Martello tower, photo by Erik Simpson

Imagining a Modernist Anarchy in the 21st Century: Ulysses, Dada, and the Political Viability of Literary Text

Related topics:

Blackness and Blackface
Irish History Transformed
Language and Linguistics
Obedience and Rebellion
Thought and Action
The Unspoken

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
—William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming" (3-4).

It is difficult to imagine an entirely novel interpretation of Joyce, as scholars have been consistently responding to his works with prolific fervor for nearly a century. Containing a seemingly infinite number of analyses, the bog of Joyce criticism is perpetually harder and harder to wade through with each newly published article. Derrida's invocation of an academic sphere without closure, in regards to Ulysses scholarship, speaks directly to this difficulty: "Everything we can say about Ulysses...has already been anticipated...We are caught in the net. All the gestures sketched in to allow an initiatory movement are already announced in an overpotentialized text that will remind you at a given moment that you are captive in a language, writing, knowledge, and even narration network" (89). In response to this desire to discover scholarly niches, numerous readings of Joyce (and especially Ulysses) rely upon considerations of the small and mundane, endlessly reductive in scope; however, these works predominantly miss the opportunity to situate Joyce on a grander scale by positing the contemporary value of his works not within the academy, but rather within a socio-political moment. While scholars have extensively examined Joyce's historical relevance (an inherent necessity of the latter project), attempts to provide his works with immediate contemporary pertinence have not been widely undertaken.

Considering Joyce's work within the context of a twenty-first century political realm may initially seem like a stretch, but I believe this reading is just as "anticipated" by Ulysses as any other of the innumerable possible interpretations. Projecting Joyce into the present day casts him as an author engaged with his surrounding local, national, and ideological political spaces, wholly rejecting dominant modes of repression, control, and authority. While I believe this strain of politics is peripherally present in his earlier work, it becomes central to Ulysses; the novel is vested in a radicalized autonomy, while simultaneously engaged with conceptions of society's operation in fragmented, detached cultural realms. Under this view, Joyce's style and content function to engage with similarly-concerned twentieth century artistic philosophies—namely, modernism and Dadaism—ultimately addressing the political potentials of anarchy. I believe that Joyce's commitment to politically anarchist literary production does not (and should not) remain "stuck" within his historical moment; rather, his writing possesses as much, if not more, political viability within our present society, since the means of control and dominance that he rejects have only grown in their pervasiveness.

I. Relocating the Political from the Periphery

In order to read Joyce as a political force, I will first contend that politics are at the center of his work. Dominic Manganiello's Joyce's Politics is the primary touchstone for reading Joyce as an author deeply concerned with the political. Manganiello addresses the dominant fallacy of Joyce criticism that places him as "indifferent to politics," seeking the "divorce of his art from social issues," asserting that if Joyce—as he himself often claimed—desired a de-sentimentalized artistic form that portrayed the totality of existence, this reality could not preclude the political (1-2). While Manganiello considers Joyce's politics to be complex, impossible to pin down to a singular ideology, he suggests that socialism and anarchism were two of the major strains affecting his writing (2). He argues that Joyce's "knowledge of anarchist literature was extensive" and positions him as less concerned with Marxist class struggle than with the possession of individual autonomy "delivered in the anarchist spirit" (71-72). Joyce, while sympathetic to the radicalism of Marxist ideas, ultimately eschews this political stance for the even more totalizing freedom offered by anarchism. Manganiello states: "The anarchists, like Bakunin, fascinated Joyce because, whereas Marx dictated an impersonal class warfare, they sought to liberate the individual from those forces that smothered human potentialities" (71). He claims Joyce's "principal political authority" (74) was Benjamin Tucker, an American individualist anarchist, who saw church and state as the two primary forces whose authority oppressed individual freedom, recalling Stephen's desire to "kill the priest and the king" (U 15.4437). Manganiello considers Ulysses the crowning achievement of Joyce's commitment to a non-violent anarchist politics that heralds art and language as champions over physical violence and force > (99). Viewing Joyce as not only an anarchist sympathizer but also an actively anarchist artist, promotes his political commitment and thus his political imagery to the forefront of his creations.

Joyce's political commitment to artist as anarchist, however, did not merely arise from his study of anarchist theorists. Manganiello claims that Joyce's espoused support for an artistic anarchy came from Oscar Wilde's The Soul of Man under Socialism (220). In this anarchist treatise, Wilde claims: "Art is the most intense mode of Individualism that the world has known. I am inclined to say that it is the only real mode of Individualism that the world has known" (Soul). Wilde considers that a revolutionary political model must both advocate the necessity of individualist means, and value individualism as the pinnacle of its ends. Wilde, like other anarchists before him, objects to the socialist authoritarianism that claims compulsory action, believing this model equally as flawed as previous State forms of control (Manganiello 220). Wilde calls for artistic expression that "should never try to be popular" but rather that the "public should try to make itself artistic" (Soul). Art is thus the central force through which revolutionary politics can and should occur. Wilde claims that despotism, oligarchy, and democracy all represent failed forms of governmental control and that "the Prince tyrannises over the body, while the Pope tyrannises over the soul [and]...the People tyrannise over the body and soul alike" (Manganiello 221). In Joyce's work, the combination of Tucker and Wilde's anarchist propositions manifest themselves as consistent subtexts, framing his works as fundamentally devoted to the replacement of the state with an idealist narrative of aesthetic individualism.

Positioning Joyce as politically invested within anarchist traditions emphasizes the importance of political ideology within his work, but only partially historicizes the relevance of these politics. Just as Joyce the author did not operate historically removed from the larger socio-political issues that structured his education and day-to-day life, his works do not exist detached from the larger artistic movements occurring around him. Joyce's artistic productions act in a perpetual dialogue not only with his political zeitgeist but also with his aesthetic zeitgeist. The two simultaneous movements of the 1910s, modernism and Dada, are often imagined as distinctly separate entities with divergent modes of practice, and, accordingly, critics tend to compare Joyce's work to either one or the other (more often than not, placing him solely within the modernist camp). However, as is commonly true of Joycian complexity, his works cannot be conscientiously restricted to interaction with only one realm of aesthetic practice; rather, upon close inspection he appears to actively play with the boundaries between the two movements, infusing his creations with patent elements of each, while consistently utilizing their shared anarchist sensibilities.

II. The Legacy of an Anarchist Modernity

While often discussed as potentially distinct, anarchism and modernism have much more in common than many historians (especially the postmodernists) traditionally acknowledge. Characterizations of modernism as merely a set of grand aesthetic and historical concerns fail to adequately engage with the political situation that birthed the movement. In Anarchy and Culture, David Weir sets forth an alternative narrative of modernism that establishes it as a directly political art style, structured by anarchist ideology. While he considers anarchy to have been ultimately a political failure, he positions the establishment of the modernist form as its resounding cultural victory, contending that "in some ways, the failure of anarchism assured the success of modernism; that is, the politics of anarchism was transformed into the culture of modernism by a number of artists who gave aesthetic expression to political principles" (158). Weir's conception is that of an ideological relay: the political practices and ideologies of anarchism possessed the potential to destabilize dominant cultural forms of the state; in opposition, theorists like Matthew Arnold pressed the desire for cultural unity and preservation as an aesthetic means to challenge the political force of anarchy; the political failures of anarchist movements led modernists to co-opt the political ideologies of anarchism as a means of challenging these aesthetic visions of cultural unity that carried codes of state control and authority (42). By embedding anarchism into the cultural aesthetics of modernism, authors repurposed the theoretical political commitment into tangible moments of anarchist practice, though on a literary rather than societal scale. If modernist practice relies intrinsically upon anarchist ideals, and the two traditions hinge on a common political enemy, modernism itself should be viewed as a politically-driven movement.

Having framed modernism as, at its core, an anarchist art movement, Weir then proceeds to place Joyce squarely within this anarcho-modernism. Weir believes that the Martello Tower that opens "Telemachus" (U 1) "may be taken to stand for a larger fact of Joyce's artistic career, namely that his aesthetics is somehow housed by politics and history, so that the 'accidental manners and humours' of any given day...are bound up with 'the underlying laws' that give rise up to history" (212). Joyce's artistic practices are thus irremovable from his larger socio-political circumstance, his works coinciding with modernist, and therefore anarchist, ideology. Weir sees Joyce as moving throughout his career "from socialism to anarchism," a progression figured by the autobiographical metaphor of Ulysses' protagonists, with Bloom representing Joyce's early socialist leanings, and Stephen his later conviction to individualist anarchism (227). If Bloom and Stephen are embodied political commitments, in addition to serving as evidence of Joyce's political attitudes, their first-person narrative experiences must also be considered inherently political; the text's structure and fractured, multifarious style act as modernist representations of anarchy, while the characters and narrative events become equally political forces. According to Weir, these likenesses arise from Ulysses' self-consciously engagement with the consistent, pervasive interplay between political and aesthetic practice, preserving Joyce's historical experience textually. The historical context of interaction is also apparent across works; Weir describes Joyce's most famous novels growing more aesthetically modernist as they grow more politically anarchist: Dubliners illustrates a socialist Joyce, Ulysses demonstrates an anarchist Joyce breaking with this socialist past, and Finnegan's Wake completes the evolution as "the most complete expression of aesthetic anarchism ever written...the historical vision and the aesthetic vision...unified" (227). Weir's historical model thus paints Joyce as both anarchist and modernist, but his politico-aesthetics are not merely restricted to the implicit anarchy of modernism; Joyce also engages with the artistic methods of the overtly anarchist Dadaists.

III. Dada and Modernism: Towards a Political Pact

Although commonly historicized as a drastic departure from modernism, Dadaism possesses a political commitment far more similar than this division would suggest. Weir's aesthetic narrative succumbs to this pitfall, espousing the discourse-dominant sentiment that "very few dadaists had political connections to anarchism," amd reducing the movement to tongue-in-cheek clichés of "'artistic anarchy' and 'artistic protest'" (228). Like-minded readings of Dada fail to consider their aesthetic practices as anarchist because dadaists' personal politics do not necessarily align heavily with anarchist theory; however, this conception overlooks the power of a text's aesthetic form, style, and rhetoric apart from the author's political intent (a surprisingly traditional "modernist" ideal). Such an exclusive focus on autobiographical political alignment and intentional moralizing essentially reduces the movement to only its authors, downplaying the personality and reception of the literary productions themselves. Art historian Stephen Foster considers Dadaists' primary concern to be "liberating the circumstances" through which "the relationships that things assumed in the routinely experiences, everyday world were not natural, but were ones that were taken by virtue of cultural decision making" (30). Dadaists attempted to illustrate the arbitrary nature of cultural products and social conditions by changing the situations within which these objects existed. Their art becomes conflated with absurdity because they utilized it specifically to demonstrate the preposterousness of the cultural control exerted by the state, "interested in [representing] what they perceived as a failure in the politics of culture" (32). Placing this aesthetic ideal in conversation with Weir's model of a cultural sphere deeply connected to the political sphere, the Dadaists' aesthetic concerns seem inherently political in nature. Also critiquing Arnoldian cultural unity, the Dadists, using different aesthetic practices, move towards the same political ends as both modernism and Joyce. Following this formula for dada anarchy, Ulysses utilizes a mundane narrative foreground—a single routine day in the lives of its familiar characters—contextually warped by absurd meta-narrative features, particularly Joyce's anxious movement from episode to episode, style to style. In this way, the work can be understood as employing Dadaist techniques to arrive at the same anarchist political ends of the text's modernist features.

Joyce's work not only operates along the aesthetic interpretations of Dadaism as laid out by historical readings of the movement, but also within the aesthetic space self-identified by the Dadaist movement. In his "Dada Manifesto 1918," Tristan Tzara states: "To impose your ABC is a natural thing—hence deplorable. Everybody does it in a form of crystalbluffmadonna, monetary system, pharmaceutical product, or a bare leg advertising the ardent sterile spring" (36). Tzara's "ABC," the metaphor of homogenous and uniformity laid out by a state authority, illustrates both Tzara's criticism of societal/cultural control and his disavowal of a unified form of language (an extension of this cultural hegemony) symbolized in the "ABC" of an ordered linguistic system. This skepticism of hegemonic convention, and specifically, of the efficacy of controlled language, is clearly echoed in Ulysses' miscommunications, in its disrupted signification, suggesting that Joyce's considerations of anarchy align with the politico-aesthetics of Tzara's own anarchist vision of art. Outlining the origins and mission of Dadaism, Tzara explains that "dada was born of a need for independence, of a distrust towards unity" and that those aligned with the movement aim to "preserve their freedom" (37). Thus, Tzara's Dadaism revolves around that same Arnoldian enemy, linked to Joyce, modernism, and anarchism as spokes around a hub. In a particularly Joycean moment, Tzara presents his objections to cultural systematization as a scripted line which relies on repetition and onomatopoeia to evince parody: "If I cry out: Ideal, ideal, ideal, Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge, Boomboom, boomboom, boomboom, I have given a pretty faithful version of progress, law, morality and all other fine qualities that various highly intelligent men have discussed in so many books, only to conclude that after all everyone dances to his own personal boomboom..." Denying previous books' relevancy to his current historical situation and advocating for a radical subjectivity rooted in supreme individualism, Tzara constructs an absurdist interpretation of history that sees previous artistic models as presumptuously unfit for the consciousness of a fragmented social moment like the one offered in Ulysses.

IV. Theoretical and Literary Mitigations of Modernism and Dadaism

Theoretical and aesthetic practices during the 1960s-80s have often connected modernism and Dadaism in their interpretations of Joyce. In his "Ulysses in History," Fredric Jameson aligns the literary lineage of Joyce's modernism with the theoretical legacy of Dada. He positions Joyce's work (although not Joyce himself) as a politically forceful and relevant tool for critiquing dominant modes of authority. Jameson criticizes plot-focused readings of Ulysses', which are typically concerned with the novel's lack of plot, asking "why we are so attached to the project of making something decisive happen during this representative day" (138). If anything definitive or noteworthy occurred during the novel, June 16th 1904 would no longer remain a normal day, and could not effectively be disrupted by the anarchist practices of aesthetically (via form and style) de-situating the reader to enact the alienation of internalized normality. According to Jameson, the force of Ulysses is rooted in its ability to demonstrate the detachment between individual and object created when cultural spaces are controlled by state authority. He ties this detachment to consumerism, explaining that commodity culture arises in the wake of the apathy that follows alienation: "The visual, the spatially visible, the image, is, as Guy Debord has observed, the final form of the commodity itself, the ultimate terminus of reification" (146). Jameson's invocation of Debord signals the presence of Dadaist theory within his reading of Joyce. Debord was the premiere theorist of the Situationist movement (which grew out of Dadaism in the early 1950s), an anarchistic mid-century artistic attitude that is often considered a crux between a modernist industrial capitalism and a postmodernist advanced capitalism of hyper-fragmentation. Debord's Society of the Spectacle (the theoretical work Jameson alludes to) conceives of a society of spectacles—hollow, stripped of meaning and value—reflecting Ulysses' concerns with the decay of an urban environment and the increasingly conflicting relationships between the natural and the produced. Debord claims that "everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation," a statement that suggests both the Dadaist belief that objects could only gain meaning nowadays by depriving them of their natural environment and the modernist conviction that cultural unity is a myth transmitted through a state that propagates itself through this perceived stability (Society). Jameson thus performs an analysis of Ulysses that uses Debord's theoretical legacy in order to envision Joyce's modernist aesthetics as rooted within a Dadaist disavowal of a state-mediated culture of alienation.

A literary work that more directly addresses Jameson's connections between Joyce, Dada, Modernism, and anarchy, is Tom Stoppard's 1975 play, Travesties, wherein Stoppard invites us to envision a direct discourse between Joyce and Tzara as interpreted through a historically foggy, individual's memories. Within the work, Stoppard continually conflates Tzara and Joyce's political and aesthetic ideals, fusing them as nigh-inseparable characters—a rewritten historical narrative that overtly interchanges modernist and Dadaist aesthetics. Tzara, addressing Joyce who is in the process of writing Ulysses, states: "For your masterpiece I have great expectorations...For you I would evacuate a monument...Art for art's sake-I am likewise defecated" (30). Joyce later issues a rebuttal to Tzara's critique of his aesthetics: "As an artist, naturally I attach no importance to the swings and roundabout of political history" (32). In this moment, the two eschew one another's aesthetic responsibilities, representative of their typically assumed artistic positions, but within a few pages, their aesthetic disagreement becomes destabilized as Joyce and Tzara begin a question/answer dialogue reminiscent of "Ithaca" (U 17); Tzara becomes a literal contributor to and symbolic participant in the creative process of Ulysses (38). Similarly, after Joyce finishes his climactic disavowal of Tzara's work, he reaches into his hat and pulls out a rabbit in a manner characteristic of Dada's aesthetic absurdism (42). In analyzing this scene, Ira Nadel builds the "Dada Joyce." He claims: "Yet from the same hat in which Tzara remade a Shakespearean sonnet into a Dada poem, Joyce pulls out a string of streamers, flags, and finally, a rabbit, while calmly continuing his dialogue with Tzara. The act of destruction has become creation" (485). Herein, Stoppard's Joyce reinvents his aesthetic form in the guise of Dada, illustrating the malleability of his creative practice, without derailing the political implications of his character/work. Nadel views Stoppard's work as vested in annotating and ultimately correcting "the travesty of history," which has attempted to construct an objective narrative providing streamlined, causal delineations (483).

V. Reading a Multifaceted Aesthetic Anarchy in Ulysses

Using these precedents of engaging with Ulysses as a modernist and/or Dadaist literary production, we can understand the novel as a political text vested in both aesthetic forms, held together and propelled forward by its core of anarchism. Reflecting the innate hegemonic power structures outside of the text, the novel's depiction of interpersonal relationships illustrates a network of dominance and control to which the novel's primary characters remain passively subservient. Unlike Weir's reading of the novel, wherein Stephen and Bloom are direct actors of socialist and anarchist rebellion, respectively, I contend that while the protagonists may embody political metaphors, they fail in their individual attempts at physically manifesting rebellious acts.

Steeped in anarchist aesthetics—Dadaist disjuncture and modernist experimentation with form—Ulysses' collection of episodes resists a singular, consistent reading, and this fragmentation creates a textual rebellion that destabilizes characters' apparent obedience. The submission of Stephen and Bloom, whether active or passive, is traditionally defined by their lack of physically-manifested acts that could subvert the dominant ideological state apparatuses (ISAs) of a capitalist system. The novel's decentralized narrative structure conflicts with such plot-based determination of power relations by casting them as arbitrary, manipulable spectacles, subject to the whims of stylistic absurdity. The anarchic textual mode shows us many very different sides of the story, revealing the characters' "obedience" to be an artifact of their subjection; thus, their passivity and inaction demonstrate the constraint of a repressed societal body perhaps unaware of the pervasiveness of these structures, and either unwilling or unable to object to them in a tangible, physical manner. Thus, even as Bloom and Stephen may continue to be submissively ineffectual, the reader is ideologically liberated by this opportunity for voyeurism, as at its structural and stylistic level, the novel informs on the ridiculous tyranny of ISAs, betraying the ethos suggested by such an obedient cast. /p>

Joyce opens Ulysses with the line: "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead..." (U 1.1). "Stately" signals not only the attitude for which Stephen will resent Buck Mulligan, but also the loftiness, grandiosity, and transparent falsities of power possessed by the state. "Stately" in proximity to "plump" also addresses the immensity of the state, a stately state of imposing size that issues control over all of the actors within its political domain. Fast-forward to the novel's last words—"...yes I said yes I will Yes."—and we get a text bookended by "Stately...Yes," with the interior events providing a story of triumph for the majestic state as central, unifying component, a tone mitigated only by Joyce's textual anarchy (U 18.1608-09). Reading Ulysses as a work bound together by a decidedly sardonic confirmation of state power and control, one can then see the novel as not only politically concerned, but politically driven from beginning to end.

In order to parse out the working relationship between the aesthetic textual product, the fragmented textual landscape, and the fractured "characters" within the novel, I must first position the obedient subjects as subservient to larger systems of power. Stephen Dedalus, for example, is a figure of stagnation who wishes to awaken from the nightmare of history, yet he cannot seem to orient his own conscious efforts of creation through means other than the historical (U 3.377). He remains attached to a legacy of quotations and allusions that prevents him from acting upon the immediate construction of his physical surroundings, even when he recognizes a need or a detail. Stephen remains in the stasis of a closed mental sphere, his conception of art remaining socially-removed and inactive as he drifts about within a psychic quagmire of the culturally-unified English literary canon that is, for the most part, historically, politically, and geographically removed from him—the reified product of an ivory Martello Tower. He internalizes these experiences of frustrated inaction, leading to antisocial behavior and immense self-loathing, rather than attaching a larger conception of blame upon the ISAs that continue to mutate his selfhood into subjecthood.

Only in fits of a drunken revelry does Stephen take any steps towards an act of physical rebellion, which ultimately folds in upon itself as something both less and more than an action: an absurdist performance on "Circe"'s stage. Jameson considers "Circe" (U 15) to be the climax of the novel due to its "hallucinatory experience" of a non-representational, un-performable play that ultimately reflects the Dadaist sensibility of utilizing the absurd to identify the un-Natural spectacle (147). Jameson, however, fails to recognize the anarchist potential of "Circe" by detaching Joyce's potentially direct anarcho-modernist intentions from the novel's narrative. During Stephen's argument with the British soldier, Private Carr (Carr is also the name of the narrator in Travesties), Stephen proposes: "Struggle for life is the law of existence but but human philirenists, notably the tsar and the king of England, have invented arbitration. (he taps his brow) But in here it is I must kill the priest and the king" (U 15.4434-37). Stephen's riddled thoughts conclude that his rebellion "must" come from an internal, mental critique, rather than from a tangibly manifested action. Stephen can neither physically confront the British soldier nor criticize these authorities of church and state as active forces of oppression (at least, not outside of his own mind). This may seem to be a defeatist, academic surrender to bodily subjugation; however, the comic confrontation that follows demonstrates the paltry ridiculousness of physical subjugation in context of emotional or psychological rebellion. The stage directions that signal the action sequence (stylistically and visually separating physical from ideological text) read: "([Carr] rushes towards Stephen, fist outstretched, and strikes him in the face. Stephen totters, collapses, falls, stunned. He lies prone, his face to the sky, his hat rolling to the wall) (U 15.4747-49). Unable to defend himself against the physicality of a poorly-thrown punch which nevertheless topples him to the ground, Stephen's physical defeat at the hand of state authority marks a larger anarchic victory. The absurd, unintimidating way in which Carr's punch physically topples Stephen demonstrates the absurdity of the state's claim to legitimatized violence; Stephen's body hitting the ground is thus a reclamation of his tangible awareness of the arbitrary authority that can push him down, but that cannot brainwash him into competing in the capitalist rat-race.

Bloom, though he engages with the world around him in a far more physical way than Stephen, is still ultimately subject to a contained and obedient existence, pushed further and further towards the periphery of society as he is deemed un-Irish, queer, or dark/black. While Bloom continually questions the social, political, and cultural constructs surrounding him, he, like Stephen, never acts upon these vaguely-recognized forces of oppression, opting instead to pass as a predominantly obedient subject. During "Circe," two nameless police officers accost Bloom and accuse him of planting a bomb—an "infernal machine with a time fuse" (U 15.1199)—and jest that his black mourning wear is that of a Mormon and/or anarchist (U 15.1156). Weir characterizes this moment as "Joyce [using] the black-clad anarchist figure for comic effect," but Weir fails to note the absurdity in the officers' inability to differentiate between a political rebel advocating the breakdown of rule and a religious other seeking to convert people to his elaborate system of rules (215). However, Bloom is much more an anxious socialist than a light-hearted anarchist, whose fear of conversion to anarchist politics manifests itself in his direct interrogation by vestiges of state-sanctioned control. Bloom corrects the fearful political confrontation by constructing the hallucinatory, socialist paradise of "Bloomusalem" (U 15.1544), but this paradise quickly falls apart at the discovery that he is "black in the face" (U 15. 1958). Rather than being led by some competing authority, Bloomusalem's demise is facilitiated by its rebellious citizens (who, ironically, rebel against social support and freedom to reinstate obedient subjection), actively perpetuating the state's myth of cultural unity, which casts anarchy as a marginalized political other, inherently detrimental to the goals of society. Although Bloom intends for his socialist paradise to repair class divides, bonding society together rather than breaking it apart into unbeholden anarchist autonomists, ultimately his leaning toward the political tenets of radical individualism gives him away to the masses, as his embodied, anarchic blackness resists physical compliance with centralized, homogenous power structures.

During Private Carr's confrontation with Stephen, Carr perceives Stephen's language to be disobediently offensive to dominant power structures. Stephen's linguistic rebellion stands in contrast to the behavior of Bloom, who acts as a voice of submission and apology, unable to vocally animate his underlying critique of authority and instead merely watching as the redcoat utilizes the force legitimized by his uniform. Bloom claims that Stephen's intoxication renders him "incapable" and thus unaccountable for his anarchist critique of Carr's authority (U 15.4744); however, this disavowal may be largely a means for Bloom to express his own discomfort with anarchy. Though not reflected in his apologist conversation with the officers, internally, Bloom seems as uncomfortable with state authority as he is with anarchy. Figuring his conception of the soldiers' unwarranted and ill-maintained status in terms of their undeserved sex-appeal, Bloom ruminates on the unproductive maintenance of state power through robotic displays of force: "Redcoats. Too showy. That must be why the women go after them. Uniform...Half baked they look: hypnotized like. Eyes front. Mark time...Never see him dressed up as a fireman or a bobby" (U 5.68-75). This unspoken critique foretells the tension between Bloom's valuation of social services and community support (like the fire and police departments) over infrastructure for state control, which is irrelevant and cumbersome at the community level, and his anarchic fixations on personal life (i.e. attracting women) and freedom of thought (here, under attack by state hypnotism). But, while in the Bloomusalem scene his underlying commitment to individualism becomes visually, if not purposefully, public, in his interactions with the redcoats Bloom's critical sentiments do not breach the veneer of his obedience.

The closest Bloom comes to an act of rebellion is during his argument with the Citizen. After numerous anti-Semitic remarks, Bloom finally retorts: "Mendelssohn was a jew and Karl Marx and Mercadante and Spinoza. And the Saviour was a jew and his father was a jew. Your God" (U 12.1804-05). That his list contains non-Jews along with the actual Jews shows the anarchic instability of identity, since Bloom arbitrarily (and remorselessly) assigns Jewishness in order to make a rhetorical point against a nationalism that bolsters the violence of statehood. The Citizen can only respond to Bloom's anarchism through an act of frustrated violence, hurling a biscuit tin at Bloom (U 12.1853). Although this is a serious attempt on the Citizen's part to physically assert himself as a voice of dominance and control, the narrative mocks the "terrific and instantaneous...effect" of his tin-throwing, which, like Private Carr's punch, unintentionally reinforces the absurdity of state-authorized violence—marking Bloom's unwittingly absurdist argument as a minute but politically viable anarchist move (U 12.1858).

While for the most part the characters of Ulysses remain subjects of centralized authority, the text itself acts in opposition to the control and repression enforced by an ethos of cultural unity. Ulysses demonstrates the perpetual cycle of boredom and alienation evoked by modern existence under the force of ISAs. Episode to episode, the narrative style drastically shifts, a decentralization, characteristic of the text's anarchic underpinnings, which interrupts the typical formula of using one consistent, controlled presentation of plot. This illustrates a desire to resist the demands of authority, to subvert the dominant modes of normalization enforced through the depersonalization of the individual via creation of a standard, commodified selfhood. Joyce's rebellious stylistic de-centering thus promotes a freedom and autonomy for the text that is absent from its characters' experiences. By presenting a diverse set of autonomous 'languages,' which achieve a textual freedom by refusing to utilize a consistent mode of (stylistic) production, Ulysses demonstrates that even while the routines of contemporary life may make rebellion seem unfeasible, there continues to exist anarchic possibility of a means of destabilizing the hegemonic power structures which self perpetuate themselves via the myth of an Arnoldian wholeness. The material product that is Ulysses does far more work as a tool of oppositional subversion than any of the characters can possibly perform, but the characters exist as mediums of ideological political metaphor through which desire for this rebellion can manifest itself, suggesting a power inherent to material awareness of the forces which produce homogeneity and control. History becomes the myth of the naturalized spectacle of authority that Stephen and Bloom can internally criticize but cannot physically resist, but that Ulysses as a textual whole, with its skeleton of modernist and Dadaist anarcho-aesthetics, most certainly can. Theorists who historically reduce the artistic relationship between these two anarchist models ultimately, albeit unintentionally, reify Ulysses' political potential by contextualizing its defiant escape from this nightmare of historical stagnation.

VI. The Contemporary Value of Joyce's Anarchism

I have historically positioned Joyce's work in this manner in order to arrive at my initial claim: that Ulysses represents a political text that signals a contemporary immediacy. I contend that the importance of Joyce's anarchic modernism does not end with either Weir's narrative of cultural success or with Dada's anarchic politics succumbing to the socialism of Surrealism, which (falsely) claimed to take up the movement's artistic mantle (Weir 227). Susanna Meadowsong's article, "Joyce's Utopian Machine: The Anti-Tyrannical Mechanics of Ulysses," attempts to situate Ulysses as both anarchist—in its totalizing rejection of control—and currently relevant in its potential application. Meadowsong, using Derrida's metaphor of Ulysses as an endless, self-reproducing text, portrays the novel as a machine that "resists the forms of mastery it depicts in machines...[becoming] a self-subverting, self-deconstructing machine built to resist the forces of instrumental domination" (56). While rightly positing technology in Ulysses as a figure of dominant authority, repression, and control, Meadowsong's ironic argument collapses in on itself by claiming that Ulysses is a "self-undoing, anti-totalitarian, utopian machine" (69). Meadowsong undermines the utility of the novel's supposed anarchic political force by describing Ulysses as undoing its own ideology, and by attributing it value merely within the scholarly sphere, rather than placing its relevance within a larger, contemporary socio-political context.

In stark contrast to Meadowsong's unintentional resignation of Ulysses' political potential, anarchist anthropologist and activist David Graeber provides a theoretical position through which to envision a current political space for Joyce's work. Graeber considers violence, the refuge of state authority, to "operate largely through the imagination," existing in its physical manifestation as "the trump card of the stupid, since it is the form of stupidity to which it is most difficult to come up with any intelligent response" ("Revolution"). This description accurately details the experiences of Stephen and Bloom throughout the novel: they obediently accept authority due to its (usually imagined) potential for violence, and when violence does become physically realized, the absurdity of the act makes it nearly impossible for characters to respond intellectually. In Graeber's 2007 piece, "On the Phenomenology of Giant Puppets," he builds a narrative of anarchy progressing through Dadaists, Situationists, and finally Jameson, which acts as a foundation for his anarchy of direct political action. Graeber situates anarchist action into two categories—"people dressed in black who break windows" (reminiscent of the police's allegations regarding Bloom in "Circe") and "colorful giant puppets"—concluding that "cops hate puppets" far more than property destruction (1). He contends that "property destruction is a matter of taking an urban landscape full of endless corporate facades and flashing imagery...and demonstrating just how fragile it is. It is a literal shattering of illusions" (6). Thus, it is Stephen's breaking of the chandelier into "shattered glass and toppling masonry" (U 15.4244-46) (again a visually-signaled physicality) in "Circe," marking the "shatter[ing of] the existing Spectacle," that awakens Stephen to the unstable falsities of his culture and drives him to confront Private Carr. Graeber believes that the power of the puppets lies in their ability to promote the possibility of newness, since "faced with anything that remotely resembles creative, non-alienated, experience, [authority] tends to look as ridiculous as a deodorant commercial" (36). Within Ulysses, the absurd political practices of the Dada aesthetic overlap with Joyce's modernist textual practices, creating an anarchism that adeptly performs both functions of direct action.

Graber concludes his piece with a practical summation of the ideal, albeit elusive, political demonstration: "The anarchist problem remains how to bring [an absurd] sort of experience, and the imaginative power that lies behind it, into the daily lives of those outside the small autonomous bubbles they have already created" (36). Ulysses meets this charge acutely. As a work deeply rooted within the canon, popular in literary studies even a century after its publication, and maintaining a model of culturally successful anarchy with a uniquely absurdist critique of authoritative violence, Joyce's work requires readers to view it within a historical and theoretical legacy that suggests its contemporary value. If twenty-first century subjects are able to situate Ulysses in the present space, it will continue to possess Derrida's sense of infinite reproduction with political implications, rather than remaining limited to the perpetuation of academic scholarship. With an informed theoretical lens, reading Ulysses can serve as a continual reminder of the political viability of creative anarchy, acting as a constant reminder that we do not have to remain obedient subjects. We can rebel to reclaim our individual identities, even when the threat of punitive violence looms tall, through unconventional anti-structural means; we simply need examples of subversive anarchist success, role models like Ulysses and Graeber's puppets, to inspire us.

Citations and Related Sources

Debord, Guy. Society of the Spectacle. Translated by Knabb, Ken, 1967.
Derrida, Jacques. "Ulysses Gramophone: Hear Say Yes in Joyce." In A Companion to James Joyce’s Ulysses: Biographical and Historical Contexts, Critical History, and Essays from Five Contemporary Critical Perspectives, edited by Norris, Margot, 69–90. Boston: Bedford Books, 1998.
Foster, Stephen C. "Dada Criticism, Anti-Criticism and A-Criticism." In Dada Spectrum: The Dialectics of Revolution, edited by Foster, Stephen C. and Kuenzli, Rudolf E., 30–49. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1979.
Graebner, David. "On the Phenonmenology of Giant Puppets: Broken Windows, Imaginary Jars of Urine, and the Cosmological Role of the Police in American Culture." Balkans Net, April 5, 2007.
———. "Revolution in Reverse." Infoshop News, October 16, 2007.
Jameson, Fredric. "Ulysses in History." In The Modernist Papers, 137–51. London, UK: Verso, 2007.
Manganiello, Dominic. Joyce’s Politics. London; Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980.
Meadowsong, Zena. "Joyce’s Utopian Machine: The Anti-Tyrannical Mechanics of Ulysses." James Joyce Quarterly 48, no. 1 (2010): 55–74.
Nadel, Ira B. "Travesties: Tom Stoppard’s Joyce and Other Dadaist Fantasies, Or History in a Hat." James Joyce Quarterly 45, no. 3 (2008): 481–92.
Stoppard, Tom. Travesties: [a Play]. New York: Grove Press : Distributed by Random House, 1975.
Tzara, Tristan. "Dada Manifesto 1918." In The Dada Reader: A Critical Anthology, edited by Ades, Dawn. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2006.
Weir, David. Anarchy & Culture the Aesthetic Politics of Modernism. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1997.
Wilde, Oscar. "The Soul of Man under Socialism." Marxists, 1891.
Yeats, William Butler. "The Second Coming," 1919.

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