'Society with a big ess': Who's Talking About Gerty MacDowell?
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‘Nausicaa,’ the thirteenth episode of James Joyce’s Ulysses, depicts Leopold Bloom, the novel’s hero, masturbating to the sight of a young woman named Gertrude MacDowell as she lounges about Sandymount Strand at sunset. The first half of the chapter is written in overly sentimental prose reminiscent of novels referenced within it, whereas the second half resumes Bloom’s stream-of-consciousness style familiar from earlier chapters. In light of the second part of the narrative, the first is sometimes understood as a parallel, as a product of Gerty’s internal dialogue. However, I maintain that what we are reading in episode 13 is the projection of Gerty’s consciousness as imagined by her society, which produces within her a masculine fantasy about herself. The narrative is from the perspective of Bloom, insofar as he represents the male imagination that determines social convention, and gives her a romantic desire for him.
Schneider, Marc F (2017). 'Society with a big ess': Who's Talking About Gerty MacDowell?. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from