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Bloomsday 100Essays on Ulysses$
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Morris Beja and Anne Fogarty

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780813034027

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813034027.001.0001

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Joyce, Ulysses, Melodrama

Joyce, Ulysses, Melodrama

(p.150) 9 Joyce, Ulysses, Melodrama
Bloomsday 100

Timothy Martin

University Press of Florida

Ulysses is among the most open-ended and naturalistic of novels, but it is striking how frequently James Joyce resorted to the theater — and to the melodramatic idiom in particular — to create moments of intensity and smaller climaxes that offer local and intermittent drama even if Ulysses as a whole does not. This chapter discusses the literary intertexts of Ulysses and explores how James Joyce adopts not just the structural elements but also the ethos and affective characteristics of nineteenth-century theatrical melodrama. Drawing on the work of Robert Heilman, it argues that melodrama tends to be monopathic, that is, to insist upon intense but unmixed emotion, and also to give precedence to politics and action within the world. Heilman's attachment of melodrama to politics, social action, and right and wrong gives us considerable purchase on the melodramatic qualities of “Cyclops.” The chapter provocatively speculates that Joyce may have gravitated toward melodrama in the later episodes of Ulysses, especially “Cyclops” and “Circe,” as a reaction against the now hampering constraints of the modernist aesthetic.

Keywords:   Ulysses, James Joyce, melodrama, theater, Robert Heilman, politics, social action, Cyclops, Circe, aesthetic

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