Butler Journal of Undergraduate Research

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Lee Garver


Many critics originally attacked James Joyce’s Ulysses for its dark representation of gender relations. Today, many scholars consider this criticism prematurely formed and recognize that these early critics responded more to Stephen Dedalus’s antagonistic, misogynistic views in the novel’s opening chapters than to the rest of the epic and the views of the novel’s main protagonist, Leopold Bloom, who displays a much more receptive, appreciative attitude toward women. These scholars now believe that gender relations as portrayed in Ulysses actually undermine preconceived notions of a gendered hierarchy. However, this difference in character perspective is not the only or even the most important way that the novel challenges gender hierarchies. In addition to the shift in character perspective, Joyce’s epic also includes a narrative arc that uses sexuality as a metaphor, transforming Bloom’s various sexual encounters–namely those with Gerty MacDowell, Bella Cohen, and Molly Bloom–into a commentary on how intimate sexual interactions between genders can not only potentially help men and women transcend structures and preconceived notions of separation but can also enable greater depth of perception, both empathetically and artistically.