Monday, March 31, 2008

The Wandering Rocks

The Wandering Rocks in odysseus are a group of rocks that are surrounded by fog. These rocks are apparently capable of moving around in the fog and as a result, capsizing and smashing ships. Odysseus never actually goes through these rocks but the sorcerress Circe informs him of them.
Joyce seems to use a technique in her writing to emulate these hidden rocks smashing ships. Throughout this episode you will be reading about a characters experience and out of no where there is a sentence or two that has nothing to do with the character and his surroundings, but what is happening somewhere else. This seems to be meant to confuse the reader until suddenly he is returned to the original setting of the section.

An Example:
"Father Conmee gave a letter from his breast to Master Brunny Lynam and pointed to the red pillarbox at the corner of Fitzgibbon street.

—But mind you don’t post yourself into the box, little man, he said.

The boys sixeyed Father Conmee and laughed:

—O, sir.

—Well, let me see if you can post a letter, Father Conmee said.

Master Brunny Lynam ran across the road and put Father Conmee’s letter to father provincial into the mouth of the bright red letterbox. Father Conmee smiled and nodded and smiled and walked along Mountjoy square east.

Mr Denis J Maginni12, professor of dancing &c, in silk hat, slate frockcoat with silk facings, white kerchief tie, tight lavender trousers, canary gloves and pointed patent boots, walking with grave deportment most respectfully took the curbstone as he passed lady Maxwell at the corner of Dignam’s court.

Was that not Mrs M’Guinness?

Mrs M’Guinness, stately, silverhaired, bowed to Father Conmee from the farther footpath along which she sailed. And Father Conmee smiled and saluted. How did she do?"

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

blood of the lamb

over the course of episode eight, joyce manages to tie together themes of hunger, greed, sacrifice, and thanklessness as he portrays life, through the eyes of bloom, as a ceaseless machine. throughout the episode, we are given many glimpses of gluttony. the episode opens with a scene in a candy shop where a girl is "shovelling scoopfuls of creams for a christian brother" (151). moments later, bloom buys a few cakes to feed the gulls at which point they "swooped silently... pouncing on prety. gone. every moresel" (153). when bloom meets mrs. breen in the street, he notices "flakes of pastry on the gusset of her dress" and a "daub of sugary flour stuck to her cheek" (158)... signs of potentially gluttonous consumption. finally, and perhaps most explicitly, bloom finds himself disgusted with the patrons of the burton restaurant who are thanklessly stuffing their faces with food.

on page 171, bloom ponders the slaughter of animals, thinking of "brutes there at the cattlemarket waiting for the poleaxe to split their skulls open" and "flayed glasseyed sheep hung from their haunches." essentially, these animals are raised and killed only to be eaten by gluttonous men in a dublin restaurant. and so bloom begins to ponder his own purpose of existence. depression sets in as bloom thinks about the ceaseless machine of life. he has already considered the cycle of life and death earlier in his day, but now he shifts to a more pessimistic view of this cycle. children are brought into this world (often with great struggle, as in the case of mina purefoy's three day labor). they go through the motions of life. they die. others are born. and the world goes on. people are simply part of this great machine that never stops. "no one is anything" (164).

even the bustling town of dublin doesn't raise his spirits. instead, it brings him down. "this is the very worst hour of the day. vitality. dull, gloomy: hate this hour. feel as if i had been eaten and spewed" (164). bloom realizes that he was brought into this world only to play along with society's machine for awhile, and then he will die once he is too old to be of any use to the world. eaten and spewed. taken for granted. thanklessness. this sense of thanklessness is echoed when bloom thinks of doctors bothered "at all hours" when a new child is born, and are then kept "waiting months for their fee... no gratitude in people" (162). this theme is also portrayed at the beginning of the episode when bloom feeds the hungry gulls. he decides not to give them anymore food as the thinks, "lot of thanks i get. not even a caw" (153).

Monday, March 24, 2008

The "Bombast" Joyce

In Episode 7, James Joyce plays around with the idea of language and the possibility and power of words. While exploring the nature of language and writing, Joyce seems to step outside the parameters of the narrative and examines his own place as an artist and writer. In this episode is one of the most overt examples we see of Joyce manipulating the text to display and portray the very things he is writing about in the novel. However, as Joyce crafts the structure of his writing in a deliberate and unique manner, he seems to question his own effectiveness or meaning as a purveyor of words. When he describes the machine that produces the noise “Sllt” and reveals that it is “doing its best to speak…Everything speaks in its own way” (121), he points the reader to his own place as something trying to communicate in his individual manner. If a machine is able to speak, does it ultimately reduce the value of communication?

Joyce also adopts a self-deprecating attitude towards himself and his work. In the episode, when MacHugh and Dedalus laugh at the article praising Ireland for its verbose and arrogant tone. They comment, “Bombast!...Enough of the inflated windbag” (125). MacHugh later mocks, “The moon…He forgot Hamlet” (126). Joyce seems to be poking fun of himself as well as the newspaper article in the narrative. Joyce himself recognizes his difficult –to-comprehend writing style and acknowledges it in this episode. It is no coincidence that MacHugh mentions Hamlet as the literary allusion left out of the article, an allusion that pervades almost every episode thus far in Ulysses.

stand up for yourself!

First off, one of the things that makes the episodes with Bloom more fun to read than the episodes with Stephen is because of the things that run through Bloom's head. He seems like a very introverted person, and the random things that Bloom thinks about are entertaining.

As we get deeper and deeper into the novel, we learn more and more about Bloom. To some extent it seems as if he enjoys talking to himself more than he does others. There are also some queer qualities about him which effect his interactions with others. So far it seems as if Bloom is mocked a lot by his peers. Whether it be a subtle remark, or behind his back, it does not seem as if he is respected by the others. Besides his introverted characteristics, another reason may also be because of his marriage to Molly. A lot of people criticize Leopold for different reasons, many of which are stated in episode seven, but also it has to do with his marriage to a beautiful woman who is a great singer.

One thing I hope to see in later episodes is more detail as to why many people seem to think lowly of Bloom. Also Bloom seems to be an oblivious person who probably does not even realize he is being mocked. All his time he worries about Boylan and useless things that pop into his head. Hopefully later on in the novel Bloom will be able to stand up to these men and show them why he is better than them, because as of now he seems a little pathetic and almost a pariah from the rest of his peers.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Thematic Questions: Lestrygonians

In Episode 8 Lestrygonians, Bloom walks through town looking for lunch, preoccupied with the meaning of parallax.

How is Bloom figuratively “the blood of the lamb”?

How does Bloom exemplify the parallax principle (the nature of a thing or person changes depending on the vantage point from which it is viewed) both in terms of the things he sees and how the reader sees him?

Episode 7

Fun Fact: Am I the only one who noticed that we did not get the 5 important aspects of this episode from the group on Friday?

Aeolus is a fun episode to read because the headlines Joyce implements help structure the tone and attitude of the subsequent paragraph, a welcomed stylistic technique. I'm guessing, however, that the typographical shifts only get more obscure. Some more fun was to be had on page 121 with "orthographical" and the "sllt"s. The implication of life speaking in the only way it can (even in the absurdity of a printing press chopping papers) makes some of the larger issues seem more real, or at least more important. Obviously, the hyperbole of the striking of a match does not speak to the lives of the characters, but when Stephen says that he is haunted by his dreams, and the reader grasps the notion that life is literally"speaking" to us, we take Stephen's mourning more seriously. Or when Leopold is reminded of his father, we ought to take that seriously too. More than just memories, these thoughts alter the way the characters see the world and like a thorn in the side, constantly reminding and never going away.

The concept of lost causes is interesting on two levels. First of all, Irish history can be seen as a lost cause with all the failures and horrible misfortunes that happened (think famine and civil wars and colonization and cultural oppression). But when the heading "Lost Causes Noble Marquess Mentioned" discusses the futility of a Latin professor, one might perceive the futility stretching further than that, and address the missing culture and wealth of knowledge and beliefs that came with the Romans. When Joyce says that Latin is a lost cause in an Irish context, and uses Ireland as the setting for a story called "Ulysses", I find a strong relationship comparing the existences of Ireland and Rome (at least on a microcosmic level).

Saturday, March 22, 2008

life and death

episode six, associated with hades, is largely about death. however, throughout the episode, we actually find many allusions to life and many portrayals of the relationship between life and death. in class, we discussed one passage in particular in which Bloom, on the way to Paddy Digman's funeral, begins contemplating his own son Rudy's death but ends up thinking about mothers, conception, and new life. several other selections from this episode also depict the link between life and death, or less explicitly, between ends and beginnings.

watching the pointsman conduct railroad traffic, Bloom wonders why they don't invent something that would automatically conduct the traffic without need for an actual person. then, he thinks, "well but that fellow would lose his job then? well but then another fellow would get a job making the new invention?" this is reminiscent of the proverbial notion that one door shutting allows another to open. death, followed by life.

later on at the cemetery, Bloom contemplates the relationship between the cemetery caretaker and his wife. he wonders how a woman is attracted to a man who takes care of cemeteries. he begins to think about taking a girl out to a cemetery. "men like that. love among the tombstones..." Bloom thinks, " the midst of death we are in life. both ends meet." Bloom then goes on to consider the fertility of cemetery soil, noting that the decomposing bodies ought to provide ample nutrients. "it's the blood sinking in the earth gives new life." this concept of life from death carries on throughout the episode, and again appears in the passage about how "every friday buries a thursday if you come to look at it."

this notion of life after death is a very popular theme within many religions, such as christianity. essentially, with each end, there is a new beginning. there must be death in order to realize life.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Death: Ordinary or Extraordinary?

Death is a universal occurance. It happens everywhere and to everyone. However, individuals deal with death very differently just as how individuals confront life very differently. When Bloom attends the funeral for Dignum, he does not express feelings of intense sadness but rather looks at death on a larger scale. He is able to take a step back and view death in the context of life.

Because death removes life from something that was a part of overall life, the world is not exactly the same when that life disappears. Individuals and things are impacted. For example, both Stephen and Bloom are still haunted by the deaths of loved ones. Although Bloom recognizes the void left by death, he contemplates why the living spend so much time and money on funerals when the person who they are honoring is not even alive to see it. Bloom has a very practical, realist outlook on life and death. Thus, he is not afraid to expose the ordinary and commonplace qualities of death because he views it as something that is inevitable for all living species and in turn is just a mere run-of-the-mill event.

Joyce uses Bloom to decribe an outlook on death that is not expected from an individual attending a funeral. Joyce is not afraid to create characters that go against the grade as well as challenge what some view as appropriate behavior and thoughts. Therefore, Joyce gives us access to Bloom's mind in an unfiltered, uncensored fashion unlike many authors who might shy away from the graphic details that appear in some human minds. In addition, readers are given the chance to explore two very different minds: Bloom's and Stephen's. Joyce uses Bloom's pragmatist outlook as a contrast to Stephen's poetic outlook on life and death. By illustrating the circumstances that comprise Stephen and Bloom's lives, Joyce provides the reader with a deeper understanding of why they think, process, and interact in certain ways. Stephen and Bloom's persepectives on death will differ because their lives were shaped differently.

the butcher shop

Blooms morning trip to the butcher highlights again Joyce's knack for choosing just the right words to enhance the imagery of a scene. From the moment Bloom approaches the butcher's shop to the moment he walks out, everything is described in terms of hunger, meat, and blood. These are typical images to connect with a butcher's shop, but Joyce applies them to other items as well.

When Bloom looked in the window, "the shiny links packed with forcemeat fed his gaze." The butcher wraps up the woman's purchase "with blotchy fingers, sausagepink." Contemplating the woman's husband and family, Bloom states that she is "new blood." Bloom then begins to picture a cattlemarket, specifically "the breeders... slapping a palm on a ripemeated hindquarter, there's a prime one," just as he lowers his newspaper to watch the woman's skirt swinging "whack by whack by whack." As the woman exits the shop, Bloom wishes to hurry so he can "catch up and walk behind... her moving hams."

Without explicitly stating a connection, Joyce manages to link primal themes of hunger and lust as the former turns into the latter through Bloom's visit to the butcher's shop.

Different Perspectives on Death-Stephan and Bloom

Journal Entry:
As a reflection, In my experiences dealing with death, there is not really a set approach in dealing with it. In this book we see two characters- Stephan and Bloom dealing with death in two different ways. I see Bloom’s point and in retrospect I have thought the same thing, especially in light of a couple of cases in which funeral home owners were posing as caring people to help the loved ones of the dead person but in fact were in the money making aspect of the situation and decided to bury the bodies in a yard instead of expensive burial plots! So it I shard to focus on people as having integrity and thinking that these people are honoring and respecting the dead when in actuality they are thinking of the dollar they will make. It almost makes me sick to my stomach to be honest.
Stephan and Bloom are dealing with death in a sense but from two different perspectives. Stephan is trying to still mourn the death of his mother while Bloom has had a lot of time trying to figure out how to get over the death of his child and father. Who has the brighter vision? Was the question posed in class, I definitely feel that Bloom has the time and energy to take a step back and approach the situation from the outside in, but he still has the negativity towards the situation, so to take a guess I may have to say that Bloom has the brighter vision, only because he seems to be in a better shape than Stephan.
This situation makes me think: every time that I have went to a funeral I did think to myself, how people were going to react if it was me, or how this would change things if this was someone close to me, etc.. To be honest, it has given me nothing to look forward to because I cannot fathom how people deal with such losses. This is why I did not really enjoy this section of the book but could tolerate it.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Buck Mulligan

While Stephen spends his time thinking and brooding, Buck appreciates the more physical aspects of life. Buck is described as having an equine (horse-like) face, and details like this and his name suggest that he is more animalistic, more about the primitive and natural than the intellectual. He tries to suggest his name has a Hellenic ring, even though it’s Stephen who has the clearly Greek name. He is sacrilegious and thoroughly irreverent, and while this fact cannot be held against him (Joyce doesn’t seem to be entirely in favor of the Catholic Church), it seems that he is not truly qualified to hold any sort of opinion, due to the fact that he probably hasn’t thought through and understood these ideas that he outwardly rejects.

His appearance recalls the image of a “patron of arts in the middle ages” (1). Like patrons of the arts, he is not involved in the creation of art (as Stephen is), but in the financial, public, more superficial aspects. Interestingly, he refers to Stephen at one time as “Caliban,” the beast-like human who serves under the wizard Prospero in a Shakespearean play (6). While this comparison emphasizes Stephen’s servant-like role, it is also ironic in that the character of Caliban is often seen as a symbol for the wild, natural man (he once attempted to rape his master’s daughter) devoid of art or high intellect.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Dear Henry...

Episode 5 follows Leopold Bloom around Dublin during his trips to the post office and other assorted errands of the day. Joyce presents Bloom not as a naive husband who stands to be blindly cuckolded by his sensual wife Molly but rather as a dissatisfied married man who entertains his own thoughts of exploring relationships with other women. Bloom’s “affair” with Martha suggests that perhaps the Blooms’ marriage is dissolving as a result of both partners’ boredom and unrest. Bloom attempts to escape from his life with Molly through the creation of a new and more exciting identity, Henry Flower. He participates in erotic communications with a woman he has never met in order to leave the stagnation of his marriage and participate in the possibility of another life that is not his own. He suspects Molly of infidelity due to the “bold” letter from Boylan earlier that morning and yet he engages in similarly upsetting behavior in his letters to Martha.

Although Bloom seeks to escape his marriage with Molly and his life as a married man with little excitement, sexual or otherwise, in his engagement with Martha, he is constantly reminded of his demanding wife throughout the episode. In the end of Martha’s return letter, she asks him, “P.S Do tell me what kind of perfume does your wife use. I want to know” (78). Martha knows about Molly’s existence and brings her up in her letter. Rather than escaping into his sexual banter with a stranger, the woman reminds him of his relationship with Molly and reorients him as an unsated and disgruntled husband.

visual vs. audible

at the start of episode three, stephen wonders about his perceptions of the world. he contemplates the "ineluctable modality of the visible" and the "ineluctable modality of the audible".

stephen uses nebeneinander (side by side) to relate the notion of visual appearances, as a vision is perceived all at once over space. he continues to ponder the sense of sight, noting that we are "aware of them bodies before of them coloured" (37). in other words, we first recognize the presence of body before we register the color of that body. as mentioned in a previous post, joyce pays great attention to the sense of sight, being very careful to relate the specific colors of things. it seems as though nothing is ever "green" or "blue" or "brown", but instead "snotgreen," "froggreen," "smokeblue," and "saltwhite." though colors are already visual concepts, joyce's brings more intensity to these visions of color by describing the color of something with which we are not familiar (e.g. wormwood) in relation to the color of something with which we are familiar (e.g. frog).

stephen uses nacheinander (one after another) to relate the notion of audible sounds, as noises are perceived sequentially over time. he continues to describe the way in which patterns and rhythms emerge from these sequences of noise. joyce also pays great attention to the sense of hearing. in class, we have mentioned joyce's purposeful diction throughout ulysses, and it really seems as if every single word was carefully considered before being chosen for inclusion. as stephen ponders emerging rhythms of sounds, so do these rhythms emerge from joyce's paragraphs. joyce makes constant use of such poetic conventions as alliteration and assonance. i often tend to read aloud, which makes these conventions especially apparent on almost every page, if not in every paragraph.
-[w]: "wavewhite wedded words shimmering on the dim tide" (9).
-[b]: "memories beset his brooding brain" (10).
-[f]: "Two shafts of soft daylight fell across the flagged floor from the high barbicans: and at the meeting of their rays a cloud of coalsmoke and fumes of fried grease floated, turning" (11).

i often find such poetic conventions to come across as forced and annoying, but joyce manages to make them sound effortless (though we know they are not) and tend to the give the text a fitting rhythm.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Bad Jew

When Leopold Bloom glances through the newspaper cuttings about land speculation, developing kibbutzim, and the burgeoning Zionist movement, he thinks of Moses Montefiore, a reputable Jewish banker and financer. While this association is somewhat merited given Montefiore’s involvement in developing the Holy Land, the fact that Bloom identifies Zionism with a famous Jew who works with money reflects the prejudices of the Christian society in which he is immersed.

His estrangement from his Jewish identity is further illustrated by a biblical allusion the third-person narrator makes that Bloom doesn’t pick up on. The narrator describes Dlugacz as having “sound meat… like a stallfed heifer” and making a “red grimace” before collecting his payment (59). Completely oblivious to the imagery in front of him, Bloom omments on the “blurred” picture in the newspaper of a “young white heifer” that he can barely see (59). In ancient Jewish practice, a red heifer (unblemished and one color, not actually red) was sacrificed to purify those who have come in contact with a corpse. To Joyce or a well versed biblical scholar, the scene signifies that the butcher’s “stallfed heifer” is unfit to erase his and Bloom’s impurities, while the pure “white heifer” grazing on a farm in the Holy Land meets the requirements perfectly.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


Stephen in Proteus sits on the beach to really contemplate what is going on in his life right now. He remembers the better times (Paris), while also remembering the bad times (his childhood). As Stephen sits on the beach he thinks about heading off to visit his Aunt Sara before he has to go deliver Deasy's letter and meet Mulligan at The Ship. Stephen, being the somber character that he is, imagines the reaction that he would receive upon arriving at the house, and what his father would have said to him for visiting his aunt and uncle. He believes that his father would have mocked him for visiting their house.
One of the themes that is starting to develop with Stephen is that after the loss of his mother he really has nobody left. He does not necessarily have strong feelings towards his father, and what Stephen may be searching for throughout the novel is someone who will have confidence in him and push him to be able to become a successful artist. Stephen for the most part so far seems to be on the verge of depression. Nothing in his life makes him happy, he dislikes Buck for being very critical and attempting to take his lighthouse away. He has almost wasted two years in Paris because he was unable to break out as an artist. Stephen has also lost his mother and received much criticism for not praying by her side on her death bed. As Stephen reflects on the beach at this time, he seems to be in a rut, and what he needs his a father figure, or someone to really support him. Stephen, although a pretty literal and realistic person, seems to be very down on himself. Joyce ends this chapter describing Stephen by him wiping snot on a rock and checking to see if anyone is watching him. The reader is sympathetic and feels pity towards Stephen for all his misfortunes, and their is an obvious need of change if Stephen is ever going to be happy or be successful.