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The Hardest Problem

Martin Greene

Ulysses, by James Joyce, Vintage Classics, 672 pp, £10.99, ISBN: 978-0099511199
Sex and Character, by Otto Weininger, Forgotten Books, 356 pp, £12.85, ISBN: 978-1332464784
Otto Weininger: Sex, Science and Self in Imperial Vienna, by Chandak Sengoopta, University of Chicago Press, 256 pp, £34.50, ISBN: 978:0226748677

For most of the period 1904-16, except for an absence of less than a year in Rome in 1906-07, and again, briefly, in 1919-20, James Joyce lived in Trieste on the southern fringe of the Habsburg-ruled Austro-Hungarian Empire. This was a time of extraordinary cultural vigour in Austria-Hungary. Startlingly innovative work was under way across a broad range of the arts and sciences. The leading figures included Klimt and Kokoschka (art), Bartók, Kodály and Schoenberg (music), Musil (literature), Freud (psychology) and Wittgenstein (philosophy). The centre of this activity was Vienna, the Austrian (and imperial) capital, but Budapest, the second city of the empire, also played a part and the peripheral regions were involved to some extent. Fine studies of this phenomenon are available in Carl Schorske’s Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture (1981) and Péter Hanák’s The Garden and the Workshop: Essays on the Cultural History of Vienna and Budapest (1998).

Austria-Hungary’s cultural energy at this time, like the literary revival in post-Parnell Ireland, is sometimes seen as the consequence of a society turning away in discouragement from politics and instead investing its energies in cultural work – in Hanák’s phrase, an “escape [from political paralysis] into creativity”. In Austria-Hungary, the pessimism surrounding politics was due to the failure of the political system to respond effectively to threats facing it both externally and internally. Externally, the growth of Prussian power had ousted the Habsburgs from their traditional role as primus inter pares among the German states, culminating in their exclusion from the Prussian-dominated German empire established in 1871. Their position as the major power in their immediate neighbourhood was also threatened as the other great powers (Russia, Germany, France, Britain) were drawn into the region by instability – and the related opportunities – in the Balkans, arising from the weakness of the Ottoman empire.

Internally, tensions among the empire’s nationalities meant that all the national groups were, for one reason or another, either disaffected from the state or ambivalent in their attachment to it – the Slav, Romanian and Italian “minorities” (majorities in their own areas) because of their subordinate status in both the Austrian- and the Hungarian-ruled parts of the empire, Hungarians because they saw their nominal equality with Austria at the apex of the imperial government as masking de facto subordination and Austrians because of the lure of pan-Germanic sentiment. Religious tensions were also increasing due to an upsurge of antisemitism linked to the populist Viennese politician Karl Lueger and the emergence of the modern Zionist movement, also in Vienna, under the leadership of Theodor Herzl.

The consequences for “Kakania” (Austria-Hungary in a disguise that is no disguise at all) are parodied in Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities:

All citizens were equal before the law, but not everyone was a citizen. There was a Parliament, which asserted its freedom so forcefully that it was usually kept shut; there was also an Emergency Powers Act that enabled the government to get along without Parliament, but then, when everyone had happily settled for absolutism, the Crown decreed that it was time to go back to parliamentary rule. The ... nationalist movements ... brought [the machinery of government] to a dead stop several times a year, but in the intervals and during the deadlocks people got along perfectly well and acted as if nothing had happened.

As for national defence: “Ruinous sums of money were spent on the army, but only just enough to secure its position as the second-weakest among the great powers.”

“Going to be trouble there one day” was the newspaper editor Myles Crawford’s assessment of the situation – prompted by a story about an attempt by a Hungarian on the life of the emperor – in the Aeolus episode of Ulysses. These were prescient words when Crawford uttered them in 1904, but Joyce, writing and subsequently revising this passage in the period 1918-21, had the benefit of hindsight: the world war had by then ensured the destruction of both the Habsburg monarchy and the Austro-Hungarian state.

Joyce, looking to these developments for material for his own writing, turned, characteristically, not to the leading lights of Austro-Hungarian cultural life but to some of its peripheral figures. One such was Otto Weininger, the author of Sex and Character, who is now seen, if he is remembered at all, as the sort of social scientist who gave social science a bad name by propagating misogynistic and antisemitic views.

It has long been recognised that Joyce drew on the headline features of Weininger’s book, namely the concepts of “womanly man” and “absolute woman”, to support his characterisations of Bloom and Molly respectively. As will be seen below, a close comparison of the two texts confirms this and shows that he did so at a greater level of detail than is usually recognised. It shows, moreover, that he also drew on some of the more obscure aspects of Weininger’s book to support the paternity theme in Ulysses. The indications are that he saw Sex and Character as a source for his own writing, not as something to be either endorsed or rejected. But his use of the material has the effect of discrediting Weininger’s views by highlighting the absurdity of some of the arguments underpinning them.

Weininger was born in Vienna in 1880 into a partly assimilated Jewish family. His sister probably revealed more than she intended about the mental conflict associated with assimilation when she wrote of their father, Solomon (in some accounts Leopold), that “he was anti-Semitic although he thought like a Jew”. Although Solomon had built up a successful business as a goldsmith, the Weiningers were not an established family within the city’s middle class. Solomon had migrated to Vienna from a rural part of Hungary, where he had made his living as a merchant. Otto’s mother had originated in Moravia. Thus, Weininger’s perspective was that of the imperial centre but his background put him at something of an angle to both the mainstream and the Jewish components of Viennese society.

His view of Goethe and Leonardo da Vinci as “many-sided intellects” probably hints at the dreams he entertained for his own intellectual career. In Sex and Character, he pursues his enquiries where they take him without regard for disciplinary boundaries. The work is in two distinct parts. In the first he concludes, broadly in line with the views of contemporary biologists, that all human beings are biologically “intermediate” – neither fully male nor fully female but combining male and female “elements” in differing proportions. (He uses the terms “sexually intermediate” and “bisexual” interchangeably to refer to biological status, not sexual orientation). He also suggests that character traits are largely determined by the balance between male and female elements at individual level.

In the second part, he concentrates on the psychological aspects of his topic. But, disregarding the views of contemporary psychologists, whom he sees as being concerned solely with the external manifestations of psychological phenomena, he relies instead on “introspection” and works by philosophers (Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche) and creative writers (Goethe, Zola, Ibsen, Strindberg, Wagner) – he sees Wagner’s Parsifal, an opera, as “the greatest work in world literature”. He stresses that his concern is with ideal types – “man” and “woman” – as distinct from actual men and women. But the terms “woman”, “a woman” and “women” are sometimes used interchangeably and he relies, in part, on anecdotal accounts of the behaviour of actual men and women. Having argued in the first part that character traits are largely biologically determined, he now suggests that everyone is psychologically either male or female. But there’s no clarity as to how biological and psychological factors are supposed to interact to determine an individual’s character traits. There’s also a problem of unsupported assertions, as when he states without citing any evidence that Jewish men are “notably less potent sexually” than “Aryan men”.

On this basis, he concludes that “man” has a fully autonomous existence. He has highly developed powers of perception and the capacity to think conceptually and to make moral judgments. “Woman”, in contrast, is wholly dependent on her relationship with man and so is concerned solely with her sexuality. She has limited powers of perception and no capacity to think rationally or to make moral judgments. In a chapter-length aside, he asserts that Jewish men – Jewish women are not considered – are on a par with “Aryan women”. This is on the basis that “Jewishness”, which he considers to be a “state of mind”, not a “race” or “creed”, is “saturated with femininity”. Returning to his central theme, he argues that the mismatch between man and woman, combined with the increasing prevalence of “womanly men”, means that there can’t be satisfactory relationships between men and women. The resulting problems affect women more than men because men will inevitably treat them as a “means to an end”, not as autonomous human beings. Suggesting that the only adequate response to this situation is universal celibacy, he insists that there should be no “apprehension” on this account because the “rejection of sexuality is merely the death of the physical life, to put in its place the full development of the spiritual life”.

Sex and Character was based loosely on Weininger’s doctoral dissertation at the philosophy department of the University of Vienna; it was published in May 1903 by the prestigious publisher Wilhelm Braumüller. Shortly afterwards, Weininger rented an apartment in a building in Vienna once occupied by Beethoven – one of his heroes – and there, aged twenty-three, he took his own life. Modern readers will most likely see the work as a baffling combination of erudition, incoherence and prejudice. But prominent Austro-Hungarian contemporaries treated Weininger with cautious respect. Following his death, Freud described him as “a personality with a touch of genius”. Subsequently, he wrote – discreetly, in a footnote to Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old Boy (Little Hans), published in 1909 – that he was “highly gifted but sexually deranged”. Wittgenstein wrote that “it is true that he is fantastic but he is great and fantastic. It isn’t necessary or rather not possible to agree with him but the greatness lies in that with which we disagree.” Further afield, the Swedish dramatist August Strindberg described Sex and Character as an “awe-inspiring book” and wrote that Weininger had “probably solved the hardest of all problems” – “the problem of women”. David Abrahamsen’s early biography, The Mind and Death of a Genius (1946), tells the sad story of a young man whose sanity was unravelling as he worked obsessively to complete what he thought would be a work of historical importance.

Candak Sengoopta’s book is the essential source for the modern reader who wishes to grapple with Weininger’s perplexing work; it provides a considered critique of Sex and Character based on close attention to its scientific, philosophical and literary dimensions. Its conclusion is that although Weininger engaged seriously with his topic and had a deep knowledge of his sources, his work was undermined by failures of method and interpretation owing to his intense personal investment in his subject. The appraisal of Sex and Character underpinning this essay is based mainly on Sengoopta’s analysis.

In Sex and Character, Weininger associates “womanly men” with specific character traits. They are “usually extremely anxious to marry”. They marry at a young age if possible and it’s “especially gratifying” for them to marry glamorous women such as artists, poets, singers or actresses. In Ulysses, Bloom married a singer when he was twenty-one. He talks proudly to his associates about her singing career and shows a promotional photograph of her to Stephen. The sexual side of the marriage has ended (or almost so – the details are not clear) following the death of their young son, Rudy. But Bloom is committed to his marriage to the point of tolerating (or facilitating – again the details are not certain) Molly’s affair with Hugh “Blazes” Boylan.

Bloom also conforms to Weininger’s theory that womanly men will “understand” and “know how to treat women”, whereas manly men “learn how to deal with women only after long experience, and even then most imperfectly”. Bloom understands Molly’s situation and empathises with her even when her behaviour is hurtful to him. He also sympathises with the predicaments of other women including Mrs Purefoy, Mrs Breen, Mrs Dedalus and the Dedalus sisters. He visits the bereaved Mrs Dignam and arranges practical support for her. Even if his behaviour towards women is questionable in some cases (Gerty, Martha, his occasional dealings with prostitutes), the extent to which he takes an interest in women and seeks out their company marks him out as unusual in a society in which men usually congregate in all-male gatherings (the National Library, the newspaper offices, the pub, the cabman’s shelter, even the funeral) or settings in which women have dubious roles (the music lounge, the brothel).

Weininger also suggests that womanly men are “fastidious” about their personal appearance to the extent of taking a close interest in their hair, apparel, shoes and linen down to “the minutest details of their toilet”. In Ulysses, Bloom takes an unusually detailed interest in his clothing and he has a theory about how to prepare his shaving soap so as to obtain the best possible shave. He also conforms to Weininger’s suggestion that womanly men will demonstrate a “coquettish” gait – the street urchins mock him on this account and Bella, in the Circe episode, claims that he “showed off coquettishly” before a mirror while wearing women’s clothes.

Thus it’s no surprise that he’s referred to in Circe as a “womanly man” or that ill-disposed characters refer to him by such terms as “mixed middling” and “pishogue”. But there’s one respect in which Bloom doesn’t conform to Weininger’s account of womanly man: it can’t be said that he’s “lazier than other men”. Although his programme for the day is not particularly arduous, he is persistent in his work as an advertising agent.

In the case of Molly, although she’s never referred to explicitly as an “absolute woman”, Weininger’s ideas are equally evident. Her mental review of her afternoon assignation with Boylan – with her explicit and repetitive attention to the physical details – is consistent with Weininger’s view of woman as “wholly engrossed” in her sexuality. Her guilt-free anticipation of her next encounter with Boylan conforms to Weininger’s idea of woman as “amoral” – she cannot be categorised as either moral or immoral because she has no capacity to make moral judgments. Her cavalier disregard of her marriage vows recalls Weininger’s idea that for woman a commitment is made without any thought of honouring it – “absolute duplicity” is to be expected. The calculation she brings to her conduct of the affair is consistent with Weininger’s image of woman as having a great capacity for “scheming” in pursuit of her objectives. Finally, Molly’s monologue has much in common with Weininger’s depiction of “woman’s thought” as “undifferentiated” and involving “a sliding and gliding through subjects, a superficial tasting of things”, a “method of skimming” resulting in a “mass of like and unlike images ... mingling together”. However, Molly doesn’t exhibit all the womanly qualities identified by Weininger. Notably absent are the “passivity” and the “suggestibility” which are important parts of his scheme. Moreover, there are also aspects of Molly’s character which are contrary to Weininger’s view of woman, such as her self-confidence and her humour.

There are also echoes of Sex and Character in passages of Ulysses concerned with paternity and inherited characteristics. Weininger’s treatment of this topic drew on ideas debated by nineteenth century biologists that were losing support by the time he was writing. “Telegony theory” held that the characteristics of a woman’s offspring could be influenced by a wide range of her life experiences. One version of the theory held that if a woman had a significant relationship – not necessarily sexual – with one man and subsequently had a child by another man, the child’s characteristics could reflect the influence of the man with whom she had the earlier relationship. “Maternal impressions theory” had a more limited scope: it argued that specific experiences during pregnancy could have specific implications for a woman’s offspring – for example, a frightening experience involving fire could result in flame-shaped birthmarks. Joyce, for his part, drew mainly on traditional beliefs about unorthodox means of impregnation dating from ancient times but also, though less obviously, on the nineteenth century debates.

In Scylla and Charybdis, Stephen suggests: “Paternity may be a legal fiction.” This echoes Weininger’s assertion that “fatherhood” is an “illusion”. In Oxen of the Sun, Stephen questions the idea of paternity by rehearsing traditional ideas about unorthodox means of impregnation including “bigness wrought ... peradventure in [a woman’s] bath according to the opinions of Averroes and Moses Maimonides”. Weininger raises similar doubts via a different approach based on the nineteenth century theories. His argument is that a woman’s “suggestibility” is such that “all the influences that come to her she turns to the purpose of her being, to the shaping of her child, and the ‘actual’ father has to share his paternity with perhaps other men and many other things”, including “lovers”, “voices”, “words” and even “inanimate things”. Thus, “it is possible for the progeny to be influenced by a man, although physical relations between him and the mother have not taken place”.

In Circe, Bloom reflects: “Colours affect women’s characters, any they have.” The phrase “any they have” echoes Weininger’s overarching argument about woman’s supposed irrationality and amorality. But the reference to colours links it also to Weininger’s insistence that the biologists’ increasingly negative assessment of telegony theory should not be taken at face value because scientific opinion had also opposed Goethe’s theory of colours, but Goethe’s arguments had ultimately been shown to be “correct”. But Weininger’s arguments here are flawed in ways which lay bare the shortcomings of his method. First, the implied analogy between Goethe’s theory of colours and his own defence of telegony theory does not hold up. Goethe’s work on colours, although it didn’t engage with the views of contemporary scientists, was based on meticulous empirical investigation, whereas Weininger’s support for telegony theory was based solely on literary and philosophical sources. Second, he exaggerates the success of Goethe’s theory: in reality it posed problems for some aspects of the prevailing views but without supplanting them.

Third, as Sengoopta shows, Weininger’s use of his sources is faulty – the following assessment is based on (but also extends) Sengoopta’s treatment of this point. In Goethe’s Elective Affinities, one of Weininger’s key sources, Eduard and Charlotte have a superficially successful but loveless marriage. Each has an emotionally intense but sexually unconsummated extramarital relationship – he with Ottilie, she with “the Captain”. Charlotte is pregnant and Eduard is undoubtedly the father. But at the moment of conception Eduard’s thoughts were only of Ottilie and Charlotte was thinking only of the Captain. When Charlotte’s son is born, several of the characters believe that he bears a striking resemblance to both the Captain and Ottilie. Goethe’s text tempts the reader to believe that, within the logic of the novel, these resemblances actually do exist. But the possibility that they exist only in the characters’ minds is also preserved. Weininger, however, chooses to believe that they actually do exist. He also focuses on the Captain’s apparent influence on the child through Charlotte (consonant with telegony theory) but ignores Ottilie’s apparently identical influence through Eduard (contrary to telegony theory, which held that such influence could only be from man to woman).

In Ithaca, Bloom notes that his daughter Milly is “blond” even though she was “born of two dark” and speculates that her “remote” and “proximate” descent could have involved, respectively, a rape involving a Hungarian antecedent and Molly’s premarital relationship with Lieutenant Mulvey. But it seems from both the timelines of Ulysses and Molly’s thoughts about her relationship with Mulvey that Mulvey couldn’t be Milly’s father. Thus, Bloom’s ruminations, if they are based on anything more than his own runaway imagination, must depend on something like telegony theory. Weininger’s defence of the relevant aspect of telegony theory depends in part on a controversy in late nineteenth century debates about inherited characteristics. This arose when Darwin revisited an earlier discussion in the Royal Society in London concerning a report by Lord Marston about his attempt to cross-breed a quagga stallion (a zebra-like animal native to southern Africa) with an Arabian mare. The attempt was unsuccessful. Subsequently, the mare was bred with an Arabian stallion. The resulting progeny was said to have a combination of Arabian and quagga characteristics. Darwin – conveniently for Weininger’s argument – believed that his provisional findings left the door open to the claims of telegony theory.

Other echoes of Sex and Character in Ulysses include references to birth defects and feeblemindedness. As regards birth defects, Bloom describes his young son Rudy, who died soon after birth, as a “mistake of nature” with “a dwarf’s face, mauve and wrinkled” and “a dwarf’s body, weak as putty”. The midwife in attendance at the birth “knew from the first” that “he wouldn’t live” and Molly considered that there was no point “going into mourning for what was neither one thing nor the other”. This recalls Weininger’s view that the offspring of mismatched parents would be likely to suffer from birth defects and to die soon after birth. According to his “Laws of Sexual Attraction”, a “womanly man” such as Bloom would be compatible with a “manly woman", not an “absolute woman” such as Molly. As regards feeblemindedness, Dixon’s defence of Bloom in Circe includes the claim that, although he is “a womanly man”, he is “not weakminded in the medical sense”. In Sex and Character, Weininger objects to the views of the neurologist Paul Julius Mobius concerning the supposed “feeblemindedness” of women on the grounds that woman’s capacity for rational thought is non-existent, not just underdeveloped.

It is possible, of course, that Joyce’s apparent reliance on Sex and Character indicates that he had followed public debate of these issues, not that he drew directly on Weininger’s book. A scene in Yeats’s The King’s Threshold (1903) illustrates the wide currency at this time of ideas linked to the nineteenth century debates about inherited characteristics. The chief poet of Ireland is embroiled in a dispute with the High King about their respective roles in the affairs of state. As Csilla Bertha has noted (private communication, March 2018), Senias, a representative of the poets, draws on these debates as a source of metaphors to argue that the poets have traditionally “hung / Images of the life that was Eden / About the childbed of the world, that it, / Looking upon those images, might bear / Triumphant children”. He also warns about the consequences of any curtailment of the poets’ traditional role: “If the arts should perish / the world that lacked them would be like a woman / That looking on the cloven lips of a hare / Brings forth a hare-lipped child.”

A scene from Zeno’s Conscience (1923) by Joyce’s Triestine friend Italo Svevo illustrates the central part played by Weininger’s book in public debate of these issues. Zeno is annoyed when Guido, his competitor for the affections of Ada, makes a favourable impression on a social occasion by “speaking ill of women” in impressive terms. Later, his chagrin increases when he discovers that Guido had done so by passing off “the brilliant theories of the young suicide Weininger” as his own. Particularly galling is Guido’s mastery of one of the more obscure aspects of Weininger’s theories – the part played by woman’s supposedly poor memory in the chain of cause-and-effect linking her limited perceptual powers to her irrationality and amorality.

Notwithstanding the prevalence of such debates, however, it seems more likely, given the substantial alignment of Joyce’s characterisations with Weininger’s concepts and his use of some of the more obscure aspects of Sex and Character to support his paternity theme, that he also had first-hand knowledge of Weininger’s book.

The compositional history of Ulysses reveals no striking patterns insofar as Joyce’s characterisations are concerned – this is not surprising as the relevant passages account for a large proportion of the overall text and Joyce drew on many different sources when composing them. But the history of the paternity-related passages is more fruitful.

A set of Joyce’s drafting notes for Ulysses, now housed in the British Library, shows that Stephen’s reference to unorthodox means of impregnation can be linked to notes made by Joyce in Trieste in the first half of 1920. In the final text, Stephen’s point is expressed in esoteric terms: “bigness wrought ... peradventure in [a woman’s] bath according to the opinions of Averroes and Moses Maimonides”. But the idea on which it is based is recorded in straightforward language in Joyce’s notes: “chap frigs in bath: she conceives”. Another entry in the same series reads: “Averroes – conception by bath, air, will”. Yet another links this idea to Bloom’s visit to the Turkish baths in Lotus Eaters and his subsequent recollection of it in Nausicaa: “Glad he didn’t frig in bath”. Weininger is not explicitly identified as a source in these notes but one entry – “quag” – may refer to the case of the quagga stallion on which Weininger relied for his defence of telegony theory. Transcripts of these notes are available in Phillip Herring’s Joyce’s “Ulysses” Notesheets in the British Museum (1972).

The episode manuscripts for Circe and Ithaca show that the references which resonate most strongly with Sex and Character were late additions to the text (“womanly man”, feeblemindedness and “women’s characters”) or significant revisions were made to them at a late stage in the compositional process (Milly’s descent). This suggests that Joyce turned to Weininger as the drafting proceeded to crank up the element of the bizarre in these episodes. The earliest manuscript for Ithaca is available on the National Library of Ireland website; a transcript of the passage relating to Milly’s descent is available in Luca Crispi’s Joyce’s Creative Process and the Construction of Characters in “Ulysses” (2015). Phillip Herring’s Joyce’s Notes and Early Drafts for “Ulysses”: Selections from the Buffalo Collection (1977) provides partial transcripts for the earliest Circe manuscript; the subsequent manuscript for this episode is available on the National Library of Ireland website.

Richard Ellmann suggested in his Joyce biography (1959) that Joyce “largely agreed” with Weininger’s views. This comment was accompanied by a summary of Weininger’s ideas including some but not all of his more extreme positions – his insistence on universal celibacy, for example, is not included. Ellmann’s principal source in this respect was interviews with close associates of Joyce indicating that he was intrigued by the different character traits of men and women and “was always labouring to isolate female characteristics, from an incapacity for philosophy to a dislike for soup”. He refers also to reports that Joyce liked to make jocular remarks about the supposed tendency of women to stack books upside-down on bookshelves. But this shows that Joyce was interested or amused by some of Weininger’s arguments, not that he endorsed his theories.

There’s also Joyce’s 1921 letter to his friend Frank Budgen in which he says of Molly’s monologue in Penelope: “it seems to me to be perfectly sane full amoral fertilisable untrustworthy engaging shrewd limited prudent indifferent Weib. Ich bin der fleisch der stets bejaht.” Two of the terms here (“amoral”, “untrustworthy”) are quintessentially Weiningerian and some others (“fertilisable”, “limited”) are consistent with his scheme, but some of the remainder, such as “perfectly sane”, are incompatible with Weininger’s idea of woman. Moreover, as Ellmann, points out in an editorial note, the phrase in German after “Weib” (“Woman”) adjusts the words of Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust (“I am the spirit that always denies”) to an opposite message (“I am the flesh that always affirms”). Weininger also seems to have taken liberties with the same quotation: he insists that woman is “neither affirmation nor ... denial” because she is, ultimately, “nothing” – a position with which Joyce in his letter to Budgen is in absolute disagreement. This shows that Weininger’s morbid vision is not Joyce’s. These connections also support the belief that Joyce had direct knowledge of Sex and Character, as “affirmation” is brought into the argument in Weininger’s book and Joyce’s letter but not in Goethe’s Faust, where Mephistopheles says simply “I am the spirit that always denies.”

It is also noteworthy that the authors of the three chapters specifically concerned with Joyce in Jews and Gender: Responses to Otto Weininger (1995) conclude that Joyce did not endorse Weininger’s theories.

Thus, it seems that Joyce saw Sex and Character as a source of material for his own writing, not as something to be either endorsed or rejected. But his use of Weininger’s ideas undermines their credibility by highlighting the absurdity of some of the arguments underpinning them. Moreover, his letter to Budgen indicates that he didn’t agree with Weininger’s views.

Note on Sources
The first English-language edition of Sex and Character was published in 1906 by Heinemann (London) and AL Burt (New York and Chicago) and reissued by AL Burt in 1927. The edition cited above is a facsimile version of the 1927 edition. A more recent edition (such as Indiana University Press, 2005) would probably offer a better-quality translation – the early translations are acknowledged to be of poor quality – but Joyce would have known either the early English-language translation or the German original.
The preparation of this essay benefited from conversations with Marianna Gula, Csilla Bertha and Donald Morse.


Martin Greene is a former Irish ambassador to Hungary and Brazil. He holds a PhD in economics from the University of Bradford. His assignment in Budapest sparked his interest in the Hungarian dimension of Ulysses.