by James Joyce
Ulysses Life, Consciousness, and Existence Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph), except for the "Circe" episode, which is (Chapter.Line) and the "Penelope" episode, which is (Chapter.Page). We used the Vintage International edition published in 1990.
"Fatherhood, in the sense of conscious begetting, is unknown to man. It is a mystical estate, an apostolic succession, from only begetter to only begotten. On that mystery and not on the madonna which the cunning Italian intellect flung to the mob of Europe the church is founded and founded irremovably because founded, like the world, macro- and micro-cosm, upon the void. Upon incertitude, upon unlikelihood. Amor matris, subjective and objective genitive, may be the only true thing in life. Paternity may be a legal fiction. Who is the father of any son that any son should love him or he any son?" (9.301)
Here, Stephen takes a typical church debate about whether or not Jesus was immaculately conceived and shifts it into another realm. No, Stephen says, that is not the main question. The main question is what it means to be a father versus a mother, especially because the father is so far removed from the birthing process (after donating his sperm). Stephen thinks that it takes a great deal of imagination to be a father, to imagine what it means and feels like to conceive a son. In what ways might Stephen's relationship with his own father shape his argument in this episode?
Every life is many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves. (9.373)
Stephen is here talking about the role of the artist, how all of his characters can be found in his own mind. To what extent can Stephen's comments be applied to real life? When we imagine the other people around us are we only projecting our beliefs and desires onto them, making them up out of the stuff of our own minds? Is Stephen arguing for solipsism (that nothing exists except one's own mind)? If not (hint: he's not), then how not?
Before born babe bliss had. Within womb won he worship. (14.7)
These lines come from near the start of "Oxen of the Sun." In literature and philosophy, there has been a long tradition of romanticizing life for birth. According to the philosopher Nietzsche, for example, the first great tragedy of life is being born. What does it mean to cultivate nostalgia for life in the womb, that moment when one is having all of one's needs filled without making the slightest effort, when life is in perfect balance? What view of life does that suggest? (Hint: it's not a happy one.)