Home > Uncategorized > In and out, Part III.

In and out, Part III.

Monday, October 5, 2009; 04:59 am Leave a comment Go to comments

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?

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  1. daliesque
    Wednesday, October 7, 2009; 12:15 am at 12:15 am

    In/out tends to overlap a great deal with some of the aspects of water that I am interested in. Especially this idea of mixing things excreted and things ingested (the dewdrop into the glass of water, for instance), the meeting of waters in sewers. bloom definitely seems to feel a little twinge when he sees the “dewdrop” – is it the idea of ingesting one’s own wastes that is repugnant? (that is kind of repugnant, imo). this seems similar to the idea of “kosher” – trying to keep animals from cannibalizing, ingesting self or progeny (which i choose to see as an extension of self). i wonder if any connection can be made between those ideas, mixing your ins and outs, with the aspects of the creative process that seems to be tied to ingestion/excretion.

    Also, any thoughts on the cloacal obsession? The imposition of water flows by imperial powers, and the more enclosed nature of water closets? what’s the difference between controlling the flow of your wastes via sewage system versus letting it go straight into the stream, and why is the closeting of waste tied to imperialism/romans/the british?

    *also, as a sidenote, if y’all have any inclination to do so, check out some joyce/barnacle letterotica (not super salient, but i can sort of see where his fascination with things excreted/ingested leaks (hah!) into his personal life… i’m not wild about formatting or the colors of the site, so if that bothers you, i think joyce’s selected letters can be checked out of burling). otherwise: http://www.johnhamilton.us/2/jamesjoyceletters.htm

    • mckeeeri
      Wednesday, October 7, 2009; 04:50 am at 4:50 am

      The way I see it, “closeting” wastes, especially of the fecal type, is definitely reminiscent of perspectives of the British and their imperialism problem. The attempt to redirect and closet waste creates an “schites interruptus” (loosely translated from Latin) phenomenon in which it becomes practically impossible to maintain regularity, usually resulting in crabbiness and the demise of great imperial powers (see: fall of the british empire). This theme was introduced in the very first chapter, in which Buck Mulligan’s astute analysis of British culture capitalizes on the idea that the British, like the Romans before, created their own imperial downfall by too closely redirecting what should have been free-flowing poop. The cloacal obsession differs from Bloom’s seeming urine obsession in that while Bloom does not seem to mind the meeting or mixing of the waters, whether in the river or in his own bathtub, he doesn’t seem to keen on interrupting the natural movement of his bowels, as we see him almost smugly pinching a big one off at the close of Calypso. Also, a fine line exists between organs as food to be ingestion and offal or waste products rendered inedible, drawing closely together The Meeting of the Wastes, where it becomes difficult to discern whether what you’re putting in your mouth is meant to be ingested or excreted or both. Relating directly to your obsession is the theme of cleanliness, which is in turn tied to the concept of keeping kosher, and both deal directly with water, waste, and guts.

      PS: thank you for that link. Hoo boy, it’s going to be a long night.

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