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“language and Value, Freedom and the Family in “Ulysses”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009; 05:09 am Leave a comment

This article, written by Terrence Doody and Wesley Morris examines Joyce’s experiment with language, and how it relates to the social world, specifically the family.  Since language is composed of signs and these signs are conventional, “language reveals the conventionality of all social relationships” (224).  Because the family is the basic social unit, this is the primary focus of the authors.  As a social unit the family contains aspects of power,  hierarchies, and conventions, all of which impinge upon personal freedom.  These authors look at the freedoms of Bloom and Molly, which upset the family order, and how they maintain the relationship these characters have.  Molly has her own freedoms in her sexual liaisons, and Bloom has his masturbatory (adulterous) experience with Gerty on the beach (which Molly is at some level aware of).  However the family dynamic is maintained as these authors argue through the powerful taboo of incest.  In our class discussion of  Ithaca, some people expressed concern over the incestuous relationship of Bloom to Milly, at least at the level of imagination.  This article also brings about the idea of the possible relationship between Stephen and Molly as being incestuous.   This makes sense given that Stephen is the Telemachus to Bloom and Molly’s Odysseus and Penelope.  In Ithaca, Stephen accepts this relationship in his refusal of a relationship with Molly, thus accepting his father’s (Bloom’s) authority.  According to the authors, Bloom’s proposal of this relationship is a mitigation of the threat that Milly poses (227).  As Molly ages, Milly is coming into her womanhood, therefore potentially displacing her.  Molly is very concerned with Milly’s budding sexuality in “Penelope”, and therefore throughout the whole novel. Bloom’s offer of Stephen, therefore, is an “equal exchange” which “affirms her freedom and still presents her with the son he has always wanted for himself” (227).  I found this discussion of incest quite interesting and suggest it to anyone who was concerned about Bloom’s feelings for Milly.

This article also makes the argument that the lines in Sirens “Will? You? I. Want. You. To. ” (1096) are Bloom’s and not what Bloom imagines as Boylan’s, as Blamires suggests.  Therefor Molly’s final lines of the novel are an answer to this question from Bloom (225).  However, this does not mean that normal husband wife relations will resume completely between Bloom and Molly, because she has not completely rejected Boylan.  This, I think, is the authors’ conception of freedom in this article, Bloom is free to wander the entire city of Dublin, observe it weigh its pros and cons, and then return to Molly, while she is free to have her affairs and still remain Bloom’s wife.  Adultery in this novel is not ultimately incredibly threatening to a marriage, nor are the varied sexual desires explored by Bloom in his wanderings.  In this marriage the partners are free to examine a huge variety of desires and sexual experiences without these being subversive to the familial order.  Incest is really the threat, and that is avoided

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wasted words, wasted promise

Monday, November 9, 2009; 05:55 am Leave a comment

Eumaeus is a study in wasted words, redundancy, and inefficiency in sentences. Often the sentences become too tired and die out without finishing, lying there incomplete and wasted.  This heavy handed style is tempered by the omniscience of the narrator, and the desire for clarity.  The moods of both Bloom and Stephen are stated rather than implied, and Bloom’s thought processes are explained via a third person voice with a mind to following a logical progression rather than the natural scatterdness of Bloom’s thoughts.  Thus, despite the waste of words, this episode is one of the easier ones to follow.  This emphasis on clarity and precision is to be parodied in the extreme in the next episode, but here it feels uncomfortable.  Too many parenthetical insertions and unnecessary identifications weigh down the narration.

In this episode, the fall of Parnell is discussed in the shelter, and Bloom correctly notes that “there was every inclination” that this would come up (1295).  This great figure represents a tremendous wasted opportunity, a missed chance.  Bloom of course thinks it a real pity that his downfall was largely due to adultery (p 531-532).  This great man whose life was wasted leads into Bloom’s consideration of Stephen, whose ability is being wasted, and whom Bloom feels compelled to provide direction.  The ever practical Bloom entertains all sorts of ideas to improve society, meet unfulfilled needs mine sources with wasted potential for profit, and so in Stephen he sees possibility of a client for whom he would act as agent.  This is not purely an economically motivated, but he feels a need to help Stephen so he doesn’t end up like so many talented young men who don’t have the right circumstances.  And he sees practical reasons for a relationship with Stephen, such as intellectual debate.  All of Blooms ideas here have some practical basis, even the toys he imagines in the next episode serve an educational purpose (p 559).

Episode 17, Ithaca, is a demonstration of wasting no words.  The efficient question answer format of the episode eliminates all guesswork, anything inessential.  The framework seems to outline how to analyze the novel.  The questions root out all connections in themes, reveal how each character interprets and relates to the incidents, and cover all the essentials.  One important thing that occurs her is the recap of the race, and Bloom’s repeated hints as to the winner Throwaway (p 552).  This is an obvious thing which I can’t believe I have not picked up on in my posts.  The dark horse, the unlikely champion, is named for the act of parting with waste.  This horse has been repeatedly linked to Bloom who has been repeatedly castoff, or “thrown away” by the people he met throughout the day.  Stephen also has been cast aside by his friends, and like Bloom is locked out of his home.  Bloom, despite his keylessness, does manage his triumphant return, pulling off an upset like Throwaway. Looking back, Bloom has “the light of inspiration shining in his countenance”  (339) when he goes to the baths after throwing away the newspaper, as if this trash had been imbued prophecy.  Bloom does not consider this a waste, because he has not lost his money to gambling, and because he was satisfied by his hospitality toward Stephen (p 553).

In this episode, the idea of wasted potential is again important.  Other possible career paths for Bloom are considered, and the questions repeatedly ask what prevented Bloom from doing a certain thing either in the present scene or in his past, and the ideal life for Bloom is delved into. Bloom also considers leaving his present life and moving elsewhere in Ireland and abroad.  None of these thoughts are thought of as a waste of time or effort because Bloom the ever practical man allowed such ruminations  because they “alleviated fatigue and produced as a result sound repose and renovated vitality” (1757-58).

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Waste in Episodes 11-12

Monday, October 12, 2009; 04:52 am Leave a comment

In the sirens episode the theme of waste comes up in somewhat subtle ways.  The sirens of The Odyssey would lure the sailors to their death, wrecking their boat on the rocks.  Here the siren barmaids would lead the men of Dublin to ruin with their allure, and their drink which has the power to wreck men’s lives.  Bloom reflects on the waste of Simon Dedalus’ life, how he could have made “loads of money” (696).  Simon apparently “wore out his wife” and it was likely due to the drink, but he was apparently “singing wrong words” (696-97).  This brings about the theme of wasted words, which has come up before, and will be very prevalent in the next episode.

Ben Dollard is also a character who Bloom thinks has wasted away.  His business failed “to the tune of ten thousand pounds” (1014).  He has fallen upon hard times, but his bulk indicates that he at least is still eating well.  Bloom blames Dollard’s fall on “Number one Bass” (1115) an ale that is brewed in England, whose importation into Ireland had been very controversial.  Here, Ireland’s waste, alcohol, is linked to British colonial power. The drink is said to “Ruin them. Wreck their lives” (1018).  The allure of drink, and its ruinous power, weighs heavily on Blooms mind in this episode and the next.  Joyce has some fun with the word allure a couple of times in the section which is appropriate considering the title.

There is also a good deal of wasted effort on the part of the characters in this episode.  Lenehan tries in vain to get Miss Kennedy’s attention many times throughout the episode, and miss Douce wastes considerable thought wondering whether Boylan is smitten with her, and why he left so quickly after she showed, and snapped her garter (461-63).  Bloom’s efforts to Pat’s attention often fail, and he feels that he is wasting his time with Goulding, whose conversation is lacking.  He also feels that he is wasting his time by writing Martha “Folly am I writing? Husbands don’t” (873).

Also in this episode:  a recollection of the rat in the Graveyard (1036) and concern by Bloom about bad gas.  As Blamires notes the bad gas is linked with the rhetoric of Robert Emmett’s last words (117).

In Episode 12, Cyclops, the emphasis is on excess, especially of language.  Joyce mocks various style of language (legal, scholarly, journalistic, etc.) by carrying them out to extremes.  The journalistic interpolation on the hanging of a revolutionary is remarkably long, and seems to be made up mostly of wasted words, excessive emotional and sensational appeal, and as Blamires points out seems to have the purpose of making phrases unusable, or wasting them (123).

The introduction of a narrator also adds words that Joyce was able to do without; there are sections riddled with “says he” and “says I” which Joyce largely avoids, usually not introducing quotes with so much as “.   The distancing of audience from story via the third party rendition, is demonstrated to be inefficient and at times frustrating.

Interestingly enough, this episode reveals to us that Bloom has in the past attempted to prevent a young man from drinking by getting him excessively drunk with the hope that the poisonous effects will steer him away from further temptation (509-12).  This plan fails miserably, which might have contributed to Blooms current feelings on the dangers of alcohol.  Bob Doran, in this episode stands as a warning to the power of alcohol to waste a man’s life.  Bloom is once again wasting his time in this episode, pacing in front of the bar, not wanting to come in, explaining himself to people who are too stubborn to listen to his reason, but instead stick to their “one eyed” views (Blamires 118).

Joyce’s text as Dissonant Music. Criticism by Daniel Melnick

Wednesday, October 7, 2009; 04:21 am Leave a comment

Menlick, Daniel. “Dissonant Ulysses – A Study of How to Read Joyce” in Twentieth Century Literature 26.1 1980 pp. 45-63.

Melnick uses as the basis of his argument the fact that Joyce has espoused a view of art in which music is the ideal art form and all other art aspires to it.  Additionally, Joyce is well versed in the symbolists, and their view (voiced by Nietzsche) that dissonance “voices man’s spiritual disillusionment before reality by subverting the “pure” harmonious forms of tonality” (50).  Therefore, according to Melnick, Joyce sees dissonance as central to art, and to the relation of art to reality, and to the world of ideals.  Dissonance in prose is achieved by layering multiple, contradictory meanings, juxtaposing different perceptions, interweaving reality with fiction, mixing ancient and modern, myth and “reality”.  This understanding of dissonance is quite helpful for understanding Joyce’s concept of translating musical aesthetic into prose.

For Melnick this dissonance is ultimately about the self.  Bloom and Stephen both are seen as autobiographical characters, and therefore, the two of them demonstrate the multiple, complicating truths of his self.  The self is created through our interaction with the immensely complex and discordant reality that surrounds us, and therefore a reader’s interaction with the world of the novel help shape the reader’s self.  Not only this, but the reader is involved in the imaginative process of Bloom, of Stephen, and of Joyce himself.  Thus the novel is an affirmation of the self in the overwhelming world of modern life.  This article would probably be useful to anyone interested in Joyce’s incorporation of music into his work, and also anyone interested in the creation of self, and ultimately Joyce’s idea of art’s role in the modern world.

The article deals with Portrait and Finnegan’s Wake as well as Ulysses and is quite long so takes some sifting through.  The analysis of Ulysses focuses on the “Sirens” episode where the dissonance Melnick is talking about occurs very heavily and the music of the scene is woven thickly into the text. Melnick claims that readers have objected to the form of this episode because the narrative force is weak, but points out that the counterplay of themes, motifs, phrases, and perceptions leads to a very humorous milieu of ambiguities which center around Blooms sensibilities.  Thus the episode “develops the multiple human truths of Bloom’s situation” (53).  When we have read and discussed this episode I will be able to comment further on the usefulness of this argument, but overall the article is very interesting, and does give some good insight into how to read Joyce as it claims.

Well what’s cheese? Corpse of Milk

Monday, September 28, 2009; 04:34 am Leave a comment

In the previous segments, there were many instances of waste, but I will highlight just a few of them, and then deal with those instances found in episodes 7 and 8.  Most of these moments came in episode 6 when they go to the funeral.  Bloom is concerned with the wasted space at the graveyard, and wishes to remedy it by having corpses buried standing rather than horizontal (6. 764).  And he is very concerned with all the bad gas that must surround the area.  He also does some imagining of the process of decomposition.  The language he uses is appropriately disgusting, yet at the same time uses food words: “Rot quick in damp earth. The lean old ones tougher. Then a kind of tallow, a kind of cheesy. Then begin to get black. Black treacle oozing out of them.” (6. 777-779).  This corresponds with Blooms overall characterization of waste products as food for someone else. One man’s refuse is another organisms feast.  In wonderful Joycean fashion then, Death becomes life. In this case, an abundance of it: “… they must breed a devil of a lot of maggots. Soil must be simply swirling with them” (783-84).  Later, when Bloom sees the rat scurring along the crypt, he says “Ordinary meat for them. A corpse is meat gone bad. Well, and what’s cheese? Corpse of Milk.” (982-83), again stressing the interconnection between death, decay, and food.

Episode 7 has less to do with physical waste than waste of effort and of time.  Bloom is repeatedly frustrated in his attempts to conclude his day’s business.  He spends most of scenes feeling pushed aside, in some cases quite literally.  The introduction of J.J. O’Molloy, furthers this theme because he wastes his day coming to ask Crawford for a loan.  O’Molloy also is an example of wasted talent; he was “Cleverest fellow at the junior bar” (7. 291).  Now however, his practice is dwindling and is supposedly gamboling.  I think his character is standing as a cautionary figure, for what might happen to Stephen, if he wastes his talent.  Again, of course this section has examples of wasted words when the characters are reading Dan Dawson’s speech.  I’m not sure what to make of this example, but I like Bloom’s distinction that the words are actually quite effective when heard as the speaker reads them (7. 338).

Episode 8 brings back the theme of waste as food.  As Bloom walks on O’Connell bridge, he buys cakes and scatters the crumbs for gulls admiring how quickly they devour the morsels.  When he steps into the Burton restaurant, the scene is compared to animals eating, and the language is just as gross as the descriptions of decomposing bodies.  This links the people in the restaurant to animals feeding off corpses, but also all humans eating, with all animals eating.  When Bloom goes over to Davy Byrne’s, his own eating is described in somewhat disgusting terms “Mr. Bloom ate … with relish of disgust pungent mustard, the feety savour of green cheese” (8. 818).  This highlights the decayed nature of his meal.  As he eyes the items on the wall, and ruminates on how various foods were discovered, he thinks a little about waste.  He thinks about oysters feeding on garbage, about Chinese eating fifty-year old eggs, and about a Duke who used to eat his own dandruff (864-873). Bloom doesn’t seem keen on eating any of these things, but recognizes that they can be eaten.  Another theme seems to emerge in this episode, that of gambling as wasting men’s lives.  Flynn seems to be pretty caught up in betting on horses, and the characters who enter later, seem at least somewhat excited about picking the right horse.  This seems a common problem for the Dubliners.

I wish to add a few things to this post which occurred in episopdes 7-8 but I did not deal with already.

First, as Bloom is in the newspaper offices, and sees the machines printing out the notices of Dignam’s funeral he thinks “Smash a man to atoms if they got him caught. Rule the world today. His machineries are pegging away too. Like these, got out of hand: fermenting. Working away, tearing away. And that old grey rat tearing to get in.” (7. 81-83).  Importantly he connects the process of printing to the destruction of a person and to their decomposition after death.  Once again the image of  the rat appears, which seems somewhat important.

Next Bloom considers the miles of paper being printed, and imagines what becomes of it.  He imagines it will eventually be used for a “thousand and one things” (138), therefore nothing is actually wasted. At  the beginning of episode 8, Bloom looks over the edge of O’Connell bridge and entertains the option of throwing himself over like Dodd’s son, who “must have swallowed a good bellyful of that sewage” (53).  This phrase strikes me as odd because this episode is concerned with good and bad eating, and the sewage over the bridge can’t really be considered a “good” bellyful which I guess is the whole reason of phrasing it that way.  Then of course he remember Dedalus’ ironic comment about the waste of Dodd “one and eightpence too much” and proceeds to waste one penny on food for the gulls, thereby significantly reducing the waste of Dodd, and he considers it “quite enough”  (84) rather than too much.

“Ulysses” in Critical Perspective

Wednesday, September 16, 2009; 08:57 pm Leave a comment

Gillespie, Michael, and A. Nicholas Fargnoli, eds. “Ulysses” in Critical Perspective. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2006.

This book is a collection of articles from prominent scholars in many different fields of Joycean studies, attempting to map out the current state of scholarship on Ulysses.  Each of the contributors looks both back at the scholarship that preceded them and forward to the scholarship they think should follow.  As the forward by the series editor tells us, the editors divided studies on Ulysses into nine categories:  Reader Response, Narratology, Language Theory, Feminism, Queer Theory, New Historicism, Genetic Criticism, Cultural Studies, and Bibliography.  The contributors, corresponding to these areas of study, are John Paul Riquelme, Margot Norris, Sheldon Brivic, Kimberly J. Delvin, Joseph Velente, Ira B. Nadel, Michael Groden, Gregory Downing, and William Brockman.  These are put forth as the leading experts of our time in their respective fields.  The essays are further grouped into three sections: 1) The Words on the Page (dealing with close reading) 2) Perspectives of the Readers (different theoretical approaches) and 3) Pre- and Post- Publication (dealing with the history of the text production and reception).

The impetus for compiling these essays was that such a collection of critical essays on Ulysses had not come since 1989, (Benstock, Bernard, ed. Critical Essays on James Joyce’s “Ulysses”. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1989.) and the editors wanted to showcase the developments in various fields of Ulysses studies since then.  This is not a book intended for students of Ulysses but rather for scholars who already have some grounding in the novel but want the current material organized for them.  Therefore, it is not a great place to start out, but it will be very useful for tracking down arguments made about the novel and seeing who the major figures in the field are.  On that note, other than the contributors already mentioned, the scholars cited the most are: Ruth Bauerle (for issues of music in Joyce), Jacques Derrida, Stacey Herbert, Cheryl Herr, R. B. Kershner, and Leonard Gary.

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Waste

Wednesday, September 9, 2009; 03:14 am Leave a comment

Dealing with the issue of waste should be interesting in Ulysses, but I will have to be careful of how I decide what is waste.  The most obvious, to me at least,  use of the word waste is excrement.  However, this issue will be well covered by mckeeeri, and so I will avoid that issue for the most part.  Other senses of the word I find intriguing are, excess, refuse, and decay.  Reading through the Telemachiad again, I noticed that the first use of any form of the word waste refers to Stephen’s mother.  Specifically, Stephen recalls the image in his dream of her “wasted body” (1.113).  After this phrase follows some imagery that  seems important because it recurs throught this section.  Her body gives off “an odor of wax and rosewood” and her breath “a faint odor of wetted ashes” (1.114-115).  These aren’t very offensive smells to be associated with death and decay and for that reason seem intriguing.  They recur almost word for word a little oer a hundred lines later (1.270-272).  They then occur in Episode two when Stephen is ruminating on the love of Sargent’s mother for him, and on her death (2.145-146). While these phrases seem most importantly linked to mothers, they also are linked to death and wasting away, which seems interesting because ash, and ashes will probably continually arise as symbols due to Stephen’s ashplant.  It is also intriguing that the first use of the word waste deals with a body.  In fact the only time the word waste is used in the first three episodes is in connection to a body or body part.  IN episode three Stephen recalls his friend Kevin Egan, and his “weak wasting hand” (3.263).  I am not quite sure what to make of this instance, except that immediately after this, Stephen claims that  Egan has been forgotten, in a sense he  was wasted.

While the word itself occurred rarely in this section, instances of waste were not all that rare.  There were a couple of instances where money was considered wasted on the wealthy.  This is true of Haines, of Deasy, and of some of Stephen’s students.  Stephen clearly begrudges these characters their superior wealth, but he is also aware that he wastes his own money.  The amount of discussion in the first episode about spending money on booze is a clear indication of this, and when Stephen is in Deasy’s office he admits that if he had a coin case, it would usually be empty.  And of course, there are several sightings of refuse, especially in the third episode, when Stephen wanders the beach.  These seem important in that refuse acts a sign to Stephen of past lives.  In his ruminations on sight, Stephen deals with signs standing in for reality, and the refuse he sees acts as unintentional signs of the people who left it behind, and therefore Stephen’s interpretation of the signs is suspect at best.

I was discussing how I might deal with the issue of waste last night, and a friend who is not in this seminar, but somewhat familiar with Ulysses suggested I deal with the concept of wasted words in the text.  Prestonr88 and I were quick to dismiss the idea of wasted words by Joyce.  However, reading this section again I realized that there are several instances of wasted words by characters.  This is especially true in Episode two.  First, Stephen tries his joke about the pier which falls flat because the correct audience is not present (2.42), and later Deasy makes the ridiculous comment that he dosen’t mince words after Stephen reads through his letter to the press(2.331).  Interestingly, Joyce is careful not to waste words here, yet manages to convey the wasted words of Deasy as Stephen reads it over.  Joyce highlights the strange turns of phrase, and unnecessary words especially with the phrase “to come to the point at issue” (2.330).