Saturday, December 15, 2007

Joyce and Apostasy: The Ecclesiastical Overtones of Bloom's 'Conversion'

The completion of this paper comes as a relief, since with it I have completed my academic semester. I can also say, definitively, that my enthusiasm of Joycean studies also ends with the passing of this class. As I read Ulysses this past semester, I shared some of what I found in this book with my fiancee, who was understandably horrified. The reasons for her horror are the same reasons the book was banned from being printed here in the United States for many years. My own horror, however, has to do with what this paper is about. In 5,393 words, I hope to have summarized why this book is cited by so many people who have left the Church. As an expose, I hope it can be helpful as a guide for any faithful Catholic who reads Ulysses. If my professor thinks this paper is academically sound, I'm hoping to revise it for publication -- so feel free to comment.

Franz S. Klein
Professor Chris Buttram
English 613 – James Joyce
15 December 2007

Analyzing the Ecclesiastical Overtones of Bloom’s ‘Conversion’

Some critics contend that James Joyce’s Ulysses is inaccessible to readers living outside the ethos of twentieth-century Catholic Ireland. Although any number of annotated texts and “keys” have attempted to render accessible the inaccessible, no annotation could ever convey the feelings an Irish Catholic of this era would have had upon encountering sacred scenes through the irreverent eyes of Joyce’s Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus. Helping create the ethos of Ulysses was Joyce’s use of Latin, the official language of the Catholic Church and something every believer of that era was accustomed to hearing.
Although in Ulysses Joyce almost always uses Latin in ecclesiastical contexts, his own knowledge of the language was far more advanced. Most schoolchildren learned the rudiments of Latin, but very few frequented the elite halls of Belvedere, and even fewer sat in the magnificent aule of the University College of Dublin. At Belvedere, Joyce’s daily lessons would have included rote memorization from the Latin poets (Sullivan 81). And later, at the University College of Dublin, Joyce was awarded second-class honors in Latin after demonstrating proficiency in the writings of Ovid, Cicero, Livy and Horace (159). According to Corinna Del Greco Lobner, Joyce wrote in a matriculation-year essay that Latin was “the recognized language of scholars and philosophers, and the weapon of the learned” (140). When Joyce’s abilities are added to the fact that almost all the Latin in Ulysses is the ordinary, everyday Latin of the Church, it seems that he did not include Latin simply to show off. Rather, his use of the language had a very specific purpose that practically begs for analysis. While the Latin of the classical poets would be alien to the Irish ethos, the Latin of the Church – heard every Sunday at Mass – was part of the being of every Irish Catholic. Joyce was writing for Ireland, and therefore his use of Latin in Ulysses conforms to the Latin of the Irish, which was the Latin of the Church.
In Joyce’s day, Mass was always celebrated in the Church’s official language, and was frequented at least on Sundays under pain of mortal sin. As a child, Joyce proved intensely devout. Years after Joyce had died, his older sister, Sr. Gertrude Mary Joyce,[1] recalled, “Jim was the most religious of us all. As a matter of fact, he scared the rest of us with the intensity of his faith and some of his religious practices. He was a daily Mass-goer and he used [to] spend at least one hour in thanksgiving after Holy Communion” (qtd. in McGarry 62). In James Joyce, Richard Ellmann notes that the mysterious refinements of the liturgy captured Joyce’s imagination as a young student at Belvedere:
[H]e learned precisely the order of the priest’s functions, studying the technique of benediction as closely as Stendhal’s archbishop. He took part in a procession to the little altar in the wood, wearing appropriate vestments and bearing the boat of incense. The majesty of the Church excited him and never left him…. Yet questions had begun too, fostered by his father’s mocking anticlericalism; for the moment they expressed themselves, Joyce says in A Portrait, merely as puzzlement over the fact that his holy teachers could be guilty of rage or injustice. (30)
Even as Joyce’s Catholic faith subsequently collapsed in real life, Ellmen says the author’s “faith in art… grew great” (50). Thus, in a 1917 Zurich conversation recorded by Georges Borach, a mature Joyce – merely a year away from beginning to serialize Ulysses – commented, “I profess no religion at all. Of the two religions, Protestantism and Catholicism, I prefer the latter. Both are false. The former is cold and colorless. The second-named is constantly associated with art; it is a ‘beautiful lie’ – something at least” (326).
In Ulysses, therefore, it seems Joyce was bent upon exposing that “beautiful lie” for what he saw it to be. The primary target, of course, would be the Church’s most beautiful, most sacred mystery – that which had captured Joyce’s imagination as a child and possibly continued to exert an influence over him – namely, the Mass.
Apart from Buck Mulligan’s mock “Mass” which appears in the opening chapter, Ulysses’ most thoroughly described Mass is the real one Leopold Bloom observes in the Lestrygonians chapter. Whilst digesting Martha’s latest letter, Bloom is walking down Cumberland Street. Noticing that the back door is open, he enters All Hallows Church and observes communicants at the altar rail:
The priest went along by them, murmuring, holding the thing in his hands. He stopped at each, took out a communion, shook a drop or two (are they in water?) off it and put it neatly into her mouth. Her hat and head sank. Then the next one. Her hat sank at once. Then the next one: a small old woman. The priest bend down to put it into her mouth, murmuring all the time. Latin. The next one. Shut your eyes and open your mouth. What? Corpus: body. Corpse. Good idea the Latin. Stupefies them first. Hospice for the dying. They don’t seem to chew it: only swallow it down. Rum idea: eating bits of a corpse. Why the cannibals cotton to it. (66)
Despite being baptized again as a Catholic before marrying Molly, Bloom’s thoughts express ignorance of what is taking place. He initially displays his ignorance by calling the Host a “thing,” and then by improperly placing an indefinite article in front of the word “communion.” Surely Joyce made his Irish Catholic readers laugh when Bloom ponders whether the Hosts are in water. It is only after the priest utters the Latin word Corpus[2] that Bloom expresses – or perhaps gains – the knowledge that the priest is distributing Corpus Christi, or the Body of Christ.
Joyce’s decision to show Bloom growing in knowledge is no accident, for such a pattern emerges in this scene, wherein Bloom approaches the church, comes to source of its power, is repulsed by it, and finally rejects it. His initial approach comes from curiosity. Exiting Cumberland Street, he steps onto the church’s porch, presumably to read the announcement about Father John Conmee’s sermon on St. Peter Claver and the African Mission.[3] From there, “[t]he cold smell of sacred stone called him. He trod the worn steps, pushed the swingdoor and entered softly by the rere” (66). Even as he observes and learns, Bloom’s curiosity remains, propelling him to greater and greater discovery. But his curiosity comes to an abrupt end with the utterance of that single Latin word: Corpus. With the utterance of that word, Bloom’s curiosity and mystification turn to scorn: “Good idea the Latin. Stupefies them first” (66). When Bloom hears a fragment in English a little later, he thinks, “English. Throw them a bone” (67).
With the priest’s utterance of Corpus, Joyce inverts knowledge and its possessors. While the bent hats and heads are likely more cognizant of their catechism than Bloom, none of them has the grasp of Latin he evidently possesses. Whereas previously it seems Bloom had struggled to understand the sacred mystery that captivated him, suddenly he owned the gnostic key that all these devout old women lacked – and thus was able to reject and scorn what remained mysterious to them but which he now understood. The mystery had lost its hold, its “kind of kingdom of God is within you feel” (66). Earlier, as Bloom stood on the church’s porch reading the announcement regarding Father Conmee’s sermon, he had wondered how the faith would attract the “heathen Chinee” (65). But at the end of the scene, as Bloom observes the exit of two worshippers who “dipped furtive hands in the low tide of holy water” (68), perhaps he feels his question to be satisfactorily answered in the subtle and mysterious hegemony of a single Latin word.
The answer this scene intimates for Bloom is the first stage in his struggle against authority in general. According to J. Mitchell Morse, Bloom’s journey in Ulysses isn’t simply an opportunity to point out tyranny but moreso to showcase Bloom’s ability to rise above it: “He rises by defiance, by disobedience, by standing apart from and against all its values” (1031). While Morse believes much of Bloom’s later self-assertion in the Circe chapter is already latent in his early action, “all his movements of detachment, difference, self-assertion, freedom, are interspersed with other movements of self-denial, self-abasement, false adaptability, and open defeat” (1032). Thus, he traces Bloom’s day from his initial deference to Molly and his cat, both of whom he placates with food (51, 55). But even in the midst of these capitulations, Bloom plants the earliest seeds of defiance in his scorning of Latin and rejection of the mysterious power of the Mass. At the conclusion of the Lestrygonians chapter, after Bloom has servilely capitulated to Molly and his cat, he begins to assert himself by doing something for himself – namely, taking a bath: “Enjoy the bath now: clean trough of water, cool enamel, the gentle tepid stream. This is my body” (71). Unlike the worshippers who receive the Corpus of Christ and furtively dip their hands in holy water, Bloom finds his own “stream of life” and acknowledges his own body: “He foresaw his pale body reclined in it at full, naked, in a womb of warmth, oiled by scented melting soap, softly laved” (71).
Bloom’s rejection of Church’s primacy and spiritual authority in this chapter seems to help plant the seed that will lead to open rebellion as he grows bolder throughout the book. A nominal Catholic, Bloom’s connection to the Church is much more tenuous than his connection to Molly, or even to his cat. He doesn’t risk losing much in terms of acceptance through this private, interior rebellion. For this reason, Morse writes, Bloom was able to take this first step,
since the leading motive of his life up to the day we see him has been to be accepted by the world. For one who, like Bloom, is inherently different from worldly men, the search for acceptance is as delusive as the conscious search for happiness; it has in fact led him not to acceptance but to rejection. Since he is not a creative person, he does need to be accepted; but only when he accepts himself, asserts his very real superiority, defies his rejecters and stand on his own terms does such a markedly different man become acceptable. (1031)
Interiorly Bloom is now on the way to making this self-assertion. In Joyce’s narrative, what was merely a scornful thought at Mass has become an alternative source of spiritual strength as Bloom enters the bath water and says – not shrouded in the mystery of the Church’s Latin but in plain English – “This is my body” (71).
Bloom’s fight against the mysterious spiritual hold of Latin and the Church continues at Patrick Dignam’s burial service in the Scylla and Charybdis chapter. At the service, Father Coffey prays, “Non intres in judicium cum servo tuo, Domine”[4] (85). Bloom reflects, “Makes them feel more important to be prayed over in Latin” (85). While the meaning of the Latin words is not overly important to the passage as a whole, the fact that the priest prays them in Latin is significant. Bloom’s reverie focuses once more on what he feels to be false authority on the part of the Church through the hegemony of the mysterious, which is contextualized in Latin-language ceremonies. Bloom notes that the priest balances a “little book against his toad’s belly” (85). Regarding Father Coffey he further notes that he has “a belly on him like a poisoned pup” (85). His internal monologue continues, “What swells him up that way? Molly gets swelled after cabbage. Air of the place maybe. Looks full up of bad gas. Must be an infernal lot of bad gas around the place” (85). Bloom’s comments are sandwiched between more snatches of the priest’s Latin prayers: “Et ne nos inducas in tentationem”[5] (86), and “In paradisum”[6] (86). Given Bloom’s reflections on Latin, it is perhaps significant that expelled gas and these phrases appear together. To the uneducated masses, the Latin phrases convey authority from on high and are veiled in mystery. But to Bloom they have become expelled, evil-smelling gas – something let loose by swollen-bellied priests.
Less fleshed-out references tying Latin to Church authority occur throughout Ulysses. The Nausicaa chapter, for example, begins by following Father John Conmee as he leaves his presbytery. Perspectives are reversed here, since elements of the Mass are seen through the eyes of a priest rather than an agnostic like Bloom. Father Conmee’s thoughts about the late Patrick Dignam’s son, however, show that even the Mass viewed through a priest’s eyes is going to be less than favorable: “What was the boy’s name again? Dignam. Yes. Vere dignum et iustum est”[7] (180). Although in the Mass this text indicates that lifting up one’s heart to the Lord is “worthy and just,” in this context the two words show Father Conmee to be full of himself. Father Conmee is referred to as “[t]he superior, the very reverend John Conmee S.J.” (180). This superior and reverend man cannot even remember Dignam’s name at first – and when he does remember, it is not out of compassion but because his late father was “useful at mission time” (180). Dignum here in the Nausicaa chapter refers to “worthiness,” and is intended to highlight Father Conmee’s self-perceived state of being. Father Conmee furthermore symbolizes the whole Church, which Joyce viewed through what he considered to be its ill-founded pomp. Joyce chooses the word dignum precisely because it comes from the Mass, whence Father Conmee as its officially appointed celebrant and the Church as its propagator achieve their “worthiness.”
During the Lestrygonians-chapter liturgy, Bloom watches whilst the priest purifies the chalice. “Wine,” Bloom muses. “Makes it more aristocratic than for example if he drank what they are used to Guinness’s porter or some temperance beverage…” (67).[8] Not only is the wine used at Mass aristocratic in Bloom’s eyes but equally so is the Latin language, since it similarly separates the priest from the people. In the Aeolus chapter, Stephen is present with the newspapermen when J. J. O’Molloy brings up the “Imperium romanum” (108). While disparaging reference is made to Roman law and Ireland’s political situation as a cowed subject of Britain, the subheading “KYRIE ELEISON” (110) makes this passage additionally relevant to the spiritual authority of the Church as expressed in the Mass. As O’Molloy elaborates on his comments in “THE GRANDEUR THAT WAS ROME” (108), Judaism and imperial Rome are tied together:
What was their civilisation? Vast, I allow: but vile. Cloacae: sewers. The jews in the wilderness and on the mountaintop said: It is meet to be here. Let us build an altar to Jehovah. The Roman, like the Englishman who follows in his footsteps, brought to every new shore on which he set his foot (on our shore he never set it) only his cloacal obsession. He gazed about him in his toga and he said: It is meet to be here. Let us construct a watercloset. (108)
Although O’Molloy’s comment seems overtly political, the Church also unites Judaism and imperial Rome in her liturgy. All Joyce’s literature rebelled against what he perceived as political (British) and ecclesiastical (Catholic) imperialism. Since Pope Adrian IV conceded Ireland to Britain with his Laudabiliter bull, the two were intimately linked in the author’s mind.
Some of Joyce’s strongest condemnations of the imperialism of Britain and the Catholic Church come from a series of articles published in Italian in a Trieste evening newspaper, Il Piccolo della Sera. In the edition that appeared on May 19, 1907, for example, Joyce wrote,
Ireland, weighed down by multiple duties, has fulfilled what has hitherto been considered an impossible task – serving both God and Mammon, letting herself be milked by England and yet increasing Peter’s pence (perhaps in memory of Pope Adrian IV, who made a gift of the island to the English King Henry II about 800 years ago, in a moment of generosity. (qtd. in Mason 121)
Although Joyce’s bitterness at Britain welled up from the core of his Irish being, Ellsworth Mason says Joyce’s view of the Church “comes as a considerable surprise” (118). After all, Ireland had fought to remain faithfully Catholic as part of its struggle for self-identification in contradistinction to Anglicanized England. Mason relates this hatred not only to Pope Adrian’s Laudabiliter bull, which ceded Ireland to England, but more contemporarily to the Church’s condemnation of the illicit divorce of Charles Stewart Parnell – a condemnation that killed Parnell’s political career, and with it the hopes of a politically independent Ireland. Thus, Joyce wrote in an article that was printed on September 5, 1912, “In his final desperate appeal to his countrymen, he [Parnell] begged them not to throw him as a sop to the English wolves howling around them. It redounds to their honor that they did not fail in this appeal. They did not throw him to the English wolves; they tore him to pieces themselves” (qtd. In Mason 137).
One of the most powerful imperial hegemonies – politically or ecclesiastically – is language, something the professor harps on during his discussion of Greek and Latin in the Aeolus chapter: “We serve them. I teach the blatant Latin language. I speak the tongue of a race the acme of whose mentality is the maxim: time is money. Material domination. Domine! Lord! Where is the spirituality?” (110). To the professor, Latin represents empire, domination, and lack of imagination – both that of Britain and of the Catholic Church. But he holds out hope for the Greeks and their language, even as he acknowledges that “[t]hey went under”: “A smile of light brightened his darkrimmed eyes, lengthening his long lips. –The Greek! He said again. Kyrios! Shining word! The vowels the Semite and the Saxon know not. Kyrie! The radiance of the intellect. I ought to profess Greek, the language of the mind. Kyrie eleison!” (110).
The phrase Kyrie eleison,[9] is the only Greek that remained in the Roman Mass after it began to be celebrated in Latin following the fourth century legalization of Christianity. It is entirely possible, therefore, that Joyce was holding out hope for a Church that retained a sliver of non-imperialism in her Romanized liturgy. Mason, for one, argues that such a hope indeed remained for Joyce: “Joyce shows a distinct sympathy for Catholicism as a religion…. [H]e sees a profound truth at the heart of Catholic philosophy, and Catholicism as a constructive force in the lives of men” (118). John Peradotto is another scholar who holds out hope for Joyce and Catholicism. Peradotto’s argument is based on the liturgy as presented in Ulysses. He notes, “We know that Joyce was particularly fond, presumably on purely aesthetic grounds, of the Holy Week liturgy” (322). He cites Stanislaus Joyce’s biography, My Brother’s Keeper, wherein the author’s brother records that Joyce would attend without fail the Church’s Holy Thursday and Good Friday services: “He understood it as the drama of a man who has a perilous mission to fulfill, which he must fulfill even though he knows beforehand that those nearest to his heart will betray him” (qtd. in Peradotto 322).
As evidence that the mysterious power of the liturgy continued to have a hold on Joyce, Peradotto makes a connection between the word “tenebrosity” (322) that appears in the Oxen of the Sun chapter and the Church’s own Tenebrae service, which occurs during the Sacred Triduum that precedes Easter:
Midway in Stephen’s ‘chanson’ stands a word which provides an invaluable clue to the interpretation of the tone and construction of the entire section. That word is “tenebrosity.” The passage can be shown to be clearly fashioned after and inspired by the Tenebrae service of the Roman Catholic liturgy… This fact, as far as I have been able to investigate, has not been exploited by any of the critics or annotators of Ulysses. (322)
A particularly mysterious and ancient liturgy, the Tenebrae service involves the recitation of Matins and Lauds before a candelabrum containing fifteen lighted candles, one of which would be extinguished following the recitation of each psalm. At the completion of the service, a single lighted candle would be carried behind the altar to symbolize the death and burial of Christ. As Peradotto points out, the final word of the psalm then chanted is vitulos, or “oxen."[10]
The theme of Tenebrae, which means darkness, is indeed mentioned in the passage Peradotto cites: “This tenebrosity of the interior, he [Stephen] proceeded to say, hath not been illumined by the wit of the Septuagint nor so much as mentioned for the Orient from on high Which brake hell’s gates visited a darkness that was foraneous” (322). As Stephen proceeds, he mentions several salvation history accounts that could appear during Triduum-service lectiones, such as Moses being “saved from the waters of the Nile” (322), and Christ, who “would… not accept to die like the rest and pass away” (324). Perhaps most telling, though, are the Latin phrases that mark the otherwise bawdy passage as a religious service, such as “Orate fraters, pro memetipso” (322), and the blessing as the “service” ends: “Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus, Pater et Filius” (346).
Peradotto makes a connection between the “black crack of noise in the street here” as “[l]oud on left Thor thundered: in anger awful the hammerhurler”[11] (323) and the noise of hymnals being banged against the pews at a Tenebrae service to simulate thunder (323-24). According to Ellmann, Mrs. Conway passed on a number of superstitions to the young Joyce, among them being a fear of thunder: “The thunderstorm as a vehicle of divine power and wrath moved Joyce’s imagination so profoundly that to the end of his life he trembled at the sound” (25). Of all the Church’s services, perhaps the annual Tenebrae service, in which such a thunderous affect occurred, was the liturgy that affected Joyce most and continued to have an affect on him the longest.
But though Peradotto’s argument for the presence of a Tenebrae service in the Oxen of the Sun chapter is compelling, it seems clear that Stephen (and Joyce, for that matter) is rejecting even the shackles of this liturgy’s mysterious power over him. Stephen’s apostasy is most clear in his actions. Clearheaded though he may be, Stephen exuberantly presides over a drunken party, not a religious service. The conversation deals with sex throughout – and not only sex, but sex in a manner prohibited by Church teaching: “Copulation without population!” (345). And as the Tenebrae service intensifies, so too does their party: “Burke’s! Burke’s!” (346). Although they cry “Shout salvation to Jesus” (349), this Tenebrae “service” conducted by Stephen heads towards final apostasy and not religious devotion. Stanislaus Joyce reached a similar conclusion in regard to his brother, writing, “I am convinced that there was never any crisis of belief. The vigour of life within him drove him out of the Church, that vigour of life that is packed into the seven-hundred-odd quarto pages of Ulysses” (qtd. in Benstock 417). Even so, the question of whether Joyce was haunted by his Catholic faith continues to tantalize scholars. His sister, Sister Gertrude Mary Joyce, says he was reconciled to the Church on his deathbed (McGarry 62). Bernard Benstock says that arguments like this should be set aside, with criticism focusing solely on “evaluating the ‘religious’ content of his finished work” (418).
In the finished work of Ulysses, indications in the later chapters all point towards complete apostasy – an apostasy already experienced by Stephen which, with his help, is to set Bloom free. By transitioning his focus onto Stephen, in these later chapters Joyce abandons the timidity of Bloom for a more confident rejection of the Church’s authority. In Oxen of the Sun and especially Circe, Bloom witnesses Stephen’s own blasphemy through his increasingly drunken haze. As Stephen mocks religion through his own personification of it, Bloom sees clearly what he had begun to reject privately. In this chapter, for example, Stephen is transformed into “His Eminence Simon Stephen cardinal Dedalus, primate of all Ireland” (427). What had appeared to be harmless “gas” in Father Conmee has become Cardinal Dedalus’ “bloated pomp” (427). According to Lynch, Stephen is a “cardinal’s son” (427). Stephen actually corrects him, calling himself a “[c]ardinal sin” and making reference to the dissolute “Monks of the screw.”[12] Instead of tolerating those who are useful at mission time, Cardinal Dedalus complains about the mites crawling all over him and cries, “I’m suffering the agony of the damned” (428). Even as outrageous as he appears through Bloom’s drunken blur, Cardinal Dedalus receives “Don” John Conmee’s approbation: “Now, Father Dolan! Now. I’m sure that Stephen is a very good little boy!” (458).
The strangeness of Bloom’s drunken haze in the Circe chapter makes it a true crux interpretum, but it seems that things eventually come to a head in the figurative celebration of a Black Mass as Bloom is attempting to help Stephen avoid the soldiers’ cross examination. Whereas the phrase Introibo ad altare Dei would normally introduce the Mass, here Father Malachi O’Flynn intones, “Introibo ad altare diaboli”[13] (489). Joyce’s stage directions further elucidate the contents of Stephen’s dark imagination:
On an eminence, the centre of the earth, rises the fieldaltar of Saint Barbara. Black candles rise from its gospel and epistle horns. From the high barbacans of the tower two shafts of light fall on the smokepalled altarstone. On the altarstone Mrs Mina Purefoy, goddess of unreason, lies, naked, fettered, a chalice resting on her swollen belly. Father Malachi O’Flynn in a lace petticoat and reversed chasuble, his two left feet back to the front, celebrates camp mass. The Reverend Mr Hugh C Haines Love M.A. in a plain cassock and mortarboard, his head and collar back to the front, holds over the celebrant’s head an open umbrella. (488-89)
Stephen threatens any who would oppose this new Mass: “I’ll wring the neck of any fucking bastard says a word against my bleeding fucking king” (488). And whereas Bloom merely stands by during the Lestrygonians-chapter Mass, here he desperately accosts Cissy Caffrey in his attempt to save Stephen from the soldiers: “Speak, you! Are you struck dumb” (488). But Caffrey cries, “Police!” (488). With clear overtones of Christ’s crucifixion, it seems that Bloom is enamored with Stephen and wants to prevent whatever self-sacrifice Stephen’s conjured-up Black Mass represents.
According to Catholic theology, every Mass is re-presentation of Jesus’ redemptive crucifixion and death at Calvary. It becomes necessary, therefore, to ask who Stephen’s “king” might be. From the scene that quickly escalates in Stephen’s imagination, there are several specific elements pointing to Christ’s crucifixion. Foremost among them is Bloom himself, whose desperation to save Stephen from the authorities reminds one of St. Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Simon Peter, therefore, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his ear”[14] (John 18:10). Then, with Caffrey unwilling to speak up, Stephen’s imagination takes off: “Brimestone fires spring up. Dense clouds roll past. Heavy Gatling guns boom. Pandemonium… The midnight sun is darkened. The earth trembles. The dead of Dublin from Prospect and Mount Jerome… appear to many. A chasm opens with a noiseless yawn” (488). Similarly, after the death of Jesus, St. Matthew relates,
And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two parts from the top all the way to the bottom, and the earth quaked and rocks were rent. Graves opened and many bodies of the saints who were sleeping arose and, leaving their tombs after his resurrection, they came into the city and appeared to many[15] (Matt. 27:51-53).
Despite Caffrey’s having proclaimed Stephen’s innocence (490), Private Carr accosts him all the same: “He rushes towards Stephen, fist outstretched, and strikes him in the face. Stephen totters, collapses, falls, stunned. He lies prone, his face to the sky, his hat rolling to the wall” (491). Like Caffrey in regard to Stephen, Pilate said of Jesus, “I don’t find in him a cause”[16] (John 19:6). Even so, Jesus was crucified – as is Stephen. And like Christ’s first converts, Bloom takes Stephen as his own “professor” (491), his own teacher of a new-found faith in human reason: “Bloom, holding in his hand Stephen’s hat, festooned with shavings, and ashplant, stands irresolute. Then he bends to him and shakes him by the shoulder” (496).
Like the old order, Stephen’s new order finds its driving force in the celebration of a sacred meal. During Stephen’s vision, Father Malachi O’Flynn raises a “blooddripping host” and says, “Corpus meum” (489). Connected with his passion and death was a similar action by Jesus, who told his disciples at the Last Supper, “Hoc est corpus meum”[17] (Matt. 26:26). Although Bloom had scorned in the Lestrygonians chapter Father Conmee’s utterance of Corpus – and therefore Christ’s own redemptive crucifixion and death – here he is enthralled by Father Malachi O’Flynn’s ”Corpus meum” (489). Unlike Father Conmee, though, Father O’Flynn’s version doesn’t refer to a higher power, since the Reverend Love, serving as deacon, “raises high behind the celebrant’s petticoat, revealing his grey bare hairy buttocks between which a carrot is stuck) My body” (489). Unlike the God-man Jesus, Father O’Flynn’s corpus is merely that – his disgustingly human body. The beauty, the majesty, the mystery of the Flesh of the God-man has been inverted, turned on its head. The mystery of the God-man Christ has been replaced with the worship of Stephen’s reason. As Stephen puts it, his Mass is “[t]his feast of pure reason” (490).
An analysis of the occurrences of Latin through Ulysses indicates a complete apostasy on the part of Bloom. Certainly any careful reader could follow Bloom from his initial servility through the assertiveness he possesses at the book’s completion. But an Irish Catholic of Joyce’s time would have been especially sensitive to the religious overtones Latin and liturgy contained therein. On the face of it, Bloom’s “conversion” is positive, since his current state is clearly unhealthy for both him and his interpersonal relations. But it should be clearer now that Joyce intended to convey far more than a story of self-improvement. Bloom’s character stands for freedom from religious oppression. From persecution and death to resurrection and evangelization, Stephen’s character provides for Bloom the example he needs to abandon the old order and take up a new one. Only by the redemptive power of Stephen’s sacrifice at the hands of Private Carr can Bloom disobey and defy the hegemonic influences that surround him.
The pivotal moment of disobedience, of course, comes in the form of a Black Mass – a complete inversion of everything the Church holds sacred in her own liturgy. Now Bloom no longer needs Latin and the Church, for he has a religion of reason founded upon the redemptive sacrifice of Stephen his savior, whom he takes into his own house like a zealous, new convert. Through Stephen’s influence, Bloom abandons his previous meekness and makes demands for his own corpus. Whether Bloom’s new self-assertiveness is a powerful argument for being liberated from the spiritual authority of the Church is too large a question. But it is worth noting, that Molly was impressed at least by Bloom’s request for breakfast: “Yes because he never did a thing like that before…” (608).

Works Cited

Benstock, Bernard. “The Final Apostacy: James Joyce and Finnegans Wake.” ELH 28 (1961): 417-437.
Biblia Sacra iuxta Vulgatam Clementinam. Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1999.
Borach, Georges. “Conversations with James Joyce.” Trans. Joseph Prescott. College English 15 (1954): 325-327.
Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1983.
Gifford, Don. Ulysses Annotated. 2nd ed. Berkley: California UP, 1988.
Joyce, James. Ulysses. Eds. Hans Walter Gabler et al. New York: Random House, 1986.
Lobner, Corinna Del Greco. “James Joyce and the Italian Language.” Italica 60 (1983): 140-153.
Mason, Ellsworth. “James Joyce’s Shrill Note. The Piccolo della Sera Articles.” TCL 2 (1956): 115-139.
McGarry, Patsy. “A Question of Faith.” Irish Times 16 June 2001: 62.
Morse, J. Mitchell. “The Disobedient Artist: Joyce and Loyola.” PMLA 72 (1957):1018-1035.
Peradotto, John. “A Liturgical Pattern in Ulysses.” MLN 75 (1960): 321-326.
Sullivan, Kevin. Joyce among the Jesuits. New York: Columbia UP, 1957.


[1] Joyce’s older sister entered the Sisters of Mercy missionary congregation at the suggestion of Joyce – in New Zealand, she recalled, because Joyce had suggested, “’Why not do something really heroic and witness at the uttermost ends of the earth?’ She asked where he meant. ‘The Antipodes – and New Zealand, in particular. You can’t get much further than there,’ he said. ‘And that is how I came to be here,’ she said” (McGarry 1-2).
[2] The full phrase Bloom partially overheard would have been, “Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam. Amen.” (“May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ guide your soul to eternal life. Amen.”)
[3] Like many details in Ulysses, Joyce borrowed Father John Conmee from real life, where he was rector of Clongowes Wood while Joyce was a student there (Sullivan 28).
[4] “Do not enter into judgment with your servant, O Lord” (Ps. 142). According to Gifford, these words would be pronounced shortly before the coffin is lowered into the grave (118).
[5] “Lead us not into temptation” (From the Lord’s Prayer).
[6] “[May the angels lead you] into paradise” (Beginning of a popular prayer often recited or sung during the burial service).
[7] “It is truly worthy and just.” This phrase would be an altar boy’s response to one of the priest’s invocations immediately before the Liturgy of the Eucharist: “Sursum corda” (“Lift up your heart”).
[8] Wine would be connected to Britain, which was settled by the Romans, whereas Guinness could almost be considered the national Irish beverage. Gifford notes that Dublin’s brewery occupied forty acres in 1904 (95).
[9] “Lord have mercy.”
[10] The last verse of the Miserere, Ps. 50:21, reads, “Tunc acceptabis sacrificium iustitiae, oblations et holocausta; Tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos” (“You shall thereupon accept a sacrifice of justice, oblations and burnt offerings; They shall place upon your altar oxen”).
[11] In Scandinavian mythology, Thor was the god of thunder and lightening, and therefore represents thunder here (Gifford 421).
[12] “An eighteenth-century society of Irish lawyers, statesmen, and intellectuals that also called itself the Order of St. Patrick… The affectation of monkish habits was apparently a way of lending the spice of ‘violation’ to the society’s pursuit of pleasure” (Gifford 499).
[13] “I shall go up to the altar of the devil.”
[14] “Simon ergo Petrus habens gladium eduxit eum et percussit pontificis servum et abscidit eius auriculam dextram” (John 18:10).
[15] “Et ecce velum temple scissum est in duas partes a summon usque deorsum et terra mota est et petrae scissae sunt et monumenta aperta sunt et multa corpora sanctorum qui cormierant surrexerunt et exeuntes de monumentis post resurrectionem eius venerunt in sanctam civitatem et apparuerunt multis” (Matt. 27:51-53).
[16] “Ego enim non invenio in eo causam” (John 19:6).
[17] “This is my body” (Matt. 26:26).

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