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Liegner, E.J. Motycka, R.N. (1981-82). James Joyce's Ulysses Revisited: Matricide and the Search for the Mother. Psychoanal. Rev., 68(4):561-579.

(1981-82). Psychoanalytic Review, 68(4):561-579

James Joyce's Ulysses Revisited: Matricide and the Search for the Mother

Evelyn J. Liegner, Ph.D. and Ronda N. Motycka, Ph.D.


The life and works of James Joyce have generated thousands of articles, monographs, hypotheses, interpretations, and volumes of scholarly criticism. The quantity of Joyce exegeses invites comparison with that of biblical explication. Psychoanalytic criticism of Joyce's life and major work, Ulysses, however, has remained within the framework of classical Freudian psychoanalysis, with its emphasis on the Oedipus complex. This paper will present another psychoanalytic point of view.

In the Odyssey of Homer, the son finds himself dispossessed by his mother's suitors in his father's house and sets out to search for the lost father. In Joyce's Ulysses, we suggest that on the contrary Stephen Dedalus, Joyce's alter ego, like James Joyce himself, finds himself dispossessed by sibling rivals in his mother's house and sets out to search for the lost preoedipal mother.

Although Joyce said, “I can psoakoonaloose myself anytime I want,”6 it is our contention that neither Joyce's nor Freud's analysis could penetrate the defenses of the preoedipal stage of development—that symbiotic stage dominated by the desire to merge with the mother by orally incorporating her, the fear of being devoured or submerged by the mother, the murderous jealousies towards siblings, and the terrible terrors of maternal infanticidal retaliation for one's fratricidal and oral incorporative fantasies. The primitive aggression aroused by the unavoidable frustrations of infancy (and Joyce's in particular) necessitate defenses to conceal and disguise the instinctual violent hatred with its possible dangerous consequences to the needed and once unambivalently beloved maternal object.

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