Martello tower, photo by Erik Simpson

Levine, Jennifer. "James Joyce, Tattoo Artist: Tracing the Outlines of Homosocial Desire." In Quare Joyce, edited by Joseph Valente, 101–20. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2000.

Related topics:

Bodies
Native and Foreign
Sexuality
The Unspoken

Levine argues that "Eumaeus," and its exploration of homosocial relationships through the character D.B. Murphy, examines the roles of homophobia, anti-Semitism, and misogyny within a patriarchal society. Though the word "homosocial" signifies a non-erotic same-sex bond, Levine argues that such bonds can reveal much about male sexuality. The article considers the relationships between the men in the episode, specifically the triangle formed by Murphy, Bloom, and Stephen. Levine analyzes Murphy's character as amorphous, combining elements of other characters to create a "retrospective arrangement" of Mulligan, Simon Dedalus, Richie Goulding, Deasy, and Bloom (102). While the narrative leaves his identity indeterminate, Murphy spends much of the chapter trying orally and visually to establish it, which makes Bloom anxious. In particular, Levine says that Murphy's chest tattoo—which associates him with the figures of the tattoo artist, Morpheus the shapeshifter, and a prototypical trickster—indicates a performative identity and, possibly, homosexuality. Even aside from the tattoo, homoerotic allusions abound. Murphy is suggestively referred to as "seaman discharge," and when his pseudonym, Señor A. Boudin, is translated into French, it reveals several anal and phallic images (U 16.603). The name Boudin also holds historical significance through a parallel with another M. Boudin, who studied race and sexuality in the nineteenth century. Thus, the use of Boudin "brings together the 'problems' of homosexuality and Jewishness" (Levine 113). Drawing a connection between the psychological scapegoating in the Antonio-Shylock relationship in The Merchant of Venice, and the Murphy-Bloom relationship in "Eumaeus," Levine sees Bloom's uneasiness arising from a hatred of the "(projected) homosexual who mirrors him" (114). Within the entirely male context of "Eumaeus," Levine notes that misogyny is expectedly abundant, for "wherever there is homophobia, there is also always misogyny" (116). This misogyny, manifest in depictions of the "murderous sexuality" of the South American woman on the postcard and in the gossip about Kitty O'Shea, culminates in Bloom showing Molly's picture to Stephen with the comment, "Bandez! Figne toi trop" (U 16.1454). Levine notes that in this instance, as elsewhere, women are used to mediate relations among men, facilitating the introduction of sexual energy under the guise of shared heterosexual interest. Thus Bloom and Stephen's exchange over Molly, which also continues the episode's recurring anal and phallic imagery, destabilizes the clear divide between homosocial and homosexual relationships.

Citations and Related Sources

Attridge, Derek. Peculiar Language: Literature as Difference from the Renaissance to James Joyce. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988.
Kleinberg, Seymour. "The Merchant of Venice: The Homosexual as Anti-Smite in Nascent Capitalism." Journal of Homosexuality 8 (spring-summer 1983): 116.
Lawrence, Karen R. "‘Beggaring Description’: Politics and Style in Joyce’s ‘Eumaeus’." Modern Fiction Studies 38, no. 2 (1992): 355.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (Gender and Culture). Columbia University Press, 1985.

If you are an editor of Ashplant, you can edit this page.