“Watery Words: Language, Sexuality, and Motherhood in Joyce’s Fiction” by Randolph Splitter
So, I had originally intended on annotating the Stanier article, but you snooze you lose. I don’t think I even have to post for today, but oh well. I’ve already read this anyhow.
This piece covers a range of Joyce’s works (“The Dead”, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Finnegan’s Wake), and even goes over the concept of “family” in the context of late 19th and early 20th century Ireland (so, likely, Joyce’s Ireland). Though this article doesn’t explicitly focus on Ulysses (and in fact, pushes to its resolutions with/through Finnegan’s Wake), the range of works explored serve as useful corroborations for general themes in Joyce’s works (though, unfortunately, doesn’t really focus on “Penelope” at all). It does seem to pick up on a lot of (really interesting) things, but they eventually (somewhat) lead back to Irish family life in the 19th/20th centuries, and how Joyce’s works might be seen as an ambivalent response to the polarized gender roles (with mention of Amor matris) in Irish families.
Using “The Dead” as a starting point, Splitter discusses what we’ve been discussing – the conflation of seeming opposites or apparently unrelated ideas – through the short story’s final snowy, sleepy “image of death as a swooning dissolution and fusion of souls… promising union while preserving detachment” (194). Apparently (because I haven’t yet read it), A Portrait has Stephen imagining “life as a powerful tide… threatening to overflow his defenses and boundaries” (194).
Though I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Stephen so forthrightly imagines “life as a powerful tide”, Stephen is hydrophobia (which tangentially makes me think of Stephen with rabies). Instead of Buck Mulligan’s casual “great sweet mother”, Stephen internally recasts the sea into a huge guilt-ridden bitter green thing, and then (maybe?) menstrual blood (“blood not mine… a winedark sea”. And then more of the “watery” womb tomb funstuff. Splitter goes on to discuss the problematic relations of each character to water in Ulysses.
I feel like I’m just rehashing now, and this article sprawls… so I think I’m just going to highlight, less verbosely, some interesting ideas that I maybe haven’t covered in previous watery posts.
– consubstantiality, Stephen as Daedalus (father) with the possibility of suffering the fate of the son (Icarus), falling into the sea and drowning (195).
– the artist as alchemist, turning “base substances, earthbound matter, into ethereal, immaterial spirit” (196), but also the very base origins of art (as Joyce so loves to emphasize). Here, transubstantiation, where Jesus turns water to wine, where Mother Grogan makes her pee and tea (in the same pot?)…
– this is one of my favorite ideas from this article: the idea of impregnation or insemination via ear, a la Hamlet: “They list. And in the porches of their ears I pour”. I mean, it’s the final frontier as far as orifices that can intake substances go (that we haven’t really explored in great depth):
> Splitter’s suggestion that in FW, “the sexual connotations that Joyce associates with ‘penetration’ through the ear, Earwicker’s spying – or… eavesdropping – upon the girls in the park might be imagined as another sexual assault upon him, a penetration through his ear by the erotic sound of women urinating” (198)… which not only gives us another place of entry, but also enacts a reversal of roles (and general gender ambiguity, because for all sexual differences, we all have ears), ears being penetrated with sound
> Similarly, “Joyce’s fundamental myth or fantasy of artistic creation… places the artist in the role of the Virgin Mary” (200). The Virgin Mary/Eve as being penetrated/seduced through the ear by the Holy Ghost/Word of God/Serpent in Eden. Splitter quotes Ulysses here: “Sure, you’d burst the tympanum of her ear, man, … with an organ like yours” (cited on p. 200)…
– here’s a fun little note about something from way back when: The sea (I think in the Telemachiad or summat) was referred to as Mananaan [MacLir], “an early Irish sea god, or his father Lir (the sea itself, the mythical precursor of Shakespeare’s Lear [and yes, my head just exploded])” (200)… an androgynous sea parent à androgynous artist-parent…
And then some stuff about the problems of Amor matris, the love of the mother, the only sure thing in the world (tied into Splitter’s historical contextualization).
Broad overview of Fatherhood:
Stephen obsesses over his mother but there is little or no mention of his father. Bloom thinks about himself as a father, what that means, and what makes or doesn’t make him a father. Stephen argues about the consubstantiality of father and son. Then we get the elevation of androgynous production. Then we see in Eumaeus and Ithaca the actual existence of a father-son relationship. We see that unfold. In Penelope something weird happens. Molly romanticizes her father. She seems to have made him the epitome of manhood. She thinks about Bloom “I wish hed even smoke a pipe like father to get the smell of a man” A good man in her mind is a man like her father.
It’s weird that Molly has this view of fatherhood. I’m not sure what to do with this. What does this have to do with her marriage? With her feelings about Rudy? about Stephen? about Milly? What does this do to our perceptions of Molly? Also, I think there’s more to fatherhood in this episode than just this romanticization of her father… but I’ll try to add more about that when I know more after class on Monday and another read through.
What I’m seeing so far with fatherhood in Circe is a conflation of the generations, which we’ve seen before. Bloom becomes Virag, the grandfather, the father, etc. And He’s also simultaneously Henry Flower… all the versions of his last name are present. Morphing of surnames, all the linguistic and semantic play Joyce has exercised before. There’s also a lot of development of Joyce’s views of the genders. How he creates Bloom as a womanly man, and how he moves to give that validation. Also, Virag gives a lovely summary of the development of gender roles on page 423:
“Woman, undoing with sweet pudor her belt of rushrope, offers allmoist yoni to man’s lingam. Short time after man presents woman with pieces of jungle meat. Woman shows joy and covers herself with featherskins. man loves her yoni fiercely with big lingam, the stiff one…Then giddy woman will run about. Strong man grapses woman’s wrist. Woman squeals, bites, spucks. Man, now fierce angry, strikes woan’s fat yadgana.”
Virag then “(chases his tail)” and makes nonsense sounds, both things that serve to confound man with animal as well. I hope we can dissect this passage a little in class, because there’s also the aspect of the Orient, as Virag uses the Hindu terms for the genitalia.
Also in this chapter, Bloom’s dream of becoming a father is realized when he becomes the mother of 8 male children, healthy, who grow up to be smart guys who work in positions that Bloom would value. I’d love to work with Amy to figure out how Bloom’s birthing here works with past male pregnancies and the androgyny of Bloom.
Another thing that popped up during Bloom’s stint as Lord Mayor is the idea of male virginity. Greg brought this up in class on wednesday and how it cannot be verified, for there isn’t any physicial proof. Dr. Mulligan in Circe claims “I have made pervaginal examination and, after application of the acid test to 5427 anal, axillary, rectoral and pubic hairs, I declare hiim to be virgo intacta.” Is Bloom’s virginity able to be verified because he is womanly? Because he’s able to give birth in this hallucination, and because he’s doing immaculately? On this topic, I’d love to hear Mari’s take on his comparison to Mary. (And how does this affect our view of him compared to Marion/Molly?)
Oh. And his testicles are “off side.” Hilarious. and “heavier.” Because he hasn’t been sexually active? He isn’t using his semen to create children…. so that’s waste for you… waste of the potential for fatherhood.
Can’t wait to talk about this incredibly funny chapter… oh Joyce, you surprise me with your humor.
On Wednesday, my group discussed fatherhood mainly in relationship to motherhood. Throughout Scylla and Charybdis both begetting and creating as a father and bearing and birthing as a mother are mentioned. Joyce starts to confound the maternity and paternity and constructs an idea that perhaps androgynous birth is best. Both ways of producing an offspring, contained in one person.
The image of the ultimate match of male and female figures prominently in the chapter. The image described by Stephen of the phallic, bloody, violent mulberry tree, upright planted in the loving, accepting mother earth is a fitting support of my theory on androgynous production. The phallus causes death, the yoni accepts the body back into her, just as the phallus engages the womb in production, and the womb bears the offspring.
Another image that makes a bold impression in Scylla and Charydis is Stephen’s thought about Eve: “Naked wheatbellied sin. A snake coils her, fang in’s kiss.” The ultimate mother, coiled within the snake phallus, about to give birth to mankind. Powerful.
A man who can absorb qualities of women is somewhat bouyed up by Joyce. Stephen is elated to discover he can fit in women’s shoes in Proteus and Stephen wonders in Scylla: “what name Achilles bore when he lived among women.” And in Stephen’s argument for Shakespeare being the father of the ghost, the prince and the son of the ghost and prince and Hamlet his own grandfather (or whatever) he says that in the economy of heaven there will be “glorified man, an androgynous angel, being a wife unto himself.” The ultimate being, having qualities of men and women, production in both ways.
Buck Mulligan (of all people) personifies the feminine birth inside a masculine form when he has an idea for a play: “Wait. I am big with child. I have an unborn child in my brain…. He clasped his paunchbrow with both birthaiding hands.” What’s interesting about this imagery is that it is alludes to Zeus’s takeover of the women’s role in child birth. A God took the child from a woman and birthed a woman from his creative brain. The Man (buck) takes and idea from God and bears it femininely to fruition with “birthaiding” hands.
From Scylla to Cylops there is not much in the way of fathers, but in Cyclops there is one mention: J.J. O’Malloy commentson the Jews waiting for their Messiah: “every jew is in a tall state of excitement, I believe, till he knows if he’s a father or a mother” (277, gabler edition) This is interesting. It’s not in the line of the other aspects of parenthood that I’ve discussed so far. Here, it seems suggested, the parent’s role depends on whether the child is male or female, since the child’s gender is usually the thing parents are all “in a tall state of excitment” over. This twist of a familiar concept lands the importance of gender (and therefore parenting style?) on the parent, which connects to the conversation on incest that we’ve been continuing throughout the book. If a mother acts as a father in the parenting role, does her son covet her? If a father acts feminine, does the daughter end up with an Electra Complex… I don’t know. This will have to be developed more.
Since Catholicism is patrilineal and Irish, and Judaism is matrilineal and not Irish, as we’ve been seeing… then when Bloom thinks about his line ending earlier on in Cyclops, he is thinking of himself decidely as more Irish than Jewish. (and I think he can be both… but he is definitely NOT acceptig his Irishness here.) Because Rudy has died, he considers his line ended, but only his patrilineal line is over, Milly is alive and kicking… and in the Jewish faith, that would be enough. (But there’s always the complication that Molly isn’t Jewish… and she certainly isn’t Irish.) Since Bloom doesn’t have a son to be a father for, he seems to have become feminized so he can be a mother for Milly.? This is a possible direction to go here. From what I know of the rest of the book, we’re just waiting for Bloom and Stephen to link up so Bloom can act as Father and Stephen can act as Son, and everyone can feel better about everything….. We’ll see how it goes.
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”
On Paternity (and please forgive the sloppiness, and lateness but I lost the first version of this that I wrote to an overheated computer.)
Michael Murphy’s article entitled “‘Proteus and Prose: Paternity or Workmanship?” is a focused interpretation of the tension Stephen Dedalus deals with in the 3rd episode of Ulysses. Murphy displays Stephen’s struggle as one with issues of creation. Murphy emphasizes the difference between begotten and made and proclaims: “Stephen is wrong about his own conception and birth.” Stephen was begotten just like all mankind except Adam and Eve, the artifices of God. The distinction that Murphy develops is that artifice is in words and creations but children are only products of lustful coupling. Daedalus is the artificer and Stephen is striving in Proteus to become more like the Dublin authorfathers he dwells on throughout the chapter. Stephen is caught within a cyclical trap of other men’s words, other men’s work. He hears only the same authors over and over in his head when he is trying to create a lasting product for his own immortality. Murphy develops the idea that immortality comes not with the fatherhood of children but the fatherhood of words: “the pen is mightier than the penis or the womb.” Stephen also discovers this issue, according to Murphy, and in Aeolus, he finally creates “not something he has emitted; [but] it is something that he has made.” Not just in the Daedalus sense of artifice, of a constructed, stable object, but one of Stephen’s own protean works. Murphy claims finally that the reader of Proteus is “present at the founding of a new church of one,” where Stephen’s means of production is finally developing into his own changing voice. Stephen has aspects of creation that do vary from from the authorfathers he quotes from repeatedly. According to Murphy they are: Stephen’s “mint[ed] neologisms,” his use of archaic words, and his onomatopoeia. These don’t help him write a poem about his mother, something he fails miserably at on the strand that morning. His output that morning is a 16-word poem of little literary merit, claims Murphy, but later, when he writes for himself, he is able to use his personal protean language to immortalize himself on paper.
In this article, Murphy develops an “obsession” in Ulysses in depth in one chapter, and connects it to mainly one other episode, Aeolus. Paternity as a creation is quite dissected, but something that is lacking is mention of Buck Mulligan. Where is the father-figure who emits nothing but rubbish in Murphy’s article? How come Mulligan, who spouts nothing that will make him immortal, nothing that will keep him in the world’s view, quoted by following artificers, doesn’t get pulled into Murphy’s argument as a counterpoint for Stephen. Proof that Stephen should be contemplating his emissions as much as he does in Proteus. A link to another chapter outside of Proteus and Aeolus would solidify Murphy’s argument as being more far-reaching throughout Ulysses, instead of an argument that seems only to hold for this one chapter.
From James Joyce Quarterly, v. 35, no. 1, p. 71.