Martello tower, photo by Erik Simpson

Brienza, Susan. "Krapping Out: Images of Flow and Elimination as Creation in Joyce and Beckett." In Re: Joyce’n Beckett, edited by Phyllis Carey and Ed Jewinski, 117–46. New York: Fordham UP, 1992.

Related topics:

Creation and Making
Ingestion and Excretion

This article contrasts the uses of flow and bodily functions in the work of Joyce and Beckett. Brienza claims that, for Joyce, the natural bodily functions are significant in their link to the natural order and creative flow; therefore Bloom is quite satisfied with his successful elimination in "Calypso" (U 4). Beckett, on the other hand, favors constipation for his characters, and sees the elimination of waste as a creative nuisance. Brienza establishes a similar microcosmic contrast within Joyce's writing, between the characters of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus. While Bloom is very comfortable with bodily flow and excretion, in Portrait we see Stephen unsettled by images of waste and water as "tides of filth," which he comes to associate with his mother's death (Brienza 120). Brienza traces images of flow through Joyce's body of work, from Dubliners to Portrait and Ulysses, and ultimately to Finnegan's Wake. While elimination is linked to artistic creation in the latter two books, the Stephen of Portrait sees waste as a reminder of the dirty world which the young artist wishes to separate himself. Brienza points out that Stephen is at his most creative in the aquatic "Proteus" episode of Ulysses (U 3), wherein he walks on the beach, composes a poem, then urinates. Stephen is able to tap into his artistic productivity by connecting to water and waste, learning that "streams of water are bodily fluids, are words themselves--the stuff of life" (118). It is important to Brienza that in Wake, which is usually seen as the culmination of Joyce's literary project, streams and bodily fluids as creative output act as the book's "reigning metaphor" (118). Joyce thus links a comfort with waste as a sign of artistic and personal growth, and demonstrates the necessity of maintaining a connection between the artist's aesthetic project and the dirty material world.

Citations and Related Sources

Cheng, Vincent J. "‘Goddinpotty’: James Joyce and the Literature of Excrement." In The Languages of Joyce: Selected Papers from the 11th International James Joyce Symposium, Venice, 12-18 June 1988, edited by Rosa Maria Bollettieri Bosinelli, Carla Marengo, and Christine van Boheemen, 85–99. Philadelphia: John Benjamins North America, 1992 .
Tucker, Lindsey. Stephen and Bloom at Life’s Feast: Alimentary Symbolism and the Creative Process in James Joyce's "Ulysses." Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1984.

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