Susan Bazargan, ‘Mapping Gibraltar: Colonialism, Time, and Narrative in “Penelope’, in Molly Blooms [...] (1994)

Bibliographical details: Susan Bazargan, "Mapping Gibraltar : Colonialism, Time, and Narrative in “Penelope"’, in Molly Blooms: A Polylogue on “Penelope" and Cultural Studies, ed., Richard Pearce ( Wisconsin UP 1994), pp.119-38.

The complications in Molly’s genealogy instigate the series of ambivalences characteristic of modern-day migrants and exiles with divided allegiances to dual (sometimes multiple) nationalities and languages. The divisions can best be scrutinized by projecting Gibraltar not tangentially, as an “exotic” landscape, but as a space of colonialization [120] with significant political and psychological dimensions.These contours often find dyadic or dialogical shape, a chiasmatic chain binding issues of language, power, and temporality. [Note: chiasmus, “crossing”; vide Homi Bhabha: 'the ambivalent and chiasmatic instersections of time and place that constitute the problematic “modern” experience of the western nation’.] Thus, unlike Herring, who is ultimately dissatisfied with Joyce’s portrayal of Molly, I find her a most convincing representation of a modern-day colo-identity. Despite his careful delineation of Molly’s”real” history, Herring dismisses Gibraltar as “a dash of local color in the drab land of Dublin that was never meant to be examined closely, one of the many qualities in a composition that is Molly Bloom. . In the final chapter of Ulysses Joyce was faced with an artistic problem which, given his publishing deadlines, he hadn’t the time or space to resolve very effectively” (Phillip Herring',Towards an Historical Molly’, in English Literary History, 45, 1978, pp.516, 518]. Among the reasons Herring cites for Molly’s lack of credibility are her ignorance of such facts as the existence of appalling poverty and disease in Gibraltar [Ibid., p.505]. More important, according to Herring, is the “problem” of Molly’s language; given her fifteen years of life in Gibraltar, she must be “surprisingly forgetful” to lose her Spanish and keep her “undiluted Irish brogue” (p.516). But both of these elements, a repression of the horror of life in the colony (often transformed into the idealized lost Eden for the likes of Kipling), alongside the desire for belonging to (or quickly assimiliting into, in the case of immigration) the parent culture, often at the expense of eliding the native one, are at the crux of an identity formed m a colonial setting.

At the core of the colonial psyche lie ambivalence and contradiction since colonialism, in essence, operates on opposing principles. The colonizer’s position as “the Father and the oppressor ... just and unjust’ ... reinscribes both colonizer and colonized” (Bhabha, “Sly Civility”, in October 34, 1985, p.74). Colonialism is built on institutions which incarcerate human beings while “civilizing” them. To use Homi Bhabha’s succinct formulation: “The barracks stand by the church which stands by the schoolroom; the cantonment stands hard by the ’civil lines” ('The Other Question: Difference, Discriminiation and the Discourse of Colonialism’, in Literature, Politics and Theory, ed. Peter Hulme, Methuen 1986, p.172). The identity of the colonized, then, in its barest outlines, is shaped by dualistic forces engendering a divided existence. Molly’s case is made even more complicated by the fact that she has lived both in Gibraltar (as the daughter of a “Major”) and in Ireland, and has thus internalized structures of thought and discourse associated with both the colonizer and the colonized. Reflecting such spatial dislocations and discrepancies is Molly’s splintered, internally dialogic language. (pp.120-21.)


This division of life into two territories occupied by the rulers and the ruled has its clear boundaries, marking inside and outside. But Joyce, as if to point out the sheer artifice of the master/slave dichotomy, endows Molly with a social status that places her in that ambiguous third zone, the “median category” (Said, Orientalism, NY: Random House 1979, p.58), the category most difficult to analyze in discussions of colonialism. The ambiguity of Lunita Laredo’s origin, a Jewess and perhaps a prostitute, in turn makes Molly’s position one that vacillates between the inside and the outside, even if she would like to remain within the safe boundaries of the gates [...] Mrs. Rubio seems to have integrated African and Spanish elements of life on the Rock-she worships “her black blessed virgin with the silver dress” (U, 18.759) - and to have cared enough for Molly to introduce her to the work of the Renaissance poet Juan Valera Y Alcalá Galiano (U, 18.1475). Molly, of course, prefers to read English novels such as The Shadow of Ashlydyat rather than a book given to her by a representative of the outside, a “rock scorpion,” a racial epithet used by the British garrison to describe native residents of Gibraltar.

Besides the issue of parental race and social origin, Molly’s nationality also contributes to her ambivalence. She is keenly aware of Irish subservience, as it is registered in linguistic deflections. She worries that Gardner “mightnt like my accent first he so English” (18.889-90). Her father, Tweedy, is at best a second-order citizen in the British [122] army. Based on his military experiences, he deserves, perhaps, to be a true “Major” but is only a drill sergeant. Tweedy falls into that category Paulo Freire calls the “sub-oppressors” (30). As “hosts” of the oppressors, the colonized, the oppressed - whose only models of existence have been supplied by those in power - find that “to be is to be like, and to be like is to be like the oppressor” (33). At home, with Molly lighting their pipes for them” (18.691), Tweedy and “captain” Grove occupy themselves by getting drunk and swapping tales of military exploits.

Having been schooled, as servant to a servant, in military colonialism, Molly, even after twenty years in Dublin, cannot extricate herself from British colonial aspirations. That she has retained some of her British sympathies despite her apparent Irishness (“I had a map of it all” 18.378) is shown in her support for the Boer War, which has cost her dearly. A year before, having angered the nationalists (who vehemently opposed the British conduct during the Boer War), she was replaced by “little chits of missies they have now singing” at St Teresas Hall (18.375-76). She recalls wearing a brooch for Lord Roberts, the Indian-born, Anglo-lrish commander-in-chief of the Boer War, and singing Kipling’s propaganda song “The Absentminded Beggar” (Don Gifford & Robt. Seidman, Ulysses Annotated, 1988, p.614).

In less obvious ways, Molly is interpellated by colonial ideology, whose chiasmatic links of power and language bind together political authority and sexual dominance. Ashis Nandy, in his penetrating study of colonialism, focuses on this dyadic interrelation:

The homology between sexual and political dominance which Western colonialism invariably used . . . was not an accidental by-product of colonial history. ... The homology, drawing support from the denial of psychological bisexuality in men in large areas of Western culture, beautifully legitimized Vtirope’s post-medieval models of dominance, exploitation and cruelty as natural and valid. Colonialism, too, was congruent with the existing Western sexual stereotypes and the philosophy of life which they represented. It produced a cultural consensus in which political and socio-economic dominance symbolized the dominance of men and masculinity over women and femininity. (The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism, OUP 1983, p.4.)

British rule in India, as Nandy mentions, was to a great degree established when both the British rulers and the Indians had internalized “the language of the homology between sexual and political strategies”. (Ibid., p.6). In British analyses of Irish culture, too, we find the same homology operating. Matthew Arnold - whose face appears in the context of Stephen’s broodings on British “palefaces” or conquerors (1.166) produced some of the most influential arguments promoting British rule in Ireland based on superiority of the “masculine” Teutons against the Irish, who were “an essentially feminine race” (Cairns and Richards, Writing Ireland, 1988, pp.46, 48.)

The homology between colonial and sexual dominance is beautifully captured in a central icon in Joyce’s text: the Bloom’s bed, a piece of one colony transported into another, the space in which we locate Molly both at the beginning and the ending of the day/book. [...] (pp122-24.) Unlike Bloom, Molly knows the real origins of the bed: a pawnshop, as a colony often is. Besides commenting ironically on its Homeric counterpart, Bloom’s misconceptions about the bed - that it belonged to the governor of Gibraltar - serve to underline his illusions about correlations between political power and sexuality. A persecuted Jew in Irish society - because he is “not Irish enough” as Molly puts it (18.379) Bloom in bed has to urge Molly to “think of him [the german Emperor]” “yes imagine Im him” “can you feel him” (18.95-96). Molly, of course, finds the idea revolting: “trying to make a whore of me”; and yet both her and Bloom’s sexual identities cannot extricate themselves from colonial teachings on power, biological stratification, and sexual stereotypes. The most blatant of these is Bloom’s preoccupation with Molly as the “Oriental” woman, a construct of male Western imagination, an object of both desire and terror. She is thus fetishized by him, as colonial subjects often are.

The fetish or stereotype gives access to an “identity" which is predicated as much on mastery and pleasure as it is on anxiety and defence, for it is a form of multiple and contradictory belief in its recognition of difference, and disavowal of it. This conflict of pleasure/unpleasure, mastery/defence, knowledge/disavowal, absence/presence, has a fundamental significance for colonial discourse. For the scene of fetishism is also the scene of the reactivation and repetition of primal fantasy - the subject’s desire for a pure origin that is always threatened by its division, for the subject must be gendered to be engendered. (‘The Other Question: Difference, Discriminiation and the Discourse of Colonialism’, in Literature, Politics and Theory, ed. Peter Hulme, Methuen 1986, pp.161-62.)

Bloom’s fascination with his Semitic origins, evident all through th text, is fraught with deep ambivalence, as revealed by his contrastin reveries on the Orient during his early morning stroll (4.191-230). The same process of identification/disavowal, absence/presence, pleasure/ unpleasure is replicated in his relationship with Molly. As fetish and stereotype, Molly may give access to Bloom’s desire for (and simultaneous fear of) his Oriental origins; and yet ironically such an “origin” has to be divided, adulterated for Bloom to be “gendered”. Hence his unconscious fantasies, dramatized in the “Circe” episode, in which [124] he watches Boylan and Molly having intercourse, or his more obvious acts of pimping for her.

Molly’s sexual fantasies, her preoccupation with men, in turn also reflect a divided subject whose struggle to acquire agency can best he understood in light of critiques of colonialism. Franz Fanon, commenting on the formation of a black man’s ego, writes:

For him [the black man] there is only one way out, and it leads into the white world. Whence his constant preoccupation with attracting the attention of the white man, his concern with being powerful like the white man, his determined effort to acquire protective qualities - that is, the proportion of being or having that enters into the composition of an ego. ... [I]t is from within that the Negro will seek admittance to the white sanctuary. ... Ego-withdrawal as a successful defense mechanism is impossible for the Negro. He requires a white approval. (Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, trans. Charles L. Markmann, NY: Grove Press 1967, p.51.)

Fanon’s remarks to a great extent explain Molly’s aspirations toward men and her attempts to protect and compose an ego by making entries into the male world. But it seems to me that she is granted what Fanon does not observe in the black man: ego-withdrawal as a defensive measure. While colonialism is imbricated in Molly’s writing of the self, she also makes it - and its gender-based ramiifications - to a great extent a subject of scrutiny, even mockery. (pp.125.)

[Bazargan discusses Joyce's source-book Henry M. Field, Gibraltar (1888) and the prevailing conditions of society on the Rock; see p.120 & Note 1, p.134. She also speaks of the ‘chronotopic richness of Molly’s myriorama’ deriving the first term from Bakhtin and the second from “ ” - viz., “Poole’s Myiorama” (U, 14.40); see pp.126ff.]

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