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Complicating appearance of light

Monday, October 12, 2009; 12:37 am Leave a comment Go to comments

Episode 11 saw some interesting changes in the patterns set by the first part of the book. For one thing, light words are finally being used regularly in a non-literal sense. Up until this episode, the vast majority of light words appeared as direct physical descriptions of the light quality in a given area or of celestial bodies. At its most abstract, light language would be used as descriptions of people, such as Stephen often being described as looking or feeling dark. But this section of reading marks a turning point, a diversification, in Joyce’s use a light. One word which is used in a new more colloquial way is “brilliant,” used now to mean intelligent or particularly capable. Examples of this usage appear at like 482 of episode 11 in which Dollard’s “tight trousers” are mocking referred to as a “brilliant idea,” but also in serious reflection of Irish talent describing “Dublin’s most brilliant scribe and editor” (11.268). Similarly, as Bloom hears the jingle of Boylan’s approach yet again, he gives a “light sob of breath” (11.457). I would approach the analysis of this change in usage by drawing on the established rule of Joyce that light words mean actual light. Therefore, a light sob appears at least in my mind, to be a sob connected with a visual image of light rather than referring to the strength or intensity of the sob. Why Joyce is doing this I have yet to discern.

            Another change that is appearing in this section of the reading is that the light words as a whole which refer to aspects of day or night are continuing to shift. Previously, the opening sections were filled with more appearances of “day” imagery, whereas in the last few episodes, the moon has appeared with dramatic frequency. Thus, I would argue, the solar imagery is meant to be proceeding faster, or at least ahead of, the actual day, dragging the reader on towards the end.

            Finally, I think I am actually able to posit an overall theme (a new commitment between light and I). As part of his internal monologue, Bloom thinks the phrase “manless moonless womoonless”; this reference, tied to the increasing appearance of moon imagery as well as Bloom’s growing fixation with Molly’s impending activities would lead me to make a tenuous connection between the moon and femininity, a classic connection but one which will lead me to reinterpret the plethora of references to the night as a woman’s territory and thereby day as a man’s, a perfect activity for break.

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