Music and Song Episodes 9-12
Note: 0 = episode 10, 2 = episode 12
Although I’ve struggled with setting parameters and coming up with a cohesive and logical approach to my obsession, this week’s reading marked a new level of difficulty, a “struggle 2.0” of sorts. The Sirens episode forced me to rethink my entire approach to digesting the text, though from some of the secondary sources I’ve read, the episode is pretty much an outlier in the sheer quantity of music and song references.
It wasn’t possible to accurately trace the number of each category of reference as I did the week before last, and, due to the extremely high quantity of appearances, it probably wouldn’t have been too illuminating either. Luckily that was made apparent from the start of the episode, with roughly fifteen occurrences on page 210 alone.
Several songs run throughout the episode, most notably:
-“The Croppy Boy,” a ballad written by William B. McBurney which deals with the Rebellion of 1798 (Gifford 293) which appeared so many times that I gave it a designated margin note abbreviation, “CB.” The general theme of the song, rebellion, creates a fairly sizable rift when placed alongside the fact that Bloom is simultaneously longing for Molly and dreading the fact that Boylan will soon be visiting her. This complacency is the polar opposite of rebellion, creating an uneasy relationship between music and the action of the episode.
-‘M’appari,’ a song from the opera Martha, (Gifford 292) which Simon Dedalus is encouraged to sing.
-Elements from the opera Don Giovanni, which have been showing up fairly regularly throughout the first twelve episodes.
12.1373 (p. 270) Mentions “The Star Spangled Banner,” the second time which an official or an unofficial national anthem has been brought up, the first happening at the beginning of Lestrygonians (p. 124 8.4) with a reference to the unofficial national anthem of Great Britain. Both come when Bloom is present, and during scenes in which characters are either discussing or reflecting on the concept of nation, and more specifically the disproportionate power held and enjoyed by the ruling class.
The contrasting use of senses in the eleventh and twelfth episodes show the general importance of the senses as a means of understanding the world. In the eleventh episode Bloom’s auditory sense (stimulated with music and song) keeps him engrossed in the world of the bar and his thoughts while he vividly imagines his disloyal wife and Boylan. Here lack of sight is physically manifested by the blind stripling, who comes and picks up the tuning fork he has left—evidence of taking an active part in reclaiming a lost item which sharply contrasts Bloom’s own inactivity in both the personal and professional sphere of his life. Cyclops then, overtly deals with the concept of blindness and the inability to handle both sides and aspects of a given conflict. This clearly puts Bloom out of place and prevents any real kind of action or resolution. Bloom’s initial analysis of the blind stripling and the idea that one sense makes up for the lack of another isn’t particularly valid then at least within the context of the society as a whole, as Bloom’s ability to analyze is mocked, while the stripling has little or no relationship (besides a professional one) to the music. As he as described by Bloom at around line 1235, it is his inability to see which is emphasized. Although this long rant may seem unrelated to my obsession, I’m hoping it will help me figure out the role of song as it relates to senses, as one of my primary questions thus far in the semester has been some variation of “what does song do or what do certain categories or types of songs inspire?”
Apologies for what ended up being a fairly unsystematic and somewhat tangential blog post.