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Haptic ModernismTouch and the Tactile in Modernist Writing$
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Abbie Garrington

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748641741

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748641741.001.0001

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James Joyce’s Epidermic Adventures

James Joyce’s Epidermic Adventures

(p.73) Chapter 2 James Joyce’s Epidermic Adventures
Haptic Modernism

Abbie Garrington

Edinburgh University Press

Joyce’s Ulysses may be read as a book concerned with the capabilities, as well as the potential fallibility, of the human skin. This chapter reads Ulysses as a collection of epidermic adventures, considering Leopold Bloom’s sexual self-touching, Gerty MacDowell’s artificially whitened skin, and the delicate touch of the Blind Stripling. Beginning with the suggestion that Joyce’s writing is inherently masturbatory, the chapter formulates a theory of the touching look – one that Bloom deploys, but which has its roots in those art historical trends of the eighteenth century identified in chapter 2. The blind touch-which-looks is the corollary of this theory, and is addressed in the latter part of this chapter, where it is suggested that the Stripling might operate as a Joyce proxy within the text of Ulysses. Also considering the statue-still human victims of the encephalitis lethargica epidemic (c.1916-1927), and the X-ray’s promulgation of images of the human hand, the chapter ultimately builds to the suggestion that Ulysses is best understood as a skin book, a kind of encyclodermia.

Keywords:   Masturbation, Sculpture, Blindness, Encephalitis lethargica, X-ray, Encyclodermia, James Joyce

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