Modernism in literature through the works of Christopher Isherwood, James Joyce, Jorge Luis Borges, Thomas Mann and W. H. Auden

Exegesis, 2017

32 Pages, Grade: A


Modernism in Literature Through the Looking Glass

By Martin Mares

James Joyce 's Ulysses

James Joyce's modernist literary masterpiece Ulysses proceeds to its conclusion in the finale of the story or different words in last two contrasting chapters Ithaca and Penelope. Ithaca tries to find common ground or a moment of reunion between contradicting worldviews of Leopold Bloom and Stephan Dedalus. Unlike Ithaca's catechistic style, Penelope is dedicated to Bloom's much-discussed wife Molly and her unique stream of consciousness presented as a soliloquy filled with emotional and spicy reflections on Molly's past, present, future and fantasies. The story of Bloom's Ithaca begins with Bloom and Dedalus returning home at 2 am, though they both lost their keys and therefore Bloom has to overcome few obstacles and enter his house through the back door:

"Was this affirmation apprehended by Bloom?

Not verbally. Substantially.

What comforted his misapprehension?

That as a competent keyless citizen he had proceeded energetically from the unknown to the known through the incertitude of the void.

I n what order of precedence, with what attendant ceremony was the exodus from the house of bondage to the wilderness of inhabitation effected?

Lighted Candle in Stick borne by BLOOM.Diaconal Hat on Ashplant borne by STEPHEN. With what intonation secreto of what commemorative psalm?

The 113th, modus peregrinus: In exitu Israël de Egypto: domus Jacob de populo barbaro.What did each do at the door of egress?

Bloom set the candlestick on the floor. Stephen put the hat on his head.

For what creature was the door of egress a door of ingress?

For a cat."

(Joyce, 818)

The style of "back door" return corresponds with Homer's Ithaca since Odysseus needs to enter his palace disguised as a beggar and therefore he rather sneaks into the palace filled with suitors to participate in the shooting competition. Here, we can also identify several other correspondences between both works. Firstly, Odysseus' longbow he managed string and thus defeats (and kills) all Penelope's suitors stands for the reason in Joyce's chapter. Secondly, Bloom's untrustworthy list of Molly's possible lovers can be linked to Penelope's suitors and more specifically the most prominent Eurymachos as the only real lover of Molly - Blazes Boylan.

The chapter continuous with Bloom and Dedalus drinking hot cocoa together and musing about events and adventures they experienced together in the past. However, their conversation resembles a skeletal structure rather due to their different personalities and exchange of facts liberated from the innovative style used in previous chapters. It can be demonstrated throughout the entire chapter, which is overloaded with well-ordered lists of various experiences, people, motifs and technical conclusions reflecting the dominant scientific tone of this part (Joyce 776-778, 788; Gifford 588)[1].

Although Joyce pushes the Catechism to its very limits, Ithaca it provides a comic relief on several occasions. Conversely, Ithaca conveys the feeling that the narrative aims to find the hard truths and as such seek to answer all questions previously asked, though such catechistic approach is inevitably destined to fail since it raises more question than it accomplishes to answer. Hence, it suggests that there is no definitive concept of the truth or all-encompassing method how to arrive at the definitive judgment.

"What rendered problematic for Bloom the rear station of these mutually self-excluding propositions?

The irreparability of the past: once at a performance of bert Hengler's circus in the Rotunda, Rutland square, Dublin, an intuitive particoloured clown in quest of pate ity had penetrated from the ring to a place in the auditorium where Bloom, solitary, was seated and had publicly declared to an exhilarated audience that he (Bloom) was his (the clown's) papa. The improved- bi tyof the future:once in the summer of he (Bloom) had marked a orin (2S.) with three notches on the milled edge and tendered it in payment of an account due to and received by J. and T. Davy, fa ly grocers, I Charle- mont Mall, Grand Canal, for circulation on the waters of civic ance, for possible, cir tours or direct, re .

Was the clown Bloom's son? No" (816)

"Had Bloom's coined returned? Never." (817)

As Blamires puts it: "The temperaments of the two are distinguished as scientific and artistic" which undeniably resonates throughout the entire book, though Ithaca unfolds deeper understating of the difference between Bloom and Dedalus by using already mentioned catechistic style (Blamires, 175).The mutual struggle to synthesise their attitudes is accompanied by Bloom's initiative to persuade Dedalus to live with him and Molly, though Dedalus appears to be reluctant at first and later refuses Bloom's offer. Henceforth, Bloom and Dedalus walk into the garden, and they share the moment together, albeit both urinating in opposing corners of the backyard, they witness the symbol of this chapter - a comet travelling across the night sky.


[1] Gifford observes the parallel between Joyce's Ithaca catalogues with Homeric „Catalogue of Ships."

Excerpt out of 32 pages


Modernism in literature through the works of Christopher Isherwood, James Joyce, Jorge Luis Borges, Thomas Mann and W. H. Auden
University College London
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Modernism, James Joyce, W.H. Auden, Thomas Mann, Christopher Isherwood, Jose Luis Borges, Literature, History, Modernist, Poetry
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Dr Martin Mares (Author), 2017, Modernism in literature through the works of Christopher Isherwood, James Joyce, Jorge Luis Borges, Thomas Mann and W. H. Auden, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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