6 Times James Joyce Got Filthy (NSFW)

By: Sam Fletcher, November 8th, 2023 10:11 am.

Some of the greatest most creative minds weren’t above a dirty joke or two. Mozart, when he wasn’t composing soaring heart-wrenching music, would tell gags straight from the toilet.

And James Joyce was another admirer of standard-bog humor.

Notably, most of his filthiest writing came from Ulysses, and his letters to his wife and muse Nora Barnacle. And, as you’d expect from one of the first twentieth-century writers to drop the c-bomb in print, he certainly wasn’t bashful.

So, what are some of the finest examples of Joyce’s most eloquent smut? Also, as if we need to mention, this definitely isn’t going to be safe for work.


Bloom doing his morning business – Ulysses (1922)

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It’s no secret that many guys like nothing more than to sit on the throne in the morning. Taking a private moment to reflect and maybe catch up on some light reading. It was this seemingly mundane moment that Joyce would elevate to poetry.

‘Delivering’ several detailed paragraphs whereby protagonist Leopold Bloom takes the time out to, well, have a dump, it’s given an almost heroic quality. Yes, that’s right, Joyce offers an extremely well-crafted passage on a man dealing with his bowels.

‘Quietly he read, restraining himself, the first column and, yielding but resisting, began the second.’

The piece was later extensively edited by Ezra Pound for ‘The Foreign Review,’ leading to a history of censorship and controversy surrounding the novel.


Scatological pre-occupations – Selected Letters of James Joyce (1975)

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It’s likely no surprise to many that I’d include these scatological works of art. For those that don’t know, they’re letters from Joyce to his wife Nora Barnacle, who he met when he was twenty-two.

And, for the large part, they are extremely romantic. Writing to her professing his love, he tells her how much he misses and yearns for her.

Then there’s the flatulence fetish, and how he felt she was someone he could really get behind. Joyce puts a lot of sexters to shame with his vivid passages. Talking about her ‘fat dirty farts’ might not be to everyone’s taste, but you can’t say he didn’t put himself out there.



Pleasure beach – Ulysses

It’s this section that saw Joyce banned for well over a decade, as Leopold Bloom is this time caught leering over a teenager on the beach. He then goes even further as he begins to engage in onanism, while she watches him from the corner of her eye.

Apparently enjoying the attention, Gerty McDowell, the girl, shows off her legs, while an ongoing fireworks display representing his climax takes place overhead. She’s also having her own fantasy while this is taking place. Afterward, she gets up to reveal she has a limp leg, in the process revealing a truth about the male gaze under which she’s defined herself.

The ban on the book was later lifted in the United States, with Judge John Woolsey deeming it to be neither erotic nor arousing. And he was right, it wasn’t.


‘Like a hog riding a sow’ – Letter To Nora (1909)

Joyce had a way with words, that’s undeniable. So there’s little more I can add to this quote in all honesty.

‘…to fling you down under me on that soft belly of yours…’

That’s pretty self-explanatory. But he did begin by first telling her ‘My love for you allows me to pray to the spirit of eternal beauty and tenderness mirrored in your eyes.’

Well, you can’t deny he’s not a romantic at least. They both had strong feelings for one another, from their first meeting in 1904 to their marriage finally in 1931.


A trip to the cattle market – Ulysses

Leopold Bloom goes into a fantasy, switching genders and subjugating himself to the owner of a brothel he’s visiting. The establishment manager, Bella Cohen, becomes Bello, a man, who then proceeds to reduce Bloom in a display of sadomasochism.

Oh, and there’s some light bestiality thrown in for good measure.

But it’s when Bello plunges his arm ‘elbowdeep’ into Bloom that she’s then sent to a cattle market for branding and auctioning. The scene is graphic and crass, to say the least. It also, unsurprisingly for the time, got Joyce censored and tried for obscenity.


‘Darling, do not be offended at what I wrote’ – Letters to Nora (1909)

Well it’s probably a bit late for that now, isn’t it?

Following up on a letter he wrote the night before, Joyce apologizes for his frankness. But it’s not long before he’s back to his old tricks, with this also being the letter where he would mention the delightful hog analogy.

Sent to Nora on the 2nd of December it seemed to work though, and they’d both go on to marry and have two children, remaining together until the end.

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