The semiotics of food in James Joyce's "Ulysses"

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Small, Felicity (Flicka)
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University College Cork
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Food lies at the heart of human life, playing a profound role throughout the world and history. This thesis looks at the microcosm of food and foodways in James Joyce’s Ulysses, through semiotics, anthropology and personal research and experience. A close textual reading of the novel examines how Joyce not only had a keen appetite for cataloguing and describing food, its production, and consumption, but also used it as a sign and symbol to indicate social, political, and cultural nuances of Dublin city in 1904. From the theories of Roland Barthes and Claude Lévi-Strauss on semiotics and anthropology, to the meditations on gastronomy by Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, we are invited to know and eat with Leopold Bloom as he rises in the morning and makes breakfast in bed for his wife, through a long day of sharing meals and eating alone, to the memories of exchanged seed-cake spittle when courting his wife Molly many years before. Food builds a picture of Bloom, his physique, his love-life, his fears and his quasi-scientific musings, which is then elaborated on and enhanced by the many additions that Joyce made to the text before the raw serial version became the ready-to-eat finished novel. The final chapter gives forensic examples of passages expanded and enriched by Joyce during the re-drafting process. In Joycean tradition, this thesis also includes an organ of its own, an appendix. All the food-words from fifteen of the episodes are itemised, showing where they are repeated in the text, and their provenance, meaning and semiotic value.
James Joyce , Food , Semiotics , Brillat-Savarin
Small, F. 2021. The semiotics of food in James Joyce's "Ulysses". PhD Thesis, University College Cork.