“Ointment” and the Role of Commodity in Structuring Femininity In James Joyce’s “Ulysses” College

Thomas Richards, in his 1990 exposition on cultural theory, The Commodity Culture of Victorian England: Advertising and Spectacle, 1851-1914 states: “In the mid-nineteenth century the commodity became the living letter of the law of supply and demand. It literally came alive.”(Richards 2) The “commodity” adopts a corporeal cling to Victorian society in the form of the female body, as proposed in James Joyce’s modern epic, Ulysses. Narrative techniques and representations of the human body submit, simultaneously, to the authoritative commodity culture that pervades and structures Joyce’s text. As Richards’ publication claims, Ireland, under Victorian England’s economic influence, experienced significant shifts in cultural values, which began to reflect a modern capitalist system. Joyce, over the course of novel, fabricates an accurate depiction of Dublin during the rise of capitalism; consciously, and predominantly, unconsciously, underwritten by advertising and consumer desires. The narrative is saturated in mercantile discourse, as Molly and Bloom progress through the day interacting with commodities in physical and mental states. With particular emphasis on feminine hygiene products, such as “ointment” and “lotion”, it is...

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