“The Opposite of Hatred”: Undoing Nationalism in Joyce’s Ulysses

  • Nataša Tučev University of Niš


The epitome of chauvinist narrow-mindedness in Joyce’s Ulysses is the drunken brawler and anti-Semite depicted in the novel’s twelfth chapter, “Cyclops”. Using his mock-heroic approach as one of the essential stylistic devices in Ulysses , Joyce connects this character to the one-eyed giant Polyphemus of the original Homeric epic. As Randall Stevenson suggests in his study Modernist Fiction, Joyce uses the allusion to Cyclops to warn his readers of any “one-eyed”, narrow or single-minded view of reality (such as nationalism) and the dangerous patterns of behaviour that might ensue from it. However, Joyce’s intention is not just to repudiate or mock nationalism, but also to offer an alternative, a way of resisting the dangerous mindset embodied in Cyclops. Stevenson argues that Joyce accomplishes this by the very narrative method his novel employs: with its constantly shifting perspectives, its myriad styles and points of view, it successfully fights against any narrowing of vision – and so, by implication, against any tendency towards localism, division, ethnic or religious hatred. In her study Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions, Martha Nussbaum likewise focuses on the twelfth chapter of Ulysses in order to analyse the novel’s political stance and its repudiation of nationalist and religious bigotry. In Nussbaum’s opinion, however, Joyce’s strategy in dealing with these issues is inseparable from one of the major motifs in the novel, i.e., the author’s celebration of physical love. Using Stevenson’s and Nussbaum’s insights as a starting point, the paper will proceed to explore Joyce’s ethical and political preoccupations in Ulysses in order to outline the predominant narrative strategies which the author employs in undoing nationalism.