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This project confronts the theoretical concepts of queer gender performativity and the erotic in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Scholars have long asserted the importance of this text in discussing notions of traditionally constructed gender identities and the possibilities for subversion, exploring the constructed nature of masculinity and femininity throughout. Critics have long grappled with the nature of certain erotic truths contained within the text and the feminine experience, often approaching the concept with a great deal of bewilderment and uncertainty. However, the critical body of work thus far concerning notions of performativity and erotic power has failed to recognize the possibility of queer performativity of gender, of anti-essentialist notions of masculinity and femininity, removed from male and female bodies, in providing an avenue to a better understanding of the erotic and the power it holds. In this paper, I draw upon the theoretical and critical works of Judith Butler, J. Jack Halberstam, Eve Kosofsky Sedwick, and Audre Lorde, among others, setting them in conversation with Joyce’s tour de force in order to demonstrate the place of queer performativity even within seemingly strictly gendered bodies and its ability to provide clear avenues towards the realization of erotic power within the self. Turning especially to the Circe and Penelope episodes of the text, I provide close readings that explore these phenomena within Leopold and Molly Bloom, respectively.
Cox, Brian K., "“yes I said yes I will Yes”: Queer Performativity and Realization of the Erotic in James Joyce’s Ulysses" (2015). English Summer Fellows. Paper 1.