Amor matris

Watching the pitiful Sargent copy his sums in Nestor, Stephen thinks, "Yet someone had loved him, borne him in her arms and in her heart. But for her the race of the world would have trampled him underfoot, a squashed boneless snail. She had loved his weak watery blood drained from her own. Was that then real? The only true thing in life?" A little later, he calls this true thing "Amor matris: subjective and objective genitive." The Latin phrase means "love of mother," but matris could be "subjective" genitive, meaning that the mother is the subject feeling the love, or "objective" in the sense that she is the object for whom the child feels love. Both kinds of love are crucially important to Stephen, judging by details in his fictional history and in Joyce's own life.

JH 2021


Berenice Abbott's 1926 photographic portrait of Nora Barnacle. Source: