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Lynching Modernism: Ulysses, America, and the Negro Minstrel Abroad

© 2024 Johns Hopkins University Press

At one point late in Ulysses, while referencing the fictionalized account of a graphic, gruesome American lynching of a black man, a character in "Cyclops” refers to the ill-fated mob victim as a  "Sambo.”[1] Sambo is a plantation-era racial term that, by the early twentieth century, had become an enduring American stage archetype, often performed in blackface, that spun entertainment from stereotypes about black Americans as provincial and lazy. By naming his lynching victim "Sambo,” Joyce marks the lynching as a theatrical phenomenon, spectacularly American. Joyce draws a link between blackface minstrelsy and anti-black mob violence as parallel art forms, as two American cultural performances that get similarly staged, transmitted, and consumed globally. In that sense, Joyce thematizes the ways that non-American global writers leverage and export narratives of American racial violence in order to mark themselves as modern, cosmopolitan actors, situating themselves within a global discursive network by commentating on spectacular American racism. Joyce performs modernness, in part, by engaging with American cultural iconography, and, in particular, by revising upon American conceptualizations of race. Though, late in his career, Joyce claimed to know "nothing of” the United States, Joyce’s modern aesthetic was at times informed by his own imaginings of American life, which in turn borrowed from popular transatlantic approximations of American culture generally and of black life specifically.[2] The characters in Ulysses, for example, walk past advertisements for American-style minstrel performances at Queen’s Theatre, perform minstrelized stump speeches dedicated to "Mr President,” twist their hair into "golliwog curls,” read graphic newspaper articles about American lynchings, parody American evangelical preaching styles, embrace American slang like "bully,” fetishize the "negress” as a devilish sexual curiosity, sing American renditions of English songs, idolize the Rockefellers, and memorialize those Irish immigrants who have "smuggled off to America,” that "greater Ireland beyond the Sea” (Joyce, Ulysses, 183, 414, 290, 269, 159, 301, 591, 70, 270, 267).[3] Though Joyce worked to distance himself from the United States, he leveraged an intimate fascination with the artifacts of American popular culture as one source text for constructing his own globalized grammar of the modern.

Joyce used engagements with and references to American culture as one strategy for signaling his access to global modernity. What’s more, Joyce’s chosen conceptualization of "American” modern culture is filtered partially through spectacular, racialist performances of blackness. His early career correspondences with American literary peers like Ezra Pound demonstrate that Joyce long wielded a crystallized understanding of how a so-called "n—” spoke and behaved, based upon American imaginings of black Southern servility.[4] In this sense, Joyce’s configurations of American modernity depend upon and are rooted through—imported and approximated—conceptualizations of the black body. Ultimately, like Joyce’s other representations of the Sambo in Ulysses, the spectacle of lynching functions as an American art form that can be harnessed, disengaged from, and revised upon for creative potential.

Although recent scholarship has become increasingly conscious of the fundamental role race plays in American and Anglo-Irish modernist literature, separately, the influence of racism in American culture on European creative production has been critically understudied. Joyce’s work frequently engages with American iconography as one strategy for producing a grammar of global modernity, illustrating the symbiotic relationship between European and American moderns and between European and American authors at the turn of the twentieth century. Through its approximations of an American vernacular, Ulysses builds upon British understandings of "Americanness”—an Americanness structured through race, racialist discourses, and racial iconography. The novel’s characters use references to American iconography as one strategy for signaling their own cosmopolitan belonging within a global discursive network, thereby building a modern Irish identity that is elastic and expansive rather than homogeneously restrictive. For Joyce, black vernaculars come to represent an opportunity for modern linguistic exploration: for example, Ulysses’s fourteenth episode is ambitiously structured as a long history of Anglophone literary production, moving linearly from mock Piers Plowman-era medievalisms to a "frightful jumble of Pidgin English, n— english, Cockney, Irish, Bowery slang and broken doggerel” that works to represent twentieth-century literature through heterogeneity and aesthetic confusion.[5] If modernism has frequently been theorized as a strategy for conceptualizing processes of unapologetic rupture, it is notable that Joyce configures such "brokenness” through a hodgepodge clash of Hiberno-English and British slang with black vernaculars from the Caribbean ("Pidgin”) and the United States ("n—”). In that sense, Ulysses models Joyce’s indebtedness to circumatlantic imaginings of black folk culture, what Michael North has previously referred to as "becoming modern by acting black.”[6]

Joyce’s modernist aesthetic operates through an (at times sublimated) intermingling of popular, folk, and experimental cultures, appropriating and remodeling artifacts from the American periphery in order to produce a radical engagement with and revision upon dominant cultural modes. The text models modernness, in part, through Joyce’s engagements with American modern popular culture, which Joyce metonymically encapsulates through the figure of the "Sambo.” Joyce establishes himself as a global actor through references to the Sambo, which he uses to situate himself in (oppositional) relation to American popular culture. In that sense, Joyce divests from narratives of American racial violence, while still leveraging the United States’s cultural power to construct his own modern identity by configuring a heterogeneous future. Joyce develops his modern aesthetic, then, through a performative engagement with and disengagement from global representations of American racial violence, a strategy for modern creative production that I call "lynching modernism,” which dramatizes Joyce’s own "dual identification” with both "the conquerors and the conquered.”[7]

Though direct and explicit references to race, blackface minstrelsy, and lynching only appear in a handful of scenes, these references saturate Ulysses, indexing Joyce’s investment in testing the notion of modern Irish national belonging against an intranational continuum of racism and anti-Semitism. Racial heterogeneity is central to the experiences of the American subject, which, for Joyce, makes American iconography a useful stand-in for modernity; Joyce uses American cultural iconography, and particularly the iconography of racial violence, to think through racial heterogeneity in the Irish context. One of the ways that the novel makes sense of the characters’ encounters with anti-Semitism, anti-Irish sentiment, and xenophobia is through allusions to American slavery’s transatlantic wake, placing the figure of Sambo on a spectrum of subjugation and alienation that attaches the violence of anti-Semitism to specific kinds of representations of racial violence. Modern creative production gets reinforced, in part, by interfacing with the American imaginary about blackness. By triangulating a relationship between Irish and American racial entanglements, Joyce, of course, participates in a larger tradition of pairing the black and the Irish as social parallels.[8] More importantly, the novel’s use of American racial iconography, like the novel’s use of orientalism, helps Joyce to stage the possibility for a "loose and flexible notion of nation and national identity” that allows for heterogeneity and reimagines ethnic difference.[9] In Amnesia and the Nation, Vincent Cheng, ventriloquizing the nineteenth-century philosopher Ernest Renan, notes that "the ability of a nation’s people to feel things in common” conventionally depends on "erasing . . . memories of discord and violence” (Cheng, Amnesia, 45, 69). Joyce instead engages with American blackface and racial terroristic traditions to test one alternative to processes of national, cultural, and historical forgetting. In Ulysses, characters play with heterogeneity as an alternative strategy for nation-building that incorporates hybrid and foreign experiences, including experiences of violence, into the national memory.

Joyce imagines, performs, and parodies American modernity through the United States’s post-plantation legacy of spectacular American racism and extrajudicial violence, which Joyce locates in the Sambo. The transnational circulation of narratives about American lynchings remodels lynching culture as something not singular to the American South, but as instead national, and therefore endemic to an understanding of American national identity. As Jacqueline Goldsby has argued, lynching is not an isolated "Southern problem,” but is instead epidemiological, representative, and "national global”—standing, as Amy Louise Wood has said, at the "center of a long tradition of American vigilantism.”[10] Like Broadway, flapperdom, and Hollywood, the site of the lynching has become a globally recognizable signifier of American culture. In other words, discourse about the theatricality of American racism is foundational to how America as a concept and as an empire—what Mark Twain once referred to as the "United States of Lyncherdom”—is globally circulated and understood.

America is defined, both locally and globally, through its fascination with the spectacle of race, which Joyce thematizes by explicitly linking the culture of lynching to the theatrics of the minstrel stage. Even though the two cultural forms have trackable precedents in Europe and in Africa, Joyce uses lynching and blackface minstrelsy to broadly configure both American and non-American representations of racial politics and national identity. Following Goldsby’s construction of lynching as a "cultural logic,” as a "networked, systemic phenomenon indicative of trends in national culture,” lynching is foundational to definitions of American life and culture abroad (Goldsby, A Spectacular Secret, 5). Expanding Goldsby’s central proposition to consider minstrelsy a similarly epidemiological, culturally indicative phenomenon situates the blackface minstrel and the lynching victim—Joyce’s Sambos—as two artistic strategies for exporting American iconography as palimpsestic inspiration for Joyce’s modern aesthetic. Joyce recognizes American culture partially through its racial violences, framing that violence—and the black bodies that that violence annihilates—as central to formulations of an Americanized modern aesthetic.

The notion that racial subjugation is uniquely American is a fiction, but a productive one, allowing non–American cosmopolitans to participate in exceptionally "American” modernity by reproducing its defining features. By re-focusing on two sites of Sambo violence—the lynching tree and the minstrel stage—this essay confirms the centrality of blackness to Joyce’s constructions of American identity. Representations of the Sambo frame racial violence as endemic to the experience of the modern subject because racial violence is endemic to the experience of the American subject, defining the global modern subject through this process of racialization. The term "lynching modernism” marks the ways that Joyce leverages American cultural iconography to represent, and even surrogate, a global conceptualization of modernity. If, as Genevieve Abravanel has argued, the "Ameritopian impulse” of modern "progress” means the eventual total Americanization of the entire world, then that world, it seems, will be vulgar, violent, and—most importantly—raced.[11] It is important, then, to recognize what that America looks like, burning crosses and burning cork and burning bodies and all.

The Outré Erotics of "Circe”

In the seminal 1994 monograph The Female Grotesque: Risk, Excess, and Modernity, Mary Russo argues that the "grotesque” is a performative space of intense political possibility: the grotesque body—monstrous, irregular, excessive, exceptional—transforms public space by foregrounding hidden cultural discontents as an opportunity for modern heterogeneity.[12] For Russo, by embracing rather than eliding bodily difference, the grotesque body performs modernity through vulgarity and excess, making its spectators both desirous and uncomfortable. In this sense, Russo offers a construction of the grotesque as an aesthetic feature of modernity formed through encounters with the exceptional, yielding rupture, surprise, and discomfort.

Joyce uses blackness as one manifestation of the grotesque, marking blackness as "modern” by framing blackness as surprising, uncomfortable, and new. For example, after the novel’s protagonist Bloom masturbates to the figure of a young teen on a beach in "Nausicaa,” he discovers that the girl is lame in one foot.[13] Bloom attempts to rationalize his continued sexual attraction to the girl as he watches her limp away. He thinks to himself, "Hot little devil all the same. I wouldn’t mind. Curiosity like a nun or a negress or a girl with glasses” (Joyce, Ulysses, 301). Bloom’s linking of the girl’s disability to blackness, among other "curiosities,” is shocking, and it is shocking because it is new.[14] Bloom uses the specter of blackness to make sense of the otherwise socially inconceivable (the sexual viability of the monstrous other), offering blackness as a key to deciphering new pathways for sexual exploration. By framing the lame Gerty MacDowell as a sexual curiosity not unlike a "negress” or a nun, Bloom positions radical difference—what Bloom calls a woman’s "defects”—as the catalyst for sexual curiosity and creative experimentation. Joyce’ partially filters his grotesque erotic, shocking and new, through the attractive vulgarity of racial and ethnic defects.

In Ulysses’s fifteenth episode, the closet drama "Circe,” Joyce uses blackness as one technology for representing a modernist aesthetic: freakish, spectacular, vulgar. In "Circe,” Bloom has a series of increasingly erratic hallucinations that lay bare a host of submerged familial traumas and masochistic sexual fetishes. The first of Bloom’s hallucinations is of a minstrel stage. In this sense, the episode’s early representations of the minstrelized black body, shocking and monstrous, operates as a testing ground for the later outré erotics of "Circe.” A dancing duo with too-black faces, Tom and Sam Bohee, jiggles on to Bloom’s imagined stage, twitching their fingers at banjos while dressed in fancy "white duck suits” and "upstarched Sambo chokers” (Joyce, Ulysses, 362). As the first of Bloom’s hallucinations, Bloom’s two Sambos serve to preview the episode’s larger creative engagement with the aesthetics of the grotesque. In their minstrel show, the players are introduced in a lengthy stage direction, reproduced here in full:

(Tom and Sam Bohee, coloured coons in white duck suits, scarlet socks, upstarched Sambo chokers and large scarlet asters in their buttonholes leap out. Each has his banjo slung. Their paler smaller negroid hands jingle the twingtwang wires. Flashing white kaffir eyes and tusks they rattle through a breakdown in clumsy clogs, twinging, singing, back to back, toe heel, heel toe, with smackfatclacking n— lips) (362).

After breaking into a verse of the black American folk song "Somebody in the House with Dinah,” the Bohee brothers transform the hallucination into something explicitly horrific by yanking off their own faces, giggling freakishly as they jig away: "(They whisk black masks from raw babby faces: then, chuckling, chortling, trumming, twanging they diddle diddle cakewalk dance away.)” (362) The scene is violently jovial. At the same time, with its folksy jigs and nasally twangs, the scene has the easy, softly rolling, singsong darkyism of an American race play from the mid-nineteenth century. In that sense, the scene parodies a typical rural scene by being both tinnily bright and sacrilegiously obscene.

Scholars have sometimes understood "Circe” as the aesthetic heart of the novel, arguing that the deliberately unsettling and unwieldy episode foregrounds some of the novel’s most crucial lessons about sexual politics and psychological self-discovery.[15] Though some scholars have usefully interrogated the episode’s entanglement with popular British theatrical modes, critics have frequently overlooked or understated Ulysses’s intimate relationship to American theatrical conventions.[16] By drawing attention to the minstrel performance at the episode’s beginning, I mean to suggest that Joyce adopts the American darky as an early manifestation of the episode’s later experiments in the psychologizing possibilities of garish spectacle. Racial phantasmagoria gives way to, and paves the way for, the episode’s avant-garde, limitless, and masochistic fantasia of sexual awakening and suppression.

Bloom frames blackface minstrelsy in the way that Sarah Cole describes representations of violence in modernist literature more broadly, as an "enchanted” mode of representing violence. [17] Minstrelsy is transformative, creatively generative, and overly idealized, making the violated minstrel body a "magic site for the production of culture.”[18] In framing blackface minstrelsy as a magical catalyst for creative production, Bloom echoes the language used in advertisements for Haverly’s Genuine Minstrels, the home touring company for the real Bohee Brothers: "They come as a Boom and a blessing to men, / Haverly’s blacks, and performing hen !” (Cole, Violet, 42).  In the advertisement, a glittering black face with stretched lips and tile-white teeth twinkles from the side of a lit bomb flying toward the foreground. The black boom, or boon, rejuvenates culture by blackening it. Blackness is providential ("a blessing”) and downright explosive against a yawning background of unimaginative white (fig. 1; "Our Captious Critic”).

Cartoons and text
Fig. 1. Advertisement for the Haverly's Minstrels (“Haverly's Big Black Boom”) that appeared in the London-based newspaper The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News on September 10, 1881. Source: Illustrated London News Group, image created courtesy of The British Library Board.

Joyce’s abbreviated blackface minstrel show uses the grotesque theatrical form to build a lynch modernist aesthetic that approximates and capitalizes on an exported cultural knowledge of the United States’s racial excesses and violences. His ironic reproductions of "authentic” American racism, which Joyce uses to perform his own access to (American) modernity, depend upon a playful understanding of Americanness as blackness, with blackness itself defined through processes of race-based violation. To that end, Joyce replaces the real Bohee brothers—James and George Bohee, two nineteenth-century American-Canadian banjo players and minstrel performers who first played in Dublin in 1894—with grotesquely jolly minstrels of his own creation. Joyce renames the real Bohee brothers Tom Bohee (Tambo Hee) and Sam Bohee (Sambo Hee). In their rechristening, the Bohee brothers’ names sonically recall two stock characters typical to the blackface minstrel show structure popularized by Christy’s Minstrels, a troupe originally based in New York with offshoot troupes that performed throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland into the twentieth century: Sambo, a childish but benign buffoon, and Tambo, a wise-cracking tambourine-shaking stage musician and cornerman. This act of renaming splices the minstrel performers to the characters that they portray, so that Joyce’s Bohees become, rather than merely impersonate, Tambo and Sambo. Joyce’s Tambo and Sambo self-reflexively mark the characters as players participating in a modern spectacularization of post-plantation "blackness.” Even Don Gifford and Robert J. Seidman reproduce Joyce’s conflation of the performer with the performed in their seminal 1988 Ulysses encyclopedia: in their detailed annotations for “Circe,” Gifford and Seidman uncritically uphold Joyce’s sly name change by crediting the Bohees as "Tom and Sam Bohee” in their brief encyclopedia entry on the minstrel performers (Gifford and Seidman, Ulysses Annotated, 458). Joyce explicitly frames the theatrical fifteenth episode through the vernacular of the American minstrel stage, making apparent his own understanding of and attention to the modernizing aesthetic possibilities of ironic renditions of American racism. The minstrel scene that introduces "Circe” is novel because it is delightfully American, and it is American because it is delightfully black.

The American Negro in the British Isles

Joyce was far from the only or the first figure from the British Isles to leverage folksy, attenuated representations of blackness to represent the United States, performing modernness by engaging with and parodying American cultural forms. Throughout the nineteenth century, blackface minstrelsy was often packaged as an "authentic” representation not just of black culture, but of Americanness more broadly. In the 1840s, promotional materials for the Virginia Minstrels, one of the first American blackface minstrel troupes to tour abroad, often noted that the songs performed were otherwise "only done by the real n—s of the old Dominion.”[19] When they toured in London in the 1880s, the real James and George Bohee referred to the banjo as an instrument authentically evocative of the "South of the United States,” as the banjo is "even more to the humble ‘darky’ than the pipe is to the British working man.”[20] The banjo was marketed as a Sambo novelty. The banjo signaled "darky” culture, giving Britons a navigable fetish object through which to access blackness. Critically, the instrument also stood in for American culture more generally, conceptualizing "Americanness” through "blackness.” As banjo music rose in popularity in the United Kingdom and Ireland in the 1880s, European instrument sellers bragged that even the wood used to construct the banjo was "imported from the States” and white banjo teachers in the West End marketed themselves as "genuine ‘American Banjoists’” born in the "land of the ‘stars and stripes’” (fig. 2).[21] In this sense, the banjo, a "n— instrument,” became a marker of American, rather than simply "darky,” identity ("The Banjo”).

Illustrated black and white advertisement with portrait image of man
Fig. 2. Advertisement featuring the services of “American Banjoist” J. E. Brewster that appeared in the London-based newspaper The Orchestra Musical Review on January 30, 1886. Illustration published with permission of ProQuest. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission.

European music critics at the turn of the twentieth century recognized "Negro music” as an intrinsically American source text that could be borrowed from globally to produce modern music. Some critics argued that black music had the potential to shape a nascent, purely American, popular culture. As the Czech composer Antonin Dvorǎk asserted after developing the 1893 composition "New World Symphony,” which borrowed extensively from the African-American spirituals he heard while traveling through North America:

I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies. These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition, to be developed in the United States. These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them.[22]

Dvorǎk argued that American composers must "turn” to black music for the "future” of American music, as black music is uniquely originary and therefore uniquely representative of American—rather than simply black—culture. The primal, earthy indigeneity of "Negro melodies” (as a "product of the soil”), for Dvorǎk, gives these songs the autochthonous authenticity necessary to ground a new musical tradition. Later, composers of the 1910s, like the Australian pianist Percy Grainger, similarly noted the "pronounced influence that negro music has made upon the composers of all the English-speaking races.”[23] Grainger, like Dvorǎk, anticipates the influence of "negro music” on American culture, and on transnational musical traditions across the Anglophone world.

Though Dvorǎk’s comments provoked some controversy when they circulated in American newspapers in the early 1890s, some American musicologists of the late 1890s and early 1900s optimistically wielded black American culture as a blueprint for modern American creative production, nationalizing "blackness” as an American commodity and creative export. As the American composer Albert Mildenberg noted in a 1915 article reflecting on Dvorǎk’s career, Dvorǎk "recognized that music is entitled to be called characteristic of a people which gives the greatest pleasure to the largest fraction of a people.”[24] Mildenberg’s choice to use the word "entitled” seems operable here. National culture, for Mildenberg, depends not on creation, but on exhaustive consumption. Like its manifest destiny, a casualty of the United States’ inevitable and relentless expansion, Negro music becomes representative of the American people because it is enjoyed by the "largest fraction” of American people (Mildenberg, "South Will Inspire,” 4). In this sense, Mildenberg founds national character on the enjoyment and appropriation of popular (black) cultural forms. By co-opting African-American culture, Mildenberg contends, the United States can "declare her artistic independence of the Old World,” fashioning a new collective artistic identity founded on consuming and reproducing black folk culture (4).

Through its appropriation by white musicians within and outside of the United States, American Negro music came to belong to and represent the entire nation. Mildenberg states it simply: "To my mind these melodies are not negro melodies in the essence” (4). Instead, he refers to the "old plantation melodies” as "Southern,” unique not to their black creators, but to the geography of the South (4). "The South,” Mildenberg argues, not the Negro specifically, "will provide that basis upon which the national music of America will rest” (4). Negro spirituals popularized on plantations and in the post-plantation South, then, are abstracted as the music of "the South,” which, in turn, is abstracted as the representative music of the United States more broadly. Through this process of progressive abstraction, black folk culture came to represent the nation as a whole.

Blackface minstrelsy variously served as a marker of black American folk culture, of American Southern culture, and of American culture in toto, through the logics of abstraction, approximation, and appropriation. And yet, British incarnations of the blackface minstrel archetype became in some ways self-reflexive because they were mined and revised to accommodate British tastes, revealing more about British sensibilities than black or American realities. Popular representations of blackness on the British minstrel stage, then, were as intricate as a funhouse mirror: a Christy’s Minstrels production in London bowed to the expectations of British audiences while borrowing from American theatrical conventions, which in turn borrowed from public imaginings of black folk traditions, which in turn borrowed from actual (if invisibilized and ventriloquized) black creators.

I use the term "lynching modernism” to delineate the ways both British and Irish critics and creators wielded "Americanness” as a productive cultural fiction that informed their own modes of modern creative production. Blackness, as an aesthetic category, gets juggled carefully to become representative of, useful to, and used both by non-blacks within the United States and by non-Americans outside of it. Blackface minstrel performers who filtered through the Irish press, skirted along the Irish public consciousness, and flitted across the Irish stage—figures like the Christy’s Minstrels, the Bohee Brothers, and Eugene Stratton—did so in the wake of both American and British cultural influence. Through these imagined reproductions of American culture, entertainers from the British Isles produce an Americanized, but recognizably European, aesthetic. These bastardized understandings of blackness, then, become a way for European writers to produce, and transform, European culture.

“only a black mans Id like to try”

Bloom’s dancing Sambos perform multiple racial and ethnic identities at once, a cooperative racial stage identity that Eric Lott terms the "cultural intercourse” of minstrelsy.”[25] In that sense, the Sambos serve as one testing site for exploring the novel’s broader experimentations with cultural heterogeneity as a defining feature of modernity. Ulysses at several points self-consciously Africanizes in turn both Jewish and Irish identity (Lott, Love & Theft, 56). Bloom, whose father is a Hungarian Jew, is himself conditionally encoded as a "coon” or "kaffir” by his non-Jewish acquaintances (Joyce, Ulysses, 88, 275). Irishness, like Jewishness, was often conceptually othered in the Anglo-American imagination, "black” and "simian.”[26] The Irish minstrel character (a brawling, brogue-heavy drunkard with a hair trigger temper) was, like the Negro minstrel character, performed in burnt-cork blackface on the American stage throughout the early 1800s.[27] In Ulysses, even the Citizen, an irascible nationalist barfly who appears in "Cyclops,” manages to sympathize with African subjects of colonial rule despite his violent nationalism, his racism and anti-Semitism, and his vigorous preoccupation with the preservation of Irish "authenticity.” When he and his drinking buddies discuss the horrors of colonial occupation in the Congo Free State, the Citizen proudly notes Roger Casement, the man who compiled the 1904 report that exposed Belgium’s extensive human rights abuses, was from Ireland:

—Well, says J.J., if they’re any worse than those Belgians in the Congo Free State they must be bad. Did you read that report by a man what’s this his name is?
—Casement, says the citizen. He’s an Irishman. (Joyce, Ulysses, 274)

Later in the text, Bloom echoes the Citizen’s conditional identification with black colonial subjects by juxtaposing the British-Zulu war with the Boer War in order to establish the Boers, the Irish, and the Zulus as comparable colonial subjects. Like Bloom’s imagined minstrel performers, other characters in Ulysses dramatize the various cooperative and contradictory racial categories at times available to anyone "within (or sometimes without) the community” (Cheng, Amnesia, 62).[28]

In several small but generative scenes in Ulysses, characters use blackface minstrelsy and other artifacts of racial otherness to triangulate a relationship between intra- and extranational identity, situating Ireland within a global network. By importing these conceptualizations of "America,” Joyce’s characters use blackface minstrelsy as one apparatus for positioning themselves within the world. Joyce’s characters perform their modern sense of global embeddeness, in part, by engaging "Americanness” as an aesthetic category. Joyce’s characters establish themselves as cosmopolitan by positioning themselves in gnomonic relation to extranational displays of American racial iconography. Though contemporary critics sometimes observed that the particularities of minstrel humor do not translate well beyond the United Kingdom and the United States, as "the negro minstrel is practically known and loved only in those parts of the world where the English language is spoken,” in Ulysses, the blackness of the blackface minstrel is used to racially link the blackface minstrel not just to Irish or Jewish identity but also to other worldwide national and ethnic positionalities.[29] “Wandering Rocks,” the novel’s tenth episode, gives a sweeping demographic record of the novel’s personae dramatis, bouncing from character to character in order to chart the cartography of downtown Dublin. As if to underscore that intersubjectivity, one character—Father Conmee—passes by an advertisement for Eugene Stratton’s blackface minstrel show at the Queen’s Theatre (Joyce, Ulysses, 76).[30] The poster of Eugene Stratton "grimace[s] with thick n—lips at Father Conmee” as Father Conmee rides on a passing tram (Joyce, Ulysses, 183). The advertisement forces Father Conmee to think about his position in the world at large. After seeing the minstrel player’s greasepaint-blackened scowl, Father Conmee’s mind flits to the "souls of black and brown and yellow men,” resolving to redouble his efforts to baptize the "millions of black and brown and yellow souls that had not received the baptism of water.” In short, encountering the blackface minstrel show is what reignites his colonialist impulse to undertake mission work. Blackface minstrelsy becomes a strategy for Father Conmee, like Joyce, to access the globe, and to place himself (with self-reflexive irony) at the center of it. As noted in one 1905 advertisement in the London Tatler for a season of minstrel shows and other vaudeville performance: "It is wonderful how all the world contributes to the entertaining of London” (fig. 3).[31]

Photos and text advertisement
Fig. 3. A review of theatrical performances running in London in 1905, featuring the subsection “Niggers for our Entertainment.” The dancer prominently featured in the advertisement is not credited, but it could be Ida Forsyne. Source: Illustrated London News Group, image created courtesy of The British Library Board.

Stratton’s "n—lips,” like the imagined Bohees’ “n— lips,” allow even white participants to traffic in "Negro” characteristics (Joyce, Ulysses, 362). After masturbating on the beach in "Nausicaa,” Bloom thinks through previous encounters with sex workers in Dublin, like "that highclass whore in Jammet’s” who "wore her veil only to her nose,” centering her erotic value on the erogenous geography of her lower face (304). His mind flits to a group of children playing on the beach, including a "dark” child with a puckered "n— mouth, "pursed for blowing”: "I knew she could whistle. Mouth made for that. Like Molly” (304). The child’s puckered "n— mouth,” pursed for blowing, calls to Bloom’s mind associations with both an upscale sex worker and his wife. Even wearing a hat made of "n— straw” becomes for Joyce a telltale marker of prostitution, like that "frowsy whore with [a] black straw sailor hat” that Bloom encounters on the quay (287).[32] Minstrel shows and their byproducts—marquees, posters, and the like—allow for a wider variety of players to perform the (erotic) role of the Sambo.

Bloom’s engages with blackface minstrelsy to enable a broad body of non-black performers to participate in and capitalize on the erotic potential of blackness. In the novel, Bloom’s imagined minstrel show appears after a playful argument with a former lover. After running into him in Nighttown, Josie Breen threatens to tell his wife Molly all about his excursion in Dublin’s red light district Nighttown. To defend himself, Bloom points out that Molly herself has "often said she’d like to visit” the district, "[s]lumming. The exotic, you see. Negro servants in livery too if she had money. Othello black brute. Eugene Stratton. Bohee brothers. Even the bones and cornerman at the Livermore christies. Sweep for that matter” (362). As Molly herself notes in the final episode of Ulysses, revealing a fetishistic investment in the sexual power of dark genitalia, "only a black mans Id like to try” (618). At first glance, Bloom appears to frame erotic desire as the province of the "exotic” black brute, thereby excluding himself from that erotic desire. But in fact, his account of Molly’s desired sexual partners vastly expands the category of "the black,” exoticizing and eroticizing even the blackened figure of the soot-colored chimney sweep. Bloom’s approximated "exotic” nestles the Bohee brothers among other figures with less stable racial identities: Shakespeare’s Othello, frequently performed by a white actor in blackface; Eugene Stratton, a white blackface minstrel performer from New York; Mr. Bones, the castanet player and "end man” character popularized by Christy’s Minstrels; and an unraced chimney sweep. Through Bloom’s (extravagant, sexually charged, and frequently paranoid) imagination, Joyce configures American minstrel performers, Negro servants, and tragic moors as equally "exotic.” By opening up this racial category to white, blackface, and unraced performers, Bloom defangs Molly’s "exotic” desire by allowing a larger range of figures to occupy that exotic identity. The minstrel show re-performs the anxieties surrounding black virility and white impotence that contributed to the meteoric popularity of racial burlesques in Great Britain in the nineteenth century (Lott, Love & Theft, 52).

In Ulysses, racial costuming produces a performative "blackness” available for wide circulation, democratizing the erotic other. Ulysses leverages the body of the blackface minstrel in order to rehearse and resolve Bloom’s masochistic fears about sexual undesirability and racial alienation. The blackface minstrel routine that opens "Circe” usefully expands the identificatory possibilities available to Bloom through an erotic, portable blackness. If Bloom were black—or "kaffir,” as the Citizen suggests in "Cyclops”—then Bloom might safely assume the position of Molly’s Negro sexual object. Through his references to minstrelsy in popular culture, Joyce calls attention to the performativity of race, robbing racial markers of their fixity. The figure of the blackface minstrel offers Bloom nonbinding access to erotic blackness. In other words, black costuming renders racial identity detachable and exchangeable,. This allows Bloom to participate in black eroticism, while simultaneously maintaining an underlying "white” identity.

The blackface performer resists the fixedness of epidermal inscription through racial costuming. In the United States, both Irish and Jewish blackface performers leveraged blackface to distance themselves from an ethnically blackened racial identity. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, two rivaling epistemes of racialism operated in Ireland concurrently: one which depended upon an "epidermal logic of whiteness,” and one which rejected that epidermal logic in favor of one that more fluidly used racial hierarchy to rationalize the formation of the British Empire.[33] The English racialized the Irish to submerge anxieties about the ethics of white ("in-group”) colonization.[34] As previously mentioned, the Irish were frequently represented in British popular culture as a "dark” racial other with apeish, "primitive” features. However, by performing in blackface, Irish (and Irish-American) performers were able to mark Irish identity as "white” by reaffirming the epidermal logic of racism, one dependent solely upon an inflexible color binary.

If the only available racial identities are "black” and "white,” and if blackface makeup exposes a distinction between the black of the burnt cork and the lighter skin that that cork conceals, then blackface minstrelsy underscores its performer’s whiteness. This use of costuming to distance a performer from a performed identity might explain why scholars have frequently read Bloom’s Bohees as "two white men imitating black men imitating white men imitating blacks,” two white Negroes in blackface, despite Joyce’s characters being based on two African-American performers: for these scholars, the minstrel performers’ “black masks” intuitively serves to accentuate the white faces hidden underneath.[35] David Kurnick has previously argued that, throughout "Circe,” Joyce enunciates Bloom’s gender identity by trying and contesting its alternatives, as "[t]he self-evidence of Joyce’s masculine identity is being adduced precisely because it has been challenged” (Empty Houses, 262). Similarly, by introducing his own minstrel figures—named Tambo Hee and Sambo Hee—Joyce draws attention to Bloom’s own contested blackness, thereby whitening Bloom’s racial identity. At the same time, through his minstrel performers, Bloom demonstrates that even whitened subjects can fully participate in the erotic blackness of the brutish, soot-stained, blackfaced Othello minstrel: Bloom’s minstrel show suggests possibilities for performing a variety of racial and ethnic identifications at one’s (erotic) will.

If, as Joyce once argued, the Irish was the "rabblement of the most belated race in Europe,” then Ulysses represents the charge of the modern, in part, through the American black body.[36] Bloom’s minstrels rip off their own faces happily, cackling and unfeeling. The minstrel body, hilarious and invulnerable, capable of injuring itself without losing its shape, is a useful repository for residual racializing processes. The violence of the minstrel stage prefigures other, more literal, violences against the raced body: through the aesthetic violence of black subjugation, white others can reinforce their own national and global belonging through their identification with and distinction from the violated black thing. The figure of the darky minstrel allows Joyce to codify Irish identity through the outré novelty of its performed opposite, manufacturing a unifying definition of Irishness as spectacular, freakish, marginalized, and not black. Joyce’s rendition of the American Sambo helps to signal the advent of a new world, one where traditions can be remodeled or unmade, parodied and depleted, exploited or overruled.

The Aesthetics of Violation

In Ulysses, as in other texts like Dubliners and Finnegans Wake, Joyce adopts the figure of the Sambo to approximate American culture, filtering his imagining of American culture in part through representations of the violated black body. This Sambo represents the theatrical brutalization of the black body both on stage (through minstrelsy) and in the gallows (through lynching). By naming both the minstrel figure and the lynching victim "Sambo,” Joyce establishes a parallel between racial violence and racial performance in order to explore both as twinned avenues for racial self- and re-making through dialogue with and revision upon British representations of American popular culture. Joyce uses approximations of American culture as one strategy for manifesting Irish modernity by situating the Irish within a global network, allowing his characters to engage with and disengage from a variety of heterogenous social categories simultaneously. This self-consciously Americanized lynching modernist aesthetic offers Joyce one technology for making sense of and transforming conventional constructions of racial performance in Ireland. Just as blackface operates to produce or reaffirm its performer’s underlying whiteness, representations of Sambo violence that filtered to Dublin through the British press, too, are instrumentalized as modes of self-positioning as modern, civilized, and white. The racial play of the masquerade reaches its climax through performances of literal, rather than metaphorical, violence. The minstrel body’s folksy, jerking twangs easily morph into the grotesque spasms of a public hanging.

Joyce globalizes the figure of the lynch victim, the Sambo, to configure an imagining of American culture through which to test and re-work Bloom’s relationship to his own racial, national, and global identity. Joyce’s Irish nationals enter the globe, in part, by commentating on and interfacing with American (and British) racial politics. Before the Sambo appears in the novel’s fifteenth episode to shuck and jive, creating new pathways for sexual exploration and self-classification, the Sambo first emerges in "Cyclops,” Ulysses’s twelfth episode. Here, as elsewhere, Sambos are used to establish the novel’s characters as modern subjects through their identifications with and distinction from the garish spectacle of the black body. In "Cyclops,” while a group of Irish nationalists sit in a bar, talking politics and revolution, one of the men interrupts their discussion of the rise and fall of Irish international trade in order to read an article about an American lynching aloud, describing the picture of the scene included with the article in graphic detail: "Black Beast Burned in Omaha, Ga. A lot of Deadwood Dicks in slouch hats and they firing at a sambo strung up in a tree with his tongue out and a bonfire under him. Gob, they ought to drown him in the sea after and electrocute and crucify him to make sure of their job” (Joyce, Ulysses, 269). The Irish nationalist, Alf, does not simply report the lynching of the Sambo but offers sarcastic strategies for prolonging the execution. Alf criticizes the anti-black social apparatus that makes such excessive racial violences possible—but, at the same time, stops short of calling the victim anything but a "beast.” Alf recounts the lynching of this fictional "black beast,” based on the real-world lynching of Will Brown during the Omaha race riot of 1919, using electrocutions and crucifixions to fashion a caustic joke out of the execution’s vulgar excesses, simultaneously criminalizing and sacralizing the lynched corpse. Joyce’s characters insinuate themselves within a global discursive network by commentating on the spectacle of American mob violence.

That the Irish nationalist’s interjection about a Georgia lynching immediately follows the group’s assertion that their "eyes are on Europe” to advance themselves as the center of world trade is not incidental. As this scene demonstrates, the Irish nationalists use their critiques of American racial politics as one strategy for re-centering themselves as citizens of the world. The nationalists fantasize about Ireland’s re-emergence as a world power and then exercise that fantasy by playacting Ireland’s anticipated role as a global leader, courting global relevance by commentating on American politics. The nationalists’ dueling (dis)identifications with and against the lynched Sambo, then, helps the barflies imagine re-positioning Ireland as the center of the globe. As the Citizen later argues, "We had our trade with Spain and the French and with the Flemings before those mongrels were pupped” and "with the help of the holy mother of God we will again. . . . Our harbours that are empty will be full again.” The group of Irish nationalists give shape to that "full” and prosperous "future” by interlocuting with American lynchers, laying claim to Ireland’s creative and political future by responding to and rejecting American racial iconography. To fly "our own flag” over the Dublin Bay, the nationalists assert themselves as "citizens” of the world by speaking to, for, and against the Deadwood Dicks burning the Sambo alive.

The Citizen, Alf, and the other barflies, hunched together over a British newspaper article about American racial violence as they debate the parameters for Irish national belonging, are emblematic of the complicated networks of group identification through and against blackness thematized at several points in Joyce’s novel. In Ulysses, Irish characters use their ironized repetitions of and engagements with American culture and American racism as one strategy for hybridized collective identity formation. It is worth noting, too, that these Irish characters’ constructions of American racism are largely filtered through British sources. As Timothy Weiss has previously noted, the fictional article about the hanging of the "black beast” was likely based on a real article published in the London Times in 1919, reporting the violent lynching of a black man who had been stripped naked, severely beaten, hanged, shot repeatedly, and burned.[37] That article, like Joyce’s fictional one, incorrectly names the location of Will Brown’s murder as Omaha, Georgia, rather than Omaha, Nebraska. That Joyce’s imagined American lynching borrows its founding details from a British source seems significant here. The novel’s critiques of American racism simultaneously set the Irish national apart from the targets of his critique, reinforce his position within a broader global network, and endorse the dissemination of (mis)information through the British press. In that sense, Joyce engages with British representations of American racial violence to perform his own identity as global and modern.

As American sociologist James Elbert Cutler wrote in his 1905 ethnography of lynching in the United States, "It has been said that our country’s national crime is lynching,” defining "our” nation through its uniquely identifiable violences.[38] Lynching, Cutler argues, is a "criminal practice which is peculiar to the United States” (Lynch Law, 1). Because it is recognized as "peculiarly” American, lynching, like blackface minstrelsy, becomes foundational to global imaginings of American modernity. What appeal do these "American” displays of total abjection have for global spectators? Jean-Paul Sartre’s La Putain respectueuse borrows its plot from the real-world account of nine young black teens, the Scottsboro Boys, who were accused of rape, nearly lynched, and ultimately ravaged by the United States criminal justice system. In Franz Kafka’s unfinished novel Amerika, an immigrant teen decides to change his name to "Negro” just before he moves to Oklahoma to work in a theater, perhaps to signal his sense of his own servitude. Like Houston Baker, who argues that the blues produces the "expressive site where American experience is named,” I argue that that American experience is articulated through its violent racial encounters.[39] Modernist writers index American culture to process their own engagements with racial difference, using American racial violence to structure their conceptualizations of modern identity through collective violence. Benjamin S. West has previously argued for the significant relationship between modernist aesthetics and crowd violence by positioning mob violence as a mode of collective identity formation that dramatizes the "struggle between individuals and collective forces.”[40] As with his references to blackface minstrelsy, Joyce’s depictions of lynched Sambos in Ulysses enables Joyce, and other non-American writers, to more saliently examine issues of racially-driven conflicts within multiracial societies as a hallmark of modernity. Joyce lays claim to the modern by way of counter-definition with American race and racial violence.

Of course, lynching, like blackface and minstrelsy, was not invented in the United States. American lynching traditions’ cultural and legal antecedents were imported across the Atlantic by migrants from the British Isles starting in the seventeenth century.[41] In fact, one pervading myth sources the term "lynching” itself to fifteenth century Ireland, when James Lynch Fitz-Stephen, then the mayor of Galway, supposedly executed his own son for committing murder.[42] England’s own appetite for public spectacle executions persisted into the 1900s. For example, during a series of race riots in Liverpool in June 1919, an angry white crowd chased Charles Wootton, a young ship artilleryman from Bermuda, all the way from Liverpool’s black neighborhood (called "Negroland”) to the docks, threw him into the water, stoned him, and watched him drown (fig. 4). "I am directed by my Society to draw your attention to the lynching of men of colour in London, Liverpool, Cardiff and elsewhere in Great Britain,” one concerned civil leader wrote in a letter to the colonial secretary of state after Wootton’s murder, requesting that the Colonial Office offer meaningful protection to British subjects of color.[43] Lynching was a familiar phenomenon in the British Isles, even if the practice was not as epidemically popular as it was in the United States.

Newspaper page
Fig. 4a. A newspaper article on the lynching of Charles Wootton published in the Bradford Daily Telegraph, June 6, 1919. Source: Powell and Pressburger.
Portrait photo of black man in black and white
Fig. 4b. A photograph of artilleryman Charles Wootton wearing his Royal Navy uniform. Source: Paddy Docherty.

Despite Britain’s own history with lynching, the British press in the early twentieth century fantasized racialized mob violence as a particularly American pastime, with one British article describing lynching as the "most peculiar of American institutions.”[44] Some reports even explicitly chart the differences between European and American geographies that make such violences possible only in the United States.[45] To be American is to be—or to encounter—the raced subject. Extrajudicial violence is uniquely "American,” then, based on the peculiar limitations of American infrastructure and through the United States’ unreproducible encounters between white subjects and racial others. British endeavored to shape British identity through its distinction from Americanness and blackness. In addition, some British sources framed American racial violence as fundamentally different from Britain’s own racialist colonial history. As a 1920 article in the London Saturday Review notes, "unctuous” reports of lynchings in the American South "perhaps unwittingly, gave good reason why England should hold on to the British West Indies, whether she can afford to do so or not.”[46] Reports of American lynching violence marked British imperialism as distinct from American racism, defining racial aggression as a uniquely American cultural artifact. Several British reports on lynching from the early twentieth century emphasized the "barbarism” of American mob violence, which seemed impossible in any "civilised community” outside of the United States: "These scenes do, as a matter of fact, represent an amount of barbarism in the great Western Republic not to be paralleled out of—well, out of America” ("A Disgrace to Civilization,” 8). In that sense, modern subjects become modern through their identification with and distinction from the brutalized racial other, leveraging comparison itself as a modernizing process.

Using British sources, Joyce paints a quick and grim picture of American life: guns, cowboy hats, bonfires, and black corpses. Through its demonic circuitry, the electric fervor of racial violence, the lynched body performs the "medium aesthetic” that Mark Goble has identified as the signature aesthetic of the modern, "treating black bodies as mere machines.”[47] This is public cruelty for the modern age. Joyce courts a lynching modernist aesthetic that, on one hand, civilizes and safely whitens its spectators by unifying them in contradistinction to the subjugated, racialized, soot-black corpse. At the same time, these spectators stage their own modern self-definition by staging their relation to the United States—or, rather, by performing their relation to the American cultural imaginary in the world stage. There is something more to be said about this ghoulish scene of modern life, so potent with meaning that it has transversed national borders in order to become a global signifier for the price of and exception to American progress. "Progress” is defined in the stark relief of pre-modern cruelty. The collectives that form around these discarded corpses, the nations that form through these burned bodies, are representative of processes for modern identity formation. Even in America, the black body is not as disposable as it seems.


This research developed with thanks to Dr. Cheryl A. Wall (1948–2020) and Dr. Rebecca A. Walkowitz.

[1] James Joyce, Ulysses (New York: Vintage Books, 1986), 269.

[2] James Joyce to Giorgio Joyce, June 17, 1935, in Letters of James Joyce, ed. Stuart Gilbert (New York: The Viking Press, 1957), 370. The Italian text is translated in this collection.

[3] Eugene Stratton, referenced frequently throughout Ulysses, performed at the Theatre Royal in Dublin in 1904. In a minstrel show, a "stump speech” is a comedic monologue that commonly parodied black American vernacular English. On American evangelical preaching styles, see Peter Gulliver’s "Billy Sunday: A New Source for ‘Oxen of the Sun,’” in James Joyce Quarterly, 44, no. 1 (2006): 133–35; and Geert Lernout’s Help My Unbelief: James Joyce & Religion (London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010), 172–76. I note that "bully” is "American” slang based on an article published in The Tatler, December 20, 1905. On American renditions of English songs, see Don Gifford and Robert J. Seidman, Ulysses Annotated: Notes for James Joyces Ulysses (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 113.

[4] In a 1917 letter to Joyce, Ezra Pound writes that "the n—s in my country say certain things are ‘good for sore eyes,’” trafficking in an Old Dominion representation of black American vernacular (Ezra Pound to James Joyce, March 13, 1917, in Pound/Joyce; The Letters of Ezra Pound to James Joyce: With Pounds Essays on Joyce, ed. Forrest Read [New York: New Directions Publishing, 1967], 95).

[5] James Joyce to Frank Budgen, March 13, 1920, in Letters of James Joyce, 138.

[6] Michael North, The Dialect of Modernism: Race, Language, and Twentieth-Century Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 8. As the radical magazinist V. F. Calverton wrote in the 1920s, "In respect of originality . . . the Negro is more important in the growth of an American culture than the white man” (quoted in North, Dialect, 135).

[7] Joseph Valente, "James Joyce and the Cosmopolitan Sublime,” in Joyce and the Subject of History, ed. Mark Wollaeger, Victor Luftig, and Robert Spoo (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996), 59–82, 61.

[8] See Richard Ned Lebow, "White Britain and Black Ireland: The Anglo-Irish Colonial Relationship” (PhD diss., City University of New York, 1968), 10–11, 21–22.

[9] Vincent Cheng, Amnesia and the Nation: History, Forgetting, and James Joyce  (Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2018), 64.

[10] Jacqueline Goldsby, A Spectacular Secret: Lynching in American Life and Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 21–22; Amy Louise Wood, Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890–1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 3.

[11] Genevieve Abranavel, Americanizing Britain: The Rise of Modernism in the Age of the Entertainment Empire (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2012), 25.

[12] Mary Russo, The Female Grotesque: Risk, Excess and Modernity (New York: Routledge, 2012), 6, 9. Here, I am playing on the phrase "hidden cultural contents” from Peter Stallybrass and Allon White: "the grotesque returns as the repressed of the political unconscious, as those hidden cultural contents which by their abjection had consolidated the cultural identity of the bourgeoisie” (Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression [Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986], 8–9).

[13] James Joyce, Ulysses (New York: Vintage Books, 1986), 269, 301.

[14] In their 1976 account Modernism: A Guide to European Literature 1890–1930, Malcolm Bradbury and James McFarlane identify "shock” as one of the principal elements of modernist style. See Modernism: A Guide to European Literature 1890–1930, ed. Malcolm Bradbury and James MacFarlane (New York: Penguin Books, 1991).

[15] See Marguerite Harkness, “‘Circe’: The Mousetrap of ‘Ulysses,’” James Joyce Quarterly 12, no. 3 (1975): 259–72; Michael Bruce McDonald, ‘“Circe” and the Uncanny, or Joyce from Freud to Marx’ in James Joyce Quarterly 33, no. 1 (1995): 49–68; Catherine Flynn, “‘Circe’ and Surrealism: Joyce and the Avant-Garde,” Journal of Modern Literature 34, no. 2 (2011), 12–38; and David Kurnick, Empty Houses: Theatrical Failure and the Novel (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), 153–91.

[16] Critics have previously noted the influence of early twentieth century popular culture on the advent of modernism, and, more specifically, have located in Joyce’s novel the influence of pantomime and Irish revivalist theatrical traditions. See L. H. Platt, "Ulysses 15 and the Irish Literary Theatre,” in Reading Joyces Circe, ed. Andrew Gibson (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994), 33–62, 42, 49, 34.

[17] Sarah Cole, At the Violet Hour: Modernism and Violence in England and Ireland (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 42.

[18] Sarah Cole, At the Violet Hour: Modernism and Violence in England and Ireland (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 42.

[19] Quoted in Philip F. Gura and James F. Bollman, Americas Instrument: The Banjo in the Nineteenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 19. The Virginia Minstrels, often credited as one of the forerunners of the "minstrel craze,” began touring in Liverpool and other English cities in 1843 (see Gura and Bollman, Americas Instrument, 20).

[20] Errol G. Hill and James V. Hatch, A History of African American Theatre (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 102. It is worth noting that the Bohee brothers were, in fact, born in Massachusetts, not the American South.

[21] “The Banjo,” The Orchestra Musical Review (London), January 30, 1886, in British Periodicals, 524–25.

[22] Antonin Dvorǎk, "The Real Value of Negro Melodies,” The Daily Herald (New York), May 21, 1893, quoted in Erich Nunn, Sounding the Color Line: Music and Race in the Southern Imagination (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2015), 110.

[23] “Percy Grainger Impressed By Negro Music,” The Evening Post (New York), March 27, 1915, JWJ MSS 49, box 127, folder 1113, James Weldon Johnson Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT.

[24] Albert Mildenberg, "SOUTH WILL INSPIRE OUR MUSIC; Composers Here Must Follow the Example of Dvorǎk and Puccini, Says Professor Mildenberg,” The New York Times Magazine, August 15, 1915, 4.

[25] Eric Lott, Love & Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 56.

[26] Anna Engle, “Depictions of the Irish in Frank Webb's ‘The Garies and Their Friends’ and Frances E. W. Harper's ‘Trial and Triumph,’” MELUS 26, 1 (2001): 151; Cian T. McMahon, "Caricaturing Race and Nation in the Irish American Press, 1870–1880: A Transnational Perspective,” Journal of American Ethnic History 33, no. 2 (2014): 33, 38. See also Lebow, White Britain and Black Ireland for more about the "blackness” of Irishness in the British cultural imagination.

[27] Robert Nowatzki, "Paddy Jumps Jim Crow: Irish-Americans and Blackface Minstrelsy,” Éire-Ireland 41, no. 3 (2006): 162–84, 170.

[28] This apes both Renan and Joyce. From Bloom: "A nation is the same people living in the same place. . . . Or also in different places” (quoted in Cheng, Amnesia, 57).

[29] “Banjo and Bones,” Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art, June 7, 1884, 739.

[30] Queen’s Theatre is a well-trafficked node in the novel. During a funeral procession, Bloom’s carriage passes by the hoardings of Queen’s Theatre, and he interrupts his mourning to briefly consider buying tickets to see Eugene Stratton.

[31]A Diversity of Dancers—from America, Italy, Denmark,” The Tatler, December 20, 1905, 406.

[32] Gerty wears a "coquettish little love of a hat of wideleaved n— straw” (Joyce, Ulysses, 287). As Katherine Mullin notes, by the early twentieth century, straw hats had become a standard feature of the blackface minstrel costume (James Joyce, Sexuality, and Social Purity [Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003], 149). See also Joyce, Ulysses, 238.

[33] Amy E. Martin, "Victorian Ireland: Race and the Category of the Human,” Victorian Review 40, no. 1 (2014): 52–57, 52.

[34] Lewis Perry Curtis, Anglo-Saxons and Celts: A Study of Anti-Irish Prejudice in Victorian England (New York: New York University Press, 1969), 7, 24.

[35] Zack Bowen, "Joyce, Minstrels, and Mimes,” James Joyce Quarterly 39, no. 4 (2002): 813–19, 818. "Black masks” is quoted in Joyce, Ulysses, 362. See also Vincent Cheng, Joyce, Race, and Empire (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 174 for a similar reading of the blackface performers as essentially white, a "blackface parody of negritude” distinct from "real blacks.”

[36] James Joyce, quoted in Andrew Gibson, James Joyce (London: Reaktion Books, 2006), 45.

[37] Weiss, Timothy. "The ‘Black Beast’ Headline: The Key to an Allusion in Ulysses,” James Joyce Quarterly 19, no. 2 (1982): 183–84.

[38] James Elbert Cutler, Lynch-Law: An Investigation into the History of Lynching in the United States (New York: Longmans, Green, 1905), 1.

[39] Houston Baker, Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacular Theory, (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 64.

[40] Benjamin West, Crown Violence in Americanist Fiction: Lynchings, Riots and the Individual Under Assault (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013), 37, 3.

[41] Michael J. Pfeifer, The Roots of Rough Justice: Origins of American Lynching (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2011), 7.

[42] Manfred Berg, Popular Justice: A History of Lynching in America (Lanham, MD: Government Institutes, 2011), 3.

[43] F. E. M. Hercules to Colonial Office re: Lynchings, June 14, 1919, CO/323/814/15, Colonies, General: Original Correspondence, National Archives at Kew, Kew, UK, 122–29.

[44] “A Disgrace to Civilization,” Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art, January 4, 1890, 8.

[45] When describing a lynching victim who was kidnapped from his cell in a Fort Collins jail, one reporter explains that no American jails have "that sombre solidity about everything which so depresses a visitor to a British jail,” making it possible for a mob to break down an American jail’s doors with ease” (“Lynching in America,” Chamberss Journal of Popular Literature, Science and Arts, May 17, 1890, 317).

[46] A. M. Wakeman, "Lynching in America,” Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science, and Art, December 11, 1920, 480.

[47] Mark Goble, Beautiful Circuits: Modernism and the Mediated Life (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 14, 22.