Graduation Year

2006

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Susan K. Mooney, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Regina Hewitt, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Pat Rogers, Ph.D.

Keywords

nationalism, oedipal, masculine, identity, irish

Abstract

Irish male identity in James Joyce’s and Samuel Beckett’s novels shows evidence

of abjection. The oppressive natures of the Church and State in Ireland contribute to

abjection in some Irish men. Furthermore, the state of abject being can lead to

masochistic practices. According to Julia Kristeva, abjection translates into a

.conceptual space. that has its roots in the Freudian Oedipal complex. Kristeva,

following Lacan, also points to the connection between abjection and language. Joyce.s

character Stephen Dedalus and Beckett.s Molloy/Moran both utilize this conceptual

space and language in the narrative provides clues to their abject states. Joyce.s

A

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

and Ulysses show Stephen.s abjection through his

feelings of separation from his fellow citizens as well as his status as an Irish Catholic.

Like Stephen, Beckett.s protagonist Molloy/Moran endures abjection in terms of

separation from the mother. Nevertheless, abjection by an oppressive social construct

such as nationalism or religion is not as evident in

Molloy. Although Beckett is an Irish

author and Ireland is evident in the novel, Molloy/Moran is a universal character. He is

abject by his own design . what Kristeva calls .self abjection. . in order to complete the

search for the mother. Molloy/Moran.s search is also a search for the self as he

reconciles with approaching death. This is similar to Stephen.s self-abjection but

Stephen abjects himself in order to separate himself from his fellow Irishmen. Stephen.s

concerns with death take on different ramifications, as Stephen is not at the same point in

his life as Molloy/Moran. Death, for Stephen, is his mother.s death and the oppressive

guilt she has instilled in him by her admonitions to repent. Masochism is a response to

abjection.

The age of modernism influenced Joyce.s writing, just as the shift from high

modernism to postmodernism influenced Beckett.s. The Irish response to the changes

attendant with modernization, both at the fin

-de-siécle for Joyce and in the post- World

War II years when Beckett wrote, is evident in Stephen Dedalus and Molloy/Moran.

According to Suzanne R. Stewart, the turn of the century brought changes in culture

through advertising and the advent of consumer capitalism and the bourgeois masculine

status quo was threatened. Stewart argues that masochism is partly a masculine response

to these changes. I argue that Stephen and Molloy/Moran reflect that response. The

result of deferring or suspending either confrontation or resolution is pleasure, or

jouissance

as the term is used by Jacques Lacan and Julia Kristeva. Neither Joyce nor

Beckett makes clear whether Stephen or Molloy/Moran achieve

jouissance, effectively

leaving the reader suspended, without resolution to the characters. stories.

Abjection and masochism link Stephen and Molloy/Moran as symbols of

unaccommodated man and are remarkable in that they reflect not only an Irish masculine

identity but also a universal masculine identity at both the turn of the century and post-

World War II.

Share

COinS