World War. There is no doubt that all these factors had their impact on literature. The relationship between writer and reader, look inside oneself, own consciousness was reflected on writers such as James Joyce. Irish author, worried about British-Irish conflict and engaged in nationalist question, made the Ulysses novel partially nationalistic in its intention. There is no doubt that in Ulysses, Joyce criticizes the utopian and cultural past of Ireland and ridicules any signs of English chauvinism and Anti- Semitism. At the same time, the author shows his hostility towards the Irish cultural nationalism, and the Catholic and Protestant ideologies. He also revises the concept of “Nation” which has been officially approved at the beginning of nineteenth century. The question remains which themes associated with nationalism does Joyce introduce in the novel. How does he present the characters and relationships between them? These topics are important to observe in order to reveal Joyce´s perception of the history. Further, how does he try to influence the reader by using methods referring to narrative composition, such as extraordinary style and language, allusions, literary devices, narrative structure? What is the author´s intention and meaning underlying the narrative composition? These subjects are necessary to observe to reveal how Joyce shows his struggle against nationalism.

The “Telemachus” and “Nestor” chapters are worth considering, because they most significantly present cultural and historical memories of the author; whereas the “Aeolus” and “Cyclops” chapters considerably deal with nationalistic critique. A more precise understanding of these topics will be introduced in the following pages.

2. Nationalism linked to Irish Historical Past

The historical past bitterly reveals that Ireland has been under English Control for many centuries, passing through political oppression, ideological and religious controversies. Joyce, in the Trieste papers, prepared lectures for students on Ireland, depicts the country as “poor” and “politically backward” (CW 167) under conditions of the “colonial country” (CW 163) aiming to tyrannize, exploit and ruin Ireland (cf. CW in Wicht 2000, 20). In Ulysses, he pictures the conditions of Irish people at the beginning of twentieth century. The first part of the book the “Telemachiad” significantly represents colonized people without Home Rule, the act which aimed to give Ireland autonomy, on example of Irish patriot Stephen Dedalus.

2.1. Stephen- Subject to Exploitation by Colonizer

In the opening chapter “Telemachus”, Stephen reflects Irish people without Home Rule as he becomes subject of exploitation by two English nationalists, Haines and Deasy. The British student Haines, interested in Irish customs and folklore, came to Ireland to profit from colonial exploitation. Living together with Stephen and Mulligan in the Martello tower, he symbolically represents British occupation of Ireland. Cheng explains that Martello Towers were built for military purposes to keep Irishmen “…in continued thrall to the British” (1995, 160). So, Haines presence in the tower displeases Stephen. His question- “Tell me Mulligan… How long is Haines going to stay in this tower?” (U.p.2) reflects the conflict of Irish servitude and the yearning for Ireland´s independence from British control. In addition, the fact that Haines intends to make a collection of Stephen´s sayings, but also his effort to communicate in Gaelic reveals his colonizers’ nature. When Haines shares his ideas with Stephen, saying: “I intend to make a collection of your sayings if you will let me” (U.p.18), Stephen promptly replies: “Would I make money by it?” (U.p.18). He understands that the main point of British investigator is not Irish culture but profit. He responds thus perturbing knowing that he is prostituted and wants to get the most for it in order not to be exploited.

There is also a clear analogy between Stephen´s position in the tower and at school, where he works for an Ulstermen Deasy to teach prerogative young boys from English families. In both cases, Stephen intends to sell his intelligence to the members of predominant class- Haines and Deasy. So, at school Stephen is actively engaged in teaching the students the English variant of British history. Despite of the explaining the historical material in this way, Stephen is conscious that “History is a nightmare from which [he is] trying to awake” (U. p. 42; whereas for privileged boys, the history is just a story: “[f]or them … history was a tale like any other too often heard, their land for pawnshop” (U.p.30). Additionally, the fact that Stephen is paid in “sovereigns” and “crowns” by Deasy, again confirms the reality that he is a servant to an almighty master. Interestingly, Sovereigns and Crowns were the coins that English Crown controlled, so they were “[s]ymbols too of beauty and of power… Symbols soiled by greed and misery” (U.p.36). It is not a surprise that Stephen is imagining himself as “A server of a servant” (U.p.12) He thinks of himself as a colonial goud to a royal sovereign. He sees in Deasy, as he had seen in Haines, a colonial ruler, guessing that “…on his empire…the sun never sets” (U.p.38). Walking away from Deasy´s office, he observed the sunlight on Deasy´s back, described by Joyce as “dancing coins” (U.2.449). This remarkable description again reminds Stephen of royal sovereigns and royal Crown that, on his view, continues to flourish.

2.2. Irish- Jewish Parallel

Leopold Bloom, Irish-born Jew, is analogously to Stephen depicted as a victim of racial discourse. The chapters “Aeouls” and the “Cyclops” most significantly represent the major character of the novel as discriminated, absorbing racial prejudices from his fellow Dubliners and radical nationalist Michael Cusack, called the Citizen.

In the chapter “Aeolus”, Dubliners constantly offends Bloom with anti-Semitic phrases, like a “dirty Jew”, “the jewman”, “that coon” (U.p184ff) and so on, making him a foreigner in his own country. Cheng explains that the word coon is a term used for black and for Jew (cf. 2000, 181). So, Dubliners regards Bloom as a black and Bloom becomes a sufferer of prevailing cultural ideology which supported nationalistic behaviour. Dubliners himself represents the Irish national community. Cheng further explains that the majority of Dubliners are nationalists in their nature:

… they are capable of imagining an Irish nation as a cohesive community of Celtic racial origins and Irish national character- in spite of the palpable, material reality and presence within their mids of variants such as Leopold Bloom… (2000,193)

So, it is Dubliners´ feature to characterize Jews, on example of Bloom, as black. They racialize them. Ironically, the Dubliners were treated in the same way by the English (cf. Cheng 2000, 181). Using irony, Joyce ridicules nationalistic ideology that was directed not only on Irishmen, but also on the other members of society, namely Jews or black.

Joyce sets up a clear parallel between Stephen and Bloom. Both of them are lacking respectability and sovereignty in their society, they are missing their homes and the right of freedom in their own usurped residence. Both of them are being mistreated by their compatriots. Bloom and Stephen face the problem of domestic usurpation. For Stephen, it is Ireland lacking autonomy; for Bloom, it is domestic situation, which is also a problem of a Jewish race. Symbolically, comparing the situation of Stephen and Bloom, Joyce sets up an analogy between the Roman Empire governing Jews and the British power ruling Ireland, which also reflects the parallel between Irish thrall under the English Crown and Hebrews under the Roman rule (cf. Cheng 2000, 182).

3. Nationalism associated with Religious Conflict

3.1. Religion and Joyce

While the Protestantism was the religion of the British Crown and rejected the independence of Ireland, the Catholic religion was associated with Irish nationalism. However, the Roman Catholic Church imposed stunted way of life on Irishmen, especially on education. Joyce strongly rejects Roman Catholicism, saying that it became an obstacle for “a revival of this race” (CW 173). He saw the Catholic Church as “an effective instrument of subjugation” (CW 166), as a parallel to British colonialism. He points out “that I do not see what good it does to fulminate against the English tyranny while the Roman tyranny occupies the palace of the soul” (CW 173) (CW in Wicht 2000: 120). In Ulysses, Joyce demonstrates his protest against Catholic Church and Protestant revival through frequent irony.

3.2. Stephen- Subject to “the Holy Roman Church”

“I am the servant of two masters… an English and an Italian…The imperial British state…and the holy Roman catholic and apostolic church” (U.p.24). This is Stephen´s perception of his own past and the history of his country. He is aware that religious conflict cannot be separated from the issue of Irish identity. His mistrust to the religious beliefs is repeatedly expressed through allusions, memories and irony in the text.

So, for example, in the “Nestor” chapter, Stephen discussing the issue of Irish slavery in Deasy´s office observes figures of horses in the room: “Framed around the walls images of vanished horses stood in homage” and near the fireplace he saw the image of “Albert Edward, Prince of Wales” (U.p.38f). Interestingly, horses were symbols of English power, and moreover, since the Penal Laws were introduced under Edward VIII, Irish Catholics were prohibited to possess a horse over the price of five pounds (cf. Cheng 2000: 166). That reminds Stephen of the British Protestants who continuously usurped Catholic Irishmen, in spite of the fact that the Roman Church was involved in the issue of equality right possession.

Further, Deasy begins to glorify Orange lodges, dynasty belonging to Protestant belief and persecuting Irish Catholics, emphasizing their tolerance and liberty. Stephen ironically quotes a toast to a memory of Orange King: to the “ Glorious, pious and immortal memory” (U.p.38). At the same time he remembers how Oranges exploited and tyrannized Irish Catholics, calling them “the lodge of Diamond” or “the black north” (U.p.38). Then, as Deasy claims of his descend from an Irish rebel, emphasizing he had Irish ancestors: “We are all Irish, all kings´ songs”, Stephen ironically responds “Alas” (U.p.38). At the same time, he remembers a song about an Irish Catholic child who was mistreated by the English: “The rocky road to Dublin” (U.p.38). So, on Stephen´s view, Deasy regards the Irish history from the perspective of English ideology. That is the idealization of Irish Catholic history and the Protestant culture, which both praised Ireland.

Later that day Stephen thinks of his childhood and his families who were similarly taught at school from English cultural point: with dominant Protestant agenda that regarded Irish as part of the English in order to impose control over them politically and religiously. That reminds Stephen of the hegemonic school where he works. Cheng emphasizes that in cultural institutions the English Protestant history was taught, saying:

…it is in cultural institutions such as the school…the real process of colonial hegemony operate, at the level of cultural formation… so that the values and hierarchies of the conquerors will be adopted voluntarily and consensually, without the need for imposed force (2000, 162)

So, at such hegemonic school, Stephen teaches the boys of the Roman history- “the colonized version of history” (Cheng 2000, 165) and reads the literature of Protestant authors- “English poetry in the grand Virginian style by the most canonical and Anglo-Protestant (and virulently anti-Catholic) of English poets” (Cheng 2000, 165). It is bitter truth for Stephen that the hegemonic ideology was prevailing the cultural institutions such as school as he was young and continues to be dominant till his present day.

4. Concept of Nation in Joyce´s Perception: “Cyclops”

4.1. Nation and Joyce

As Joyce´s Trieste papers show, Joyce was strongly engaged in the Irish question and national politics (cf. CW 174 in Wicht 2000, 120). Cheng, arguing in his essay about nationalists, concludes that racial purists suggest other races, such as the British or Jewish as spoiling Ireland´s soil and consider people only of Gaelic origin as Irish (cf. 2000, 191). Joyce regarded such arguments absurd, because he separated himself from trend of Irish nationalism. Wicht comments on Joyce attitude toward nationalism: “… his embracement of Irish nationality [was] seen in its relationship to international culture, and his break with parochial, self-centred nationalism” (2000, 116). He literally depicts the liberal idea of nation and his critical attitude towards nationalism in the “Cyclops” chapter on examples of Leopold Bloom and the Citizen, whose character was based on Michel Cusack, founder of Gaelic Athletic Association in the nineteenth century.

4.2. Bloom and the Citizen

Bloom has a liberal idea of nation. While discussing with the Citizen what one can define as a nation, Bloom simply answers that “[a] nation is the same people living in the same place” (U.p.430). In Bloom´s perception, to nation belong all people within the community independently of their ethnic origin. He refuses to see a nation as an “essentialized” community (Cheng 2000, 187). Bloom has patriotic sentiments; he is a Jew who respects his country. He remained patriot of his country in spite of the slurs at him as a foreigner. He always supported national political movements: “…it was Bloom [who] gave the ideas for Sinn Fein to Griffith -[Irish political movement and its founder]” (U.p.436). Bloom is ready to consider cultural differences what many of his compatriots are lacking.


Excerpt out of 15 pages


Nationalism in James Joyce´s "Ulysses"
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
545 KB
nationalism, james, joyce´s, ulysses
Quote paper
Alina Müller (Author), 2011, Nationalism in James Joyce´s "Ulysses", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Nationalism in James Joyce´s "Ulysses"

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free