All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

John W Hutchings

Advisory Committee Members

Leonard K Grimes

Edward W Hook Iii

P Kieran Quinlan

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences


Denis Breen, a minor character in James Joyce's Ulysses, receives an unsigned postcard which reads "U.p: up". Scholars consider "U.p: up" to be a joke encoded in a puzzle or riddle. This paper proposes to decode the postcard message "U.p: up" and to identify its author. The postcard message "U.p: up" is read "you pee up" and refers to Denis Breen's unusual urination. Denis Breen "pees up" or sprays his urine upward when urinating from a standing position because he has hypospadias and his urethral opening is within or behind his testes. The symbol "p:" in the message "U.p: up" depicts the penis and testes of Denis Breen, and the "twoheaded octopus" symbolizes Breen's hypospadiac testicles. Breen's diagnosis of hypo-"spade"-ias is confirmed by Breen's dream of the ace of spades going upstairs. C.P. ("See Pee") M'Coy saw Breen's unusual urination and cryptically wrote Breen the postcard message "U.p: up". Joyce parodied Sigmund Freud and his theories when he created Denis Breen. In particular, Joyce parodied the Freudian vehicle of using a proper name to tell a joke when he made the name Denis Breen condense into the Freudian phrase "penis envy." Joyce also used the actual location of Freud's apple-sized boil (within or behind his testicles) as the situs of Breen's hypospadias. Finally, Joyce modeled the postcard message "U.p: up" upon Freud's dream of urinating in an upward direction.



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