Home > Uncategorized > “Darkness shining in the brightness”: Judaism in the Telemachiad

“Darkness shining in the brightness”: Judaism in the Telemachiad

Wednesday, September 9, 2009; 03:00 am Leave a comment Go to comments

While actual Jews make their first actual appearance in Ulysses with the introduction of Bloom, the preceding three chapters help to generate the (pretty hostile) atmosphere into which he enters. Two characters—Haines and Deasy—make explicitly anti-Semitic comments; Haines worries about England falling “into the hands of German jews” (1.667), and Deasy seems to think they’ve already succeeded in that, and that Ireland faces certain doom if the same thing happens there (2.345-6). Deasy’s other claims about Judaism more explicitly create a network of associations that the rest of the novel can elaborate on. As he says, “They sinned against the light [. . .] And you can see the darkness in their eyes. And that is why they are wanderers on the earth to this day” (2.361-3). These characteristics—darkness and endless wandering—are later associated with Bloom (the wandering also ties in with that of Odysseus), but for the time being also apply to Stephen, who wears only black and is without a home. Stephen’s description of himself as “Darkness shining in the brightness” (3.409-10) is especially curious after Deasy’s explicit associations of Jews with darkness and Ireland with brightness (and once again, this notion will set the stage for Bloom’s appearance soon).

There’s more, mostly from the Gifford annotations. Buck Mulligan mentions that if he and Stephen were to work together they could “Hellenise” Ireland (1.158), and Gifford explains that this is a reference to Matthew Arnold’s association of Hellenism with knowing “in the light of a ‘disinterested’ and ‘flexible’ humanism,” and opposite to Hebraism, or doing “in the light of ‘the habits and discipline’ of a revealed dogmatic truth” (Gifford 16). That Stephen sees himself as having from both Hebraic and Hellenic origins (when, uh, pretending to call Eve on the telephone, he dials “Aleph, alpha” (3.39)) makes him seem more sympathetic to the former than Mulligan is.

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