The Haunted Playroom: Sex, Death, and Childhood in Ulysses

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2021


James Joyce uses free indirect discourse to allow cultural artifacts as well as the inner worlds of his characters to shape the linguistic landscape of his work, and many scholars have observed the ways in which "Sing a Song of Sixpence" appears throughout Ulysses. Nursery rhymes in general and not just "Sing a Song of Sixpence," however, play an important role in establishing the omnipresence of grief and trauma in the text, specifically in response to a child's death. This essay analyzes how nursery rhymes, particularly when alluded to by Leopold Bloom, evoke themes of childhood and child development during moments when Bloom grapples with unresolved grief and sexual crisis, and reveal the ways in which these rhymes signal key steps in Bloom's psychological healing process.