Bloom's long encounter with his Nymph ends with a disapparition that makes her beauty seem false and meretricious: "With a cry flees from him unveiled, her plaster cast cracking, a cloud of stench escaping from the cracks." The cracking plaster allies the Nymph with the statues of Greek goddesses in the National Museum, but the bad smell recalls another unreliable vision of beauty: the Siren in Dante's Purgatorio. By alluding to this memorable scene in the Divine Comedy, Joyce challenges the Christian poet's claim that romantic love is, or should be, fundamentally non-sexual.

John Hunt 2023

Dante's Dream of the Siren, Garry Shead's 2016 oil on linen painting of the scene in Purgatorio 19. Source: