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Bloomusalem in the Nova Hibernia of the future

Wednesday, November 4, 2009; 05:52 am Leave a comment Go to comments

There are a few really essential moments relating to Judaism in Circe, so I’ll deal with those here:

As I mentioned in my notes for Monday, the Bloom-as-King-Daniel scene is really odd, but it shows the kind of society in which Bloom can live and so I think it’s the most useful scene to my obsession in the chapter. It’s prefaced by the question of whether he’s a “Messiah ben Joseph or ben David” (15.1834) (that is, a messiah who will establish Israel or one who will bring about a new world) and his answer, “You have said it” (1836), makes him both. Thus, he creates a (literal) dream world where “Bloomusalem in the Nova Hibernia of the future” has among other things “Esperanto the universal language with universal brotherhood” (1544-5, 1691-2). Bloomusalem is the perfect solution to Bloom’s problems—it’s at once a Jewish state and an Irish state, but also an explicitly international state which seems perfectly inclusive of Bloom who doesn’t fit into one nation or another. That this is a dream, and that this is all a pretty empty idea (Bloom’s speech, “Aleph Beth Ghimel Daleth Hagadah Tephilim Kosher Yom Kippur Hanukah Roschaschana Beni Brith Bar Mitzvah Mazzoth Askenazim Meshuggah Talith” (1623-5), is actually just nonsense) makes me hope that Joyce provides some real way for Bloom to live with his identity instead of this totally idealized one that’s derived from the Biblical past rather than the present (a divide that Bloom hasn’t really crossed before now).

Bloom’s masochism really shines here too, and it’s brought out most extremely by Bella Cohen, who happens to be a Jew herself. The fact that Bloom focuses so intently on tying a shoe on her (cloven unkosher) horse hoof (2810), and then the hoof talks to him, adds a dietary aspect to his hangups which are otherwise mostly about sex and power. That the Bella-as-Bello section ends with a Jewish funeral service (3219) seems to explicitly tie together the total and utter masochism of the section with Judaism in the most explicit way yet.

I also want to talk about the phrase “Jewgreek is greekjew” (2097-8). The Hellenism/Hebraism debate has been conflated but I don’t know how this came about (except for, as the Blaimres says, with the joining of Bloom and Stephen, but there’s certainly more here).

Also, what’s with the backwards writing section? “Htengier Tnetopinmo Dog Drol eht rof, Aiulella!” (4708) explicitly connects right-to-left Hebrew writing (later referenced again with the appearance of Rudy) with dogs? And dog worship? And Bloom’s connection with dogs? In a way I’m worried that Joyce has been writing secret “Hebrew” clues backwards throughout the book and that now I have to go back and find them.

(P.S. There’s a second reference to Michelangelo’s Moses in this chapter (From the forehead of Judge Frederick Falkiner, notable Dublin anti-Semite, “arise starkly the Mosaic ramshorns” (1164-5), so here’s a link to an image of that. Look at ’em ramshorns!)

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