Martello tower, photo by Erik Simpson

Freedman, Ariela. "The Metamorphoses of Ulysses." Joyce Studies Annual, 2010, 67–88.

Related topics:

Creation and Making

Freedman provides an intertextual exploration of Ovid's Metamorphoses and Joyce's Ulysses, examining the works' thematic similarities, the links between key terms metempsychosis and metamorphosis, and the "stylistic analogies" between their authors (Freedman 71). The article begins by considering how many critics have focused on the parallels between Joyce's Ulysses and Homer's Odyssey but have largely neglected connections with another classical work, Ovid's Metamorphoses. Freedman characterizes Joyce's treatment of Metamorphoses in Ulysses as "subterranean" yet "sustained, multifaceted, and highly significant" (70).

Next, Freedman examines the parallels between Leopold Bloom and Ovid's Ulysses character (in his own rewriting of Homer's epic). She links the Ovidian Ulysses' "rhetorical prowess at the expense of his physical dexterity" with Bloom's "pacifism" and "victories of eloquence" (74). She also considers the link between Ovid's "parallactic representation of Ulysses" and Joyce's "movement inside and outside of Leopold Bloom," who is himself obsessed with the concept of parallax (73). This comparison ends with a discussion of similarities between the narratives of sexual transgression in Metamorphoses and Ulysses, especially focusing on "Scylla and Charybdis" (U 9).

In next section, Freedman explores the link between the transformative sorcery of Ovid's Circe with the hallucinatory "Circe" (U 15) episode in Ulysses. She then posits a link between the mystical transformations of metempsychosis and metamorphosis, arguing that both terms encompass "a larger philosophy of flux" that is evident in the two texts (80). She analyzes the significance of metempsychosis to Stephen's meditations on change and art in "Proteus" (U 3.447-80) and the "contingency of identity" suggested by the confusion about the response "Mn" in Bloom's exchange with Molly in the "Calypso" episode (U 4.331-43), concluding that metempsychosis and metamorphosis inform the "anti-essential nature of character and self" explored by Bloom and Stephen in the novel (84). Freedman concludes with a reflection on the notion of intertextual play generally and its contribution to the "philosophy of literary creativity as metamorphosis" (85).

Citations and Related Sources

Senn, Fritz. "In Classical Idiom: Anthologia Intertextualis." James Joyce Quarterly 25, no. 1 (1987): 31–48.
———. "Met Whom What." James Joyce Quarterly 31, no. 1 (1992): 109–13.

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