Beginnings and endings: Telemachiad
A small beginning:
As the Sparknotes’ summary conveniently points out, Ulysses begins, not with Stephen Dedalus, the novel’s coming-of-age young artist, but rather with the theatrical and physically dominating Buck Mulligan. In fact, Stephen is first introduced only via nickname, ‘Kinch’, and isn’t addressed with either part of his given name until 70 odd lines in when referred to simply as ‘Dedalus’. This rather weak (meek) introduction foregrounds the theme of Stephen’s physical obscurity that persists throughout the Telemachiad. The phrase which announces Stephen’s narrative presence (“Then, catching sight of Stephen Dedalus…” [1.11]) also references his elusiveness, and begins to carve out the debate in Chapter 3 about the “ineluctability” of visual stimuli.
One reference to ending we touched on in class appears in Chapter 2, in Deasy’s office:
“And snug in their plush, faded, the twelve apostles having preached to all the gentiles: world without end.” [2.203]
Here, as Stephen muses over Deasy’s luxurious (silver?) spoon collection, he seems to be commenting upon the endless circularity and stagnation of Deasy’s (consumptive? constipated?) heaping and hoarding of history, religion, etc. Deasy’s office is full of relics, historical signifiers, yet they are jumbled beyond recognition, as is his conception, and organization of historical ‘facts’. When this is coupled with his fixation on goals, money, straight roads (per vias rectas), breaking/broken lances, anti-semitism, etc., Deasy seems to represent a sort of bullheaded and teleological system of history/historical exchange. Although goal oriented, with God functioning as the bull’s eye, Joyce is quick to point out that Deasy’s system isn’t merely oblivious to outside influence, it is horrendously self-consuming, and repetitive. Deasy’s gruesome regurgitation of phlegm at the end of Chapter 2 as well as the ouroburos image conjured by the repeated mention of foot and mouth disease both demonstrate the destructive and self-injurious (and consequently un-reflective, “history is to blame”) nature of linear history.