Academic journal article European Joyce Studies

Beyond Masochistic Ritual in Joyce and Deleuze: Reading Molly as Non-Corporeal Body

Academic journal article European Joyce Studies

Beyond Masochistic Ritual in Joyce and Deleuze: Reading Molly as Non-Corporeal Body

Article excerpt

Richard Brown notes with regard to masochism that: "Joyce evidently took this aspect of his work on Ulysses very seriously and there survives considerable evidence of his reading around the subject".1 This went beyond his interest in the well-known works of Sacher Masoch himself, which found a considerable place on his library shelves, to those of:

Jacques Desroix's La Gynécocratie ... an explicit work of masochistic fiction, prefaced, in Joyce's edition, with a long essay on the history of masochistic literature by Laurent Tailhade, and . . . supplementary essays on the nature of masochistic love.2

Interestingly, Joyce is held to show less interest in the works of de Sade.3 In his concentration on its "arrangements of desire" Deleuze too privileges the work of Masoch although he has written on de Sade's novels and the psychoanalytic failure to appreciate the concept of sadism. However, they both highlight the powerful apparatuses of Church and State whose sadistic forces not only bring into play masochistic rebellion but also paradoxically constitute and reclaim it.

Clearly what interests Deleuze in Masoch is the idea that pleasure is postponed in order to release and prolong the positive, immanent process of desire.4 Consequently, "the masochist draws up contracts while the sadist abominates and destroys them".5 Whilst it is evident that Joyce is concerned with "apparatuses of power" it is also clear that he uses "arrangements of desire" to contest them.

Critics such as Suzette Henke and Kaja Silverman make perceptive observations on masochism in Ulysses and in our society in general, but appear to give insufficient weight to the fact that the masochistic rebellion against sadistic societal overcodings is constituted and thus recuperable by the forces of modernity. This is because masochism's negative controlling aspect is made up of forces similar to, if not identical with, those which constitute the repressive aspects of capitalism. Henke notes that Bloom is "imaginatively colluding in the subversion of marital stability, by up-ending traditional expectations and putting his own phallic powers deliberately under erasure".6 Silverman too, argues that masochism "works insistently to negate personal power and privilege."7 Yet neither take sufficiently into account its negative aspect. Although their observations are in tune with one aspect of Deleuze's appreciation of Masochian subtlety in both advocating and undermining the contract (and, moreover, in diagnosing the marriage contract in particular as the foundation of the nuclear family and contemporary society), this does not complete the Deleuzian picture. These understandings of masochism's subversive qualities fail to recognise the coldness and control which has to be exercised by the masochist in order to achieve his or her ends. Such coldness is life-denying, consequently, it can only offer a partially successful rebellion against the sadistic control of the State, because both types of control emphasise stasis, as we will see, and stem from the same conglomeration of negative forces.

Joyce gives us many early instances of the means whereby the Church exercises sadistic control at the micro level. In A Portrait, Stephen's unjust pandying is carried out by an evidently sadistic Father Dolan, to take just one illustration of this. Stephen's courageous attempt to challenge this injustice is defeated by the complicity not only of Fathers Conmee and Dolan, but also that of his own father in casually relating his and their betrayal to Stephen as if it were of no account. Joyce shows us that the forces of the Church, working through priests and docile father, deal with all such naïve challenges with impunity. Father Dolan's sadism indicates that such priests have a key systemic role in the Church's exercise of power. In exercising his sadistic control, Dolan breaks the unwritten contract of fairness and reciprocity that binds student and teacher together. …

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