Between Two Roaring Worlds: Ulysses through The Parallax View

by D. Meghan Pye

Institution: Roskilde University
Year: 2015
Keywords: Ulysses; Zizek; Joyce; parallax; ontology
Record ID: 1120019
Full text PDF: http://rudar.ruc.dk/handle/1800/21038


This thesis applies Zizek’s theory of the parallax gap to the text of James Joyce’s Ulysses. I’ve found I’m not the first to examine the function of parallax in Ulysses, or to apply Zizek to Joyce. I do, however, combine these materials differently and take a different approach. My work explores how psychoanalysis and ontology reveal a parallax gap in the self and in being. The very attempt to fill the parallax gap constitutes the endless renewal of subjectivity. The self-alienation constitutive of subjectivity arises initially from an ontological impasse, the bookended pre-natal, post-mortem exclusion from being. Thus it seems that something immaterial (the life force) springs from a combination of matter and immateriality, ‘thrown’ into the world from nothing and nowhere. This ‘immaterial something’ is posited in Christian thought as the soul; in Zizek’s work, it is the life-substance of jouissance. Jouissance is the inextricable pleasure-in-pain by which the subject continually seeks to transcend its internal and external limitations, and thus, to keep desiring. These limitations are immanent, thus each character must confront the internal impasse in himself in order to confront it in the world. The parallax gap creates a sort of bend in the fabric of being, a traumatic emptiness which derails one from fulfilling desire. The very aim for failure ensures that one keeps desiring: as Stephen puts it, “A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery” (U 182). I explore this creative process of desire and loss in the case of Stephen and Bloom, whereby the traumatic emptiness or impasse in the self generates the negative capability by which these characters creatively push into the unknown. Stephen and Bloom both avoid home, and they both voluntarily inflict suffering upon themselves. Through a parallax view, we can we can observe how the traumatic emptiness inherent in the self pushes one toward failure and loss: in this way, one pushes past the ‘inauthenticity’ of Imaginary and Symbolic supports, and confronts the abyss of the Real. This confrontation loops back in an ‘eternal return,’ an imperfect cycle whereby Joyce’s characters are renewed without recourse to redemption; where the ‘everlasting’ Christian model is undermined and replaced by the ‘incertitude’ of the void.