State of the Soul
I wish I could make a good association between Catholicism and Nationalism in these next two chapters, particularly chapter 16, as it seems like there should be some cross over, there, but actually, my obsession is rather bland and obvious this week. Most of the Catholicism in Ithaca and Eumaeus re-states what I’ve already mentioned in previous posts, when Catholicism is present, which is a lot rarer than in other chapters (with the exception of Calypso). That possibly is the attractiveness of these two chapters, as they allow for a re-cap of what has been going on, although for several obsessions I would bet that they are absolute gold mines (waste, water, light and questions were everywhere! Gifts came back into play in a way we haven’t really seen since Wandering Rocks, and I suspect the maternity/paternity stuff is going to make some people’s socks roll up and down).
One new thing, however, is that Stephen seems to be embracing his Catholicism, now. When Bloom calls him “a good Catholic” Stephen does not rebut, he even supports doctrine and dogma on the state of the soul (518). It’s rather refreshing after watching him refuse what is clearly still deeply influencing his thoughts and actions from Telemachus to Circe. I think the best part of Stephen and Catholicism for me in this section was the confirmation that we can associate his heretical thoughts with fire, as he distrusts “aquacities of thought and language” (550)*. It helps unify the Saints and heretics that I’ve been marking out as Stephen’s: Arius, Sabellius, Thomas Aquinas, and Chrystomos on one side of the issue, having fiery passions for their subjects, rather than a unity of thinking.
Thus Stephen is more attracted to enthusiasm rather than certainty, finding it easier to believe in and understand. This brings us back to Thomas Aquinas in the library as he tries to fight Eglinton’s certainty with the intellectual fire of the Saint, and then the heretics (169). Bloom’s nature, it has already been established, is watery, yet his enthusiasm for things is fiery enough that Stephen can accept it, and doesn’t reject it out of hand, much as he ignores the Librarian’s attempts in Scylla and Charybdis to draw him into the conversation.
Does this make Bloom the replacement for the Holy Ghost that Stephen seeks? This is harder to tell. While I am certain now that Stephen is looking for the Holy Ghost (drawing inaccurate diagrams and dancing can sometimes be really productive), Bloom has not really acted as anything but Jesus. Yet, if we take the mention of his “dark back” (179), when Bloom is othered, mysterious and Jewish, the Holy Ghost suddenly does appear, and help brush off shavings from Stephen at the beginning of Eumaeus (501). Bloom, who has been ghosting through the book as the invisible Holy Ghost, and the crucified healer Jesus, also is allowed to become the paternal God of genesis at last to Stephen. He feels keenly for the young man, and attempts to give him all that Stephen could want in the form of a real, trustworthy companion. This image even becomes a complete Raphael-image with the Virgin Mary as Bloom attempts to lure Stephen to him using Molly/Mary (571).
Yet Stephen treats Bloom more as the Holy Ghost he cannot understand or grasp at: we have, instead, Stephen “rambling on to himself or some unknown listener somewhere, we have the impetuosity of Dante and the isosceles triangle” (521). The Holy Ghost cannot be grasped by Stephen because he actually is more attached to the less abstract Father and Son, whether consubstantial or not. The Ghost is what he keenly searches for yet cannot find. It is the long leg of the isocolese triangle that Dante was so impetuous in his attempt at explanation. The shorter, equal legs are the quickly understood Father and Son. Yet the Holy Ghost has been all-pervasive on this day, haunting Stephen even more so than his mother. As he wrestles with consubstantality, he rejects and ignores the real object of search.
This adds another depth to his rejection of the sea in Proteus, the “take all, keep all. My soul walks with me,” as the sea covers most of the earth, and water is present everywhere (thank you Ithaca, page 549-50), terrifies and disgusts him in some mysterious way, much as the indefinable, individual-universal Holy Spirit is everywhere (37). He rejects and seeks it all at once, and Stephen’s ignorance of Bloom is in part because he cannot accept the Ghost/water/sea.
*I am certain a lot of people are going to have fun stuff to say about this part, so I’ll try not to step on anyone’s obsessions until we get to class and I can go crazy. – Final Note: Oddly enough, I seem to be stepping all over Ivy’s obsession instead of Josh’s this time around.