Preparatory to any more intellectually and energetically invested discussion of Ithaca, which may itself have to remain unfortunately abiding by the wayside until a fullproper update this coming Wednesday, I’d like to expend the greater bulk of tonight’s updating textual examination on the endlessly anticlimactic episode name of Eumaeus.
Eumaeus is a wasteland where we should find shelter after merciless Circe. Joyce plays off this assumption in many ways. First off, Joyce satirizes the typical novel denouements of temperance, marriage, triumphant return, and reunion:
-Temperance: Stephen ungracefully sobers up after the harrying events outside the brothel.
-Marriage: The episode labors over Parnell’s fraught liaison and subsequent marriage to Kitty O’Shea, among other tales of widows, ill-fated husbands, and the ominous notion of second marriages.
-Triumphant return: The sailor and numerous maritime yarns about frustrated homecomings appear throughout the episode. There is also the story of the supposedly sabotaged harbor (a disappointed pier?), which serves as another image of discouraged arrival, i.e. un-safe harbor.
-Reunion: Stephen and Bloom’s (re)union is pathetic. Bloom’s didactic rationalism falls on Stephen’s deaf and apparently annoyed/suspicious ears (“Sound are impostures” (5090)). The organ “nerves” is conveyed through Bloom’s nervous sermonizing and discoursing which appears increasingly tactless, lonely, and even predatory given Stephen’s state, as the episode goes on.
Secondly, the theme of exhaustion, especially of resources monetary, intellectual, and sexual, adds to the episode’s anti-climactic mood. Bloom, who we know to be susceptible to bodily depletion resulting from sexual emission, verbally ejaculates on multiple occasions in suggestion of his intellectual fatigue. Moreover, the narrative itself obviously lags and stock phrases, most notably “up to the hilt” (stick in the mud?), “point of fact,” and “pure and simple,” repeat throughout. References to Stephen’s monetary expenditures, and other instances of general “squandermania” introduce themes parallel to exhaustion such as regret, excess, and compulsion.
Thirdly, rumors, libel, misnomers, apocrypha, and mysteries become examples of the ultimate inconclusiveness of knowledge (perhaps specifically knowledge transmitted through text/speech). The newspaper “Insuppressible” acts as an apt symbol for the incessantly aroused organ of the press. Another image of ending flow is the sailor’s “libation-cum-potation” which for me conjures an analogy to the female chalice (empty vessel), the directive though ultimately impotent empty hose.
Hopefully I can provide a useful summation of these points of evidence in class tomorrow, but for now I’ll leave things inconclusive.