The Haunted Dublin of Ulysses: Two Modes of Time in the Second City of the Empire

  • Nikhil Gupta
Part of the Literary Urban Studies book series (LIURS)


In Ulysses, and in the ‘Wandering Rocks’ episode specifically, James Joyce depicts the events occurring in Dublin on 16 June 1904 as unfolding according to the logic of two different temporal orders. On the one hand, coincidence structures the narrative to position individual characters alongside others and to render their shared moments significant in a style typical of national imagining. On the other hand, figural time marks Joyce’s Dublin as a colonial city rooted in older forms of social order and structural power than the dictates of modern capitalism and national belonging that epitomise citizenship in the capitals of independent states. These two modes of time collide when the ghost of Charles Stewart Parnell returns to Dublin in ‘Wandering Rocks.’ At one and the same time, the Irish of this novel connect to one another through the imaginative work that characterises national belonging, and they relate to one another through a type of city life that has developed according to the logic of colonialism. As Joyce’s Dubliners go about their day together, their inner lives follow a figural pattern structured by memory and expectation. When Parnell’s ghost becomes the focus of this temporal order marked by insistent recalling and constant waiting, the novel suggests a form of political longing in the colonial city that parallels the forms of sexual and commercial desire motivating and disappointing so many of the characters in Joyce’s text. By setting Dublin, the second city of the British Empire, within two different modes of time in Ulysses, Joyce presents the view of Dublin that he has at the time of the novel’s publication—a national capital that has yet to give up the ghost of its colonial oppression.


James Joyce Ulysses ‘Wandering Rocks’ Charles Stewart Parnell Ghost Figural Time Nation Colonial city Empire 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nikhil Gupta
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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