Twilight in ‘Nausicaa’ and ‘Oxen of the Sun’ in the Dark
Ok, so one of the articles I wanted to write about is really short, so I did two short ones which will hopefully equal a normal sized one:)
Smith, Craig, “Twilight in Dublin: A Look at Joyce’s ‘Nausicaa’,” col.28, no.3 (Spring 1991), pp. 631-635.
Smith’s main goal with this article appears to be to argue that the first half of episode 13 is not merely a comic parody of a writing style, but actually deeply packed with complicated twins, a “series of dualitites” (631). He frames this argument by discussing the setting of the episode at twilight, “the moment of transition” in which it is both night and day (631). He identifies a series of twins, both obvious ones like the sea and shore, man and woman, etc, but also more abstract concepts like reality and illusion and sacred and profane, as well as doubles of people, such as Tommy and Jacky doubling the priests. He also notes a rather startling link between Ulysses and Portrait, in which Stephen and Gerty are described in almost identical terms.
From this point he moves on to the second part of the article, in which he argues that these two characters are unable to differentiate between a key twin, “sexual and spiritual ecstasy” (632). He doesn’t do much with this point, but goes on to find a variety of interesting similarities between Gerty and Stephen, identifying Gerty as a young Stephen as a he appears in Portrait without the intervening year of significant change (633).
Finally, Smith uses another double to illustrate the importance of the first half of the episode, despite the common desire to brush it off as merely parody. Smith claims that “Joyce sought to continue the twinning process in the episode so that both pairs and opposites might be seen with a second vision, [thus] the strange style of the opening half of the episode is not so enigmatic” (634). He then lists the common topics of Gerty and Bloom’s respective ruminations, which are extensive, arguing finally that both sections are necessary to understand each other, just as the presence of doubles and twins contribute meaning to each part.
Benstock, Bernard, “Decoding in the Dark in ‘Oxen of the Sun’,” vol.28, no.3 (Spring 1991), pp. 637-642.
Benstock begins his article by highlighting “the absence of a controlling, much less a reliable narrator” in episode 14; which is to say that the rapid shifts from one literary style to another creates a narrator that is so transitory that it ceases to be an authority over the progression of the story (637). Thus, as readers we are forced to experience this episode “in the dark,” without the benefit of a unified coherent narrator, “an exercise in reading blind by listening to the ten voices” (638). Much of the article consists of examples of this confusing progression, which I do not feel the need to trace as we all experienced it ourselves thank you very much. He identifies a further disorienting characteristic of this episode, which is the near invisibility of either of our expected central characters, Bloom and Stephen, especially towards the end of the episode. ‘Oxen of the Sun’ is dominated by the chattering of characters who are not only unknown to the reader, but even difficult to distinguish from each other, with Bloom and Stephen speaking remarkably little: “the disintegration of the elegance of language into dialect distortion acts to deprive the proper Bloom of a voice and reduces the literary Stephen to a few foreign phrases” (641). All told, the purpose of he argument appears to be to point out why this episode is do difficult and uncomfortable for the reader, and while he makes valid points, I don’t think any of us needed a scholar to tell us that.