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“Thus the Turd Becomes Trope.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2009; 01:12 am Leave a comment

“Ulysses Upon Ajax? Joyce, Harington, and the Question of ‘Cloacal Imperialism.’”  Author: Kelly Anspaugh.

Source: South Atlantic Review, Vol. 60, No. 2 (May, 1995). Pp. 11-29

So, I found a source that somewhat addresses my fascination with the Roman sewage system and how it relates to British imperialism and Irish nationalism in Ulysses, and also, conveniently, with poop. However, the passage addressed in this source is in Aeolus, which we passed over quite a long time ago.  Nevertheless, I refuse to let go of this idea so I suppose you will have to bear with me for the time being.

The author lays out a set of premises in this article, some of which I had considered and some which I had not.  She comes out and states that Joyce, “like Swift, . . . has a cloacal obsession,” quoting the English novelist H.G. Well’s review of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Yes, this has been established.  However, the main point of her argument is that while Joyce’s obsession with excretion does relate to the concepts of British imperialism and Irish nationalism, she maintains that Joyce himself was not making an anti-imperialist statement in his extensive use of shit imagery throughout his works and mainly throughout Ulysses.

The passage referenced in Aeolus is under the subheading “THE GRANDEUR THAT WS ROME,” in which Professor MacHugh says, “think of Rome, imperial . . . What was their civilization? Vast, I allow: but vile. Cloacae: sewers . . . The Roman, like the Englishman who follows in his footsteps, brought to every new shore on which he set his foot (on our shore he never set it) only his cloacal obsession” (108).

Anspaugh brings up the connection between Joyce’s cloacal obsession that he apparently shared with the Cloacal Romans and the politically allegorical work of John Harington, A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, called the Metamorphosis of Ajax (1596).  The English courtier, writer and inventor of the watercloset, could never again separate his literary achievements from his controversial piece, especially after he became renowned for inventing the flushing toilet. Anspaugh maintains that if Joyce learned anything from reading this piece by Harington, it was related to the use of mock indignation in satire.  Obviously it’s not easy to pin down exactly how Joyce viewed British imperialism and Irish nationalism, especially when you throw shit into the whole equation, but at least now I know who to blame for the downfall of the British empire with their flushing toilets: it was all that bastard Harington’s fault.  

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Reflections on Light in Aeolus

Wednesday, September 30, 2009; 03:54 am Leave a comment

I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to do new posts for our reflections from Monday or if we were supposed to comment of our own posts or what, so I went with the most accessible option.

 

An interesting comparison with my analysis of light and Dan Dawson’s speech comes from the other speech that appears in episode 7, that of John F. Taylor.  Quoted in lines 828-870, this speech is also about Ireland and significantly ends with light imagery. In the previous example, references to light were concentrated on description of Ireland itself. In this second case, however, light happens, as lightning on Mt. Sinai, or represents (one of the rare times) religion as the “light of inspiration” (7.866-68). The more metaphorical use of light as “shining” in the face of Moses(Ireland)(Bloom). Needless to say, this speech is received much better by the men in the newspaper office.  This acceptance may stem from the preference of elegant metaphor over bombastic description, or from what is being described, the plight of the Irish rather than Ireland’s scenery. However, the OBVIOUS parallel between Moses and Bloom is troubling, especially appearing in an episode that seems to emphasize Bloom’s ostracism as a Jew more that some others. It’s almost as if Moses is accepted as Irish before Bloom, a designation which we see he craves.

The Harp’s the Thing

Wednesday, September 30, 2009; 02:28 am Leave a comment

In Ulysses Annotated the entry “Harp Eolian” describes a harp meant to be played by the wind (of Aeolus) rather than fingers. The harp in general was the instrument of the Celtic bards and a national symbol of Ireland. “Harp,” the Annotated goes on, is also slang for an Irish Catholic.

From these simple definitions arise some obvious inferences. First, Joyce’s reference takes place on pp. 105  in episode 7, titled “Aeolus,” after the Keeper of Winds who first aided and then rebuffed the home-seeking Odysseus. Interpreting Myles Crawford as the correspondent Aeolus, and the episode itself as being full of “bad wind,” with “wind” in general corresponding to rhetoric – rhetoric, I propose, with little or no purpose, empty words for the moment – we can see the “harp” being played by Myles and his associates at the offices, discussing the fruitless past, flowery speeches and semantics, passing stories of disappointment, and going about their daily business, the paper, itself an old and wasted item after one day. Second, the slang usage of “harp” refers to Crawford and his associates, but not Bloom or Stephen. Third, the most obvious correspondent for an actual harp, as in the instrument, lies in the floss used by either the professor or Myles to clean his teeth. When plucked between the teeth, the floss goes “Bingbang, bangbang.” I’m not certain what the significance of the floss being the harp is, but several ideas come to mind: a) the floss/harp in this section only plucks at waste and detritus, thus the gaseous ideas and frustration espoused/blown everywhere b) it sets up the next episode featuring “bad food” and where it might possibly come from (or come out of), and c) the floss/harp is the only instrument at the moment capable of cleansing away this detritus, and not enough people in this episode are using poetry/rhetoric correctly to cut down on the frustrated winds blowing everywhere.

The actual above reference occurs in a section of the episode entitled O, Harp Eolian! This invokes not only the above associations but also a strong connection to the Samuel Coleridge poem “The Eolian Harp.” The poem, begun in 1795 and revised frequently by Coleridge until 1817, was one of the first conversation poems – a group of eight poems in which Coleridge applies conversational language to describe nature, life, and death. That such a reference, not including the above connotations, should appear in the “rhetoric” episode, where dialogue and conversation are key, is unsurprising. The poem itself deals with the author’s (impending) marriage by examining love through nature, which is chiefly represented by the Eolian Harp and the music it produces. More importantly, the poem sets up a series of oppositional ideas – coyness and innocence, wilderness and order, motion and slumber – and shows how these two disparate ideas actually compliment each other. This reconciliation of seeming contradictions occurs frequently throughout Ulysses, though Joyce is careful to have the ideas reconcile only so much, leaving a bit of tension for readers to follow throughout the texts. For example, the issues we discussed on Monday regarding the overlapping and complex relations between Ireland, Greece, Rome, Britain, and Judaism (not to mention the anti-Semitism displayed by many of the local characters); or Bloom’s original love of meat turned sour by “cannibalism” only to be reconciled later (in his mind) by sex – which leads down a dizzying path of its own.

Music and Song in Aeolus and Laestrygonians

Monday, September 28, 2009; 03:58 am Leave a comment

Performance: 78

Opera: 777888

Song: 77777888888888888888888

Music: 7777

Composer: 88

Instrument(s): 7

For this section of the reading I decided to categorize the occurrences of music and song as they related to six different loosely defined groupings.  The first is the self explanatory performance category, the second is any reference to an opera or a song appearing within an opera, the third is any reference to an identifiable song, ballad, etc.  The final three categories are fairly self-explanatory, although “music” falls more generally into the category of odds and ends, an example of which is the verse or jingle carried in The Weekly Freeman (Gifford 130).

After making tallies based on these groupings, several things became apparent.  Most notably, the pronounced difference in quantity of song references between the two episodes.  Lestrygonians has three times as many references in spite of the seventh episode being slightly longer.  Additionally, the quantity of song references in comparison to the quantity of occurrences of other categories makes me question how or if I should further refine that categorization (if I decide to continue with something similar), or whether the eighth episode is merely an outlier.  The most likely explanation for high numbers in the episode is the increased amount of time which is devoted to Bloom’s interior dialogue.

Aeolus contains considerably more obscure mentions than the eighth episode, particularly at the beginning.  Interestingly, the Irish songs mentioned at 7.427-8 and 7.472-72 (technically as part of an opera) are referenced by the newsboys and by the editor are both preceded by Lenehan speaking to one of the other characters in French (or mock French).

A repeat appearance of a song occurs with Douglas Hyde’s “My Grief on the Sea” at 7.522-25 comes after Stephen has delivered Deasy’s letter to the editor, and connects back to the original appearance at 3.397-398 as Stephen had written his own poetry on part of the letter in episode three, and is now being questioned about it by the editor as a result.

The eighth episode begins with one of the most unmistakably English references thus far.  Just before Bloom receives a religious pamphlet from a Christian organization he thinks the words “God. Save. Our.” (8.4), an allusion to the unofficial “national anthem” of Great Britain, as Gifford indicates (156).

There were also several references, particularly towards the ending of Lestrygonians, of either Thomas Moore’s songs or his life in general. Notably, at 8.414 and 8.415-17 there is (as far as I can recollect) the first occurrence of a composer and a song by that composer back-to-back, as Bloom walks past a statue of Moore, then mentions his poem “The Meeting of the Waters” (Gifford 167).  This follows from Bloom’s statement that the placement of the statue above a public urinal makes sense, given that it was a: “. . . meeting of the waters” (8.415), which only makes sense when both references are taken into account.  Moore comes up a third time at 8.589-90 when Bloom considers lyrics to the song “The Young May Moon” when thinking about Molly’s romance with Boylan, as the song deals with love and more specifically alludes to the physical aspects of love. A fourth mention at 8.606-7 also deals with Bloom’s relationship with Molly, and occurs immediately before he recalls how their lives were different before the death of his son, Rudy.  The song, “The Harp that Once Through Tara’s Halls,” deals with the loss of something which was once familiar, a sentiment which is echoed by Bloom’s interior monologue afterwards: “Could never like it again after Rudy.  Can’t bring back time.  Like holding water in your hand” (8.610-11).

Near the end of Lestrygonians (8.1065-66) Bloom recalls the Harry B. Norris song “Seaside Girls,” a song which retains a similar sentiment to the first occurrence at 4.282, as both reference Bloom’s dread of Molly’s relationship with Boylan, although given the context, the earlier occurrence may also reflect Bloom’s nervousness regarding Milly’s emerging sexuality.

Paternity in 4-8

Monday, September 28, 2009; 03:47 am Leave a comment

The idea of Fatherhood and of original creation comes into play in chapters 4-8 more as a way for Joyce to develop other themes, allude to creative works, and to build his own creative work, wordplay and thematic tracing. In Calypso, Molly’s shrewd businessman Major Tweedy father has expensive furniture, rose in the ranks of the military. Bloom might feel pressured by this overhanging idea of fatherhood, what makes a good man. Don’t women look for their father when they look for a husband? Molly and Milly are confounded in Bloom’s mind He acts as a father to Molly, his wife, (makes breakfast, like Mulligan for Dedalus) and acts as… something else to his daughter Milly. An absent father, a man, worried about a woman’s sex life, not like a father there.

In Lotus Eaters, Bloom thinks about the suicide of his father and his father’s theater tastes, giving Joyce an excuse to bring up Leah, and the wordplay with Bloom’s last name (Virag to Bloom to Flower). Bloom also thinks about the advertisement he puts in the paper, describing himself as a “gentleman” doing “literary work” and that is how he begins his unsubstantial affair with Martha. His part with Martha is definitely an unproductive, not only does the relationship not become “real,” but he creates nothing out of it. We don’t see any of his writing to her (though we hear about it) and their relationship is not consummated. How can he father anything on this path? At the very end of The Lotus Eaters, Bloom is again shown as a useless father, his “limp father of thousands, a languid floating flower” could be the father of thousands if he could get it up, but he’s been cuckolded by his wife, his son has died, he can’t create in an original way, he can’t consummate a relationship with a mistress, he has no creative juices flowing through him, only calculating economical juices, not enough to really produce!

In Hades, Bloom thinks on his Father’s suicide and the note he wrote, leaving Bloom his faithful dog, Athos. Bloom thinking about his father here allows Joyce to work with dogs as a motif, and also as a way to bring more genres of writing into the story. The 6-word-will and suicide note. Also in Hades, the story of Reuben J Dodd figures into the father-son relationship because his son almost drowns (purely because he is sending him away from his lady-love) and the Dodd pays the man who saves him 2 shillings and the joke is that it is one and eight pence too much. There is also the scene of the dead bastard child. All-around there is a feeling of fathers not being around and also being inefficient as fathers. Dignam’s boy is now without a father, he is only just food for rats and can’t be there for his son. Bloom feels that he is an unrealized father too, since Rudy has been dead 11 years and Bloom never got a chance to really be his father.

In Aeolus, Bloom recalls his father reading the hagadah book on passover, backwards… Blooms father gives Joyce a medium to create more codes, more traces of ideas… a reason to mention opera, a way to talk about reading backwards. A way for Joyce to draw his own creative conclusions, produce his own progeny of word-play. Stephen wonders whether he could write propaganda, write for his father country… Submit to Ireland, the way Ireland is submitting to England. He feels that writing propaganda wouldn’t be fostering his productive capacity.

In Lestrygonians, Bloom sees Simon Dedalus as being a poor father when he sees Dilly Dedalus, undernourished, and thinks that with so many children and the mother gone, how can Simon provide for all of those mouths and clothe all those bodies? Bloom briefly contemplates how vegetarianism begets poetic creativity. Saying that one “couldn’t squeeze a line of poetry “ out of “policemen sweating Irish stew,” but that “only weggebobbles and fruit” “was that kind of food you see produces the like waves of the brain the poetical.” Bloom takes the “blind stripling” as being somewhat of a child when he leads the youth across the street, but this thought isn’t thoroughly followed through. According to the Bloomsday book, Stephen is the son that Bloom is searching for, and the blind man provides a momentary substitution. I didn’t get much of a chance to obsess over my obsession while reading chapters 7 and 8.

Generally, we’ve seen perverse father-figures in the book: Buck is superficially jocose. Laughs at death etc. while Bloom is sexually perverse, why? He’s amoral and he sees through various lenses. Obsessed with word “parallax” because he sees parallaxically. When it comes to creative fatherhood, Bloom is a maker: he poops, he makes food, he collects Molly’s words on his “cuffs.” His originality is in borrowing? Isn’t all originality? Stephen, however, never creates because he is constantly in a negative feedback loop with other’s words. He allows the words to drag him down instead of build his ideas up, like Bloom does.

If I were to rewrite this post, I  would start with the title: “Ideas of Fatherhood as Medium for Joyce’s own Creative Expression”

Beginnings and endings in Aeolus and Laestrygonians (more to come later…)

Monday, September 28, 2009; 03:14 am Leave a comment

Since my last post touched on the major permutations of my obsession during Episodes 4-6, I’d like to spend this post looking mostly at Aeolus and the Laestrygonians.

Given the theme of the chapter, frustration near an intended destination, Episode 6 is short on endings. In lieu of conclusiveness, however, we get a lot of mixed up, foreshortened paths and trajectories that call into question the concept of beginnings.

The Episode itself begins at Nelson’s pillar, where trams depart for a number of different destinations, calling our attention to the notion of departure. Yet, once off its feet, we find the episode doesn’t really go anywhere. Bloom makes his “round” (96) of the newspaper office with little success at attaining his goal. Doors appear everywhere but their functions as entrances and/or exits is rarely distinguishable (“Way in. Way out” (97)). The notion of circularity crops up again, with references to newspaper circulation, the re-printing of “stale news” (98), and the repetition of speeches that may or may not bear repeating. The chapter also has its share of word play, riddles, words rearranged backwards and forwards, and caricature (particularly of Bloom), all of which trouble notions of authenticity, meaning, and origination.

Joyce’s re-use of H.G. Wells critique of Portrait of the Artist, “cloacal obsession,” (108), works towards a similar end. A reproduction of  a piece of criticism that we can assume Joyce knew well enough at the time of writing Ulysess was crap.

Even the idea of the Roman Empire as a network of sewers suggests an end that is not one. Excrement becomes another substance for transport, and transmission (i.e through news).

Stifled entrance also abounds in the chapter. There is Crawford’s struggle to open the door to his office with the keys. Bloom blocks doors, offices have inner offices thwarting entrance to ultimate destinations. We could add to this list Bloom’s ad proposal, which never makes it to the presses, and which Bloom persistently prefaces with jerky introductions (“Excuse me, councilor, he said. This ad, you see. Keyes, you remember,” (99).