Ulysses and the Signature of Things

04 Dec 2017

James Joyce’s depiction of autographic signatures resembles the “doctrine of signatures” — a pre-modern system of correspondence between medicinal plants and parts of the body. Certain aspects of this episteme reappear in the late nineteenth century. This recurrence is due, in large part, to developments in the technology of writing that threaten what Friedrich Kittler calls the “surrogate sensuality of handwriting.” Reading the “Nausicaa” episode of Ulysses against fin-de-siècle ideas about graphology, I argue that signature offers a unique perspective on Joyce’s taxonomic representation, which questions the boundaries between a body of text and (non)human bodies.