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In Svengali’s fur coat: the legacy of Trilby in James Joyce’s Ulysses


  • Alessandra Crotti



George Du Maurier’s Trilby (1894) forms part of the Late Victorian dramatic afterlife in James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922). Reading Ulysses in light of the legacy of Trilby reveals yet another layer of the composite palimpsest that forms Joyce’s literary universe. In her well-known soliloquy, Molly Bloom remembers attending a performance of Trilby (1895) at the Gaiety with Herbert Beerbohm Tree in the role of evil Svengali. Trilby O’Ferrall, a singer and model, forms part of Molly’s repertoire of dramatic references and informs Joyce’s impression of womanhood. Moreover, Leopold Bloom appears in “Circe” enveloped in Svengali’s fur overcoat. In Ulysses, Svengali’s fur coat seems to point at a hidden, paternal legacy: the Jewish outcast of Trilby might in fact be read as the most theatrical among the forefathers of the Jewish outcast of Ulysses. Thus, under the legacy of Svengali, “Circe” appears as Joyce’s elaboration of theatre as a site of alter-native jurisdiction.

Author Biography

Alessandra Crotti

Alessandra Crotti is currently a research fellow at the Department of Modern Literatures and Cultures of Sapienza University of Rome with a project on Ford Madox Ford and lite- rary Impressionism. In 2020 she earned a Ph.D. in English Literature at the same University. Her thesis deals with the reception of the Affaire Dreyfus in British literature and culture, with a focus on the legacy of the Affaire in genre literature and its dissemination in high cul- ture. Lately, she has also published on Jewishness and the forms of memory with particular attention to Howard Jacobson.




How to Cite

Crotti, A. (2022). In Svengali’s fur coat: the legacy of Trilby in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Status Quaestionis, (22).