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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.

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Molly’s masquerade

Wednesday, November 18, 2009; 04:35 am Leave a comment

Pretending in “Penelope”: Masquerade, Mimicry, and Molly Bloom
By Kimberly J. Devlin

This article contends that Molly cannot be reduced to a stereotypical or archetypal representation of femininity because of her consistent acting out, flouting, and mimicry of gender roles.

Although the corroborating evidence is at times less than pointed, Devlin’s exposition of the critical intricacies embedded within Molly’s thought is worth its salt.

First off, Devlin argues that Molly appears to recognize the signifying practices that construct gender identification. Clothing, gender roles, (i.e. “prima donna,” (896), “criada,” etc.), gestural actions all become emblems in her mind not so much of reified gender categories as of fluid and inhabitable positionalities, where meaning assembles through performance (artifice/culture) rather than innate action (essence/nature).

For instance Molly often imagines inhabiting the feminine role in popular songs, theatrical texts, and other cultural artifacts. Yet this mimicry, Devlin argues, extends beyond sheer narcissistic or essentialized feminine identification. When Molly imagines herself as the “aestheticized female nude”, for example, her supposedly spontaneous leaps in consciousness reveal submerged critical processes. The leap that Devlin attaches to is the one where Molly envisions herself first in the painting “The Bath of the Nymph” and immediately thereafter as the “dirty bitch” in one of Bloom’s smutty photos. For Devlin, this leaps exposes that Molly is conscious of the “sexual impetus behind seemingly ‘refined’ artistic representations of the female [form]” as well as, of the fact that there are “real women behind the representation,” and women often forced into the occupation of artist’s model out of “economic need” (76).

Devlin goes on to cite numerous occasions in which Molly flouts or performs the social functions of femininity with “critical distance”. Ultimately, however, Devlin’s commentary doesn’t address the way Joyce’s formal decisions and anti-intellectual characterizations of Molly could in fact serve to reify gender dichotomies. There doesn’t seem to be much evidence that Joyce sees Molly’s epistemological techniques as the result of socialization, or is there?

Overall an alright article although I think it would benefit from a little more theoretically engaged dialogue with structuralist discourse.

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Update on Penelope, the beginnings of some ending thoughts on my obsession

Monday, November 16, 2009; 06:46 am Leave a comment

Update: Penelope

In Penelope we get Molly’s interpretation of what I see as three of the most prevalent cyclical allegories for teleological processes (histories?) in Ulysses: foot to mouth, mouth to bottom, and of course procreative sex/intercourse.

FOOT TO MOUTH

It seems that Molly shares with Stephen an aversion to the pairing of feet and mouths, in the literal and figurative senses. Not only does she resent Bloom’s rather unconventional sleeping style, “his big square feet up in his wifes mouth,” she also plainly rejects the evasive self-denial that carves the circuitous routes of Bloom and Stephen’s wandering internal monologues. It seems no coincidence that it is in Molly’s nearly a-syntactic interior language that the text becomes most sexually explicit and revelatory of many previously ambiguous narrative events (though Joyce may also be working against this assumption as well). Molly obviously feels no impulse to obfuscate intentions or actions, and scoffs at the doctor’s word “omission”, a signifier most notably attached to adultery (through Bloom’s preoccupation with Molly potentially having a STD).

MOUTH TO BOTTOM

It is harder to say Molly’s exact opinion of this setup, although it is in some way connected to the notion of “omission” as a signifier of the negative capacity of masculine emission. This relation is particularly evident in Molly’s fantastic (as in the adjective form of the noun fantasy) seduction of Bloom. Here, the mouth to bottom kissing of Molly’s “brown part” acts as an intermediary transaction leading to Molly’s monetary benefit (“then Ill tell him I want £1”) as well as another of Bloom’s most masturbatory moments (“Ill let him do it off on me behind”), which subsequently ends in the now explicitly negative and commercialized climax (“Ill wipe him off me just like a business his omission then Ill go out,”) (642). In this economy, Bloom, as he has many times before, acts as the ultimate consumer, continuing processes beyond their predestined point of expiration (i.e. the end of the digestive tract “lick my shit”, the bottom of the pot “he goes and burns the bottom out of the pan all for his Kidney,” the grave (?) after all Bloom is at this point both asleep and a specter of Molly’s phantasmal sexual realization) and benefiting from them? (Couldn’t we say that Molly’s sexual fantasies are at this point the after-glow of her still fresh memories of an afternoon with Boylan?)

INTERCOURSE

Since I’m running out of room and time I will update this portion tomorrow on the blog and in class.

Broad Broad Overview/Penelope’s Father

Monday, November 16, 2009; 06:43 am Leave a comment

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.

loveandrichesinpenelope

Monday, November 16, 2009; 04:13 am Leave a comment

Examination of gifts and giving in Ulysses has revealed a regular path: a certain theme gets introduced in one episode to be elaborated upon in subsequent chapters. Evidenced in the first ten chapters is the characterization of gifts and giving, from crass commercial exchange to sympathetic giving. In this phase, gifts fall under the garb of personal to social, usually with an eye toward some kind of return. This range in turn sheds light on (or underscores) the various characters populating the streets of Dublin. In the second phase, chapters eleven through fifteen, extremes of the earlier types of gifts are realized, both in literary form, character, and situation. In the third phase, episodes sixteen through seventeen, the father-son relationship of giving is explored in-depth. Episode Eighteen, Penelope, explores another facet of family exchanges – the husband-wife association, as well as recapping and transforming previous ideals concerning gifts in the prior chapters.

Within Molly Bloom’s rushing interior monologue we find a multitude of gift-forms scrutinized. The episode begins with Molly’s chafing thoughts on Bloom’s request for breakfast in bed. The husband-wife dynamic is highlighted immediately and ranges throughout the episode, and as guilt and social obligation seem to have little to do with whether the requests (from either party) are adhered to, other reasons must be found. There could be a sense of filial duty involved, and this possibility manifests itself, in Molly’s thoughts, in the put-upon woman form to the fleeting wish of a petticoat government, but these irate thoughts of duty are immediately followed by thoughts infused with feeling, or love, which constantly jumbles sense in a non-extreme way. The gift-giving in this dichotomy, then rests in how much the characters love each other, or are aware of their love for each other (mainly speaking about Molly, but some of Bloom’s actions can be traced throughout the day to have similar motivations). Realize that Molly has to work herself into this loving mood for Bloom throughout the chapter, but it ends with her deciding to adhere to his request for breakfast (she’s decided to put a spin on what “breakfast” might entail, which only proves my point).

Of course, wishes for commercial gifts are rife in this chapter, as Molly fantasizes over the myriad items she can dig out of Boylan’s gold-lined pockets. In the rest of the novel, this desire for the material would place a character into the “bad” category, or at the least unsavory. Boylan the Rich and Mulligan are the poster boys for this culture of giving, something for something. Molly’s place beside these two, however, is complicated. She indulges fleeting desires of clothes and jewels and attention, but the underlying problem resides again in her pauper-like relationship with Bloom, where the filial duty is going unfulfilled. This means more than simply adhering to or indulging the wishes of your spouse. As Molly points out, she sees herself as a good catch for Bloom yet notes that he is squandering her and aiding their poverty by being unable to hold a job down and constantly moving from one house to another. Interestingly, as the “sentences” continue, this commercial concern starts falling away to be replaced by the greater concerns of living with her spouse. Indeed, Molly herself sneers at the thought of riches and fame in the later sentences even as she craves them in the earlier ones.

Music and Song in Penelope

Monday, November 16, 2009; 01:36 am Leave a comment

Performance: 8888888

Opera: 88888

Song: 888888888888888888888888888

Music: 88888

Composer: 8

Instrument(s):

As always, the statistical breakdown is above.  In general, the frequency of occurrences in Penelope is fairly standard, although I probably missed some really minor ones, as there were many references to past performances or performers which didn’t seem particularly relevant.

I was struck by the lack of concrete references to songs in this episode.  Given that in the past most references occur within the mental space, and given that we were exclusively in the mind of a performer who is not interacting with the world around her (as Bloom would), the focus was notably not on music or song.  Obviously the circumstances of the day give Molly little reason to reflect on music, which was basically the best explanation I have for the lacking importance of music and song.

A passage which broke away from this and also held with some of my previous predictions was lines 18.874-900, where Molly references numerous songs while reflecting back on the early part of her romantic life.  This fits in with how song and memory are linked, and upholds my previous idea that the “experience” of a song affects how one views that particular song, and vice versa.

Molly’s approach to music and/or sound in general (as well as pretty much everything else) was, as expected, much less mechanical than Bloom’s.  In her mind performances take place, they’re either good or bad, and some memories are best expressed in part by remembering certain songs.  This is best summed up by her own understanding and thoughts of Bloom, on which she states: “he never can explain a thing simply the way a body can understand” (18.566-67).  This essentially pits the two as intellectual opposites, and fits in with Bloom’s own assessment of the situation.

Although not directly related to my obsession, Molly’s views on poetry (which could potentially be relevant to music) with regards to sparking a relationship with Stephen are somewhat rational, yet appear as only another “skeleton” form of art similar to printed music or plays: “Ill read and study all I can find or learn a bit off by heart if I knew who he likes so he wont thing me stupid” (18.1361-62).  The removal of emotional attachment and the economic benefit she would theoretically receive from this misrepresentation (or false presentation) is twisted in an odd way—she knows she would eventually hurt Stephen, yet really doesn’t seem to care.

Narrative Monologue Voice Stuff

Wednesday, November 11, 2009; 08:33 am Leave a comment

My blog today will focus on Weldon Thornton’s Voices and Values in Joyce’s Ulysses. The book in general focuses on Joyce’s narrative and literary forms, their connotations, historical underpinnings, and whether or not Joyce is promoting certain narrative/literary modes over others. The general argument given is that Joyce was not “in-line” with the modernist themes of the “realist” novel or the contemporary perspective that the omniscient third-person narrative was archaic in novel writing.

In particular, I focus on chapter 5 “Voices and Values in Later Episodes,” as each of the episodes after 6 (excluding 8 and the last half of “Nausicaa”) are related in that they exhibit literary and narrative forms that Joyce disapproves of for one reason or another. In the section “Penelope,” the feminine interior monologue creates “the only moment in the novel where a figural voice totally obliterates the authorial narrative voice throughout the entire chapter.” Thornton claims that Joyce’s use of the monologue is to exhibit both its strengths and short-comings, and that he has set up the episode for the best possible scenario, having it come at the end (i.e., letting us get acquainted with Molly’s relationships with others and her general situation for an entire book before dropping us in) and allowing zero interactions to occur with the outside world during the monologue. For Ulysses, the form is deftly handled.

There are, however, obvious problems with it. The lack of punctuation makes sense when depicting the wandering un-punctuated thoughts of Molly, but the speaker (thinker?) surely has pauses of thought, changes in inflection, that cannot be conveyed without punctuation. Moreover, this absence of punctuation highlights puzzles and confusion, and actually makes the reader more aware of the author. As Thornton quotes one E. R. Steinberg: “Constantly feeling for the ends of the sentences as he progresses, the reader is continually aware of the difficulty of the reading and conscious of the fact not only that he is reading but that he is solving a puzzle. This awareness, of course, keeps him aware of the author, who presented the difficulty. As well, by completely effacing the narrator the ability to build a “world” examining self and society, Ulysses’ Dublin, breaks down.

I’m not entirely sure I agree with Thornton, in terms of this chapter at least. Afetr reading the chapter, I can agree that occasionally I despised Joyce for putting me into this puzzle, but a lot of the time I was lost in Molly’s thoughts, and keenly aware of only the “Molly” part of that phrase.