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And when I makes water…

Wednesday, September 30, 2009; 03:10 am Leave a comment

The contextual note I’m covering is Thomas Moore’s “The Meeting of the Waters,” which appears in the Lestrygonians (8.414-418).  In this passage Bloom strolls along past the urinal by Trinity College on the river Avoca, which actually begins as two rivers in County Wicklow south of Dublin: the Avonmore (“big river”) and the Avonberg (remarkably, “small river”).  One of the more famous statues in Dublin is in this location, a bust of Mr. Moore himself.  In typical Bloom fashion, the first thing Bloom thinks when he approaches the statue of “Tommy Moore’s roguish finger” (414) is that they did a good thing by putting him “over a urinal, a meeting of the waters,” (414-415) and he pragmatically (also in classic Bloom form) wonders why there is not such a place for women to urinate as well.  The poem/song is as follows (thank you bartleby.com):

“The Meeting of the Waters”

There is not in the wide world a valley so sweet

As that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet;

Oh! the last rays of feeling and life must depart,

Ere the bloom of that valley shall fade from my heart.

Yet it was not that nature had shed o’er the scene

Her purest of crystal and brightest of green;

’Twas not her soft magic of streamlet or hill,

Oh! no—it was something more exquisite still.

’Twas that friends, the beloved of my bosom, were near,

Who made every dear scene of enchantment more dear,

And who felt how the best charms of nature improve,

When we see them reflected from looks that we love.

Sweet vale of Avoca! how calm could I rest

In thy bosom of shade, with the friends I love best,

Where the storms that we feel in this cold world should cease,

And our hearts, like thy waters, be mingled in peace.

Bloom goes on to quote the first line of the poem in 416-417: “There is not in this wide world a vallee,” though the spelling of “valley” he uses possesses some significance of which I cannot understand at the moment.  The reason Joyce chose this poem in this context makes sense, since Bloom is wandering down by the waters.  However, I couldn’t find a lot of commentary on this poem independent of Ulysses or otherwise.  It seems quite like Joyce to take something perhaps obscure and make it seem like it’s something we should all know about.  As Brady pointed out in his obsession post I believe, Thomas Moore’s songs are repeated throughout the text, such as “The Young May Moon” and “The Harp that Once Through Tara’s Halls.”  I can only imagine the use of these Irish ballads that are not seen out of Ireland suggest the sort of isolation that Bloom is feeling at this point in the novel.

Thomas Moore (1779-1852) was a slippery character from what I can gather.  Apparently he was Dublin born, Trinity College educated, but made most of his living in England (London to be exact) writing… Irish poems and songs.  Really, sir?  I suppose he might as well exploit the British for all they’re worth, namely their famous sentimentality.  I just found this fascinating, with Moore being Ireland’s National Bard and all.  He also bro’d around with Lord Byron and in fact became his literary executor when he died.  The two also shared a great love of debt, and apparently Moore eventually got the boot from England because of this.

I’ve been listening to Sunday Bloody Sunday on repeat as I write this.  Why, we don’t know.

All biographical information on Thomas Moore from:

DeFord, Miriam Allen.  Thomas Moore. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc.  1967.

(the spacing is also being weird on this, my apologies).

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Ulyssesseen.com

Thursday, September 17, 2009; 01:46 am Leave a comment

At first glance the usefulness of Ulysses Seen may not be understood. The true benefits only appear after realizing the full detail of the website. Simply put, Ulysses Seen is a comic strip that accompanies the novel Ulysses. This comic strip does not just summarize scenes from the novel, but instead follows the novel closely to the point where the majority of the text from the novel is included in the comics. The creators of the website believe that such a comic strip will help create a better understanding of the novel by “… joining the visual aid of the graphic novel with the explicatory aid of the internet”.
In order to further help readers understand the novel, the creators of Ulysses Seen placed many reading aids on their website in addition to the comic strip. One such aid is a tab labeled “Readers’ Guide” which is located at the top of every comic strip. This tab takes the reader to a page that gives a brief analysis pertaining to the part of the novel depicted in that particular section of the comic strip. While this analysis does not delve too deep, it does work well as a starting point for exploring the text’s inner workings. One useful aspect of the “Reader’s Guide” is that it is presented in a blog format to allow for readers to post comments or questions relating to the material which then either the creators of the website or other readers can respond to.
Additionally, on the home page of the website is a tab called “House of Keys” which contains what can probably best be described as various useful references. For instance, part of “House of Keys” lists all of the characters in the book and gives a brief description of the more important ones, while another part contains information on the musical references in the novel. Overall, it seems that the best use for Ulysses Seen is as a tool for clearing up confusion in the text over such issues as what is happening or who is talking. However, the non-comic strip parts of the website may also prove helpful in stimulating new ways of looking at the different sections of the novel.

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Gestural Politics by Christy Burns

Thursday, September 17, 2009; 01:44 am Leave a comment

Christy Burns’ Gestural Politics addresses Joyce’s portrayal of women, homosexuals, and Irish nationalism. Burns covers all of Joyce’s writing in her analysis, but focuses mainly on Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake. In the introductions, Burns states her aim for the book when she says, “I am here proposing to re-open the question of Joyce’s textual politics, focusing particularly on an ambivalent gesture in his works that moves between conscious artistic intentions and unconscious desires, between social commentary and pleasurable diversion, between ambitious universals and humorous disruption of their more arrogant claims” (1). As Burns delves deeper into her goals, it becomes clear that she believes that much of the negative criticism of Joyce is caused by misinterpretation. More specifically, Burns argues that many of the believed stereotypical comments in Joyce’s writing are actually Joyce mocking the stereotypes. Additionally, Burns includes some analysis of Joyce’s use of humor from his various writings throughout the book.
Gestural Politics is split up into five main sections. The first section discusses Joyce’s use of parody and how it can possibly be misconstrued as stereotyping. The next two sections cover Joyce’s treatment of women and homosexuals in his writing. Then Burns looks at Joyce’s complex handling of the Irish; Burns argues that this complexity results from Joyce’s conflicting feelings towards his homeland. In the final section, Burns examines how, through parody, Joyce is able to create characters that are “both generally recognizable while locally particularized” (142). However, this final section concentrates primarily on Finnegans Wake, and therefore may contain points that do not carry over to the study of Ulysses.
Overall, Gestural Politics can be useful to anyone looking to explore Joyce’s stereotypes, or his use of parody and humor. Burns offers a unique and challenging voice on these topics that will most likely differ from much of the other literature covering these popular aspects of Joyce’s work.

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Hugh Kenner’s Ulysses

Thursday, September 17, 2009; 01:37 am Leave a comment

The model for Hugh Kenner’s critical novel Ulysses, based on the eponymous novel by Mr. James Joyce himself, follows from a framework constructed by Kenner in which he attempts to show the reader how to read the novel in more or less the same manner that he imagines Joyce actually wrote it.  It would be helpful to keep in mind Mr. Kenner’s situation as a modernist critic, having completed not only a dissertation on Joyce, but also having produced essays on some of the widely known samples of the modernist literary movement, such as T.S. Eliot, Samuel Beckett, and Ezra Pound.  As a side note, apparently Kenner decided to study literature because a childhood battle with influenza caused him substantial hearing loss, which I guess is as good of a reason as any.  Let’s just hope he doesn’t go blind I suppose, but then maybe he could do something culinary-related.  Anyway.  One of the main themes Kenner discusses throughout the work is the conflict concerning the Homeric and classical parallels (let’s not forget Dante and Aquinas shall we) with the modernist concept that these frameworks are insufficient on their own for Joyce to use to fully address the fragmented experiences and emotions present throughout Ulysses and to provide for him a vehicle in which to write the work.  Many of Kenner’s chapters in his work address this classical/modernist problem with titles such as “Uses of Homer,” “The Hidden Hero (Dedalus),” and “Lists, Myths.”  With this structure, Kenner’s analysis follows, more or less, in the form of a general-to-specific model.

Kenner relies heavily on Joyce’s life from early on in his childhood through his attempt to function in the city of Dublin as he gets older.  Because of this, Kenner often uses and references Joyce’s earlier works, especially A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Kenner seems to obsessively circle back to the context of Joyce’s life in order to flesh out the idiosyncrasies of the text in more depth.  This critical work on Ulysses would definitely not be for the first time reader.  It would, however, be helpful for a reader attacking the text perhaps for the second or third time, as the work’s function in relationship to Ulysses is mainly expansive.

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Ariela Freedman’s “Did It Flow? Bridging Aesthetics and History in Joyce’s Ulysses”

Thursday, September 17, 2009; 01:29 am Leave a comment

Question Addressed: “How do we bridge the difference between the aesthetic and the historical, between the world of the novel and the world the novel claims to represent, without reducing the novel to a simple historical artefact or reifying it into a transcendentally aesthetic object? How to writers like Joyce mediate between word and world, both asserting autonomy and maintaining connection?”

General strategy: Freedman “examine[s] evocations of water and waste in Ulysses – inflows and outflows – as a means of exploring the elusive interplay between world and word, between the historical pipes and privies of turn of the century Dublin and the imagined ones of Joyce’s text… I argue that when Joyce contemplates both of these forms he is speculating on the relationship between aesthetics and history, between artistic and social production” (854).

Freedman begins by discussing water as a “master metaphor for economies of circulation in the novel” (and cites Robert Adam Day, 854), which she then qualifies by citing critic Derek Attridge’s note about the historical complexities/nuances of the text of Ulysses.

Freedman then separates herself from “other critics” (no idea who they are exactly…) who have focused more on “the aesthetic and metaphoric implication of water” – she wants to compare the aesthetic/metaphoric aspects of water to the moment in Ulysses when water flows “through the pipes of… Dublin as Bloom turns his tap”. She then explicitly mentions Frederic Jameson’s apparently famous “Ulysses in History” in which the process by which water flows from the tap is traced; from there, she builds on Dora P. Crouch’s assertion that water drainage systems are synonymous with urbanization/civilization.

The text of this particular section (the reference to the scientific jargon section of “Ithaca”) is compared to Frontinus’s treatise on the aqueducts of 1st century Rome (which highlights the importance of water ways), then back even to the Odyssey itself (in accordance with Fritz Senn) as a text that wanders.

The next section deals with the historical reality behind the text (especially the timely significance of Bloom’s having access to flowing water); Mark Osteen’s observation of Joyce’s historicism “raises the spectre of scarcity and improper usage” of water, which enables Freedman to further frame water as resisting the metaphor, and as evoking commmodification and specificity of time and place.

Freedman segues into a discussion about bathing, Bloom, fertility and menstruation, and hones in on Bloom’s attitude towards water (she says it is “pro-entrepreneurial though anti-corporate”, and only briefly “romantic”); there’s a fair chunk of close reading of the text here. The text of Ulysses is likened then to water, and again to wandering in the Odyssey. The idea of language/writing/the aesthetic as detritus is developed, in contrast to the notion of the body as the “repository of tremendous power”.

She once again grounds textual discussion of Stephen’s hydrophobia in context of Joseph O’Brien’s historical account of turn of the century Dublin’s filthy sewage system; the essay then touches on the idea of WCs/toilets and sewage as “express[ing] and mask[ing] a faecal obsession… [they] allow us to deny the reality of our own shit”. The article closes with a nice summary a la Fritz Senn: “Even as the tour of the water supply of Dublin points us to a certain historical depth in Joyce’s novel… the passage also playfully and paradoxically points to the routes we will not trace, the facts that can not be charted, the truths we can not know” (864).