Festschrift for Tadhg Foley
Noses and Monotheism Maud Ellmann 165
Noses and Monotheism Maud Ellmann Molly Bloom, musing on Blazes Boylan’s ‘big red brute of a thing’, wonders why ‘his nose is not so big’.1 Her association between these male protuber- ances has a venerable history: in ancient Rome, both women and men fol- lowed long-nosed men into the baths to observe Ovid’s precept, ‘noscitur e naso quanta sit hast viro’.2 This practice of judging ‘a cock by his comb’ has persisted to the present day. Yet if popular culture identifies the nose with phallic prowess, Freud identifies it with the feminine, the animal, and the primitive. James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, on the other hand, invest the nose with the power to disturb the boundaries between male and female, human and animal, evolution and degeneration. Beginning with a brief excursion into the nineteenth-century science of nasology, the present essay examines the repression of the nose in Freudian psychoanalysis, and concludes with an analysis of Joyce and Woolf ’s attempts to reinvigorate the denigrated ‘world of smell’.3 The cock is usually hidden, whereas the comb is usually exposed, and has therefore become a byword for the obvious – ‘as plain as the nose on your face’. The nose sticks out, but it is visible only to others, not to its owner. In this sense the nose epitomizes Lacan’s axiom that ‘the subject is a subject only by virtue of his subjection to the field of the Other’.4 Another mark of this subjection to the Other is the sense of shame, which...
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