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The Macksey Journal

Abstract

Characterized by Joyce as the “new womanly man”, the feminine traits of Leopold Bloom are a fascinating anomaly (Joyce 465). A marked departure from the hypermasculinity of classic epics, Bloom and his empathy and passivity have been studied for a century. Scholars have been quick to label Bloom as androgynous, noting his maternal relationship towards Stephen Daedalus, his role as the cuckold in his marriage, and an incident in which Bloom is transfigured into a woman by a dominatrix. Critical gender studies, however, have evolved rapidly in the last century. Instead of situating male and female in binary opposition, this paper entertains the modern idea that both biological sex and gender identity exist on a spectrum. This entails deconstructing not only the unconscious societal attempt to designate certain physical and intellectual characteristics as wholly masculine or feminine, but also the idea that a person’s self-reflexive thoughts about gender and sexuality always perfectly reflect what they identify as (Shilt and Westbrook 535). Without these concepts, which uphold heteronormative ideas of gender and sexuality, critical discussion of Bloom’s expression of sex and gender can be much more nuanced. The radical depiction of Leopold Bloom in Ulysses lies not in his gender identity, but in Joyce’s depiction about how we self-reflect on gender.

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