it’s been awhile, but just thought i’d post this:
i wonder what joyce would think of twitter as a medium for ulysses.
Check out this article blogged on the Kenyon Review site about Joyce’s grandson and his issues with scholarly control over Joyce’s letters.
I seem to have misread the syllabus in that I posted critical annotation on Monday when I was supposed to have posted today, so I will take the liberty of doing the consolidation post for my obsession since I have not done that yet.
It goes without saying that having the obsession of ‘yes and no’ pays off in Penelope, as the overwhelming amount of ‘yes’ on the final two pages concludes a colossal book filled with many themes and obsessions. Reaching this point, I find that I’m re-examining my interpretation of yes and no throughout the novel. I originally framed my obsession by looking at textual appearances of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ as well as more figurative moments of affirmation and rejection/denial that do no explictly say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ While certain moments in the text definitely applied to the latter of these two ‘yes and no’ categories, I think it will best to focus more on textual appearances of the two words, since that on its own provides considerable debate. For example, what do we make of moments where characters use words that literally mean ‘yes’ or ‘no’, like Molly’s ‘Mn’ in Calypso and the numerous instances of ‘ay’ in the later episodes? And what about moments when ‘yes’ appears in other words, like ‘eyes,’ ‘Keyes,’ and ‘Yessex’?
I’ve also begun re-skimming the book for my numerous circlings of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ appearances, finding that in almost all cases, ‘yes’ is tied to a punctuation mark of some kind, be it a period, comma, question mark, or exclamation point. One way of looking at this in the context of Penelope is to say that Joyce has been preparing us for the eruption of ‘yes’ in the end by steady repetition of the word throughout the novel, and that yes becomes the punctuation that Penelope is lacking. I’m slightly hesitant about this though because it is fairly common for yes to be followed by a punctuation mark in any context. Also, is yes punctuating if it is part of another word, such as the ones I’ve listed above?
I’ve got more questions but I think this will do for now.
So, to wrap up Catholicism and Ulysses I’ll give a run down of the major Catholicism scenes in the chapters (I focus more on the early chapters, because my thoughts have significantly changed since those first posts), the themes that have emerged, and what I’m still looking for in scholarly sources. (Post finish: Sorry, this took me an unexpected amount of time to compile. Warning, long).
Telemachus introduced the idea of people standing in for Saints and Heretics right off, with Stephen and Buck as Arius (18), and Chrysostomos (1). Here we watch as Buck paints Stephen as the “gloomy jesuit” (14) which defines what Stephen spends the rest of the book attempting to reject. In fact, Stephen, in the very first chapter, begins to define himself by what he rejects, as mentioned by George Castle in Ousted Possibilities (Castle 309).
Looking back retroactively, I can also see that Stephen is more attracted by the delivery of the idea, rather than the idea itself, looking at his relationship to Buck/Chrysostomos. St. Chrysostomos was another fiery theologian, with theories that Stephen must have been inundated with at school. However, he would now reject them as a good heretic. His attraction to Chrysostomos/Buck, therefore, is an echo of his attraction to both Arian and Aquanian theory. He dislikes the person, but likes the performance, or passion of their delivery.
In part, this goes back to our discussion of Sirens, where Bloom can enjoy the musical output of Simon and Ben without being repulsed by their personalities (225). I’m actually not certain that this is what Joyce wants us to take away from Ulysses. Buck is an awful influence on Stephen, and does not really care for him; Simon is as poisonously uncaring of Bloom in Hades. While it’s good that both Bloom and Stephen can put their abuse behind them in exchange for pure intellectual stimulation and pleasure, these are not healthy relationships, and it might be best for them to break off ties with their friends. Indeed, I love that Bloom really dislikes Buck (does he even have anything good to say about Malachi Mulligan?), while Stephen has broken off all ties with his father. They are only half free of those negative influences, and in an awkward way, it benefits both by the end of the night, for if it was not for Buck trying to give Stephen the slip, and Bloom’s connection to Simon, the two would not have crossed paths significantly, and this would have been a shorter book.
Not that this supposition has anything to do with Telemachus, or my obsession. Nestor only continues the saints as people theme, mostly focusing on Stephen as Columbanus: “Was that then real? The only true thing in life? His Mother’s prostrate body the fiery Columbanus in holy zeal bestrode” (23).
However, Nestor is also important as it is the first point where I noted trinities. “The same room and hour, the same Wisedom: and I the same. Three times now. Three nooses round me here” Stephen thinks, telling himself that he can break them any instant (25). He cannot. At best, he only succeeds in denting the lampshade in Circe (477). The nooses hearken back to Telemachus where Stephen is the servant of three masters, Britain, the Catholic Church, and Ireland, “who wants [him] for odd jobs” (17). Taken in the context of the Trinity, Britain takes the place of the Father, domineering, in control, and patriarchal in Joyce, usually, as can been seen in Aeolus, Scylla and Charybdis, and Wandering Rocks, to name a few examples. The Catholic Church becomes Jesus in this trinity, which if viewed in relation to Britian on the national stage, acts just as several other Jesuses that litter the pages of the novel — Best, Bloom, right off the top of my head, although there are so many more. That is to say, the Catholic Church is ineffectual, and likely to become crucified in accordance with the will of the Father.
This is probably one of the stronger arguments against a Roman Catholic Irishness that Joyce returns to in the form of the ineffectual, disconnected Father Conmee of Wandering Rocks (180-184). Finally we have the almost forgotten Ireland, hovering on the edge of Stephen’s consciousness as the Holy Spirit. Stephen is not yet prepared to face the questions of the Holy Spirit, signaling his distance from Irish Nationalism, yet it tantalizes him, and haunts him through out the novel. The Trinity cues the relationships we are supposed to observe through out the novel, and also points to the secret questions/mysteries with which the characters are grappling when the Holy Ghost appears.
Ghost is an appropriate, really. Much of the time we see the Holy Ghost, it has to actually do with the dead, as in a lot of ways, Ulysses is all about mourning gone awry, and how death should be dealt with. The afterlife of the soul, clearly stated in Christian Dogma, is once again acting as Jesus, to the Catholic Church’s role as God for the characters of Dublin. Heaven and Hell are secondary thoughts for the living, no matter how the Church imposes its doctrine of Hellfire. The ghost of this morbid trinity is how the living are supposed to go on living after the dead have taken over their lives. No one really knows, and none of them handle it well. We have Simon Daedalus, incapable of getting over May, Stephen wrapped up in his guilt, and thus haunted by his mother, in scenes that turn May into a Holy Ghost herself. As part of Stephen’s search for the answers to the Holy Ghost, he is desperately searching for the way to forgiveness, and lifting of his guilt over his mother’s death (474).
Beyond this Trinity of death, we have the death of Rudy spinning both Molly and Bloom into damage control and denial. As for Rudy’s older sister, Milly becomes the ignored Holy Ghost. She is not physically present in the novel, her needs basically ignored by both parents, who merely react to what she says and does (630). Bloom, the father, controls her location, but does not seem to think that she would do better as a young girl with her parents. Molly, taking the Jesus role, crucified by Rudy’s death (640) and incapable of motherly acts since then, merely responds to Milly’s growing restlessness with knee-jerk reactions (631-632). What neither of them see is that they have Milly, a real living child, who is the future, as we’ve talked about, with her continuing the line through her “technical Jewishness” (Simpson November 16, 2009). Through Milly, the Holy Spirit can be vividly something desirable, and forgotten/ignored by those who need it the most.
Trinities that I’m still uncertain of:
- Trinity of the dead: May Goulding, Paddy Dignam, and Rudy Bloom. I haven’t figured out how these three all work together, and play off each other in the novel, but as they are all involved in other living/dead trinities, and there are three of them that are named, I want to say that they are one of these Father, Son, Holy Ghost trinities.
- Does Rueben J. Dodd’s son (curiously unnamed, yet conspicuous in a similar there/not there way that I associate with the characters acting as Holy Ghosts) fit into this?
Proteus is a mine for looking at Stephen theologically. I’m still plowing my way through the library books on consubstantiality, the Arian idea that Stephen entertains so happily, in the fact that it’s a heresy. I’m not prepared to wrap that up yet. While in a way, it seems to be displacement activity as Stephen avoids considering the Holy Ghost, because the nature of Jesus’ divinity is an easier concept to grasp, it’s still a really fascinating heresy. I’m hoping that once I understand the underpinnings, and logic behind it, I’ll be able to apply it to the microcosm that it wraps up and affects.
We also get an pre-echo of the arguments on the nature of the soul (37), in many theological discussions completely wrapped up in the Holy Ghost, that will appear throughout the novel, culminate in Molly’s theology in Penelope (643). Stephen is prefers to pin his soul on Aristotle, saying that “[his] soul walks with [him], form of forms” (37). This gives us a very intellectual soul that is part of the miracle of transubstantiation, which is based on Arisotolean thought. The conversations that we’ve had about cannibalism and the Eucharist, “those white corpuscles” (3) coming from “Corpus: body. Corpse” (66), center around the conflict of whether transubstantiation is real or not, which is also one of the critical points of the Reformation, as Protestants rejected the idea that the Eucharist was a miracle. Here, Stephen, in accepting that his soul is the original form, is accepting Catholic thought, even as he is trying to turn himself into a heretic. Oh Stephen.
For those who don’t remember what the theological argument of the transubstantiation of the Eucharist is I have a quick run down about how this connects Aristotle and miracles using dinosaurs: Okay, so you have a dinosaur that changes into a chicken. Everything that we can perceive about the dinosaur is now telling us that it is a chicken. However, the dinosaur still knows that possesses dinosaur-yness. This is normal and could possibly happen given enough evolutionary quirks. Or it is possible that the dinosaur actually knows that it is a chicken after the external change has taken place. Indeed, the natural change has changed dinosaur-yness into chicken-yness. Both options work. What doesn’t work without a strange amount of hocus-pocus is a dinosaur remaining physically a dinosaur, but thinking that it is a chicken. This is a miracle according to Aristotelian thought. The Eucharist takes place with bread and wine that rejects dinosaur-yness for chicken-yness. Protestants had a lot of issues with this idea, because the bread seemed to remain bready and full of awesome bread-yness.
Calypso hasn’t become any more of a helpful chapter in retrospect. We have Catholicism doing a lot through out the book. The “middle” up to Naausica focuses most obviously on the Catholic church as a controlling institution, and comments on it’s growing power over Irish Nationalism. With Circe, everything is all over the map, but we get a lot of everything. My posts pretty much cover everything that I skimmed over here.
Things to be aware of:
- Joyce’s comment on the growing Catholic nationalism = it’s a bad idea
- Trinities act as a pointer to interpreting character actions and placing them in a larger national context, or interpersonal actions
- No real difference between saints and heretics = call for perspective, moderation, and re-examination of race/gender/what makes people people.
- Circularity does not mean completion, or strength. Triangles/threes/trinities are the key!
Issues I still am having issues with:
- How does the cult of Mary fit into this to make a cohesive whole?! It’s just kind of off there in the background, relating female and male characters to the various aspects of the Virgin.
Indeed, the climax of my obsession in Ulysses occurs in Penelope when Molly says “lick my shit” (642). This is the point of no return, where the fine line that may or may not have existed between ingestion and excretion is completely obliterated. I must admit I’ve shied away from the economic nature of this moment (brought up briefly in class discussion) but I will also admit that this passage is the one that I simply cannot ignore any longer. The fierce intertwining of sex, transaction, and consumption culminate in Molly’s imagining Bloom worshipping her ass and also paying her (£1) for the experience, as she commands him to consume everything that comes out of her. Bloom obviously prefers this kind of sensual interaction, and Molly’s voice in Penelope shows her revulsion toward it but also her acceptance of it, as she says that she will “let out a few smutty words” that she knows will arouse him.
Looking back at the bread and butter theme, the two are almost always associated with Molly, but she never actually gets around to consuming bread with butter throughout the novel, at least not to my knowledge. In Calypso, Bloom remembers: “thin bread and butter she likes in the morning,” and in Penelope, Molly recalls the day she realized Boylan’s foot fetish, as she was “waggling [her] foot we both ordered a teas and plain bread and butter” (613). On the next page as she remembers her series of affairs she recalls the “main with the curly hair” she noticed when she was “tasting the butter” (614). Here, we have butter but no bread, and Molly is actually consuming it. I’m not sure if this is even remotely relevant, I was just fascinated by the association of Bloom with kidneys/organs and Molly with bread/butter.
This in no way consolidates my thoughts on the subject but in my defense: hey, it’s Ulysses.
This article, written by Terrence Doody and Wesley Morris examines Joyce’s experiment with language, and how it relates to the social world, specifically the family. Since language is composed of signs and these signs are conventional, “language reveals the conventionality of all social relationships” (224). Because the family is the basic social unit, this is the primary focus of the authors. As a social unit the family contains aspects of power, hierarchies, and conventions, all of which impinge upon personal freedom. These authors look at the freedoms of Bloom and Molly, which upset the family order, and how they maintain the relationship these characters have. Molly has her own freedoms in her sexual liaisons, and Bloom has his masturbatory (adulterous) experience with Gerty on the beach (which Molly is at some level aware of). However the family dynamic is maintained as these authors argue through the powerful taboo of incest. In our class discussion of Ithaca, some people expressed concern over the incestuous relationship of Bloom to Milly, at least at the level of imagination. This article also brings about the idea of the possible relationship between Stephen and Molly as being incestuous. This makes sense given that Stephen is the Telemachus to Bloom and Molly’s Odysseus and Penelope. In Ithaca, Stephen accepts this relationship in his refusal of a relationship with Molly, thus accepting his father’s (Bloom’s) authority. According to the authors, Bloom’s proposal of this relationship is a mitigation of the threat that Milly poses (227). As Molly ages, Milly is coming into her womanhood, therefore potentially displacing her. Molly is very concerned with Milly’s budding sexuality in “Penelope”, and therefore throughout the whole novel. Bloom’s offer of Stephen, therefore, is an “equal exchange” which “affirms her freedom and still presents her with the son he has always wanted for himself” (227). I found this discussion of incest quite interesting and suggest it to anyone who was concerned about Bloom’s feelings for Milly.
This article also makes the argument that the lines in Sirens “Will? You? I. Want. You. To. ” (1096) are Bloom’s and not what Bloom imagines as Boylan’s, as Blamires suggests. Therefor Molly’s final lines of the novel are an answer to this question from Bloom (225). However, this does not mean that normal husband wife relations will resume completely between Bloom and Molly, because she has not completely rejected Boylan. This, I think, is the authors’ conception of freedom in this article, Bloom is free to wander the entire city of Dublin, observe it weigh its pros and cons, and then return to Molly, while she is free to have her affairs and still remain Bloom’s wife. Adultery in this novel is not ultimately incredibly threatening to a marriage, nor are the varied sexual desires explored by Bloom in his wanderings. In this marriage the partners are free to examine a huge variety of desires and sexual experiences without these being subversive to the familial order. Incest is really the threat, and that is avoided
Davison, Neil L. James Joyce, Ulysses, and the construction of Jewish identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
The problem with a lot of scholarship on Ulysses and Judaism is how focused it is on how Joyce came to understand Judaism himself rather than actually analyzing how they operate within the text. Davison (who wrote an article on Bloom and Zionism I looked at earlier) here spends most of the book looking at Joyce’s relationships to Jews in Trieste, his reaction to the Dreyfus Affair, and so on, and how this informs his depiction of Bloom. I’ve found a few useful parts though, and will continue to use this source for my final paper later this semester.
So anyway. Davison more than anyone else I’ve found so far gets to the bottom of the Hellenism/Hebraism debate, which I’m grateful for. Davison explains that Joyce encountered this dichotomy through both Matthew Arnold and Nietzsche. Arnold (like Buck Mulligan) saw his country as excessively ‘Hebraic’ and thus sought a balance between ‘strictness’ of Hebraism and ‘spontaneity’ of Hellenism as a means of reinvigorating the British Empire (109-10). It should be noted that Arnold didn’t see this notion of Hebraism as having anything to do with modern-day Jews (compare to how the men in Aeolus/Cyclops talk about the Israelites while remaining anti-Semitic to Bloom).
This dichotomy wasn’t enough for Bloom, especially after his encounters with modern-day Jews on the continent. Davison writes that the more he learned about modern Jews, “the more their secular history necessitated an understanding through a direct focus on their political plight; Hellenizing or Hebraizing his own culture thus became for Joyce another attempt—like the Celtic Twilight—at the reshaping of national consciousness through a politically naïve, inviable notion” (111). Thus you have Arnold lampooned in Circe through “Philip Drunk and Philip Sober” (Hellenism and Hebraism), Siamese twins, “Oxford dons with lawnmowers [. . .] masked with Matthew Arnold’s face” (15.2512-14).
Nietzsche did more for Joyce, in that he directly addresses the Jews of modern Europe in a political context even while using the same Hellenic/Hebraic dichotomy (and its master/slave moralities, which I talked about earlier in regard to Bloom’s masochism). Nietzsche understood Jews to be essential players in the making of Europe as he knew it, and conceived of them as such: “On one hand they are the ancients who established the ‘destructive’ moral code of the West; on the other they are a contemporary people who have been made by history into a group categorically different form all other peoples occupying Europe. Because their estrangement had transformed the Jews into such a willful people, Nietzsche believed they must assimilate with other Europeans so as to create a superior ‘new ruling caste for Europe’” (116). This assimilation (and with it ‘racial mixing’ that’s touched on a bit in Ulysses and a lot in Nietzsche) maybe accounts for the “Jewgreek is greekjew” thing I’m so hung up on (15.2097-8)—Jewish assimilation will in some sense benefit all of Europe, Jews and gentiles included. Along with that, Bloom’s opposition to Zionism.
A final note, on Judaism in Ulysses scholarship as a whole: Marilyn Reizbaum, who I wrote about earlier, writes in her introduction to James Joyce’s Judaic Other that looking at Joyce’s depictions of Jews is a relatively new thing. Prior to 1955, pretty much every study (including Stuart Gilbert’s seminal one) focuses on Stephen and sees Bloom as simply his foil. It didn’t get much better after that—Richard Ellmann, Joyce’s biographer, said in 1982 on the subject of Jews in Joyce that “there was not much in it” (Reizbaum 1), and after that a lot of the scholarship was on figuring out whether or not Bloom’s actually Jewish (which is sort of a stupid debate if you ask me). The big names now, who often seem largely in agreement in refuting much of this previous scholarship, are Neil Davison and Marilyn Reizbaum. Probably others too, but hey, these guys wrote books.