The Role Of Beauty Pageants In James Joyce's Ulysses

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The chapter of James Joyce 's Ulysses entitled "Nacissa" tells the story of a young, beautiful girl named Gerty McDowell, who has fantasies of her perfect life with her perfect husband. She thinks that she has found this man in the novel 's protagonist, Leopold Bloom, with whom she has a sexual encounter on the beach. It is only until after this encounter that the reader learns Gerty is physically disabled. Before this point, Gerty is the epitome of physical beauty, which Joyce shows through describing her beauty as regal and otherworldly; She exemplifies the idea of the Victorian era beauty queen—who participates in pageants and become a spectacle to be viewed—and often times exaggerates it to overcompensate for her disability. However, Gerty…show more content…
The role of beauty pageants is to “ritually mark the bodies on view, rendering them into icons that verify the status quo. The beauty pageant "traffics in the ideal" in order to "give the shape and definition to the figure of the normative citizen of the democratic order" (181). This ritual marking of the body is done through "structured seeing" (185). The structured seeing created by three parties – – “the viewer, viewed, and the mediator"—is not "participatory" but is rather created through the "pornography of distance" (185). This allows "a kind of cultural didacticism we are an array of scripts, roles and positions can be writ large" (185). The mediator "choreographs the relationship [between the spectator and spectacle] and manipulates its conventions for their own ends" (185). However, the spectacle is always "overwhelmingly conspicuous while the viewer and the intermediaries remain obscure" (186). Essentially, the spectacle is always watched, but no say in how they are perceived. The spectacle is the only thing being watched. It is the only body that is truly present. Therefore, the "choreography between a disembodied spectator and a embodied spectacle enlists cultural norms and exploits embodied differences for commercial and creating a rhetorical opposition between supposedly extraordinary figures and putatively ordinary citizens" (186). This is resoundingly true of Gerty…show more content…
699) and her "nainsook knickers, the fabric that caress the skin, better than those other Pettiwidth, the green" (XIII. 724 - 725). By showing Bloom her underwear, she completely transforms into the beauty queen. This is because the beauty queen 's "costuming is augmented by the beauties eroticize poses, which instruct viewers on the social position for which she is the icon: a corporal other for male consumption" (Garland Thomsen 188). However, unlike the beauty queen, Gerty’s poses are not passive and she is not only a thing to be consumed, but she consumes,

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