Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dead Languages as a Bond

In Episode 17 Stephen and Blooms bond is exemplified by several interactions. One interaction in particular involves the Stephen and Bloom saying a phrase to each other in the respective "dying languages"(this is somewhat arguable regarding hebrew) of their culture.

"What fragments of verse from the ancient Hebrew and ancient Irish languages were cited with modulations of voice and translation of texts by guest to host and by host to guest?

By Stephen: SUIL, SUIL, SUIL ARUN, SUIL GO SIOCAIR AGUS SUIL GO CUIN (walk, walk, walk your way, walk in safety, walk with care).43

By Bloom: KIFELOCH, HARIMON RAKATEJCH M’BAAD L’ZAMATEJCH44 (thy temple amid thy hair is as a slice of pomegranate)."

These passages do not seem to have any particular significance regarding the plotline, but the fact that they utilized these dying languages gives them a certain link. Perhaps Joyce uses this occurance to represent how both of them feel somewhat distanced from their true heritage and the use of the languages is somewhat of a joint mourning. This shared mourning of their cultural distance provides another thread of commonality between Bloom and Stephen.
A somewhat weak interpretation of this exchange also suggests a re-enforcement of the father son bond. Hebrew and Jewish culture being the much older culture and Irish culture being significantly more recent.


Adam Stoller said...

These languages are "dying" not dead. I think this is an important distinction because in addition to establishing a certain distance from their heritage and solidifying a father-son relationship, it places both Stephen and Bloom in a culture on the periphery, as quasi-outcasts at risk of some form of persecution.

Aileen said...

The very title of the novel, Ulysses, is a Latin translation of the Greek “Odysseus.” I like the idea of Hebrew as a sign of the old and Irish as a sign what’s relatively new (although Irish is still old, and dying out, as seen in the episode in which the old woman who pours the milk turns out to speak plain English, against Stephen’s expectations). Regarding the presence of Hebrew and Latin in the episode with Bloom and Stephen, I would suggest another possible interpretation, and that is the idea of the past being present in the present. After all, the novel is a modernist one and revolves around the urbanized life of (Joyce’s) contemporary people, and yet has, for its title, a word translated into what is widely recognized as the quintessential dead language.

Ruthie Sacks said...

The presence of Hebrew and ancient Irish languages in this scene is important because it creates an opportunity for Stephen and Bloom to share a little bit about their different cultures and heritages. By speaking in other languages, they are creating an intimate bond with one another by sharing something that the individual usually does not do with an acquaintance. Also a connection exists between the two languages because they are both coming from groups of people who have undergone oppression and persecution. The Irish are suffering under the rule of England and colonization whereas the Jews are similarly seeking independence from those who persecute and oppress them. Also, the Irish desire for independence in a way foreshadows the Jewish desire for an independent Jewish state. Thus, the presence of these two languages together relate to common experiences of persecution and oppression as well as a desire for independence and recognition.