Senses and sensibility : the senses as the gate to knowledge according to James Joyce's Ulysses

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Leopardi, Elisabetta
Issue Date
BA (Hons) in Film, Literature and Drama
Dublin Business School
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This thesis examines the role of the five senses in James Joyce‘s Ulysses, focusing particularly on the contrast between Leopold Bloom and the Dubliners. While the Dubliners misuse their senses and indulge too much in the sensual life, Mr. Bloom does not rely only on his sensorial perceptions to explore the reality surrounding him, but constantly meditates on his senses to extract a deeper understanding of the world, moving beyond the visible and tangible in search of meaning. In Ulysses it is possible to recognise that there are certain episodes in which one of the senses dominates over the others, not absolutely, but sufficiently enough to establish a distinct connection between this sense and the events taking place. In these episodes Joyce presents a sensorial critique on Dublin‘s culture and, by contrasting the Dubliners with Bloom, makes it possible to identify the causes for Dublin‘s paralysis, in the annihilation of the intellect in favour of the sensual life. After a brief introduction of Joyce‘s historical and cultural heritage regarding the senses, each of the following chapters will concentrate on one sense and the corresponding episode, starting from the less educated senses (smell and taste) and ending with the most sophisticated (Hearing and sight). An exception is made for the sense of touch, which does not include a critique on the Dubliners. Bloom, who has a problem with intimacy, prefers to delegate the ability to use this sense to his wife, Molly, a woman who feels confident with her body and whom represents the most natural approach to touch. Author keywords: James Joyce, five senses, sensual life, Leopold Bloom, Dubliners, Molly Bloom.