Who Was the Real Leopold Bloom?

Yes. Only a foreigner would do. The Jews were foreigners in Dublin at that time. There was no hostility towards them. But contempt, the contempt that people always show towards the unknown. – James Joyce

This post is a part of an occasional series on the real people behind the characters in Ulysses.


Where to begin piecing together the jigsaw puzzle of Leopold Bloom’s inception? Like most of the characters in the Joycean canon, Bloom was inspired by real people and events from Joyce’s life. Unlike a character like Buck Mulligan, however, there is no single, definitive inspiration for Bloom. Such a literary puzzle leaves the curious amongst us to hunt down clues and tidbits.

Let’s start by considering Blooms’ defining characteristics.

Leopold Bloom lives in a house on 7 Eccles St. on Dublin’s north side. He works as an ad canvasser for the Freeman’s Journal, a nationalist newspaper. He has an unfaithful wife, a maturing teen daughter, and a son who died in infancy. He loves organ meats. He’s ethnically Hungarian on his father’s side. He’s tepidly Jewish. He has a moustache. He’s awkward and nebbish on the outside but insightful and witty in his internal monologue. He’s our Dubliner-Everyman-Odysseus, the consummate outsider living in his hometown. 

Finding a single person in Joyce’s life that meets all these prerequisites is difficult. Instead, one begins to realize that Bloom is actually a Frankenstein’s monster of moustachioed Jewish men that Joyce knew throughout his life. The list I’ve compiled is by no means comprehensive, but I have tried to include the major inspirations for these definitive qualities of Leopold Bloom. The sum total of their parts is a truly singular, Hellenic-Hebraic-Hibernian hero.

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Ep. 36 – The Complex Life of Lucia Joyce- (w/Linus Ignatius & Llewie Nuñez)

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Linus as James Joyce and Llewie as Lucia Joyce

Linus Ignatius and Llewie Nuñez starred in the play Lucia Mad as James and Lucia Joyce, respectively, back in their university days. They drop by the podcast for a deep dive into the complex and tragic life of James Joyce’s daughter Lucia. We discuss how they prepared to portray the Joyces on-stage, Lucia’s genius as an artist, her struggle with mental illness, the stigma she faced within the Joyce family, her influence on Finnegans Wake and the relationship between Joyce and his daughter.

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Stephen Dedalus, W.B. Yeats, The Tables of the Law, James Joyce, Ulysses

Ep. 35 – The Hundredheaded Rabble

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Joachim of Fiore

Join Kelly and Dermot for a story about James Joyce’s youthful rebellion against the literary establishment of Dublin, his obsession with the apocalyptic predictions of a 12th century monk, a tale of psychic horror by W.B. Yeats, Jonathan Swift and Dublin’s oldest public library. It’s a jam-packed episode! The paragraph discussed in this episode can be found on p. 39-40 of the 1990 Vintage International edition of Ulysses.

Bonus: Dermot interviews Kelly about completing her blog series about “Proteus.” Check out those blog posts here.

Double Bonus: The difference between Elisha and Elijah from Chuck Knows Church.

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Ep. 32 – James Joyce Tower & Museum

Sandycove tower
A press photo of the Sandycove tower in the 60’s or 70’s. You can see a staircase on the right side.

Dermot and Kelly get an insider’s view of the Sandycove Martello Tower – the Omphalos of Dublin itself! Maggie Fitzgerald, James Holohan and Andrew Basquille give Blooms & Barnacles a tour of all the museum’s nooks and crannies. Discussions include the Joycean historical items on display in the museum, the history of the tower, what really went down the night Joyce stormed out of the museum, how to get a milk can up a ladder, the work of maintaining a Joycean landmark, an original song by Andrew, and why exactly a museum in Dublin is flying the Munster flag.

A special thanks to Michael Steen.

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James Joyce Ulysses women Mr Deasy Nestor

Ep. 24 – A Shout in the Street

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Helen of Troy, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1863

Blooms and Barnacles’ series on Mr. Deasy and “Nestor” comes to a close with a discussion of the old headmaster’s biased views of women’s negative impact on history. The relative culpability of four woman accused of causing history’s great evils is explored, along with what exactly Stephen means when he refers to God as a “shout in the street.”

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Ulysse, James Joyce, Mr. Deasy, anti-semitism

Ep. 23 – The Nightmare of History

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The Wandering Jew, Gustave Doré

Kelly and Dermot deconstruct the nightmare of history shared by the Irish and the Jews alike. We further explore the intricacies of Mr. Deasy’s bigotry and what it tells us about what life was like in 1900’s Dublin. Other topics covered include one possible source of Joyce’s hatred of Gogarty, the correlation of antisemitism and nationalism and the legend of the Wandering Jew and its influence on Ulysses.

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Ulysses, Proteus, Leopold Bloom, James Joyce

Decoding Dedalus: Haroun al-Raschid

That’s all in the Protean character…. Everything changes: land, water, dog, time of day. Parts of speech change, too. Adverb becomes verb. – James Joyce

This is a post in a series called Decoding Dedalus where I take a passage of Ulysses and  break it down line by line.

The passage below comes from “Proteus,” the third episode of Ulysses. It appears on pages 47 in my copy (1990 Vintage International). We’ll be looking at the passage that begins “After he woke me…” and ends “You will see who.” 

As Stephen sits watching Tatters the dog cavort across the sands of Sandymount Strand near the end of “Proteus,” his mind jumps from pards and panthers to the English student Haines. Stephen was awoken in the middle of the night due to Haines’ screaming about a nightmare of a black panther, and now he recalls  an interesting dream of his own. We’ve already discussed Stephen’s own nightmare of his mother’s angry shade, but Stephen’s second dream focuses on his future rather than his past. In the past, we’ve explored Stephen’s relationship with the Akasic record, which allows him access to the memories of all humankind. The Akasic record, however, can also show the future. Craig Carver explains:

In sleep this spectacle is often spontaneously perceived by the self freed of the domination of external impressions.

Meaning, one can experience a freer form of perception, detached from all those ineluctable modalities in a dream state. Suddenly, those modalities become… eluctable I guess?

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Mr Deasy Dalkey James Joyce Ulysses Nestor

Ep. 22 – Perviest Breakfast

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Main St., Dalkey, Co. Dublin, likely 1905-1911

Per vias rectas! Mr. Deasy’s origins – revealed! Kelly and Dermot dive into Joyce’s real life acquaintances and experiences that inspired the gruff headmaster Mr. Deasy in Ulysses‘ second episode, “Nestor.” Topics covered include why Mr. Deasy is so concerned about foot and mouth disease, the relative rebelliousness of voting in favor of the Union and why Mr. Deasy seems to be unaware of his own history, even though he’s so proud of it.

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James Joyce, Ulysses, Proteus

Decoding Dedalus: Pretenders

This is a post in a series called Decoding Dedalus where I take a passage of Ulysses and  break it down line by line.

The passage below comes from “Proteus,” the third episode of Ulysses. It appears on pages 45 in my copy (1990 Vintage International). We’ll be looking at the passage that begins “Pretenders…” and ends “…medieval abstrusiosities.” 

Ulysses is full of people who aren’t what they seem or who don’t know who they are. We’ve already met Haines, an English student who wishes he were Irish, and Mr. Deasy, an Irish headmaster who wishes he were English. Following the rabbit trail of Stephen’s inner monologue, we begin to examine his preoccupation with pretenders, in this case, historical ones.

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Orange Order, Diamond Dan, Ulysses, James Joyce

Ep. 21 – Croppies Lie Down

This week, Kelly and Dermot explain the nightmarish history tucked into Stephen’s terse rebuttal of Mr. Deasy’s weak grasp of Irish history. The passage covered can be found on p. 31 of Kelly’s edition of Ulysses (1990 Vintage International). Topics covered include the history of the Orange Order, the Battle of the Diamond, the Planters’ Covenant, the power of copyright law over sectarianism, and how all these issues still affect us today.

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