Degree Granting Department
Susan K. Mooney, Ph.D.
Regina Hewitt, Ph. D.
Pat Rogers, Ph.D.
nationalism, oedipal, masculine, identity, irish
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
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
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
as the term is used by Jacques Lacan and Julia Kristeva. Neither Joyce nor
Beckett makes clear whether Stephen or Molloy/Moran achieve
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.
Scholar Commons Citation
McCabe-Remmell, Patricia A., "Joyce...Beckett...Dedalus...Molloy: A Study in Abjection and Masochism" (2006). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.