Loud on left : the role of Elijah in Ulysses' metempsychosis

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2009-05
Authors
Schell, Tekla Hawkins
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Abstract

The figure of Elijah represents and personifies metempsychosis in Ulysses. Traditionally viewed as a mythic agent of transfiguration, Elijah appears accompanied by thunder at each turning point in the relationship between Stephen and Bloom, pointing toward the potential of a Vichian transformation for Stephen. The intertwining narratives of Stephen and Bloom, which are developed in the numerous re-invocations of Elijah and Elisha throughout the novel, eventually culminate in Stephen’s potential to transform into a heroic Bloom-like figure. The use of Elijah in advertisements and the character of Dr. Alexander Dowie also result in textual transfiguration. Dowie is a farcical Elijah whose advertisements for a false land of promise operate as miniature versions of the novel and promote an optimistic literary vision. Pandering and grasping, the advertisements nevertheless promulgate myths of transformation that surround Elijah in Ulysses, which uses his image to enhance the heroism of Bloom, Stephen, and the text itself.

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