“Write the Dirty Words Big and Underline Them and Kiss Them and Hold Them for a Moment” — James Joyce’s Dirty Epistles

Penelope -- Itmar Lerner

Anyone who’s read the “Circe/Nighttown” chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses knows that Joyce had more than a passing interest in masochism, gender-role reversals, scatology, and other aspects of “deviant” sexuality (we put the word in quotations in an attempt to remove it from any pejorative or judgmental connotations and at the same time recognize that Joyce aspired to shock or otherwise disrupt his audience in his depictions of sexuality). But if you want to read something really filthy, something purposefully obscene, check out Joyce’s dirty letters to his wife Nora, written over a three month period in 1909 when the couple were separated due to a business trip. Joyce shows a particular fetish for coprophilia, expresses a desire to wear his wife’s underwear, and meticulously describes his wife’s farts. Gross stuff.