A small beginning:
As the Sparknotes’ summary conveniently points out, Ulysses begins, not with Stephen Dedalus, the novel’s coming-of-age young artist, but rather with the theatrical and physically dominating Buck Mulligan. In fact, Stephen is first introduced only via nickname, ‘Kinch’, and isn’t addressed with either part of his given name until 70 odd lines in when referred to simply as ‘Dedalus’. This rather weak (meek) introduction foregrounds the theme of Stephen’s physical obscurity that persists throughout the Telemachiad. The phrase which announces Stephen’s narrative presence (“Then, catching sight of Stephen Dedalus…” [1.11]) also references his elusiveness, and begins to carve out the debate in Chapter 3 about the “ineluctability” of visual stimuli.
One reference to ending we touched on in class appears in Chapter 2, in Deasy’s office:
“And snug in their plush, faded, the twelve apostles having preached to all the gentiles: world without end.” [2.203]
Here, as Stephen muses over Deasy’s luxurious (silver?) spoon collection, he seems to be commenting upon the endless circularity and stagnation of Deasy’s (consumptive? constipated?) heaping and hoarding of history, religion, etc. Deasy’s office is full of relics, historical signifiers, yet they are jumbled beyond recognition, as is his conception, and organization of historical ‘facts’. When this is coupled with his fixation on goals, money, straight roads (per vias rectas), breaking/broken lances, anti-semitism, etc., Deasy seems to represent a sort of bullheaded and teleological system of history/historical exchange. Although goal oriented, with God functioning as the bull’s eye, Joyce is quick to point out that Deasy’s system isn’t merely oblivious to outside influence, it is horrendously self-consuming, and repetitive. Deasy’s gruesome regurgitation of phlegm at the end of Chapter 2 as well as the ouroburos image conjured by the repeated mention of foot and mouth disease both demonstrate the destructive and self-injurious (and consequently un-reflective, “history is to blame”) nature of linear history.
My obsession is light, a concept only lightly sprinkled over this section of the work, but still deserving of some attention. Rather than searching for an overall theme this early, I’m going to approach my obsession through patterns formed by appearances of light (and dark).
The first and only time in which a word related to light is verbalized appears in Book 2 when Stephen is talking with Mr. Deasy. Interestingly, both “light” and “darkness” are uttered by Mr. Deasy justifying his anti-Semitism; as he sees it, the Jewish people “sinned against the light…you can see the darkness in their eyes,” a reference which both highlights their physical otherness as Mr Deasy sees it and their departure from his religious convictions (2.361-2).
Most of the early mentions of light are in reference to natural light, most particularly sunlight, and usually in connection with the omnipresent sea. The most common word is ironically “dark,” with eight references, but despite this fact, there are more references to light (23) rather than dark (17) (second place is “bright” with six). Counting these two, there are 14 different light words, including burning, cloud, day, dim, flame, glow, light, lightening, rays, shadow, shine, and sun.
In Book 1, the references to light are often in connection to a verb of some sort, specifically movement; “woodshadows” float, an area grows dim, daylight falls (1.242, 1.225, 1.315). Interestingly, the verb attached to each mention of light is not always logical, such as when Stephen “heard warm running sunlight” (1.283).
References to sunlight belong almost exclusively to Book 1. Fire does not appear until Book 3 and even then the mentions are few (2). Book 3 is also where the only reference to lightening appears, a handful of line from the end of the book. Thus, neither fire or lightening, both possibly dangerous incarnations of light, play a heavy role in the Telemachiad.
Excluding the two verbalized instances of light words, most appear in descriptions of Stephen’s, incorporated into his view of nature and his surroundings (as far as I can tell, light is only rarely used to refer to anything other than light, such as a bright student or a dark expression). Outside of Book 3, where the majority of the text is Stephen’s internal narrative, few references appear in his silent conversations, most found, as I said, in descriptions. A key discrepancy from this observation, however, occurs towards the beginning of Book 2, while Stephen is helping Sargent with his homework. Stephen floats off in fantasy about the origins of algebra, from Moorish culture, thinking of “a darkness shining in brightness which brightness could no comprehend,” a direct juxtaposition of a scripture found in the Gospel of John, which states” and the light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not” (1.160; John 1:5).
While actual Jews make their first actual appearance in Ulysses with the introduction of Bloom, the preceding three chapters help to generate the (pretty hostile) atmosphere into which he enters. Two characters—Haines and Deasy—make explicitly anti-Semitic comments; Haines worries about England falling “into the hands of German jews” (1.667), and Deasy seems to think they’ve already succeeded in that, and that Ireland faces certain doom if the same thing happens there (2.345-6). Deasy’s other claims about Judaism more explicitly create a network of associations that the rest of the novel can elaborate on. As he says, “They sinned against the light [. . .] And you can see the darkness in their eyes. And that is why they are wanderers on the earth to this day” (2.361-3). These characteristics—darkness and endless wandering—are later associated with Bloom (the wandering also ties in with that of Odysseus), but for the time being also apply to Stephen, who wears only black and is without a home. Stephen’s description of himself as “Darkness shining in the brightness” (3.409-10) is especially curious after Deasy’s explicit associations of Jews with darkness and Ireland with brightness (and once again, this notion will set the stage for Bloom’s appearance soon).
There’s more, mostly from the Gifford annotations. Buck Mulligan mentions that if he and Stephen were to work together they could “Hellenise” Ireland (1.158), and Gifford explains that this is a reference to Matthew Arnold’s association of Hellenism with knowing “in the light of a ‘disinterested’ and ‘flexible’ humanism,” and opposite to Hebraism, or doing “in the light of ‘the habits and discipline’ of a revealed dogmatic truth” (Gifford 16). That Stephen sees himself as having from both Hebraic and Hellenic origins (when, uh, pretending to call Eve on the telephone, he dials “Aleph, alpha” (3.39)) makes him seem more sympathetic to the former than Mulligan is.
From reading the first 3 episodes of Ulysses, I think I’ll be following ideas of fatherhood, the analogies and their links to fatherhood (Hamlet and the Odyssey, mainly), and the creation of word/poetry (for Stephen).
Episode 1: Telemachus
There’s the initial father/son Ghost/Hamlet relationship which sets the scene on Martello Tower. The top of the battlements scene, aside from being Hamletonian is also connected to the Trinity, Father Son and the Holy Ghost because of Buck Mulligan’s “black mass.”
I saw Buck Mulligan as a kind of parent for Stephen in this section. Buck starts the episode shaving in front of Stephen Dedalus, reminiscent of a boy’s first time watching his dad shave, or learning how to shave by watching his father in the mirror. Buck cooks breakfast, very responsible. He also rags on Stephen to wash more often. These are stereotypical actions of caring, fretful parents, and Stephen comes off much like the brooding teenage, sloppy, mopey, angsty, narcissistic.
When Mulligan describes the sea to Stephen as the “mother,” he sound like a patriarch telling his eldest son to take care of his mom while showing off the kingdom he will inherit, much like in The Lion King when Mufasa shows Simba the kingdom.
I think something else that’s really important in the first episode is that we’re shown what type of literary man Stephen is in public.
This relates to the Trinity because: Jesus was the Son of God and therefore, he was the Word of God. Therefore, the Father creates the Word which is also the Son. Therefore, Stephen, who creates words, is a Father-figure, while his words are his Creation.
Episode 2: Nestor
The main idea that cropped up in this chapter in relation to Paternity would be Patriotism.
It’s definitely more unspoken though, and Ireland is more of a “Mother” in Ulysses than a father.
I know that Sargent represents Nestor’s son in this chapter, but I don’t think this has to do with the main ideas of Paternity.
However, the way Stephen reacts to Sargent in interesting. Stephen looks at Sargent in a very fatherly way. “I was like him when I was younger, I sat like that, I brooded like that.”
I’m wondering what else Stephen will feel paternal towards in the rest of the book.
Episode 3: Proteus
I found a very small amount of Paternity in this chapter. When Stephen says he is “made not begotten” he recognizes he is not Jesus, not begotten from God, but made from human flesh. Jesus was begotten out of the stuff God is made out of. Jesus is God. The stuff fathers use to make their children makes them in their image, but not out of the same physical material.
There’s also a lot of phallic and productive imagery in this section. Not only phallic, but things related to the phallus. Semen imagery in the sea, a masculinized sea. However, Stephen doesn’t produce much out of all of this supposed fatherly productive imagery. He creates one poem which doesn’t seem that good. it might be enough however to ensure that all this semen is not a masturbatory event, but instead a conceptionary event.
One point that was brought up in class on Monday was the difference between linguistic translation and the sort of translation that involves the movement of something from one context to another. I didn’t really pay attention to the latter definition in the first three episodes, but did notice that not all of the non-English words/phrases were translated for us by Joyce–meaning that they aren’t translations at all, but rather phrases (often of cultural or religious importance) placed into the context of Buck Mulligan’s mockery of Catholic rituals or Stephen’s private thoughts.
The isolation of Stephen from the reader which occurs particularly in the third episode is achieved in part through the use of a plethora of non-English allusions, references, or in some cases plain phrases from everyday conversations. Not only is Stephen isolated physically and mentally from other people and creatures in this episode, but Joyce also achieves a certain alienation of the reader from his protagonist through translation. I am curious to see if this isolation, in both senses, of Stephen continues throughout the whole book.
Throughout our reading of Ulysses, I will be tracking the “translations” obsession. There is a plethora of non-English words in the first three episodes of the book; the range of languages includes Latin, French, German, Italian, and Homeric Greek. Most of these occur within the third (Proteus) episode.
While most of the translations occur in the third episode, the first contains a couple. The first in the book is actually an ironic usage of the original Latin: Mulligan satirizes the rituals of Catholic mass and opens his shaving ritual with “Introibo ad altare Dei (I will go up to God’s altar)” (3). Mulligan continues this satire on page 11 when he serves breakfast to Haines and Dedalus, saying “In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.” Mulligan’s mocking uses of ritualistic Catholic phrases fits nicely with his continual criticism of Dedalus for being a “fearful jesuit” (3). Buck’s ironic criticism of Stephen’s denomination is interesting when considered alongside his criticism of Stephen for not praying for his mother.
Another important translation that occurs throughout the first three episodes is the single word “omphalos (Greek: navel)” (7). This word refers to Homer’s Odyssey (specifically, the island of Ogygia), the oracle at Delphi, and a later conception of the navel as the “center of self-consciousness and the source of poetic and prophetic inspiration” (Gifford and Seidman 17). The omphalos as a center of poetic inspiration is particulary relevant to Stephen’s career pursuits, and its status as a translation ties in to the large number of translations in the Proteus episode.
The concentration of translations in the third episode seems to have something to do with the stream-of-consciousness style that Joyce utilizes to give us insight into Stephen’s thoughts. I found Joyce’s different (apparent) reasons for using translations to be of particular interest within this episode. In some instances, translations seem to simply reinforce a sentiment already expressed by the narrator or Stephen himself, as in the case of: “Hear, hear! Prolonged applause. Zut! Nom de Dieu!” (18) Similarly, translations are also used to paraphrase ideas expressed in English–an odd use of language, given the status of languages used such as Homeric Greek or Latin. For example, Joyce rephrases and intensifies “Lord, they are weary; and whispered to, they sigh” with the Latin “diebus ac noctibus iniurias patiens ingemiscit” (41). I am interested to know to what extent this device was effective for Joyce’s readership–or if it is effective for any of us, given that I needed to look up almost every non-English word or phrase to get a grasp on Joyce’s point.
Many of the non-English words that Joyce uses are related to Stephen’s musings and reflections conceptually or through his past lived experience. His memories of studying in France are full of conversations written out entirely in French, for example. And when Stephen imagines a phone call to Eve, he uses the words “Aleph, alpha” to start his dialing–an interesting use of alphabets. Both being first letters of their respective alphabets (Hebrew and Greek), the correlation between the story of God’s creation of the world and original sin is clear. The word “Alpha” is also used as part of the phrase “alpha and omega,” which refers to God as the “beginning and the end.”
I also noticed that there are generally more translations or non-English words present in passages in which Stephen’s stream-of-consciousness loses a good deal of its coherence. Not only is the English stilted and grammatically incorrect, but non-English words are used with very little reference–the progression of thoughts disintegrates, leaving us to put the pieces together. One example of such an instance is on page 35: “Hunger toothache. Encore deux minutes. Look clock. Must get. Ferme! Hired dog!” I’m not sure how traceable this pattern will be throughout the work, but it seems apparent in the progressive increase of non-English words and phrases throughout the first three episodes, anyway.
Upon beginning my search for passages relating to my obsession, ingestion and excretion, I noted the definitions for both words in terms of the physical metabolic processes. Paraphrased, ingestion is the act of consuming a substance orally, usually for digestion, and excretion refers to the act of expelling metabolic waste products remaining after digestion is complete. While the implications of this obsession are most certainly great in number, in looking at the first three episodes of Ulysses, I focus specifically on the physical metabolic process, i.e. the consumption of food and drink that leads to the expulsion of feces and urine. A discussion of the more metaphorical contexts of these actions will hopefully develop as we continue reading in the novel.
The first passage relating to my obsession deals with the ingestion part of the cycle. As Buck Mulligan enters the tower with his shaving supplies, he begins to deliver a mock mass in which he declares: “For things, O dearly beloved, is the genuine christine: body and soul and blood and ouns” (I.21-22). With this, Mulligan parodies the rite of the Eucharist, which is designed to resemble Christ’s actions of the last supper. With Christ’s body transformed into bread and his blood into wine, both of these substances are intended for ingestion by the faithful disciples. Mulligan’s sacrilegious mockery of this rite of mass demonstrates his unwillingness to accept the transubstantiation mystery in which the body and blood of Christ make themselves into substances to be consumed, and also his rejection of the Catholic Church and religion in general. He uses this mockery as just one of the ways to taunt Stephen throughout their interaction. While Stephen, being a good “Jesuit” as Buck Mulligan points out, consumes simultaneously the Catholic rituals along with the wafer and the wine, Mulligan does not and prefers to mock Stephen while harassing him about getting money for booze from Haines.
The breakfast scene is the next stage of consumption and frames the cycle on ingestion and excretion in accordance with the theme of the natural and unnatural. Previously, Buck Mulligan had identified Haines, the Englishman, as “bursting with money and indigestion,” suggesting that somehow, the main problem with the English takes root in the interruption of their natural ingestion and excretion processes. Buck Mulligan’s priority throughout the breakfast scene is to ingest as much as possible. In fact, he practically spends the whole meal theatrically shoving food in his face while spewing out the “waste” of his obvious abundance of knowledge, “he crammed his mouth with a fry and munched and droned” (I.385). Indeed, I don’t believe I have ever seen a character so voracious in consumption and brimming with… waste products. Not only does Buck Mulligan consume food, but he also has a way of consuming Stephen’s money, even though it is apparent that Stephen is the starving artist. To me, this echoes the Unionist sentiment regarding Ireland’s “consumption” of English resources and reliance on England as a governing body. The Irish Nationalist movement, however, must halt this consumption that has created the “unnatural” state of Ireland in the political sphere when the island is dependent on England. Also in Episode II, Stephen dreams of his dead mother and her own interrupted ingestion and excretion cycle when he remembers the “bowl of white china” that “stood beside her deathbed holding the green sluggish bile which she had torn up from her rotting liver by fits of loud groaning vomiting” (I.108-110). This instance shows that the unnatural interruption of the metabolic cycle can lead to a far worse fate than simply becoming a cranky British man with indigestion.
The obsession makes a rather brief appearance in Episode II when Stephen attempts to teach the schoolboys about Pyrrus and the only thing that Armstrong seems to be capable of ingesting is not knowledge, but rather the figrolls from his satchel. Joyce does something weird in this passage with the crumbs, and I’m still not sure what to make of it. Anyway.
While Episodes I and II deal more directly with the consumptive aspect of the equation, Episode III deals more obviously with the excretion bit. No poop yet, just urine. Sorry to get your hopes up. Oh all right, I lied. There’s a little bit. When Stephen muses on the great priest Arius in lines 50-52, he points out that “in a Greek water closet he breathed his last: euthanasia.” On the eve of a potential great victory for him and his followers, Arius was undone by intestinal blockage and hemorrhaging, possibly the result of intestinal cancer. Clearly, in order to be successful in life you must first have properly working intestines. Perhaps that’s what happened to the British. Toward the end of this episode, Stephen walks along the sea and demonstrates his own contribution to the cycle of life and fertility by… peeing in the ocean (III.453). The main descriptive phrases in this passage contain water imagery: “Vehement breath of waters amid seasnakes. . . it flows purling, widely flowing, floating foampool” (III.457-460). Snakes and water. Yes.