Next Section

Previous Section

7.8 Non-Participation as Feminine

The appropriation and subordination of both sexual reproduction and motherhood into sterile texts of religious paternity worship is paralleled by Shem's artistic creation in Finnegans Wake where his masturbatory, egotistic (but ultimately infertile) literary endeavours are derided for their peaceful intentions: 'he make peace in his preaches and play with esteem' (FW 225.6-7). In contrast, HCE's sin of sexual reproduction makes steam, but a steam in which a rainbow depicting the Wake's historical picture appears: 'When his Steam was like a Raimbrandt round Mac Garvey' (FW 176.18). Along similar lines, in Ulysses Bloom is depicted as feminine by the narrator of Cyclops due to his inkling of Blazes Boylan's affair with Molly: 'That explains the milk in the cocoanut and absence of hair on the animal's chest. Blazes doing the tootle on the flute' (U 12.996-98). Bloom is also characterised as effeminate for his rejection of violence as a solution to the injustice of the world, in particular his refusal to enter into the arena of violent competition:

Right, says John Wyse. Stand up to it then with force like men.

That's an almanac picture for you. Mark for a softnosed bullet. Old lardyface standing up to the business end of a gun. Gob, he'd adorn a sweepingbrush, so he would, if he only had a nurse's apron on him. And then he collapses all of a sudden, twisting around all the opposite, as limp as a wet rag.

But it's no use, says [Bloom]. Force, hatred, history, all that. (U 12.1475-81)

Shem's refusal to engage in violence similarly results in his portrayal by Shaun as effeminate (see above, *).

The derogatory appellation of 'feminine', applied to a male who retreats from masculine conflict and thus relinquishes the possibility of victorious insemination of females, is turned back upon the Irish patriarchy in Joyce's depiction of the celibate withdrawal of the clergy as similarly impotent. In repeated descriptions of male priests as feminine in A Portrait the biological impotence of religious ritual is emphasised and Joyce suggests that priests are alienated from their own sexual potency in their dogmatic adoration of a male forebear:

Les jupes. [...]

The names of articles of dress worn by women or of certain soft and delicate stuffs used in their making brought always to his mind a delicate and sinful perfume. (P 141)

the face of a guilty priest who heard the confessions of those whom he had not power to absolve but that he felt again in memory the gaze of its dark womanish eyes. (P 162)

his threadbare soutane gathered about him for the ascent with womanish care. (P 181)

The anti-violence and anti-sexuality which constitutes the self-proclaimed peaceability of the priesthood rests much like Shem's own anti-violence upon a withdrawal from the competition for females. Prior to his departure upon his postal round of death and rebirth, Shaun's harangue of Issy requiring her to deny her sexuality and maintain her loyalty to his memory approximates the tribal source of religious precepts of celibacy and chastity. Ensuing from his own celibacy, Shaun is described as 'Thou pure! Our virgin! Thou holy' (FW 454.16-17) and soon after 'like a woman' (FW 454.20) when he turns upon the Flora girls to advise them: 'All I can tell you is this, my sorellies. It's prayers in layers all the thumping time, begor' (FW 454.28-29). Joyce's subversion of the patriarchy is itself conducted from a patriarchal perspective in a Socratic embrace of the arguments he opposes (see also above, *), and his displacement of Christian religion with a homage to the sexual woman is on one level conducted while lauding the potency of the HCE deity. Despite acclaim for his return, however, the notable absence of HCE at the conclusion of Book IV potentially implies the reverse: the deity's sexual and spiritual impotence at the conclusion of the annadominant period.

In addition to religion, the devotion to the past implicit in the Four Historian's story-telling is also cast as effeminate, and includes by implication their ass, who is variously identified as Shem or HCE:

poor Matt, the old perigrime matriarch, and a queenly man. (FW 392.19-20)

four (up) beautiful sister misters. (FW 393.17)

The beautfour sisters. (FW 393.22)

Four witty missywives, winking under hoods, made lasses like lads love maypoleriding. (FW 588.36-589.1)

The Four Historians function as an impotent manifestation of HCE, and a passive parallel to the incendiary hinndoo, as for instance where the latter is described as 'Coleman of Lucan taking four parts' (FW 48.12-13). Such escapes into the apparent impotence of intellectual musing, however, whether of a religious nature or avant-garde art, have a tendency to transform and thus ultimately participate in the world which they overtly appear to avoid.