Digesting the City: Episode "Ate" in Ulysses and Prufrock

In Episode 8 of Ulysses, Joyce sends Bloom and the reader through a gauntlet of food that enlarges one of the novels main linguistic strategies, that of gradual digestion. While Episode 10 may seem like a more appropriate choice for a spatial representation of the city, this episode maps digestion out like Bloom wanders the streets of Dublin, with thoughts entering foremost through the body and exiting them. In T.S. Eliots poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," the stanzas deescalate the city from skyline to sea-bottom in accordance with the mock-heros own inability digest thoroughly any complete thought all the way through.

Bloom describes the process of eating with realism appropriate to the task: "And we stuffing food in one hole and out behind: food, chyle, blood, dung, earth good: have to feed it like stoking an engine" (144-5). Indeed, this is the path words take in the novel; they begin in a pure form, as written on a page (such as Marthas "Are you not happy in your home you poor little naughty boy?" which, despite its impure implications, is at least black ink on white paper) and filters into every stage of Blooms journey (as in Episode 8, 137). The gradual digestion of words fits with...

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