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“We Are All Animals:” James Joyce, Stephen Dedalus, and the Problem of Agriculture

Department of English, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 14260-5030, USA
Humanities 2017, 6(3), 72;
Submission received: 13 June 2017 / Revised: 14 August 2017 / Accepted: 27 August 2017 / Published: 8 September 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Joyce, Animals and the Nonhuman)


This article will position James Joyce’s novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Ulysses (1922) as literary works that are concerned with ecological issues associated with agriculture; here, this concern is traced through Stephen Dedalus’s awareness of land and animals beyond and outside Dublin. Specifically, Joyce frequently depicts the colonization of Ireland as centered on the control of nonhumans in the form of agriculture, which he brings into the novels’ political foreground. I will argue further that Joyce is equally critical of the violent nationalist rhetoric and insurrections of early 1900s Ireland, as a movement, which perpetuated the agricultural control of land. Joyce illustrates the violence of this agricultural aporia through the lives of nonhumans, the world of “filthy cowyards” and cannibalistic sows. Yet, this paper will also find in Stephen’s relations with animals an effective aesthetic rebellion to this aporia, for example, his self-styling as the “Bous Stephanoumenos”, as well as his interactions with dogs and swallows as fellow Dubliners, artists, and sufferers. These examples point to a kind of queer ecology as a form of resistance to agricultural violence.

The fifth section of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) holds the key to Joyce’s animal art. During Stephen Dedalus’s exposition on the philosophy of beauty to Lynch, Stephen makes a surprising claim. “As for that”, Stephen states “in polite parenthesis”, “we are all animals. I also am an animal” (Joyce [1916] 1977, p. 206). Stephen’s statement is multifariously interesting: it is a verbal response to his earlier observation of Lynch, whose “long slender flattened skull beneath the long pointed cap brought before Stephen’s mind the image of a hooded reptile. The eyes, too, were reptilelike in glint and gaze”, yet illuminated also “by one tiny human point” (pp. 205–6). Stephen’s statement also reverberates through the delineation of his artistic vision, which is a product of a (human) “mental world”, yet is grounded and terrestrial by the artist who aims “to try slowly and humbly and constantly to express, to press out again, from the gross earth or what it brings forth…an image of the beauty we have come to understand—that is art” (pp. 206, 207). In Stephen’s view, the artist is an animal—and art is an expression of the human as earthly animal.
With Stephen’s beautiful conflation of artist and animal—friend and reptile—as a point of departure, this paper asks what does it mean for the “gross earth” of the animal artist to be subordinated to an imperial imposition? Specifically, this paper contends that Joyce’s novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Ulysses (1922) reverberate around nonhuman land, animals, and the ecology of Dublin. Specifically, Joyce is demonstrably critical of the effect that British colonial control had on Irish land, space, and animals. This is a political investment that he explored both in non-fictional and literary writing. For example, in his 1907 essay “Ireland, Island of Saints and Sages”, written during the period when he was composing Portrait, he asserts that “England sowed seeds of strife among the various races; by the introduction of a new systems of agriculture, she reduced the power of the native leaders and gave great estates to her soldiers” (Joyce 2000, p. 119). His novels elaborate his critical concern with the politics of Irish land, and serve as a fictionalization of the trauma of imperial agricultural exploitation. Agriculture ultimately is the way in which colonialism exerts its power; indeed, as Timothy Morton suggests, agriculture leads to other kinds of oppression, including: gender and patriarchal control, seen in such tropes as “male seed” and “female earth”, not to mention rigid social hierarchies structured along private property and physical labor. Moreover, agriculture reinforces Cartesian human/animal dichotomies, by privileging human survival at the expense of the other plants and animals who get in the way of crops or livestock (Morton 2013, p. 93). Joyce’s fiction explores this multifaceted understanding of agriculture as inextricable from colonization taking place on contested Irish land.
Just as Portrait and Ulysses illuminate the colonial history of Ireland in a way that is aware of, and critical of, the impacts of colonial agriculture, the novels also consider the agricultural reverberations of the more aggressive forms of nationalist insurrection during Joyce’s time. Indeed, through a consideration of ecology in Joyce’s writing, more militant brands of nationalistic foment—whether its terms are physical, as with agrarian activism; ideological and cultural, as with Revival plays centered on female incarnations of Ireland needing succor in the form of blood sacrifice; or industrial, as with nationalistic calls for the expansion of Irish farming products—do not emerge as a way of successfully repelling foreign imperialism as it rhetorically carved up the land in the same instrumental ways. Portrait and Ulysses can be seen as critical not only of Britain’s control of Irish land and of the interspecies colonialism inherent in the process of industrialized agriculture, but also of the nationalist movements that employed the same tropes and mechanisms of ecological oppression.
The seemingly isomorphic imposition of agricultural control from without or within Ireland creates an agrinormative frame. That is, Joyce’s fiction illustrates how colonialism and militant nationalism restrict real meaningful action by prescribing ideal stances toward nonhuman life. In so doing, his novels also offer alternatives to this normative impasse in ways which imagine less violent and imperialistic ways of being on the land. If a text, artwork, or political movement at large is to be successfully decolonial, then the patterns of thought which uphold this colonization need to be side-stepped altogether. In this case, these patterns rest on the violent control of land and its myriad inhabitants through imperial agriculture as well as the aggressive rhetoric of nationalist insurrection. Instead of the colonial logic of masculine heroism transforming the Irish soil (by the British imperialist on the one hand, and by the Revival playwright on the other), Joyce puts forward a humble poetics, grounded in non-normative and queer affiliation, which lay out in these novels a wholly different conception of the land, animals, space and Stephen’s place in this world. Indeed, Stephen’s ecological and political engagement in these novels seems to arise out of the land, with the soil and other animals as intimately linked to the work of an artist. Stephen resists agrinormativity through a dirty ecology, by (to use Morton’s words) “thinking and practicing weakness rather than mastery, fragmentariness rather than aggressive assertion, [and] multiplying differences”, Joyce moves beyond the colonial politicizations and aestheticizations of land, in order to envision something new, a different way of thinking ecologically and being in the world (Morton 2010, p. 278). Thus, throughout Portrait and Ulysses Stephen comes fragmentarily to understand himself as colonized, as a non-violent rebel, and as an animal artist who revels in the dirtiness and potentiality of a chaotic, and ultimately unknowable, earth.
Methodologically, Stephen’s thoughts about and engagement with Dublin’s ecological environment are an important place to start for this analysis of nonhuman land and animals in Joyce’s writing. First, since Stephen represents a semi-autobiographical avatar for Joyce, the linkage between Joyce’s political sentiments and investments with Stephen’s fictional landscape are compelling. Second, following Susan Graf’s argument that “when Portrait and Ulysses are read as one body of work, Stephen moves from the background to the foreground, and assumes heroic proportions. Bloom, then becomes a part of Stephen’s story, and his story is the quest of the artist-hero” (Graf 2003, p. 50). The similar reading strategy employed here highlights the ecological critiques and resonances associated with Stephen across Joyce’s two novels, which have often been ignored in critical discussions of Stephen, but Joyce more broadly. Moreover, the linkage of Portrait with the first few episodes of Ulysses, the Telemachiad, sets up this ecologically-oriented reading as a programmatic reading, a theoretical entry-point in which to consider the thoughts and movements of the other characters in Ulysses’s urban landscape.
While the critical tradition of James Joyce scholarship has historically focused on more urban, Dublin-based readings and interpretations of his writing, a growing body of scholarship is beginning to consider Joyce in a more environmental way, eschewing critical readings centred on “confinement to a narrow and purely urban space, and [instead] point[ing] towards the transcendence of those limits” (Nolan 1995, p. 109). The insights provided by postcolonial criticism of Joyce’s work, such as Vincent Cheng’s foundational work Joyce, Race and Empire (1995), help to open up this urban setting that has been hermetically-sealed from the land around it, by showing the network of spaces, places, and voices implicated in the British empire of which Ireland formed a part. Indeed, Cheng’s project is “centrally concerned with the relation of race/ethnicity to imperial power”, and how this relation is “explored within the Joycean parameters and discourses of otherness, marginality, and exile” (Cheng 1995, p. 7). More recently, Robert Brazeau and Derek Gladwin’s edited collection, Eco-Joyce: The Environmental Imagination of James Joyce (Brazeau and Gladwin 2014) demonstrates a consolidation of these ecological gestures into a fascinating collection. While this volume constitutes a powerful addition of ecocriticism to Joyce studies, many of the essays seem premised on the belief in the diametric opposition between urban and “natural” environments, thereby highlighting the difficulty of reading Joyce for conservation ecology as a more diagnostic reading of, for example, Stephen’s ecophobia, emerges frequently. The collection offers the challenge to consider Joyce’s understanding of and political commitment to the connection between urban, natural, and agrarian spaces, and Dublin’s entwinement with these spaces, in a way keeping with contemporary discussions in ecological humanities about the interplay between nonhuman life, postcoloniality, and sexuality, beyond the “nature/culture” split. Given Stephen’s identification as an animal, bringing him back down to earth in readings that consider his humble engagement in the world around him positions Joyce’s writing as very much as anticipatory of today’s ecocritical and queer theory. Ultimately, the questioning of the nature/culture dichotomy can be traced in canonical queer theory, pointing to the reverberations of sexuality and ecology before the theoretical pairings discussed later in this essay. A clear example of this early engagement can be found in Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s Epistemology of the Closet (1990), where she unravels the binaries that hold the heterosexual and homosexual in tension, including nature/culture (or nurture). For Sedgwick, this layered binaristic thinking is the product of a “Cartesian bipolar psychosis” (Sedgwick 1990, p. 43). In her critique of Cartesian dualism is the suggestion that human exceptionalism sustains homophobic discourse. In Joyce studies, the grounded approach to interpreting Stephen’s non-Cartesian ecological humility builds on the work of Alison Lacivita’s reading of Joyce in her Ecology of Finnegans Wake (2015), where she sees Joyce’s depiction of a wide variety of landscapes and topics, including “the city, wetlands, geography, imperialism, animals, agriculture, technology, transportation, engineering, religious tradition, mapping” as sustaining ecological and animal-oriented readings evolving beyond the “nature vs. culture binary” (Lacivita 2015, pp. 1–3). Equally, Margot Norris’s valuable discussion of animals in Finnegans Wake productively traces Joyce’s symbolic use of animals in that work, seeing the presence of the nonhuman as both a figuration and a means to bring the work “back to the ground of the natural earth” (Norris 2014a, p. 528). It is in this spirit that I approach Stephen in Portrait and Ulysses.
Contemporary ecocriticism and animal studies reflect an interest in the ecological, historical, and philosophical ramifications of agriculture. That is, scholars including Timothy Morton, Anna Tsing, Donna Haraway, and Robert Marzec, among others, look at agriculture as a colonizing act and a violent human interruption of ecological space. To clarify, Morton has theorized that agriculture is the necessary underpinning for the Anthropocene, that is, the demarcation of an epoch where human industrial activity is measurable in the geological record (Morton 2012, p. 7). While the Anthropocene is typically linked to the Industrial Revolution, in which human industry began emitting greenhouse gases in sufficient quantities to be measurable in arctic ice1, Morton suggests that early agricultural practices represent an appropriation of land and way of being-in-the-world that underwrites the metaphysical contradictions at the heart of this ecological crisis. He argues that humanity began “to understand its comportment as a physical force on the Earth” through agriculture, by “opening up a fantasy space…that coincided with actually existing lifeforms such as grass, trees, and herding animals” (Morton 2012, p. 10). Agriculture thus is an inherently colonizing act, as by plowing, cutting, planting, and harvesting, it “transforms the earth into the human-ready, domination-ready state” (p. 10). Morton’s association of agriculture with the Anthropocene, with its consequent crises of global warming, drought, flooding, and polar ice cap melting to name but a few, allows us to approach agriculture too in terms of crisis. Indeed, Portrait and Ulysses present looming threats of such catastrophes, including fears of widespread famine heralded by ongoing rumbles of hunger and the threat of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. In addition to the concomitant oppressions mentioned above (gender, race, species), agriculture has created categories of productivity and noxiousness, wherein some organisms are reclassified as weeds, and are eliminated to pave the way to agricultural success. This impulse to control the land, placing humans at the top of a fictive food chain is what Morton terms “agrilogistics” (for example, Morton 2013; 2016, p. 42). In addition to being a violent incursion on the land when viewed this way, agrilogistic thinking underpins imperial projects and the subsequent oppression of other peoples, whether by supplanting other ways of being on the land, or the inevitable plagues and pestilence that come with intensive animal and crop monocultures.
Anthropologist Anna Tsing presents a slightly different take on the effects of agriculture from the Mesopotamian period onward in her article “Unruly Edges: Mushrooms as Companion Species” (2012). She considers the initial encounter with the domesticated land not as a violent fantasy space, but as a “love affair [and]…one of the great romances of human history” (Tsing 2012, p. 145). Indeed, she writes how “cereals domesticated humans”; through this domestication, “people transferred their affection from multi-species landscapes to shower intimacy upon one or two particular crops” (p. 145). For Tsing, the imposition of agriculture on the land was not unidirectional, but implicit within the act of planting is the sense of being acted upon by the nonhuman world as much as acting upon it. Thus, the layers of oppression that Morton associates with agriculture and agrilogistics is for Tsing not inherent to the act of post-Mesopotamian agriculture. Her understanding is that the oppressions that become concomitant with agriculture over its history are social, not ontological. That is, Tsing writes that the “biological transformation of people and plants that accompanied intensive cereal agriculture is best understood, then, through the rising tide of hierarchical social arrangements—and the entanglement of the state” (p. 146). One of the sequelae of the rise of the agricultural society was the fact that it better “support[s] elites” through state structures (p. 146). In Tsing’s essay, the most violent form that agriculture takes on is the figure of the plantation (p. 148). In the space of the plantation, the control of the land, and at the same time, social oppression in the form of racism and colonialism, is maximized. Tsing puts an even finer point on the violence of the plantation versus the Mesopotamian cereal crop: she writes that, egregiously, “one ingredient is missing. They [plantations] remove the love. Instead of the romance connecting people, plants, and places, European planters introduced cultivation through coercion” (p. 148). For Tsing, then, in agriculture there is a capacity for love and mutuality between planter and planted; the horror of the plantation is that it erodes this love as it paved the way for Anthropogenic climate change. Tsing’s sense of agrarian love allows us to anticipate the (queer) affiliations with plants and animals beyond agrinormative land development, to which this paper will later return.
Donna Haraway likewise brings together these discussions of agriculture, the plantation, and the early roots of agrarian capitalism in her article “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin” (2015). Given the complexity of naming anthropogenic climate change and land manipulation, she calls for “a big new name, actually more than one name” for the term Anthropocene, positing the aforementioned terms (Haraway 2015, p. 160). The “Plantationocene” and “Capitalocene” then, constitute lexical means by which to represent “the devastating transformation of diverse kinds of human-tended farms, pastures, and forests into extracative and enclosed plantations, relying on slave labor and other forms of exploited, alienated, and usually spatially transported labor” (p. 162). As with Tsing and Morton, Haraway very specifically ties the enforced movement of plants and animals with the structures and oppressions of global capital: “deracinated plants, animals, and people…is one defining operation of the Plantationocene, Capitalocene, and Anthropocene taken together” (p. 162). Through her neologisms, Haraway refines the human causation of Anthropocenic climate change and other geological disruptions to specific patterns of land use and economic development. Haraway’s work hearkens to Nicole Shukin’s study of the “fetishistic currency of animal life” in late neoliberal capital, in her capacious book Animal Capital: Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times (Shukin 2009, p. 7). These two authors bring into sharper focus the nonhuman oppression inherent in neoliberal capital’s movement of plant and animal bodies.
In An Ecological and Postcolonial Study of Literature (2007), Robert Marzec further historicizes the colonizing impulse of what Morton defines as agrilogistics (avant-la-lettre). He links the “rise of the British empire, [to] the land-reformation process known as the Enclosure Movement” (Marzec 2007, p. 1). Enclosure is the term for the land reformation and management movement inaugurated in Britain from the sixteenth through to the nineteenth century. The process of Enclosure involved the transformation of common and public land, effectively shared by a community for subsistence crops and pasture land, into private property. Marzec contends that Enclosure was the fundamental act of imperial agriculture, as it was the means by which “the ideology of imperialism became a material reality”, first in Britain, and then beyond through “the domestication of foreign lands and peoples” (p. 3). Marzec understands this control of the land as following from Deleuze and Guattari’s formulation of agriculture and its parcelling of land according to productivity as an “apparatus of capture”, and asserts thus that “colonization is inaugurated from the ground up” (Marzec 2007, pp. 41–42).
These theories, when understood together, get at the inherent imperialism at the heart of expansionary agriculture broadly, and in the specific historical context of British Enclosure, the conquest of Ireland, and the figure of the plantation. Agrilogistics denotes a conquering of land, through the violent removal of other inhabitants, and the imposition of private ownership to increase profit-oriented efficiency. Agrilogistics is also then the central focus of imperial excursions, the means of subjugating and displacing indigenous communities, animals, and ecosystems.
Joyce’s novels expose the violence behind British agrilogistics, in a semi-autobiographical snapshot of daily life and artistic expression in turn-of-the-twentieth-century occupied Ireland. Given Cheng’s assertion that the “hegemonic, discursive terminology is written all over the face of Ireland and of its cultural constructions, and thus forms the hour-by-hour subtext and context of all [Ireland’s] thoughts and experiences”, Joyce’s stylistic innovations, such as stream-of-consciousness, arise as forms of resistance to reveal how imperialism is “woven into the very texture and fabric of the pages” (Cheng 1995, pp. 164, 224). Both texts are rife with even passing references that emerge around Stephen’s fragmentary but growing awareness of a world under agricultural control. Such passing references serve to frame land as contentious agrarian space. For example, a young Stephen in Portrait is comforted as a student at Clongowes by “the smell of the fields in the country where they digged up turnips to peel them and eat them” (Joyce [1916] 1977, p. 59). At the same time, Stephen is also aware that he is in colonized space and seeks to re-order the world around him. One such scene demonstrates Stephen’s early and childhood preoccupation with land and space, as a student at Clongowes:
He turned to the flyleaf of the geography and read what he had written there: himself, his name and where he was.
Stephen Dedalus
Class of Elements
Clongowes Wood College
County Kildare
The World
The Universe
(p. 15)
Stephen’s list is poignant as it presents an artist’s portrait of space, an alternative means of making sense of the world around him, an exposure of colonialism from the ground up. He envisions himself on a different scale where small, local affiliations and networks are paramount to his sense of space, but are also acted on by the imperial power obfuscated by that list. Naturally, one of the spectacular results of the imperial agrilogistics, the Great Famine, is gestured to in Portrait as well. Stephen contemplates his friend Davin, and sees in the other character “the dull stare of terror in the eyes, the terror of the soul of a starving Irish village in which the curfew was still a nightly fear” (Joyce [1916] 1977, pp. 180–81). Here, Stephen is referencing another repressive measure employed in the 1840s to curtail resistance among starving peasants. The novel makes present not only the lingering fear that enforcement caused historically in British control of Irish land, but also the ongoing effect that these laws and measures had on the daily life of Portrait’s characters.
Stephen senses the nonhuman oppression inherent in colonial agrilogistics. In this key episode, during a childhood summer in Blackrock, Stephen and his friend Aubrey often “drove out in the milkcar to Carrickmines where the cows were at grass” and would take turns “riding the tractable mare round the field”. In contrast to this image of a happy childhood memory in a pastoral setting, Stephen then remarks:
But when autumn came the cows were driven home from the grass: and the first sight of the filthy cowyard at Stradbrook with its foul green puddles and clots of liquid dung and steaming brantroughs sickened Stephen’s heart. The cattle which had seemed so beautiful in the country on sunny days revolted him and he could not even look at the milk they yielded.
This scene almost seems to enact the transition between pasture land and enclosed land. The land that was enclosed during the Tudor period and beyond had typically been used for subsistence-based communal farming with pasture land; pasturing cattle was seen as a typically Irish form of land use. This type of farming, as John Patrick Montaño suggests, was viewed as the locus of “cultural difference” among British colonial authorities, who posited that “disorder, violence, and disobedience were…products of the culture that pastoralism encouraged” (Montaño 2011, p. 16). In other words, the kind of scene with which the Portrait reader is presented, of cows at large, and at grass, is a form of Irish land use viewed colonially as an indication of wildness. It is interesting that when the cows appear revolting to Stephen is when they have been enclosed, in a cowyard; the imposition of fences and the corralling of otherwise beautiful cattle certainly seems analogous to the process of enclosing Irish pastureland. This corraling of cattle seems even more poignant given Stephen’s association with cows: the moocow that greets him as a “nicens little boy” (Joyce [1916] 1977, p. 7), and his prophetic nickname of “Bous Stephanoumenos” (p. 168). Additionally, Montaño explains how British colonial authorities invoked scatological imagery to describe their agrilogistic efforts in Ireland: the correct use of manure, harvested for an intensive crop fertilizer instead of being unproductively deposited in pastureland was termed “manurance”, where etymologically “manure” means “to improve” (Montaño 2011, p. 59). Thus, the “foul green puddles and clots of liquid dung” which “sicken Stephen’s heart” are actually a sign of agrilogistical success. Here, again, Stephen seems mournful for the violence on the land and animals, which also supplants other ways of being, in that Stephen is grieving the fact that Irish land has been reduced to a manure pit, “a filthy cowyard”.
Colonial agrilogistics beset Stephen in the opening episodes of Ulysses. This colonial presence is not surprising in the epic where the other main protagonist Bloom carries a rotten potato in his pocket as a folk remedy that doubles as an amulet, a “Potato Preservative against Plague and Pestilence” (Joyce [1922] 1986, 15.1952)2, and who imagines the King of England “sitting on his throne sucking red jujubes white” (8.4). In turn, Stephen dwells on Haines as he teaches his class about the Roman empire: linking imperialism with control of land, Stephen thinks “For them too history was a tale like any other too often heard, their land a pawnshop” (2.46–47). Fragmentary moments like these point to the degree to which agrilogistic control is in the political background of the novel’s setting, and are central to its project of decolonization. Moreover, much of the Telemachiad’s agrilogistics are bound up in Mr Deasy. Displaying his Ulster pride, and thus as a stand-in for Britian, he shows up in the narrative looking the part of a jaunty colonial, “stepping over wisps of grass with gaitered feet” (2.186). Mr Deasy is surrounded by symbols of colonial might and wealth, ranging from his “tray of Stuart coins”, which are linked with exploitation of the land as Stephen links them with the “base treasure of a bog” (2.201–2). Stephen continues the metaphor of (British) money and ecological exploitation when he thinks of the coins as shells: “whelks and money cowries and leopard shells: and this, whorled as an emir’s turban, and this, the scallop of saint James. An old pilgrim’s hoard, dead treasure, hollow shells” (2.213–16). Deasy’s office, his collections, and the money with which he pays Stephen are transformed into relics of imperial domination of foreign territory.
Further, Stephen is still cast in bovine terms in these episodes, as someone who puts his “hoof in it” (1.496), and is a “bullockbefriending bard” (2.431), a fact which throws the agricultural crisis affecting cattle in “Nestor” into even sharper relief by positioning it against Stephen’s subjectivity as bovine and animal. Deasy’s concern regarding (and letter about) foot-and-mouth disease is linked to another agricultural crisis for which he seems to assume victim status, when he claims “I remember the famine in ‘46” (2.269). His letter, treating as it does “that doctrine of laissez faire which so often in our history. Our cattle trade. The way of our industries” as well as “[g]rain supplies through the narrow waters of the channel” (2.324–29). Norris has argued that the “pluterperfect imperturbability of the department of agriculture” is centered on “purely economic rather than ecological” matters (Norris 2014b, p. 118). Specifically, his discussion of international food exports and trade, as well as the bureaucratic structure in charge of Irish land, shows how the colonial framework in place to rule and “protect” the Irish economy and land in fact creates large-scale epidemics and failures. Mr Deasy then emerges as a figure of colonial crisis; the English taking “the bull by the horns” in colonial conquest results in the powers that be once again taking “the bull by the horns” to control the crisis, thereby exacerbating the cycle of violence against the land and animals under its rule.
Through his novels, Joyce gives voice to the full spectrum of agrinormativity, in that the control of Irish land is not always in the hands of a foreign imperial power. The symbolic way in which nationalism plays out the ideological underpinnings of agrilogistics is through the concept of blood sacrifice. This is seen both culturally in works such as W. B. Yeats and Lady Gregory’s play Cathleen Ni Houlihan (1902), in which the old woman avatar for Ireland seeks help turning out the “[t]oo many strangers in the house” who have taken her “four beautiful green fields” (Yeats [1902] 2002, p. 160), and physically, in the agrarian activism and failed uprisings that took the shape of the play’s action. This motif is problematic in agrilogistic terms: first, as Morton argues, other forms of oppression serve as consequences of agricultural development, including “gender stratification” (Morton 2013, p. 93). The masculinist tradition in Irish nationalism’s figuration of the land deploys many of the strategies implicit in colonization. In Cathleen Ni Houlihan, the land is featured as a whole, pure, female organic thing, one who needs protection to ensure its purity. Cathleen’s land with a full of dead or dying men emerges in an agrilogistic metaphor as fertilizer to ensure the ongoing presence of a nation’s concept of itself. Read in terms of agrilogistics, the specific trope of the land as a feminized object which needed heroic defence suggests the imperial tendencies of nationalistic patterns of thought, a motif taken up by Joyce.
Stephen in Portrait appears cognizant and critical of the sacrifice and gender politics enshrined by armed resistance, especially in his famous line about Ireland: “‘Do you know what Ireland is?’ asked Stephen with cold violence. ‘Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow’” (Joyce [1916] 1977, p. 203). Here, Joyce has conflated bloodshed in the name of rebellion with an image of animal agriculture, specifically, a form of porcine survival and population management in a non-flourishing environment. This utterance of Stephen’s succinctly entextualizes the inescapability of colonial agriculture, which leaves no real room for other ways of living and being. In this image, Maureen O’Connor suggests that Joyce is drawing on satires of Irish people, in which the “pig was the dominant representation of the Irish as animal”, a fact which also hints at the agrilogistical reverberations of Stephen’s comment (O’Connor 2013, p. 104). O’Connor is concerned, then, not only that the statement “reasserts traditional stereotypes of the Irish as cannibals and swine”, but also its attendant misogyny (p. 110). However, when violent nationalism is seen as akin to agrilogistics, the misogynistic and self-depreciating tone that O’Connor detects is recast as a locus for a subtle and nuanced critique of the Irish nation-state. Indeed, what Joyce seems to be saying is that, in fact, the ideological background of this brand of nationalism is what reasserts the pejorative stereotype. As Joseph Valente has suggested, the portrayals of men bleeding for the nation amounted to “cannibalizing political failures as cultural achievements in the name of Irish glory”, an Irish glory that depends upon gender hierarchies and colonial logic (Valente 2011, p. 81). This rhetoric calls for “heroic self-nullification” (p. 98), for Irish citizens to volunteer to become the sow’s piglets, and which crafts Ireland into the female figure that demands that blood, all for the sake of the nation’s constant presence. Read in this way, Joyce’s sow image gives voice to the impasse inherent in agrinormative modes of resistance wherein the colonized is either the blood-victim or blood-thirsty.
Portrait elaborates on agrilogistical control of nonhuman animals as it occurs from within Ireland and not as a function of specifically English imperialism. For example, Cranly, whom William York Tindall describes as Stephen’s “critic”, is at one point reading a book entitled “Diseases of the Ox” (Tindall 1959, p. 88; Joyce [1916] 1977, p. 227). The text seems to point to the discourse of animal science, a growing discipline post-enclosure that privileged efficiency (Marzec 2007, p. 52), where use value has a higher value than animal well-being. Moreover, milk played a surprising role in the nationalist movement during Joyce’s time; the system that lies behind the odd dairies that Stephen encounters in the novel3 is based on agrilogistic models. Helen O’Connell notes that promoters of the dairy industry, including Irish author George Russell (AE) were not opposed to “mass production and industrialization” nor the employment of “the latest industrial techniques” or a “factory-based system” (O’Connell 2013, p. 136) to ensure their product’s success. The relationship between “the poor old woman, cattle and the nation” is what O’Connell terms “dairy nationalism” (p. 142). This brand of nationalism, then, does not simply replicate agrilogistic domination by mirroring the subjugation of women, animals, and the land for the creation of a product, it also points to a quest for “organicism” (p. 136), a homogenization of the land as a symbol of purity, of which Stephen has elsewhere been critical.
Stephen’s critique and satirization of the ideological forms of agricultural nationalism reappear in Ulysses, in the “Telemachus” episode in the form of the old milkwoman, a figure who is a conflation of the Cathleen Ni Houlihan figure, the old sow who demands sacrifice, and the symbolic center of dairy nationalism. She enters the tower, and Stephen observes:
He watched her pour into the measure and thence into the jug rich white milk, not hers. Old shrunken paps. She poured again a measureful and a tilly. Old and secret she had entered from a morning world, maybe a messenger. She praised the goodness of the milk, pouring it out. Crouching by a patient cow at daybreak in the lush field, a witch on her toadstool, her wrinkled fingers quick at the squirting dugs. They lowed about her whom they knew, dewsilky cattle. Silk of the kine and poor old woman, names given her in old times. A wandering crone, lowly form of an immortal serving her conqueror and her gay betrayer, their common cuckquean, a messenger from the secret morning. To serve or to upbraid, whether he could not tell: but scorned to beg her favour”.
Stephen, whose sympathy towards ungulates is demonstrated in his bovine epithets, here is also concerned with the suffering of cattle; he thinks of the “patient cow”, that is, a cow who is suffering or enduring, being milked by a “witch on her toadstool, her wrinkled fingers quick at the squirting dugs”. The fact that she is also cow-like, as “[s]ilk of the kine” is a name “given her in old times”, and that she is serving “rich white milk, not hers”, evokes a kind of species-on-species violation, akin to Portrait’s sow. In other words, milk is drained from the symbolic animal for Ireland by the symbolic animal for Ireland (a cow milking a cow) and is then fed back to the nation, which seems to drain the life-blood from this image of the nation: Stephen is aware of the impossibility of subsisting on a diet of dairy nationalism. This scene also details the way that dairy nationalism circulated as a call to a manly Irish diet for the country’s citizens. While Stephen “scorned to beg her favour”, Buck instead celebrates the milk: “If we could live on good food like that, he said to her somewhat loudly, we wouldn’t have the country full of rotten teeth and rotten guts” (1.411–12). Buck’s filling the room with his boisterous and loud voice lampoons the gender politics on which this nationalism depends, on the stratification of the male national subsisting on the produce of a feminized land.
In this scene, Buck’s alternative to a strong nation fed on a diet of milk is a nation “[l]iving in a bogswamp, eating cheap food and the streets paved with dust, horsedung and consumptives’ spits” (1.412–414). Indeed, this is exactly the type of dirty and queer ecology that sidesteps agrinormative demarcations of land, a mode associated with Stephen and his rebellious re-imagining of the world in these two novels. Morton’s PMLA article “Queer Ecology” (2010), and Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson’s edited collection Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire (2010) provide the vocabulary to talk about and ground Joyce’s ecological imagination. Indeed, Joyce’s writing seems to be working through this theory avant-la-lettre, and more importantly, offers a literary and practical look at more ecologically sound ways of being—of reintroducing the “love” missing in export-oriented monoculture Tsing’s formulation. Morton discusses the kinds of intimacies and strategies required to rethink the human violence entailed by normative concepts of (capital-N) Nature that serve as a reflection of human authority, and of the holism and purity—and therefore total understandability and conquerability—of a female earth. Morton puts forward a vision for alternate kinds of relating to the world, wherein “life-forms constitute a mesh, a nontotalizable, open-ended concatenation of interrelations that blur and confound boundaries at practically any level: between species, between the living and the non-living, between organism and environment” (Morton 2010, p. 275). Thus, Morton reimagines the shape of communities and belonging, refocusing on politics of alternative affiliation at the ecological, instead of the national or global level, ecological intimacies centered on “love, warmth, vulnerability, and ambiguity” (p. 280). Therefore, his bridging between queer and ecology theory highlights the similarities in the approaches of each, as they share a critique of the stable human subject bounded by norms, and the rendering problematic of the narrative of “Nature” and “Natural” ways of being, which codes certain unions (such as between an adult male and female) as normal, while different possible intimacies and affiliations are seen as perverse. Similarly, Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson suggest that a queer understanding of ecology “may begin in the experiences and perceptions of non-heterosexual individuals and communities, but it is even more importantly one that calls into question heteronormativity itself as part of its advocacy around issues of nature and environment—and vice versa” (Mortimer-Sandilands and Erickson 2010, p. 5). These shared investments make this wholly unstraight union of queer theory and ecology a fruitful tool for moving beyond the constricting categories (of male as conqueror, female as land; England as male, Ireland as female) that underwrite colonial agrilogistics.
Queer readings of Joyce have occasionally engaged with ecology and ecocriticism, without necessarily using this theoretical vocabulary or identifying itself as such. Indeed, the core foci of the 1998 volume Quare Joyce, edited by Joseph Valente, seem to anticipate Morton’s twinning of the two disciplines nearly ten years later: Valente writes that the volume seeks to denaturalize desire from its “patriarchal and imperialist culture” (Valente 1998a, p. 4). The collection’s reading of Joyce’s “aptitude…for unsettling the normative and hierarchical distinctions between different modes of sexual expression” (p. 4) also demonstrably includes different modes of interspecies and ecological affiliation. Such double readings are evident in Valente’s essay, “Thrilled By His Touch: The Aestheticizing of Homosexual Panic in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, including his analysis of Stephen’s reverie about a green rose, the “symbol of Stephen’s Irish art” to compete with the red and white roses of Britain (Valente 1998b, p. 52). Valente links the green rose with Oscar Wilde’s “famous ‘green carnation’”, itself both a marker of symbolist artistry, and “a badge of homosexual subculture” (p. 52). Stephen’s thought that “you could not have a green rose. But perhaps somewhere in the world you could” is an ecological symbol for covert or subversive desire, but it also points to the process of decolonization, the creation of not-yet-existent places beyond the reach of colonial politics (Joyce [1916] 1977, p. 12).4 Tim Dean looks at the non-normative presence of water in “Paring His Fingernails: Homosexuality and Joyce’s Impersonalist Aesthetic”, arguing that Stephen’s thrilling in “soft liquid joy” is a very physical and queer joy which brings Joyce’s art—the words on the page—back down to earth by reminding the reader of their material dimension (Dean 1998, p. 258). Gregory Castle’s essay “Confessing Oneself: Homoeros and Colonial Bildung in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” sees Joyce’s novel as challenging the heteronormative impulse “that emerges out of classical humanism” by engaging instead with “the bestial and the corrupt…that are linked to the unspeakable desire of homoeroticism” (Castle 1998, pp. 160, 168). Stephen’s non-agrinormative engagement with the nonhuman world around him points to a queer understanding and sexuality and ecology, central to Stephen’s self-proclaimed animal artistry.
In Portrait, Stephen’s calling as an artist (preceded by his eschewal of heterosexual conquest of the bird girl) is grounded and opens him up to nonhuman life and processes. After his encounter with the bird girl, Stephen finds “a sandy nook amid a ring of tufted sand-knolls and lay down there that the peace and silence of the evening might still the riot of his blood” (Joyce [1916] 1977, p. 172). Stephen is taking pleasure from being proximate to the earth, in a horizontal position that marks humility, rather than the figure of the vertical (erect) planter standing over and possessing a horizontal earth. As he lies on his sandy knoll, he “fe[els] above him the vast indifferent dome and the calm processes of the heavenly bodies” and “the vast cyclic movement of the earth and her watchers” (p. 172). Stephen’s small intimacy with the sand is bound up with a sense of deep geological time, a scale of reference that further undoes the fiction of human supremacy, thereby rendering Stephen, as a human, into a figure of vulnerability instead of mastery. Stephen even conceives of his artistic calling and his place in the world in incomplete, hesitant and non-masterful terms here, as “[h]is soul was swooning into some new world, fantastic, dim, uncertain as the sea, traversed by cloudy shapes and beings. A world, a glimmer, or a flower? Glimmering and trembling, trembling and unfolding, it spread in endless succession to itself” (p. 172). The “new world” of his artistry is animal, dirty, and queer.
Stephen’s engagement with the places that surround him in Portrait and Ulysses undermines the falsity of urban versus rural, and natural versus cultural binaries, which serve only to reinforce the agrilogistic primacy of the human subject. The Dublin setting of the novels is alive with ecosystems. This explosion of this dualistic thinking about space on Joyce’s part anticipates contemporary ecocriticism’s rigorous challenge of the nature/culture binary. The premise that there is a nature/urban binary is the kind of thinking that upholds the agrilogistics in the first place, not only by participating in the overcoding and conscription of land through the imperialization of agriculture, but also by falsely hierarchizing humans and urban living as a more developed life than that of other kinds of organisms. Joyce is critical of this binary and the human ego it sustains; for instance, in his critical writing he argues that “Nature is quite unromantic. It is we who put the romance into her. It is a false attitude, an egotism, absurd like all egotisms” (quoted in O’Connor 2013, p. 101). Stephen’s fascination in Portrait with the smell of “horse piss and straw” (Joyce [1916] 1977, p. 88) are a reminder of the slippage between rural and urban animal labor. Stephen is constantly proximate to a not-necessarily-productive urban ecology, one which undoes the agrilogistic demarcations of proper land-use that measures the worth of land by the produce it yields. Indeed, Stephen takes great aesthetic joy from this ecology of which he is a part: the smell of “mouldering offal” and “the grey morning light falling about him through the dripping trees and…the strange wild smell of the wet leaves and bark” allow “his soul [to be] loosed of her miseries” (pp. 175, 176). O’Connell observes that even Joyce’s jubilant renunciation of priesthood is scented “by the spectacle of rotting vegetation” (O’Connell 2013, p. 135). Bonnie Kime Scott also sees this celebration of the rotting earth, from the ground up, as a way of life that steps out of gender and sexual norms: she writes that “in writing as early as Dubliners, Joyce shows a great affinity for images of excretion, compost, decay and recirculation, separating him from the metaphors of masculinity favoured by favoured makers of modernism” (Kime Scott 2014, p. 64)5.
Stephen’s surroundings in Ulysses also undermine the agrilogistic demarcation of land: the novel starts with him between the city and the ocean, in a tower from which he can spot a “sleek brown head, a seal’s, far out on the water” who “called to him from the sea” (Joyce [1922] 1986, 1.741–43). The “snotgreen, bluesilver, rust” color of the sea reflects the snot he leaves on a rock (3.3500), and the ‘natural’ space of the sea is beset by pollution, such as “seaspawn, seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot” (3.2–3). In addition to this understanding of place that revels in its indeterminate status between urban and rural, productive and decaying, Stephen also sees the physical realm as untranscendable. For example, Stephen’s retort to Mr Deasy’s confident assertion that “All human history works towards one great goal, the manifestation of God” is to “jer[k] his thumb towards the window, saying: - That is God.” (2.382–83). The noise through the window is “Hooray! Ay! Whrrwhee!” (2.384) (a series of exclamations that seem to say “who are we”), to which Stephen then adds “A shout in the street” (2.386). In other words, there is no transcendent hierarchy that culminates in a patriarchal figurehead or human exceptionalism; instead, Stephen sees the idea of a divinity more horizontally, in and of the surrounding environment, and akin to a meaningless (and not purposeful) form of articulation.
Stephen continues to think in these non-hierarchical terms as he contemplates the drowned man in “Proteus:”
A bag of corpsegas sopping in foul brine. A quiver of minnows, fat of a spongy titbit, flash through the slits of his buttoned trouserfly. God becomes man becomes fish becomes barnacle goose becomes featherbed mountain. (3.476–79)
Here, Stephen’s understanding of the ecology around him mirrors Morton’s articulation of a queer ecology as one that blurs the lines between organisms, and between the living and dead. The corpse of the drowned man is alive with the story of death in its own way, as it becomes home and food for a “quiver of minnows”. The site of the man’s body also critiques narratives of transcendence, as these minnows suggestively flit out of the man’s “trouserfly”, where his penis (as a symbol of his virility) should be. Stephen is thinking purely of the decomposition of the body, and not of any spiritual postmortem concerns. This omission is reinforced by his next thought, where the hierarchical differences, historically used to subjugate “nature” as man’s dominion, are flattened, and God becomes equated not only to man, but then animal and rock. While Brandon Kershner and Garry Leonard interpret these thoughts of Stephen’s as “a demonstration of his power rather than evidence of his engagement with the natural world”, and as avoiding or sidestepping “decay, sin, corruption or stench” (Kershner 2014, p. 133; Leonard 2014, p. 265), instead, Stephen’s flattening of hierarchies and meditation on decomposition of the human body celebrates the inextricability of the human from the rest of the world in order to reimagine the world in dirty and queer terms. Stephen points to an ecology where humans are not at the top of the food chain. In his proximity with a decaying, rotting city, Stephen is not only one of the many ways in which Joyce’s writing foretells and fleshes out the tenets of contemporary ecocriticism, but is also key to the novel’s decolonial ecology.
Beyond the foregrounding of rotting within his ecological vision, Joyce’s novels feature a plethora of other creatures and beings that form the backdrop of the novels’ action. Indeed, animal life is central to Stephen’s growing artistic consciousness, ranging from birds twittering outside his window, the goats that roam the field in his adolescent hallucination about hell, the seal that calls out to him from the sea (Joyce [1916] 1977, pp. 137, 218; [1922] 1986, 1.741). More ecologically salient, however, is Stephen’s animalizing imagination, that is, his sense of the transmutation of the human into an animal or beast, which succeeds in undermining the hierarchies of man over animal and “natural world” that sustain agrinormativity. By refiguring the personages around him as animals, he reclaims the category of bestial that rationalizes British colonial development and exploitation. This understanding of the decolonial power of animalization is sustained by recent recuperative readings of Darwinian theory. Breaking away from more traditional post-colonial critiques of Darwin such as Cheng’s, who correlates the 1859 release of Darwin’s The Origin of Species with a surge in British pro-imperial material culture that painted the Irish with the brush of “derogatory bestiality” (Cheng 1995, p. 32), Morton, for example, finds a profoundly decolonial and anti-agrilogistic core in Darwin’s writing, the crux of which is that “there technically are no species and they have no origin” (2014, p. 96). Seen in this light, Stephen’s animalization of humans works to undo the codes of human exceptionalism and authority that delimit nonhuman kinship in his cultural and social milieu.
In Portrait, animalization helps Stephen to subdue his classmate Vincent Heron’s masculine violence. This classmate, on the night of Belvedere School’s Whitsuntide play, relentlessly prods Stephen to confess to his love of E.-C. By, suggestively, “striking him…with his cane across the calf of the leg” (Joyce [1916] 1977, p. 78). This act of teasing violence prompts Stephen to recall another encounter with Heron, in which Stephen was mocked for his unconventional literary tastes. Indeed, Castle has described Heron as a proxy “for the colonial official who demands obedience on principle” (Castle 1998, p. 167). Stephen realizes the pretense behind Heron’s supposed power, the “spirit of quarrelsome comradeship” that Heron embodies is “a sorry anticipation of manhood” (Joyce [1916] 1977, p. 83). Stephen also thinks to himself that “it [was] strange that Vincent Heron had a bird’s face as well as a bird’s name” (p. 76). Likewise, in Ulysses, as soon as Stephen enters the scene on the first page of the “Telemachus” episode, Buck’s “stately” performance of a parodic Mass is interrupted by Stephen’s nonhuman transformation:
Stephen Dedalus, displeased and sleepy, leaned his arms at the top of the staircase and looked coldly at the shaking gurgling face that blessed him, equine in its length, and at the light untonsured hair, grained and hued like pale oak.
Stephen’s look brings Buck back down to earth, and flattens Buck’s alpha-male performance by comically recasting Buck as a horse and a tree. As these example show, Stephen’s animalizations are a way of humbling and shattering the culture behind Heron and Mulligan’s masculine stances.
Animals form an even more complex part of Stephen’s queer ecology. Alongside his strategic bestializations of human characters, other creatures emerge as sympathetic kin or brethren for Stephen. In Portrait, for example, Stephen shares artistic agency and autonomy with animals. Specifically, the swallows who fly above the library appear to Stephen as a choreographed, musical performance: their flight consists of “a dark flash, a swerve, a flash again, a dart aside, a curve, a flutter of wings” (Joyce [1916] 1977, p. 224). The notes of their song “were long and shrill and whirring, unlike the cry of vermin, falling a third or a fourth and trilled as the flying beaks clove the air. Their cry was shrill and clear and fine and falling like threads of silken light unwound from whirring spools” (p. 224). Stephen’s seeing of himself as an animal and relating to other animals is even more poignant in Ulysses, where it is connected to his mourning of his mother. David Rando identifies this linking between animals and mourning (his study focuses on Bloom’s fear about mourning cats and his loss of Rudy); he writes that the sadness “affectively shared by humans and animals... substantially challenging the divide between the two” (Rando 2009, p. 540). In Ulysses, this shared mourning and identification takes place across a number of episodes for Stephen. First, in “Nestor”, the answer to his riddle for the school children, “[t]he fox burying his grandmother under a hollybush” (Joyce [1922] 1986, 2.115), prompts him to think about the death of his own mother and his guilt surrounding it. He thinks: “She was no more: the trembling skeleton of a twig burnt in the fire, an odour of rosewood and wetted ashes” (2.143–45). He seems himself burying her body like the fox in his riddle, with “red reek of rapine in his fur, with merciless bright eyes scraped the earth, listened, scraped up the earth, listened, scraped and scraped” (2.148–50). The mourning of his mother makes him into an animal, where suffering seems to be a condition shared by all creatures.
This image of Stephen as mournful fox is picked up in the “Proteus” episode as well when Stephen sees the dog on the beach. At the outset of the scene, Stephen weighs his fear of dogs (and the protection offered by his walking stick) against the dog’s life. He thinks “Lord, is he going to attack me? Respect his liberty. You will not be master of others or their slave” (3.295–96). While still fearful, he imagines a shared mourning between himself and the dog. He watches the dog come across the body of the dead dog, whose “carcass lay in his path” (3.348). Then, the dog “stopped, sniffed, stalked round it, brother, nosing closer, went round it, sniffing rapidly like a dog all over the dead dog’s bedraggeled fell” (3.348–50). Stephen then watches the dog paw the sand, and imagines that he is looking for “[s]omething he buried there, his grandmother” (3.360–61). While Robert Haas’s catalogue of animals in Ulysses lists the fox as Stephen’s kin, and the dog as a source of his character development, these scenes seem much more resonant (Haas 2014). Mourning is reinforced (especially familial mourning) as something shared between humans and animals. Stephen’s use of the word “brother” not only makes the dog’s suffering more “human” and legible, but also could work as a vocative, in that Stephen is calling out to the dog as a brother. Considered together, Stephen’s zoomorphisms as well as his sympathy with animal artistry and suffering call into sustained question the metaphysical fictions which separate human life from animal life. Stephen even explicitly argues that “the creatures of the air have their knowledge and know their times and seasons because they, unlike man, are in the order of their life and have not perverted that order by reason” (Joyce [1916] 1977, p. 225). Ground here is opened up, as Morton exhorts, for “collective forms of identity that include other species and their worlds, real and possible” (Morton 2007, p. 141). Stephen’s statement in Portrait that “we are all animals. I also am an animal” is therefore a memento animalis, a queer rebellion that bypasses normative agrilogistics by turning it on its head, while also forging non-normative affiliations and kinships between other kinds of beings. Here, Joyce allows us to see how Haraway’s answer to the “plantationocene” involves “mak[ing] kin sym-chthonically, sym-poetically” with varieties of “critters” (Haraway 2015, p. 161).
Morton suggests that “[e]cology is the latest in a series of humiliations of the human” (Morton 2010, p. 277), and Stephen revels in this delicious humiliation. He debases the human subject by reminding us that “we are all animals”, and aesthecizes the ecological realities of rotting and decomposition. This queer and ecological imagination, moreover, is also grounded in the historical reality in which Joyce was writing. Stephen’s conception of, and interaction with, the land, people, and animals around him offer a political alternative to the limitations of colonial rule and nationalist insurrection in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century Ireland. In so doing, Joyce also envisions an escape of the doctrine of agrilogistics, by working through the metaphysics that have held it in place for millennia. Stephen’s queer ecology, then, is a form of resistance, both in Joyce’s time and in our own as we live in an era of climate crisis. The queer ecology that emerges in the pages of Portrait and Ulysses reveals a Joyce in step with and anticipatory of the theoretical stakes of contemporary ecological humanities studies, as opposed to the reductive ecophobia, itself the product of outdated conceptions of nature/culture, that misses the ecological valences of Joyce’s dirty ecology and animal art.


Thank you very much to Katherine Ebury, the MDPI editorial team, as well as the two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful readings and suggestions for this work. I am also grateful for audiences at ASLE and the International James Joyce Symposium, who heard early versions of this paper, as well as Damien Keane and Cristanne Miller (University at Buffalo), who provided extensive feedback on early drafts. Finally, my profound thanks to Dana Medoro (University of Manitoba), who saw this project through from the very beginning.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


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See, for example, Dipesh Chakrabarty’s article “The Climate of History: Four Theses” for a discussion of the Anthropocene (Chakrabarty 2009).
Ulysses will be cited as (Joyce [1922] 1986) with the corresponding episode and line numbers (e.g., 15. 1952, chapter 15, line 1952).
This evocation of a desiring beyond the confines of the here-and-now through Stephen’s green rose invites the conflagration of queer utopia as articulated by Jose Esteban Muñoz with a green utopia (Muñoz 2009).
See also Eugene O’Brien’s article in the same volume for a discussion of Joyce’s “earthy” aesthetic project (“’Can excrement be art...if not, why not?’: Joyce’s Aesthetic Theory and the Flux of Consciousness,” pages 197–212.).

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