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Autobiography and Consciousness in Ulysses

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Autobiography and Consciousness in Ulysses

There are at least two factors in Ulysses[1], which are Joyce’s autobiographical elements in the novel and stream of consciousness writing in the passages. In the novel Joyce described a number of scenes based on his personal story and it is possible to decide that Stephen Dedalus who is one of the protagonists in Ulysses is the other self of the author. It is considered that stream of consciousness writing is exerted all through the novel to write the interior minds of characters. In the episode 1, Telemachus,[2] it is revealed that Stephen did not kneel down and pray for his dying mother when she asked him to do so, and actually Joyce himself did not pray for his mother when she is dying although she asked him to kneel and pray for her, since Joyce was an agnostic thinker. Stephen thinks whether he should have prayed for his mother or not and he is distress by meditation on his mother.

Her [Stephen’s mother] grazing eyes, staring out of death, to shake and bend my soul. […] Her eyes on me to strike me down. Liliata rutilantium te confessorum turma circumdet : iubilantium te virginum chorus excipiat.[3] Ghoul! Chewer of corpses! No, mother. Let me be and let me live.[4]

Stephen is obsessed with the image of his mother and he feels as if the ghost of her is gazing at him. He is thinking seriously about whether he should have chosen his agnosticism or his affection for his mother. In this scene, Joyce suggested the matter of a connection of son and mother and agnosticism, derived from his experiences. Stream of consciousness writing is exerted luxuriantly and humorously in the novel and in the episode 4, Calypso,[5] Leopold Bloom who is one of the protagonists talks with his wife, Molly in their house and he is considering about her and her manner, which is written by stream of consciousness writing.

He [Leopold] heard then a warm heavy sigh, softer, as she [Molly] turned over and the loose brass quoits of the bedstead[6] jingled. Must get those settled really. Pity. All the way from Gibraltar.[7] Forgotten any little Spanish she knew.[8]

Leopold observes Molly turn over in her bed and he feels pity for the bed because Molly is quite plump and the bed is weighted with her body. Then suddenly he commences to think about that she is from Gibraltar and she has forgotten Spanish now, and this quite sudden transfer of Leopold’s attention is reflected by stream of consciousness writing, in compliance with which men’s consciousness changes unexpectedly and fragmentally. Furthermore, the point of view transfers from the author’s omniscient narrative to Leopold’s one, which is also the feature of stream of consciousness writing.
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[1] James Joyce, Ulysses (New York: Oxford University Press, 1922).
[2] The episode 1 is titled Telemachus, because there is the analogy between the titles of the eighteen episodes and Homer’s Odyssey. Joyce did not title any of the episodes in Ulysses, but he used them in correspondence and in talk with friends.
[3] ‘Latin: “May the glittering throng of confessors, bright as lilies, gather about you. May the glorious choir of virgins receive you.”’ Don Gifford and Robert J. Seidman, Ulysses Annotated: Notes for James Joyce’s Ulysses, 2nd edn (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 19.
[4] Ulysses, p.10.
[5] The episode 4 is titled Calypso.
[6] ‘The quoits are the brass discs that decorate the metal rods supporting the bedstead.’ Ulysses Annotated, p.71.
[7] ‘Molly (Marion) Bloom […] was born […] and brought up in Gibraltar.’ Ulysses Annotated, p.71.
[8] Ulysses, p.54.…...

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