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Music and Song in Penelope

Monday, November 16, 2009; 01:36 am Leave a comment Go to comments

Performance: 8888888

Opera: 88888

Song: 888888888888888888888888888

Music: 88888

Composer: 8


As always, the statistical breakdown is above.  In general, the frequency of occurrences in Penelope is fairly standard, although I probably missed some really minor ones, as there were many references to past performances or performers which didn’t seem particularly relevant.

I was struck by the lack of concrete references to songs in this episode.  Given that in the past most references occur within the mental space, and given that we were exclusively in the mind of a performer who is not interacting with the world around her (as Bloom would), the focus was notably not on music or song.  Obviously the circumstances of the day give Molly little reason to reflect on music, which was basically the best explanation I have for the lacking importance of music and song.

A passage which broke away from this and also held with some of my previous predictions was lines 18.874-900, where Molly references numerous songs while reflecting back on the early part of her romantic life.  This fits in with how song and memory are linked, and upholds my previous idea that the “experience” of a song affects how one views that particular song, and vice versa.

Molly’s approach to music and/or sound in general (as well as pretty much everything else) was, as expected, much less mechanical than Bloom’s.  In her mind performances take place, they’re either good or bad, and some memories are best expressed in part by remembering certain songs.  This is best summed up by her own understanding and thoughts of Bloom, on which she states: “he never can explain a thing simply the way a body can understand” (18.566-67).  This essentially pits the two as intellectual opposites, and fits in with Bloom’s own assessment of the situation.

Although not directly related to my obsession, Molly’s views on poetry (which could potentially be relevant to music) with regards to sparking a relationship with Stephen are somewhat rational, yet appear as only another “skeleton” form of art similar to printed music or plays: “Ill read and study all I can find or learn a bit off by heart if I knew who he likes so he wont thing me stupid” (18.1361-62).  The removal of emotional attachment and the economic benefit she would theoretically receive from this misrepresentation (or false presentation) is twisted in an odd way—she knows she would eventually hurt Stephen, yet really doesn’t seem to care.

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