The Chapter of Circe in James Joyce's Ulysses

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The Chapter of Circe in James Joyce's Ulysses

Chapter Circe of Ulysses is said to be the "most confessional chapter of

the novel" (Schechner 100). In this way, the themes and underlying meaning

present throughout the chapter are more pertinent to the novel as a whole

than any other aspect of this particular section. Specifically, themes of

love, power, masochism, and consciousness watermark the literature

throughout the chapter. What is more, we, as readers, face the battle

between mind and body as well as the idea that Circe is a symbol for the

entire novel. Regardless of which theme or idea we refer to, one cannot

deny the potency of the chapter in terms of literary content and finesse.

A theme that supports the literary finesse of Circe is chemical imbalance.

Specifically, I came across research to support the theory that Circe is a

metaphor for Schizophrenia. Though this cannot be considered a major

watermark, the idea does not lack merit and is interesting in the least.

The chapter progresses in the same way the disease progresses. The chapter

begins with strong anxiety in Act I. In Act II, the reader is introduced

to delusions of grandeur, which are symbols for paranoia. In Act III, the

actions and fantasies slow, and a general paralysis is in the air. In Act

IV, the chapter moves to systematic delusions. This progress goes hand in

hand with the transgression of Schizophrenia. Again, though Circe as a

symbol for schizophrenia does not constitute a major theme of the chapter...

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... of endurance and self-irony and abetted by fantasy" (Schechner 104). The

reader, though, would never see this without the themes of love, power,

masochism, and most importantly, streams of consciousness.


Ellmann, Richard. Ulysses on the Liffey. London: Oxford University Press,


Gilbert, Stuart. James Joyce's Ulysses. New York: Vintage Books, 1952.

Hodgart, Matthew. James Joyce. Boston, MA: Roulledge & Kegan Paul Press,


Riquelme, John Paul. The Teller and Tale in Joyce's Fiction. Baltimore,

MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983.

Schechner, Mark. Joyce In Nighttown: A Psychoanalytic Inquiry Into

Ulysses. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1974.
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