Posts Tagged ‘Sirens’

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.

Music, Sound and Sensation: A Modern Exposition

Wednesday, November 18, 2009; 02:36 am Leave a comment

Winckel, Fritz. Music, Sound and Sensation: A Modern Exposition. Trans. Thomas Binkley. New York: Dover Publications, 1967. Print.

Fritz Winckel’s Music, Sound and Sensation provides a scientifically rooted though easily accessible analysis of human interaction with sound.  Some of the more interesting and relevant concepts are discussed in the final chapter of the book, “The Effect of Music on the Listener.” One such concept is that music (and sound) only exists through variation—disturbances and modulations.  An example Winckel provides for this concept is the fact that “A continual monotonous hum of a machine in a factory disappears from the consciousness and is noticed only when it is turned off” (157).  This same idea can be applied to Ulysses—if the lyrics to a song appear later, they are inherently linked to the previous occurrence, yet the fact that they have been “turned off” (like the factory noise) only to resume later is also significant.  The fact that certain episodes (Sirens) were so reference-heavy made them overwhelming to pick apart, which following this theory of music as variation, means that each specific reference in Sirens is less significant on its own than a similar reference in a more musically barren episode.

Winckel also provides a differentiation between speech and singing.  He states that: “Singing is the development of utterances of speech into a cultivated sound through the extension of the vowels in time, mostly on a higher pitch level” (159).  There are, of course, more than just two states (singing and speech) present, and the further variation and extension of vowels as well as other factors advance normal speech in varying degrees towards the singing end of the spectrum.

Going back again to Bloom’s concept of “Musemathematics” it turns out that my previous understanding of musical notation, at least in terms of how notes come to sound like notes, was a bit off.  According to Winckel: “. . . the written note value never corresponds accurately to a defined vibration frequency, but rather to a ‘frequency band’ of vibrations, where the written note simply indicates the average pitch” (161).   This would explain the variation in songs as well as understandings of songs, as there exists on the scientific level distinct variations within each note, which is also compounded by acoustical variations both in the environment of the listener, and also within the listener.  This probably would not serve to explain the differing perception of the bells by Stephen and Bloom in Ithaca, but it does bring instances like it into question.

As a final note, the chapter provides an explanation for why music or sound is perceived in a unique way due to interior differences within the listener.  He states: “. . . impulses are not only sent forth through electrochemical transformation, connected with the nerve fibres, but also exist in the form of electrical fields, which go beyond the limits of the individual neurons and influence their excitability positively or negatively . . . which is further influenced by the hormone regulation of the synapses in the transmission network of nerves” (165).  Although this was a long quotation, I found it necessary to include as I lack a firm grasp of anything scientific outside of what I’ve read for my obsession; but what I gather from this is that the experience of a song or sound is absolutely unique to the listener, and in this logic Bloom’s experience in Sirens (recalling past events, etc.) makes perfect sense in that it was patently different from anyone else’s.

Others blogging about Ulysses

Tuesday, October 20, 2009; 01:52 pm 1 comment

Found this site that’s also blogging about Ulysses.  And they are also, get this, TWEETING about Ulysses.

Not quite sure what I think about them.  They’re clearly more loosy-goosy about the text… I do like that they connect the characters to more current stuff… and they’ve got pictures!  and Youtube videos… which is… nice… and sometimes not so nice.  The video of the “gross guy eating” actually wasn’t that gross and added nothing to my knowledge of the book.  However, the picture of the spire Dublin replaced Nelson’s pillar with definitely added something to my knowledge.  I didn’t know that Nelson’s pillar wasn’t there anymore.  And I’m glad they replaced it with something equally phallic.  Anyway… I suggest skimming it.  Well… do what you will with it.

Also, read this post:

It’s lovely.  About a theatrical interpretation of Sirens.  I wish it were possible to see it.

And this woman is reading it on her own, declaring she will read Ulysses in toto between Sept. 1st-Oct. 31st and blog about it. I’m impressed that she’s handling it on her own without a support system.  i could never do Ulysses with a support system.

Music and Song Additional Notes: Episode 11

Wednesday, October 14, 2009; 01:44 am Leave a comment

There are several passages and concepts I would like to add to my Monday post, all of which pertain to the reading for this week.

The first relates to the concept of music as simply a function of mathematics, which is certainly an interesting notion, and based on my understanding, is a partially true statement, although not to the degree which Bloom implies.  The line comes immediately after Goulding has referred to a song as a number, and Bloom agrees with him: “Numbers it is.  All music when you come to think . . . Vibrations: chords those are . . . Musemathematics” (11.830-34, page 228).  While music theory relies heavily on numbers for the intervals of chords and notes, Bloom fails to address the performance aspect of music.

Bloom presents a much more abstract take on music a few pages later on 231 when he thinks to himself: “Sea, wind, leaves, thunder, waters, cows lowing, the cattlemarket, cocks, hens don’t crow, snake hissss.  There’s music everywhere.  Ruttledge’s Door: ee creaking.  No, that’s noise” (11.962-63).  While it doesn’t quite function as an additional mental perspective to the previous passage, it does highlight Bloom’s willingness to consider and explore non-traditional definitions of everyday occurrences.  This also leaves the reader (and the obsessionist) with the all important task of creating a boundary where music or song ends and noise begins.

As Kelly pointed out on Monday, this also gives everything (the elastic in Bloom’s hand) the possibility of becoming an instrument, a point which Bloom takes to the next level, viewing aspects of several different jobs similar to performances, if only on a very basic stage: “I suppose each kind of trade made its own, don’t you see?  Hunter with a horn . . . Shepherd his pipe.  Pwee little wee.  Policeman a whistle” (11.1239-41, page 237-238).

Additionally, it’s possible to view the tuning fork which the blind stripling returns to pick up (P. 237-238) as a key, similar to the keys which both Bloom and Stephen lack, and also similar to the keys in the advertisement.  The tuning fork resembles a key, and as Professor Simpson pointed out to me during a post-class discussion, it also helps the piano remain in key.

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Sirens, perpetual motion machines

Monday, October 12, 2009; 08:14 am Leave a comment

Chapter 11 adds many layers and novel symbols to my obsession. Too numerous to be enumerated here, however, I’ll fire them off with some titbits of analysis in the hopes that we can elaborate upon them in class:

-Musical refrains and echoes.

-Joyce’s language in the Sirens episode constantly repeats itself. Meaning snowballs in never-ending assemblages of images, thematic elements, and symbols.

-The perpetual refrain of gold and bronze, representative of the ages preceding Homer’s, suggest the circular procession of antiquity, constantly renewing itself, refilling the cups (chalices) with fresh drink for any and all takers.

-Bloom finds himself slighted by a parroting blackbird: “Taking my motives he twined and turned them. All most too new call is lost in all. Echo. How sweet the answer. How is that done? All lost now” (224). The phrasing here rings of betrayal, a theme of the episode, and itself an echo of sorts—a twining and turning, libeling and returning of motives that anticipates the citizen’s slanderous interactions with Bloom in the following episode.

-Shakespeare’s daily quotations speak to the banal and quotidian nature of meaningless repetition.

-Salesmen make dear with used goods (“Chap sold me the Swedish razor he shaved me with” (238)). Things—instruments [melodeon, an elongated melon?], voices [Dollard and Dedalus return from the dead through song], characters [the stripling, and deaf Pat make their rounds]—bob and resurface on various seas: time, the free market, Dublin.

-The phrase “Done. / Begin!” (212) sums the chapter neatly. A finish is only an end and so on and so forth.

-Kennedy broken in two describes the circularity of perception. Ken = “one’s range of knowledge or sight” and eddy = “a circular movement of water”. (That this little word play re-calls the Charybdis imagery of the previous chapter solidifies the idea that the knowledge of Ulysses is repetitive and compounding.)

-Bloom eats liver again, only with added accompaniment, bacon and Goulding, and even reminisces on Molly while doing so (“Mrs. Marion. Met him pike hoses. Smell of burn. Of Paul de Kock” (221).

-“Woman. Sauce for the gander” (229) the latter part is somewhat of a tautology.

All in all in all, it seems that Joyce’s land of the Sirens is dangerous indeed. A place where nearly a month’s worth of cocks crow and yet nothing changes. Echoes of anguish and loss reverberate in Old Irish ditties, waiting waiters wait, and Bloom mulls on Molly world without end.


With this update I’d like to briefly outline the Platonic notion of extramission as it relates to issues of origination, Hellenism, Hebraism, and the gaze.

Basically, the Platonic notion of extramission states that the eye was made up of the same substance as the sun and consequently, both emit and receive rays of light.

This dialectic of sight is interesting in terms of the Sirens episode, for many reasons. First of all, it necessarily entails a merging of the subject (viewer) and the object (viewed), a merger that occurs throughout the Sirens episode, perhaps most poignantly in Bloom’s melancholy moment with his empty plate: “Bloom askance over liverless saw.” (224).

Here, Bloom’s gaze doesn’t merely pass over the liverless vicissitudes of the dish, it becomes those vicissitudes, converting his very physiognomy into the “face of the all is lost,” (224). The significance of this pathetic collapse of self and other, for both Bloom’s relation to origination and the divide between Hellenism and Hebraism is manifold.

For one, Bloom’s gaze, unlike Boylan’s, exhibits a noteworthy penchant for subordination. Whereas the “smitting light” of Boylan’s “spellbound eyes” menaces the barmaids chasing them around the bar, dominating and dazzling them, Bloom’s eyes can barely penetrate an empty bit of dish-ware without becoming entangled. This susceptibility to visual emanations, and more specifically the symbolic potential of such emanations not only connects Bloom to Stephen, who often loses himself in his own associative powers, but also to Hebraism, and, more obliquely, Protestantism.

According to theorist Martin Jay, if Hellenic culture is decidedly a visual one (ocularcentric), Hebraism is decidedly textual (or ocularphobic), grounded as it is in the Word of God. Moreover, in response to the often captivating power of visual spectacle, think of Aaron and the Golden Ox, Judaism, and to a certain extent Protestantism, each came to contain a strain of antagonism towards visual regimes of representation. Bloom’s connection to Hebraism in this sense is established both through his constant affiliation with written word in the Sirens episode (i.e. the blotting pad), and more importantly through his sensitivity to visual cues (i.e. the plate, alluring visions of women). Bloom’s wandering gaze and finesse within the visual/textual regime of advertising, however, trouble this connection.

To relate this all back to my obsession, it would seem that Bloom’s gaze, unlike those of Blazes Boylan (remember eye = blazing sun), and George Lidwell (eyelidwell? are eyes sitting in lid wells?), does not operate through pure extramission. Rather Bloom seems acutely aware of the “object’s” return of the gaze. Bloom puns on this knowledge multiple times in Sirens, for example: “Woman. Sauce for the gander” (229) and later “She looked fine,” and “Nature woman half a look,” (233-234), which suggest women’s capability of returning the gaze. Once again Bloom flaunts teleological origination. Moreover, whereas Boylan’s gaze plummets dangerously towards Bronze and Gold’s “pinnacles” of hair, Bloom’s remains more or less safe from such treacherous visions.

Things to think about: Mass as a Catholic visual spectacle, Protestantism and Hebraism tied together as textual cultures; synaesthetics in Siren’s

Anagram: Lydia = Daily = Daily Douce = Daily Double (Horse racing term meant to bet on two races consecutively)

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Music and Song Episodes 9-12

Monday, October 12, 2009; 03:00 am Leave a comment

Performance: 9000000022

Opera: 999002222

Song: 9999999999999999999900000000022222222222222222222222222222222222222

Music: 9999990222

Composer: 22

Instrument(s): 02

Note: 0 = episode 10, 2 = episode 12

Although I’ve struggled with setting parameters and coming up with a cohesive and logical approach to my obsession, this week’s reading marked a new level of difficulty, a “struggle 2.0” of sorts.  The Sirens episode forced me to rethink my entire approach to digesting the text, though from some of the secondary sources I’ve read, the episode is pretty much an outlier in the sheer quantity of music and song references.

It wasn’t possible to accurately trace the number of each category of reference as I did the week before last, and, due to the extremely high quantity of appearances, it probably wouldn’t have been too illuminating either.  Luckily that was made apparent from the start of the episode, with roughly fifteen occurrences on page 210 alone.

Several songs run throughout the episode, most notably:

-“The Croppy Boy,” a ballad written by William B. McBurney which deals with the Rebellion of 1798 (Gifford 293) which appeared so many times that I gave it a designated margin note abbreviation, “CB.”  The general theme of the song, rebellion, creates a fairly sizable rift when placed alongside the fact that Bloom is simultaneously longing for Molly and dreading the fact that Boylan will soon be visiting her.  This complacency is the polar opposite of rebellion, creating an uneasy relationship between music and the action of the episode.

-‘M’appari,’ a song from the opera Martha, (Gifford 292) which Simon Dedalus is encouraged to sing.

-Elements from the opera Don Giovanni, which have been showing up fairly regularly throughout the first twelve episodes.

12.1373 (p. 270) Mentions “The Star Spangled Banner,” the second time which an official or an unofficial national anthem has been brought up, the first happening at the beginning of Lestrygonians (p. 124 8.4) with a reference to the unofficial national anthem of Great Britain.  Both come when Bloom is present, and during scenes in which characters are either discussing or reflecting on the concept of nation, and more specifically the disproportionate power held and enjoyed by the ruling class.

The contrasting use of senses in the eleventh and twelfth episodes show the general importance of the senses as a means of understanding the world.  In the eleventh episode Bloom’s auditory sense (stimulated with music and song) keeps him engrossed in the world of the bar and his thoughts while he vividly imagines his disloyal wife and Boylan.  Here lack of sight is physically manifested by the blind stripling, who comes and picks up the tuning fork he has left—evidence of taking an active part in reclaiming a lost item which sharply contrasts Bloom’s own inactivity in both the personal and professional sphere of his life.  Cyclops then, overtly deals with the concept of blindness and the inability to handle both sides and aspects of a given conflict.  This clearly puts Bloom out of place and prevents any real kind of action or resolution.  Bloom’s initial analysis of the blind stripling and the idea that one sense makes up for the lack of another isn’t particularly valid then at least within the context of the society as a whole, as Bloom’s ability to analyze is mocked, while the stripling has little or no relationship (besides a professional one) to the music.  As he as described by Bloom at around line 1235, it is his inability to see which is emphasized.  Although this long rant may seem unrelated to my obsession, I’m hoping it will help me figure out the role of song as it relates to senses, as one of my primary questions thus far in the semester has been some variation of “what does song do or what do certain categories or types of songs inspire?”

Apologies for what ended up being a fairly unsystematic and somewhat tangential blog post.