In and out, Part III.
9- Scylla & Charybdis
I think we all knew this was coming.
At the opening of Scylla and Charybdis, for the first time in a while we again see Stephen’s voice in monologue form musing about his Hamlet theory while listening to the older men’s critical views on the subject, which he finds unoriginal in ideas or content. And now we get the bomb-drop about studying and criticizing literature: it is all a matter of consuming words someone else came up with and wrote down, digesting them, and then excreting them, either in the incomplete form of regurgitation, or in pooping out the words and ideas, the completed form of the ingestion/excretion cycle. The older men mock Stephen because they view Stephen’s interpretation as regurgitation, when Stephen had previously thought this same thing about their uninspired interpretations of the Shakespearean text. Chaucer said something like this once: all words are merely farts, and thus all writers and critics are simply engaged in a giant farting contest (paraphrased loosely). Therefore, all we do here is eat and poop. All literary scholars and critics have ever done is eat and poop. You’re welcome. Much to Stephen’s disdain, John Eglinton just poops everything back in his face. These frequent cycles of interruptions and restarting discourse reflects the regurgitation idea, in that nothing said here about literature, Hamlet in particular, is original or groundbreaking in any way, except for Stephen’s Hamlet theory, which is still regarded as inferior and labeled as regurgitive. Also, in a moment with A.E. talking about drinking, Stephen reflects on his cycle of debt which is also reflected in ingestion and excretory terms, with borrowing money being the consumptive aspect and using the money being regurgitory, and finally paying back the owed, the completed form of the excretory step in the whole process. And of course, the chapter closes with the ever-present form of ingestion for the Irish, drinking, when Buck tells Stephen it’s time to go booze.
The references to Dante in this chapter caused me to draw a connection between the six-headed female monster Scylla and Dante’s depiction of the three-mouthed Satan in Hell. I’m not sure if Scylla is known for eating sailors, but having six head you would think would make this a possibility, and in The Inferno, Satan is famously munching on Brutus, Cassius, and Judas with his three sets of jaws. Or am I out on a sagging limb here?
10- Wandering Rocks
This chapter has several passing instances of food and hunger imagery, mostly connected with the power food holds and the significance it has had in Irish culture still operating under the shadow of the famine. The only thing Katey and Boody Dedalus have to satiate their hunger is some meager pea soup, which they eat with bread (10.290). But this is not the bread that we saw the Bloom’s eat, which always had butter on it. Around line 300 a shopgirl presents a basket of fruit to Blazes Boylan, most notably “ripe shamefaced peaches” and “fat pears.” What an appropriate way to describe fruit, especially peaches, and especially when Boylan takes a peek down the girl’s shirt at her not-so-shamefaced peaches. Anyway. Here, food represents power. Boylan possesses the fruit, rendering him the possessor of sensual power, which he plans to use to consummate his affair with Molly later. So, if food is power, then why does Bloom, the great ingestor and excretor himself, seem so powerless up to this point?