So, to wrap up Catholicism and Ulysses I’ll give a run down of the major Catholicism scenes in the chapters (I focus more on the early chapters, because my thoughts have significantly changed since those first posts), the themes that have emerged, and what I’m still looking for in scholarly sources. (Post finish: Sorry, this took me an unexpected amount of time to compile. Warning, long).
Telemachus introduced the idea of people standing in for Saints and Heretics right off, with Stephen and Buck as Arius (18), and Chrysostomos (1). Here we watch as Buck paints Stephen as the “gloomy jesuit” (14) which defines what Stephen spends the rest of the book attempting to reject. In fact, Stephen, in the very first chapter, begins to define himself by what he rejects, as mentioned by George Castle in Ousted Possibilities (Castle 309).
Looking back retroactively, I can also see that Stephen is more attracted by the delivery of the idea, rather than the idea itself, looking at his relationship to Buck/Chrysostomos. St. Chrysostomos was another fiery theologian, with theories that Stephen must have been inundated with at school. However, he would now reject them as a good heretic. His attraction to Chrysostomos/Buck, therefore, is an echo of his attraction to both Arian and Aquanian theory. He dislikes the person, but likes the performance, or passion of their delivery.
In part, this goes back to our discussion of Sirens, where Bloom can enjoy the musical output of Simon and Ben without being repulsed by their personalities (225). I’m actually not certain that this is what Joyce wants us to take away from Ulysses. Buck is an awful influence on Stephen, and does not really care for him; Simon is as poisonously uncaring of Bloom in Hades. While it’s good that both Bloom and Stephen can put their abuse behind them in exchange for pure intellectual stimulation and pleasure, these are not healthy relationships, and it might be best for them to break off ties with their friends. Indeed, I love that Bloom really dislikes Buck (does he even have anything good to say about Malachi Mulligan?), while Stephen has broken off all ties with his father. They are only half free of those negative influences, and in an awkward way, it benefits both by the end of the night, for if it was not for Buck trying to give Stephen the slip, and Bloom’s connection to Simon, the two would not have crossed paths significantly, and this would have been a shorter book.
Not that this supposition has anything to do with Telemachus, or my obsession. Nestor only continues the saints as people theme, mostly focusing on Stephen as Columbanus: “Was that then real? The only true thing in life? His Mother’s prostrate body the fiery Columbanus in holy zeal bestrode” (23).
However, Nestor is also important as it is the first point where I noted trinities. “The same room and hour, the same Wisedom: and I the same. Three times now. Three nooses round me here” Stephen thinks, telling himself that he can break them any instant (25). He cannot. At best, he only succeeds in denting the lampshade in Circe (477). The nooses hearken back to Telemachus where Stephen is the servant of three masters, Britain, the Catholic Church, and Ireland, “who wants [him] for odd jobs” (17). Taken in the context of the Trinity, Britain takes the place of the Father, domineering, in control, and patriarchal in Joyce, usually, as can been seen in Aeolus, Scylla and Charybdis, and Wandering Rocks, to name a few examples. The Catholic Church becomes Jesus in this trinity, which if viewed in relation to Britian on the national stage, acts just as several other Jesuses that litter the pages of the novel — Best, Bloom, right off the top of my head, although there are so many more. That is to say, the Catholic Church is ineffectual, and likely to become crucified in accordance with the will of the Father.
This is probably one of the stronger arguments against a Roman Catholic Irishness that Joyce returns to in the form of the ineffectual, disconnected Father Conmee of Wandering Rocks (180-184). Finally we have the almost forgotten Ireland, hovering on the edge of Stephen’s consciousness as the Holy Spirit. Stephen is not yet prepared to face the questions of the Holy Spirit, signaling his distance from Irish Nationalism, yet it tantalizes him, and haunts him through out the novel. The Trinity cues the relationships we are supposed to observe through out the novel, and also points to the secret questions/mysteries with which the characters are grappling when the Holy Ghost appears.
Ghost is an appropriate, really. Much of the time we see the Holy Ghost, it has to actually do with the dead, as in a lot of ways, Ulysses is all about mourning gone awry, and how death should be dealt with. The afterlife of the soul, clearly stated in Christian Dogma, is once again acting as Jesus, to the Catholic Church’s role as God for the characters of Dublin. Heaven and Hell are secondary thoughts for the living, no matter how the Church imposes its doctrine of Hellfire. The ghost of this morbid trinity is how the living are supposed to go on living after the dead have taken over their lives. No one really knows, and none of them handle it well. We have Simon Daedalus, incapable of getting over May, Stephen wrapped up in his guilt, and thus haunted by his mother, in scenes that turn May into a Holy Ghost herself. As part of Stephen’s search for the answers to the Holy Ghost, he is desperately searching for the way to forgiveness, and lifting of his guilt over his mother’s death (474).
Beyond this Trinity of death, we have the death of Rudy spinning both Molly and Bloom into damage control and denial. As for Rudy’s older sister, Milly becomes the ignored Holy Ghost. She is not physically present in the novel, her needs basically ignored by both parents, who merely react to what she says and does (630). Bloom, the father, controls her location, but does not seem to think that she would do better as a young girl with her parents. Molly, taking the Jesus role, crucified by Rudy’s death (640) and incapable of motherly acts since then, merely responds to Milly’s growing restlessness with knee-jerk reactions (631-632). What neither of them see is that they have Milly, a real living child, who is the future, as we’ve talked about, with her continuing the line through her “technical Jewishness” (Simpson November 16, 2009). Through Milly, the Holy Spirit can be vividly something desirable, and forgotten/ignored by those who need it the most.
Trinities that I’m still uncertain of:
– Trinity of the dead: May Goulding, Paddy Dignam, and Rudy Bloom. I haven’t figured out how these three all work together, and play off each other in the novel, but as they are all involved in other living/dead trinities, and there are three of them that are named, I want to say that they are one of these Father, Son, Holy Ghost trinities.
– Does Rueben J. Dodd’s son (curiously unnamed, yet conspicuous in a similar there/not there way that I associate with the characters acting as Holy Ghosts) fit into this?
Proteus is a mine for looking at Stephen theologically. I’m still plowing my way through the library books on consubstantiality, the Arian idea that Stephen entertains so happily, in the fact that it’s a heresy. I’m not prepared to wrap that up yet. While in a way, it seems to be displacement activity as Stephen avoids considering the Holy Ghost, because the nature of Jesus’ divinity is an easier concept to grasp, it’s still a really fascinating heresy. I’m hoping that once I understand the underpinnings, and logic behind it, I’ll be able to apply it to the microcosm that it wraps up and affects.
We also get an pre-echo of the arguments on the nature of the soul (37), in many theological discussions completely wrapped up in the Holy Ghost, that will appear throughout the novel, culminate in Molly’s theology in Penelope (643). Stephen is prefers to pin his soul on Aristotle, saying that “[his] soul walks with [him], form of forms” (37). This gives us a very intellectual soul that is part of the miracle of transubstantiation, which is based on Arisotolean thought. The conversations that we’ve had about cannibalism and the Eucharist, “those white corpuscles” (3) coming from “Corpus: body. Corpse” (66), center around the conflict of whether transubstantiation is real or not, which is also one of the critical points of the Reformation, as Protestants rejected the idea that the Eucharist was a miracle. Here, Stephen, in accepting that his soul is the original form, is accepting Catholic thought, even as he is trying to turn himself into a heretic. Oh Stephen.
For those who don’t remember what the theological argument of the transubstantiation of the Eucharist is I have a quick run down about how this connects Aristotle and miracles using dinosaurs: Okay, so you have a dinosaur that changes into a chicken. Everything that we can perceive about the dinosaur is now telling us that it is a chicken. However, the dinosaur still knows that possesses dinosaur-yness. This is normal and could possibly happen given enough evolutionary quirks. Or it is possible that the dinosaur actually knows that it is a chicken after the external change has taken place. Indeed, the natural change has changed dinosaur-yness into chicken-yness. Both options work. What doesn’t work without a strange amount of hocus-pocus is a dinosaur remaining physically a dinosaur, but thinking that it is a chicken. This is a miracle according to Aristotelian thought. The Eucharist takes place with bread and wine that rejects dinosaur-yness for chicken-yness. Protestants had a lot of issues with this idea, because the bread seemed to remain bready and full of awesome bread-yness.
Calypso hasn’t become any more of a helpful chapter in retrospect. We have Catholicism doing a lot through out the book. The “middle” up to Naausica focuses most obviously on the Catholic church as a controlling institution, and comments on it’s growing power over Irish Nationalism. With Circe, everything is all over the map, but we get a lot of everything. My posts pretty much cover everything that I skimmed over here.
Things to be aware of:
– Joyce’s comment on the growing Catholic nationalism = it’s a bad idea
– Trinities act as a pointer to interpreting character actions and placing them in a larger national context, or interpersonal actions
– No real difference between saints and heretics = call for perspective, moderation, and re-examination of race/gender/what makes people people.
– Circularity does not mean completion, or strength. Triangles/threes/trinities are the key!
Issues I still am having issues with:
– How does the cult of Mary fit into this to make a cohesive whole?! It’s just kind of off there in the background, relating female and male characters to the various aspects of the Virgin.
Ah, the soul. For once someo0ne with clear ideas set down on paper that doesn’t involve a lot of guess work, and reading for secret Freudian imagery. I suspect that Joyce is trying to toss something over my head that I simply will not notice because I was too busy being happy with Molly’s directness.
Comparing what she has to say about Catholicism to what Lotus-Eaters was hinting at with the power structure of Joyce’s Ireland, I’m glad to say that Molly seems to be pretty consistent. Molly’s belief in God is absolute, but she clearly does not have much use for the institution of the church. At the very beginning of the chapter, she discredits the masses said for the soul after death, in her dismissal of Mrs. Riordan (608.5-11). The scene is interesting as the rejection of masses as selfishly spending money on yourself rather than giving to those who have been good to you on earth is a highly Protestant idea. However, Mrs. Riordan, the “greatest miser ever was actually afraid to lay out 4d for her methylated spirit,” becomes a Catholic’s caricature of Protestantism, the miser too busy saving money to be concerned for the safety of their soul (608.6-7).
Again, there is the reinforcement that religion is a thing for women and the elderly, as Molly’s recollections of Church are almost never personal recollections of Mass, or feast day, but associations with the older women in her life. The Spanish servant (?) Mrs. Rubio turns Catholicism into a mechanism of superiority and judgment, a tool of oppression in her hands. However, “with all her religion domineering,” Mrs. Rubio is actually disarmed by Britain, acting in this instance as an unusual savior for Molly (624.753-754). Mrs. Rubio, after all “could not get over the Atlantic fleet coming in half the ships of the world and the Union Jack flying with all her carabineros because 4 drunken English sailors took all the rock from them” (624.754-625.756). Molly, half Irish, half Jewish, half Spanish, fully Catholic, is associated with the conquering Protestant English by the domineering Rubio. On a literal level because her father was with the British Army, but also because Molly is not willing to bend under the full Catholic sanctity. Mrs. Rubio becomes the institution, angry, flaunted at the way the English have taken Ireland from her, but ultimately she is useless. Baleful to those who flirt with British norms, like Molly, but incapable of getting them to “run to mass in Santa Maria to please her” (625.757).
Of course, Molly will not run to the mass because she does not believe that there is a real need to constantly be cloistered within the ritual and ceremony of the Church. Indeed, Molly is exasperated by the need for some of the most important rituals, echoing Gerty as she dis approves of priestly interference between herself and the divine: “what did he want to know for, when I had already confessed it to God?” (610.114). Molly’s statement is more clear than the girlish Gerty’s mis-interpretation of major sin and confession (300). This is a fully experienced person’s opinion of the Church institutions, and again there is a strange Protestant-Catholic dichotomy to her thoughts. Molly’s objection to Father Corrigan could be a Protestant refusal of the intercessor, or it could be skeptical Catholicism taking a look at corruption within the church. Molly, still retaining her interest in Father Corrigan, at least as a sexual partner (610.119-120), gives the corruption argument more weight, as she wishes to indulge that corruption, rather than turning away in prim disgust. She notices that the Father will not look at her, so possibly he does not know who she is out of the hundreds he hears confessions from, which allows him the sanctity of his office (610. 116). Molly’s opions about “bullneck[s] in horse collars” are her own invention superimposed on the image of the priest (610.116). Even then, her imagination does not give him an active role. Father Corrigan she suspects of being impure, but she does not fantasize that he will act on that impurity.
Molly is a good Catholic. She believes in the soul and God, just not the institution. Admittedly it could be argued that Catholicism is nothing without the Mother Church and respect for Papal decisions, yet Molly affirms Catholicism with her thoughts, and keeps her respect even when paired with skepticism. Her balanced religion is a pure relief after Stephen’s circular thoughts, and Bloom’s cloudy confusion. Molly becomes the perfect example of the moderate religion, that influences, but does not drive or define one’s actions.
– The Virgin Mary’s place in the Trinity (not Catholic doctrine, obviously, but I feel that it should be connected somehow, from all the crazy connections that we’ve had throughout the book).
– Irish Nationalism and the Catholic Church (the scene with Mrs. Rubio was useful, but did not really add anything to previous knowledge. There hasn’t been much of this since Cyclops, and I was hoping for more of a revelation than the fact that Joyce does not think that a religious identity should be super imposed upon the racial identity if there even is such a thing).
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.
This might cut into Judaism and Ulysses, but Josh didn’t mention it, so I will! The Fan on pg. 430 becomes God to Bloom’s Moses, at the pivotal moment of the burning bush. “Have you forgotten me?” becomes the question of forgetting the God of Bloom’s fathers. “Am all them and the same now me” echoes “I am he who is” or “I am who am” which are semi basic English translations of the passage in the Latin Vulgate (I think. Correct me on this, if I’m in error. I know that the King James translation is “I am that am,” but the King James is a faulty translation on many counts, and also, we’re dealing with Joyce’s Roman Catholic background, so I want to go Latin).
However, as the recitation of this burning bush continues, Bloom transforms from the powerful Moses into an ordinary Catholic Man, seeking supplication from the Virgin Mary.
We have met. You are mine. It is fate.
(Cowed) Exuberant female. Enormously I desiderate your domination. I am exhausted, abandoned, no more young.
Interesting to note that he is using a verb with a Latin base to indicate his longing for the Fan, the exuberant female, the Virgin who draws her mantle over the abandoned, exhausted, and the weakly aged. This contributes to the “churchy” feeling of supplication present in the scene.
Part of the echoes, obviously, have to do with Bloom’s spiral from himself, to the servile fantasy fetish Bloom-Ruby that is occurring in the nightmare. However, Bloom’s submission to the Fan reflects Stephen’s rejection of the Church in the form of his rejection of women. They both expect the same end, that the woman will dominate their lives. For Bloom this is twisted fantasy, for Stephen, it is the repugnant as Ann Hathaway was for “shrewridden Shakespeare” (335). The Virgin becomes the Church, almost entirely driving out the masculine that was associated with Catholicism in earlier chapters. As Blooms submission to the Church is part of his private nightmare, and the nightmare of the book, it is abject submission to any one thing that becomes nightmarish.
Indeed, once Bloom submits to the Mary of the Fan, the devil replaces the Virgin, and the imagery becomes even darker. “All things end,” says the Fan, snuffing out hope, “Be mine. Now” (431). The demand managed to alert Bloom that something has gone wrong, but he has parted with his talisman of a potato, and can do nothing against the devil. Significantly, the idea of the warding symbol is very Catholic. It turns Bloom into a pilgrim, lost on his way to Jer-Bloom-usalem, encountering the devil in the wastes. He cannot fight the Evil One, as he has lost his pilgrims badge, the talisman potato. So, he must kiss the Devil’s cloven hoof.
When he does fight Bella/Bello’s influence and finally rejects it, we do see Bloom taking Bella’s place in the original God/Moses, Mary/Supplicant roles. Bella sees him now as both God and devil: “I know you, canvasser! Dead cod!” she cries (452). One normally would yell to the devil, “I know you, Satan!” and the canvasser comment is tempting to associate Satan with a canvasser of souls. However, Bella adds “Dead cod!” rather “Dead God,” which would actually be Jesus, who died for the sins of men. In this way, the devil and God become conflated with one another, which just goes back to one of my favorite themes of this book: that right and wrong are too simple to apply to actions, because invariably there is no real difference between them on a cosmic level. A saint is a heretic, and a heretic is a saint in Joyce’s world. The hoof of the devil once was the foot of the Virgin.
On a side note to Josh: I’m not certain that I agree with “The fact that Bloom focuses so intently on tying a shoe on her (cloven unkosher) horse hoof (2810).” Hoof in this case seems to be referring to, say, a more goat-like hoof/pig trotter, as it is cloven. Horses have solid hoofs. Besides, it just gets better on the kosher, unkosher level, when the Jewish Bella has pigs feet, and Bloom is bending to make them neat, thus, in some way “clean.” It could be possible that by eating unkosher things himself, Bloom is somehow making them clean, becoming the new Jewish, Moses descended Messiah as we talked about in class.
There is a lot more Bello/Fan/Hoof/Bella association with the devil, see page 443 if you’re interested in seeing how this crosses with Jewishness. The Nymph and the Yews (which in German, and I think Hungarian, is the verbal pronunciation of the word “Jew”) offer more to mine on both Devil, Jewishness, and the Blessed Virgin on page 450-451. However, I should get back to the second part of my post, which is Stephen oriented. Oh Stephen, how we have missed you.
I’ve been playing with the idea of Stephen being a circular being since Proteus. We see so much of this in Circe that now I’m probably going to have to go back and look for circles surrounding Stephen in general. Anyway, despite the fact that Stephen’s thinking and movements (the empty fifths) cycle endlessly, in perfect infinity, the never ending oroborus, Stephen does not actually feel whole. I believe that he is actually searching to make himself a trinity, and triangular. “Where’s the third person of the Blessed Trinity?” is his drunken out burst to Gummy Granny, who wants his help (486). He cannot help the Nationalist cause because he is not a trinity yet.
While dancing, he waltzes, a moving circle made out of four steps at the easiest level (469). In the beginning of the dance, while everything was going Carnival crazy, Stephen does “minuet forward three paces on tripping bee feet,” however, he cannot keep it up. The prelude ends, and the real music forces him to waltz once more, becoming circular again. He switches partners three times, trying to achieve perfect trinity by association (471). Still, however, he circles, while his fellow partners, “Bloombella Kittylynch Florryzoe jujuby women” form the edges of one big triangle around him (472).
Stephen is surrounded by a trinity that he wants to become a part of, but he does not seem to notice for once that the trinity is made up of women. Arguably, Lynch might be a man, but he is subordinated by Kitty as “Kittylynch.” Bloom’s full femininity is expressed in this scene as “Bloombella” a “jujuby wom[an].” Stephen longs to become part of that female trinity of Marys that dance around him in a triangle, but he cannot, because he must find his own “third person of the blessed Trinity.”
Okay, there’s a lot going on in Circe, and I suspect we’ll have a lot of fun on Monday, trying to coalesce around each of our obsessions, but for now everything is kind of flying each way in my brain.
– Catholicism seems to be speaking to nationalism again. Most mentions of Catholicism occurred in Bloom’s dream/fantasy of ruling Ireland. “His most Catholic Majesty” (397), however, spends his fantasy mixing up the various religions he has had contact with. I feel he just associates the Christian religion with power, and thus only wants to use it, or honestly cannot tell the differences. Either way, it’s telling that Bloom is “a man like Ireland wants” (395). Also, he calls for a “Free lay church in a free lay state,” which might be the Freemasonry talking, but adds compelling evidence that to Bloom, religious differences are unimportant — or might suggest that he actually agrees more with Quaker or certain sects of Protestant belief (399).
– Crucifixion scene associates Bloom even more deeply with Jesus (405-407), but Reuben J appears as everything Bloom despises about himself (see in particular page 413) throughout the first section of Circe, while playing Judas Iscariot (406). Perhaps this dislike extended to Jesus, thus making Jesus Judas, which seems to be a repeat of the theme that the Heretics are no different from the Saints, and betrayer and redeemer become one in the same.
– A lot of demonic imagery that I’m beginning to associate with Stephen, due to Buck’s comment about his education basically being in the fear of Hell fire. However, Bloom seems to welcome the demons, “walking on into Hellsgates” while followed by a whining dog, possibly a stand in for Stephen (367). A piece of foreshadowing, again placing Bloom in the Jesus/Teacher-Socrates role, while Stephen remains an Apostle/Student-Plato(?)-Aristotle. A lot of hoofs appear, particularly on Molly’s camel (359), who I took to be another Bloom, beast of burden, and servant to Molly. Oddly, though, Bloom, before giving a lot of welcome to these demons (comparison to the camel, and kissing Bella’s “hoof” on 431-2), believes that the cramp he experiences is a mark of the beast (356). Although this was slightly unclear, and the mark of the beast could also be lost cattle, an emblem of luck, such as his potato, or something totally unrelated from earlier today. [Side note, for those of you who have heard of Braid: “Now, the protagonist is looking for a princess who could be his estranged girlfriend, his dead sister, or the atomic bomb.”]
That’s all my confused little mind can coherently piece together for now. I have a lot more, but it’s completely in connection cupcake format, which means it’s just a bunch of annoying literary snibbly-wibbleys at the moment. And I think I might have spelled wibbleys wrong, but wibblies also looks strange. And of course, neither are recognized by Open Office as actually being words.
Okay, to add onto the post for Monday, I’m switching gears to look at Oxen of the Sun. There isn’t as much Marian playdoh to work with, for another feminine nurturing chapter. Indeed, the church seems to be working in a very negative light, when the medical students speak about it. I feel this is because we’re now seeing Catholicism through the eyes of Stephen’s generation, which like him may be moving away from the church for good, or are indulging in their rebellion against authority for the present. Indeed this ties in with the desecration of the hospital, which in many ways seems to be another rebellion against duty and authority. Dixon just wants to get off of work and go drinking, and Nurse Callan — the embodiment of authority — is derided when she asks for some decorum (321).
Indeed, Nurse Callan seems to work as the Virgin Mary in this episode, albeit in a very understated way. She attends the hospital in the role of Mother of the Church. She is most likely a virgin, given her “nine twelve blood flows” (316). While we have no idea about her immaculate conception, Nurse Callan is like a mother to all who labor in the hospital, and their children, touching upon the aspect of her mother-to-God. Compared to Gerty in Nausicaa, she is not overtly angelic, but in some ways she is the practical Virgin who you want as your intercessory. She cares about the patients she must take care of, and recalls Bloom fondly, although she has not had interaction with him for years. Generally, she represents Marian authority gone right, rather than Gerty, who tends to be the more judgmental authority of the church.
Amy asked about this in class maybe half a month ago, now (or it could be longer), but I’m finally going to sort of answer the question of femininity in the Church, how Joyce is using it, and then quickly dodge away behind a rock before anyone figures out that I haven’t answered that question at all. So, Nausicaa finally gives us long awaited direct contact with the Cult of Mary. I’m actually surprised that it took so long when we got the much more masculine church of the fathers in Aeolus, Lotus Eaters, and Wandering Rocks.
So, let’s examine Gerty’s character through the structures of the Cult of Mary. Basically, to boil down the Cult of Mary, there 5 (or 4 – one of the beliefs in Mary wasn’t made into actual Dogma until the 1950s, but it was held as common knowledge from the 6th century) basic pieces of dogma: Mary is the Mother of God, she has always been a virgin, she was immaculately conceived, she was taken into heaven (the Assumption is the belief that had not been made official in Joyce’s time), and she is the Mother of the Church. I do think that as Joyce was constructing Gerty he was modeling the deeper Mary parallels on these five beliefs.
Sadly, the first belief, Mary as the Mother of God, is the hardest dogma to work with, for some reason. I feel that Molly fits in here better, or Milly, considering some of the comments made in Oxen of the Sun. I guess in class I’d like to look a bit harder at Gerty’s role as a mother, and how these three women interest at various points with the Virgin Mary. Gerty’s motherhood is questionable. She is supposedly a second of her house (290) but this actually fits more to Mary in her role as Mother of the Church, because Gerty’s home is more closely paralleled to the institution, rather than a more anthropomorphic representation.
Obviously, it’s much more easy to work with the concept of the perpetual virgin. Beyond the fact that it is clear Gerty is a physical virgin, she’s also extremely inexperienced mentally. Her “style” of thought is the awkward prettiness of a dime-store novel, and her very outlook is simple, and innocent. She “crimsons” at the mention of bottom when Cissy uses it in baby talk, transforming herself into the virginal rose (290). Despite the fact that she spends the whole chapter ruminating on romance, and flirting, sex is firmly in it’s proper place, that is to say, the “other thing” and out of sight for Gerty (300). Also, her antipathy to children, compared to both Cissy and Edy (Mother and Crone pair of a different trinity) , places her firmly in the “maiden” category. She doesn’t even have children in her vision of the the ideal home, which suggests that she would prefer that children, like food, came in more “poetical” (perhaps sacred/mysterious) packages (289). The final proof of her perpetual virginity might lie in a physical virginity, however, considering her lameness. This kind of defect might mar her standing in the marriage market. It even marred her attractiveness to Bloom, after all, and he can entertain almost anything. Gerty might end up the childless spinster of the three girls, despite all her dreams to the contrary.
Moving on to the Immaculate Conception, I have to say, it’s hard to relate this to any Joyce character. In Gerty’s case, it could be argued, her freeness from sin rests in her innocence, and incapability of understanding what sin actually is, as classified by the Roman Catholic Church. “Besides, there was absolution as long as you don’t do the other thing,” is a pretty inaccurate reckoning of the doctrine of lust (300). It could be that Gerty’s immaculate-ness has to do with her pre-Fall Eve-like innocence. Otherwise, I’m going to need a little help with this one.
I’ll make an argument for a representation of the Assumption of Mary, as well, despite the fact that it still wasn’t official in Joyce’s time. I still feel that he nodded at it, in the fireworks scene (Yes, that Roman candle can be more than phallic and masturbatory. Roman candles can be a lot of things). Gerty, after all, “saw a long Roman candle going up over the trees,” which could be the ascension of the Roman Catholic church, or even Gerty going “up, up” to the heavens (300). The fireworks explode in glory becoming one with the sky at the apex of their assent. In artwork of the assumption, the Virgin also ascends in colorful almost liquid-like clouds (sometimes it’s billowing cloth) — Here’s a pretty Rueben from Wikipedia, lots of jetting clouds and artistically nude cherubs — so the fireworks and the Virgin and Gerty all ascend to heaven together.
So, finally we come to looking at Gerty through the lens of the Mother of the Church. I have to say that the moments that I identified when she fit this role were generally Gerty’s least attractive moments. Her condemnation of pretty much all women as prostitutes is one fun example, since Gerty “loathed that sort of person, the fallen woman off the accommodation walk beside the Dodder that went with the soldiers and coarse men with no respect” (299). Of course, like the Church, Gerty associates respect with her kind of virginal-Victorian ultra modesty. She seems only to be able to reach out her more charitable impulses in the language of doctrinal conversion, as well. “If he was protestant or methodist she could convert him easily if he truly loved her,” according to Gery-Mary, mother of the church (293). Each time she reaches out in love or dislike, Gerty seems to embody the Catholic church at some level. Unfortunately, it isn’t the most flattering level. I feel that Joyce is digging more at the institution, rather than woman’s reactions to it.
Femininity in the form of Mary is to be respected and adored, according to Catholic doctrine. Gerty, although she is respected and adored by Bloom, is not as attractive to the reader, having obvious flaws. But these are reflected flaws of the church. Her dislike is absolute, pronounced, and clear. She can’t get along with Edy, and her thoughts turn from majestic to poisonous, which is not brilliant, when seen in someone as powerful as Gerty believes herself to be. When Gerty reaches out with love, as the Church is supposedly open, she thinks of conversion, conquest, and changing those who are not of her color, so to speak. Again, this represents a very ugly side of an institution that has what seem to be decent goals in the form of Gerty’s rather pleasant daydreams. The Catholic Church, as represented through this Mary is a negative force, despite the positive goals it alleges to.