Posts Tagged ‘Lotus Eaters’

Joycene Creed: Last Word

Wednesday, November 18, 2009; 06:42 am Leave a comment

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.


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”

The Gifts That Keep Giving

Monday, September 21, 2009; 03:54 am Leave a comment

In the episodes Calypso, The Lotus Eaters, and Hades, gift-giving has been elevated over how or what it represented in the Telemachiad, which was primarily the debasement of such acts. Gift-giving took two forms in the Telemachiad:  monetary transactions or unreciprocated giving. Buck Mulligan exemplified, or was exemplified by, the first, while Stephen’s unwilling surrender of castle, food, and key typified the other form. In episodes 4, 5, and 6, gift-giving, while more infrequent than in the Telemachiad, also demonstrates a closer meaning of the word “gift”, where the gift-giving is unasked for or willing, but done with future services or favors in mind – a way of building a good rapport, so to speak, with individuals. Not surprisingly, Leo Bloom exhibits this kind of giving.

            Calypso offers three possible “gift-giving” scenarios in the form of Bloom’s interactions with his cat, Molly, and his daughter Milly. When Leo is first introduced, he is accompanied by his hungry cat. In the first two pages of Calypso, Bloom teases the cat, holding off on feeding her. This passage could say several things on Bloom’s character, especially his detached curiosity from her plaintive “mrkrgnaos”, but Bloom, importantly, does feed the cat eventually. And later, when eating his kidney, Bloom passes his cat the burnt bit. Though it might be a stretch, I would consider such parcels of food gifts, as the cat does not necessarily require the sustenance, from Bloom anyway, as he notes she exists both in his house and altogether as a mouser. He gave her food simply because she appealed to him – the upside of having a cat hunt down mice was not in Bloom’s stream of conscious at the time. Such an interaction demonstrates a good way of gift-giving – a mutual respect or interest in a party simply because they are in/of your household (comparisons to the Odyssey). Molly, on the other hand, is almost the negation of gift-giving, made evident in how her first word “Mn” is interpreted as a sign of not wanting/requiring anything, specifically from Bloom himself. He still brings her breakfast, but from the ritualistic steps he takes of what she does and doesn’t like, the food he gives her seems more a dutiful action than a gift exchange. His silence on Boyle could be interpreted in a myriad of ways, possibly a gift, possibly out of duty, loyalty, or some other reason that might attribute to his lackluster approach to his wife’s shenanigans. In Milly’s card we find that a gift was given, serving to introduce the reader to Bloom’s anxiety over his daughter, as well as highlight the issue of “duty” in gift-giving again. In these cases with his family, Bloom doles out gifts where little seems reciprocated – his wife is detached and his daughter is absent, and too hurried to write a decent letter.

            The Lotus Eaters introduces two more interactions where Bloom fulfills a request or offers a gift without promise of exchange. M‘Coy is the first of these. Even after his unwanted “valise tack” Bloom still agrees to help out the morgue worker by putting his name on Dignam’s funeral list. Only later do we see that Bloom understands the “gift” given here: “I saw to that M‘Coy. Thanks, old chap: much obliged. Leave him under an obligation: costs nothing.” (92). The transaction is friendly, social, but the idea of a favor floating around the future is tangible. The other interaction, a much looser one, is found when reading Martha and his letter correspondence as a type of gift-giving. The two, it seems, stimulate some faculty in the other, write more or less as and when they will, thus there is reciprocation, though for Bloom it is much more of a “mental self-indulgence” according to Harry Blamires.

            Points of significance: Bloom does all the gift-giving here, unless you want to read his trip to the cemetery as a gift to him, to realize the moments in his life he has yet to live. Bloom’s gift-giving is for duty, social, or identification reasons. Additional thoughts: Bloom is able to change perspective, unlike Stephen at this point – does thsi realte to his different take on gift-giving? Point about Athos and Deasy – the giving of an object (or animal) to have another take care of it; in the case of the dog, who is getting a gift then – Bloom or his dad? Does Stephen’s and Bloom’s dislike of dealing with others inhibit their gift-giving capabilities?

Calypso, Lotus-Eaters, Hades and Sacred Stone

Monday, September 21, 2009; 03:03 am Leave a comment

Unlike in the Telemachiad, Catholicism doesn’t play an interconnected role between character associations, probably because Bloom does not have the connection to Catholicism that Stephen does. So, instead of looking at the over all patterns of engagement with Catholicism and the characters’ reactions to religion, I split the book chapter-by-chapter, and examined the role the Catholic Church played within each. Also, I kept mis-spelling “church” as “cruch” as I was typing this out. Subconscious comment, or am I totally incapable of controlling my own fingers.


This was probably the hardest chapter to deal with, obsession wise. Bloom has some cultural associations with Catholicism, but no direct connection, as can be seen only too clearly, while Molly spends most of the chapter inert, and not entirely talkative. Difficult material to work with. However, when Bloom goes out to find himself a kidney, we get an interesting snippet of what I’m going to call the reality of Irish spiritualism: pub life. The repeated use of the word curate on page 47 and 48 to describe the barkeeper of the local pub is slang (Gifford 72), but the fact that this is slang only reinforces the ambivalent approach to religion that we see in Ulysses. The “curate swab[s] up with a mob and bucket” as an old man watches (47.114), creating the image of a priest working to clean the local hangout while the disinterested look on, refusing to help in the endeavor. The picture is pitiful, yet on the next page Bloom’s thoughts betray a suspicion of corruption: “Coming up redheaded from the county Leitrim, rinsing empties and old man in the cellar. Then, lo and behold, they blossom out as Adam Findlaters or Dan Tallons” (48.126-128). The connection to politicians, who were most likely corrupt given our view of politicians from Ivy Day and the information from Ulysses Annotated, suddenly adds a sinister, untrustworthy angle to the work. The particular bar tender/curate that Bloom watches may toil in unknown obscurity, but come back another year, and he will be in power.

I also would like to look at the metempsychosis scene (52-53), as I feel that reincarnation links in with my fascination with heresy against the church, and it actually might connect Bloom a little more solidly into the interesting little web of heretic stand ins that we have met so far. However, I’m not really certain whether metempsychosis is connected with Bloom or Molly. She had no idea what metempsychosis was, and her lack of connection to it might function to make her a stand-in for the Virgin Mary, upon seeing Christ’s empty grave. My mind jumped to this random conclusion given how often Easter appeared in the reading. It’s a rather unformed and blobby cloud of an idea at the moment — I’m going to have to play with it some more.


So, a happy little chapter, the moral of which seems to be: Religion is the opiate of the masses. During some points of this chapter I imaged a tiny Karl Marx dancing around happily. There is a lot to go over from Lotus Eaters, but for tonight I’m going to focus on the scene in the church. Beginning with “The cold smell of sacred stone called to him” (66.338) we are assaulted by the foggy, dream-like imagery. The steps leading to the church are worn, the church is empty, the music slow (66.338-342). While this only too obviously is the parallel of the island of the Lotus-Eaters why did Joyce choose the church of all places to represent this apathetic stupor? Why not the pub, with the drink flowing, or even a visit to Molly’s concert hall, empty of all except for the ghosts of the patrons, ready to be drugged by the entertainment?

Perhaps if we look more closely at the celebrant and server, the answer can be uncovered. They run the island-church, and seem sober, more capable than the dipping heads of the parishioners. Even after taking the wine, the celebrant can still “[toss] off the dregs smartly” (67.386-387) giving us the image of speed and neatness, rather than Bloom’s slovenly unbuttoned waistcoat (68.452). For all that they are unencumbered by the torpor affecting Bloom, and presumably the rest of the congregation, they wear “blind masks” (66.353) and encourage “blind faith” (66.367). Then comes the clincher. The wine the priest tosses off is “more aristocratic than for example if he drank what they are used to” (67.387-388). The priesthood is connected with the aristocracy and thus removed from their flock, and placed in a position of power. Every action the priests take seems to set the balance of power in their favor. Even Bloom, the outsider looking in, is taken under their spell. The Latin has stupefied him a bit (66.350), even as he observes with disinterested detachment, whiling away the time until a funeral. The danger that we saw with the curate-bar tenders in Calypso is realized here. The Roman Catholic church is a temple of power, rather than a place of worship. The laity are turned into unthinking tools of worship, and they worship the priests, rather than God; servants of the servants, as Stephen expressed earlier.

Interestingly, most of the people that Bloom notices in the audience are women. One old man has fallen asleep by the confessional, but the rest of the congregation seems to be the red haltered women, perhaps implying that the Church’s power is waning over all but the elderly and the women. However, from the conflict over music that Bloom reflects upon, the church seems to be losing its grip on the women as well, and so begins to oppress them even more so, using easy words, and soft politicians to deflect interest in female involvement. “Sorry I didn’t work him about getting Molly into the choir instead of that Father Farley who looked like a fool but wasn’t” (65.331-333). The most lucid part of the scene is the remembrance of Molly singing the Sabat Mater in church, where there is a “thrill in the air” (67.401) and the people look up to hear the complicated question that could be said to be at the base of religion: “Quis est homo” or “who is man” (67.402). By shutting the female Molly out, the church increases its power in the realm of stupification, but refuses to acknowledge the wishes of the congregation which are slowly leaving (remember that it is a pity that the church is empty), it is “Music they wanted” which they are summarily refused. The Church, in it’s effort to retain power loses it precisely by shutting out the members who change the power base, women like Molly.


In Hades, the alienation that Bloom experiences in the churchyard echoes Stephen’s solitary walk in Proteus, but unlike that walk Bloom doesn’t enjoy it. He is outside of his Catholic contemporaries, and incapable of understanding their feelings of the place, just as they are incapable of understanding him. In the carriage ride over to the cemetery he immediately suspects that they will socially excommunicate him for the suicide of his father, “They have no mercy on that” (79.344-80.345).

At the funeral service Bloom is always a beat behind everyone, following them in (85.581), getting down on his knees (85.586), and leaving to go outside again (86.635), hanging at the back with Kernan (87.656). Through the funeral he is locked out of the church-going society. Even the protestant Kernan is absent from his side while in the church, although once out in the world the binding of Christianity frays into Catholic and Protestant factions, the Protestant joining the Mason. Here, too, Catholicism brings with it power. However, this time we see the power of the group, the solidarity that was alluded to in Lotus-Eaters (66.363-365). Bloom is beyond that circle, as he has no connection to this fraternity.

Excommunication is the theme in the chapter. Bloom seems terrified of losing the fellowship of these men, while in turn, they do not seem to care for him. In the carriage he launches “with sudden eagerness” into the story about the son of Reuben J and the boatman (78.262). The story can only be the embarrassment ofthe Jewish Reuben and his son, and Bloom tells it with a certain desperation. He wants the men’s approval, he wants to make them laugh and accept him, despite his dubious ties to the religion that binds them. The same story is true in the cemetery, where the men have naturally sorted themselves out into the Catholics and the Others. Bloom clings to Kernan then. His “prudent assent” is an attempt to keep Kernan happy, as the Catholics have already excluded them both (87.667).