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The Linati schema gives us an important organ of the body for each episode, and for this one it’s the kidney. I think it’s pretty remarkable how much drama and movement Rob has generated in depicting Bloom’s breakfast decision-making, arriving in the center at the all-important kidney. Of course, this kind of begs the question: why kidney for breakfast? We know Bloom is a carnivore…but kidney?
Linati also tells us that the art of this episode is domestic science and household management; it’s interesting that Bloom, the husband, is the domestic one here. We see him at the stove preparing tea, turning towards the window in anticipation of the day, making up a tray for his wife. Adaline Glasheen, in an essay on “Calypso,” has this take: “This house, this cave in Eccles Street, Dublin, ought to be a little good place–food and fire, bed with a warm female in it, jakes with a man whose digestion is unperturbed. But things are not what they seem. Custom and ceremony of Mr. and Mrs. Bloom are awry.” Glasheen wonders what Bloom is doing in the kitchen making breakfast, instead of his wife…At the same time, the gentleness and sensuousness of Rob’s Bloom would seem to make the kitchen a natural place for him. There’s quite a difference between Bloom’s morning ritual and the one performed by Buck Mulligan at the start of Telemachus.
Joyce seems to be treating Bloom’s expert presence in the kitchen as completely ordinary, even though in 1904 Dublin this part of the house would constitute the woman’s place. To get a sense of 19th and early 20th century housework, and the role women would have played in the home, check out Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, the first and most famous book of its time on the topic, published in 1861.