Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

The Ineluctable Modality of the Visibly Disabled in James Joyce’s Ulysses

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2018), 12, (1), 53–69.

Abstract

Though Leopold Bloom has long been beloved for his frail and familiar humanity, he has also been praised, regularly, for one outstanding virtue: sympathy. Reexamination of the central protagonist of James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) reveals, however, that Bloom’s brand of pity is one link in that “chain of complicity” perpetuated by occidental institutions throughout the twentieth century, a posture “that colludes (knowingly or unknowingly) to limit the freedoms and mobility of people with disabilities” (Snyder and Mitchell 4). Bloom’s fundamental unwillingness to accept his status as one of the “temporarily abled”— an individual whose position along a continuum of physical and mental differences will necessarily change with age and experience (Davis 1, 7)—generates an abiding, opaque fear that shadows the halting kindheartedness for which he has been celebrated. By sketching Bloom’s less blatant prejudices alongside those of his louder, more demonstrative fellow citizens, Joyce insinuates a critique of not only his own era’s ingrained bigotry, but that of all cultures and individuals who find it difficult to solidify relationships with those whose disabilities remind them of their own finitude.

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Details

Author details

Marchbanks, Paul