Amardeep Sing at the Valve writes:
I, on the other hand, couldn’t get away from it. Huh—Is he really picking his nose? It was the first time I had ever seen an acknowledgment to this “shameful” bodily act in print. Can’t we read Stephen’s picking his nose as a kind of satirical counterpoint to the weighty literary and theological allusions that surround this event? My professor’s answer: no. No nose-picking, not in this class.
Fifteen years later, here I am: students, what do you make of the fact that Stephen Dedalus, near the end of this dense cerebral episode on the nature of sensory perception, Aristotle and Aquinas, urinates into the ocean, and picks his nose? What do you make of the fact that Leopold Bloom wakes up with the thought of the “inner organs of beasts and fowls,” cooks a pork kidney for his wife, and then goes to the privy to defecate?
Love it. Of course, if we’re talking about a novel that must by the nature of its telling admit much of human experience, the experience of the body is a logical detail. The fact that Stephen picks his nose: forget students, what would Tennyson say?