Home > Uncategorized > On Paternity (and please forgive the sloppiness, and lateness but I lost the first version of this that I wrote to an overheated computer.)

On Paternity (and please forgive the sloppiness, and lateness but I lost the first version of this that I wrote to an overheated computer.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009; 04:39 am Leave a comment Go to comments

Michael Murphy’s article entitled “‘Proteus and Prose: Paternity or Workmanship?”  is a focused interpretation of the tension Stephen Dedalus deals with in the 3rd episode of Ulysses.  Murphy displays Stephen’s struggle as one with issues of creation.  Murphy emphasizes the difference between begotten and made and proclaims: “Stephen is wrong about his own conception and birth.”  Stephen was begotten just like all mankind except Adam and Eve, the artifices of God.  The distinction that Murphy develops is that artifice is in words and creations but children are only products of lustful coupling.  Daedalus is the artificer and Stephen is striving in Proteus to become more like the Dublin authorfathers he dwells on throughout the chapter.  Stephen is caught within a cyclical trap of other men’s words, other men’s work.  He hears only the same authors over and over in his head when he is trying to create a lasting product for his own immortality.  Murphy develops the idea that immortality comes not with the fatherhood of children but the fatherhood of words:  “the pen is mightier than the penis or the womb.”   Stephen also discovers this issue, according to Murphy, and in Aeolus, he finally creates “not something he has emitted; [but] it is something that he has made.” Not just in the Daedalus sense of artifice, of a constructed, stable object, but one of Stephen’s own protean works.  Murphy claims finally that the reader of Proteus is “present at the founding of a new church of one,” where Stephen’s means of production is finally developing into his own changing voice.   Stephen has aspects of creation that do vary from from the authorfathers he quotes from repeatedly.  According to Murphy they are:  Stephen’s “mint[ed] neologisms,” his use of archaic words, and his onomatopoeia.   These don’t help him write a poem about his mother, something he fails miserably at on the strand that morning.  His output that morning is a 16-word poem of little literary merit, claims Murphy, but later, when he writes for himself, he is able to use his personal protean language to immortalize himself on paper.

In this article, Murphy develops an “obsession” in Ulysses in depth in one chapter, and connects it to mainly one other episode, Aeolus.  Paternity as a creation is quite dissected, but something that is lacking is mention of Buck Mulligan.  Where is the father-figure who emits nothing but rubbish in Murphy’s article?  How come Mulligan, who spouts nothing that will make him immortal, nothing that will keep him in the world’s view, quoted by following artificers, doesn’t get pulled into Murphy’s argument as a counterpoint for Stephen.  Proof that Stephen should be contemplating his emissions as much as he does in Proteus.  A link to another chapter outside of Proteus and Aeolus would solidify Murphy’s argument as being more far-reaching throughout Ulysses, instead of an argument that seems only to hold for this one chapter.

From James Joyce Quarterly, v. 35, no. 1, p. 71.

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