Posts Tagged ‘Catholicism’

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Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

And so Stephen walks away from Mulligan and Haines, ostensibly going off to work, but also having determined that he cannot come back.  He is no longer comfortable there, and really no longer welcome.

As he walks away the prayer for the dying comes back to him (“Liliata rutilantium…”),  the prayer his mother wanted him to say at her bedside while she was dying . Why?  Perhaps because of the priest he saw swimming, and Mulligan’s sign of the cross… or perhaps his decision to not return to the tower is a decision to not submit to Mulligan, in the same way that he refused to submit to his mother’s or his family’s will.  The latter reason would also explain why he thinks that he also can’t go home, to his family’s home.

In the Odyssey, Telemachus knows exactly why he’s leaving Ithaca, and he knows what he needs to do, and he knows where to go.  He doesn’t know where his father Odysseus is, but Athena has told him how to go about learning what happened.  He has a plan… where Stephen’s plan is less clear. He has a job to go to, he has a date for drinks later (he won’t go, by the way). What can we say Stephen is leaving to find?

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Thursday, June 10th, 2010

This conversation with the unnamed man serves a few purposes — one is to set up a surprise about the “photo girl” you won’t really get until Episode 4– but it also showcases Mulligan’s alpha personality, and  the eagerness with which others approach him with the latest news.

Mulligan’s miming the sign of the cross might seem a little unclear. One reason is that there is a swimmer we’ve left out of the comic — an old man who climbs up a rock next to Mulligan and who is likely a priest, so Mulligan may be signalling that to the swimming man. He may also be making a joke (as several people do during the day) about Stephen’s mourning dress and hat making him look like  a priest.

Textual trivia. In the Rosenbach Manuscript of Ulysses, the line “red-headed women buck like goats” is followed with “and all creation simply gloats.” Now you know.

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Friday, June 4th, 2010

Haines offers Stephen a cigarette, and asks directly about Stephen’s beliefs.

Haines has not spent much time around Stephen, but has heard enough and seen enough to assume that a person with such a strong bohemian affect can’t possibly believe in God, or at least not in the conventional God of the church.  After all, Haines knows that Stephen has refused to pray at his dying mother’s bedside–proof that Joyce’s attitude towards religion, and the Catholic church specifically, was complex.

On the one hand, he could not bring himself to believe. On the other, he had a profound respect for the culture and learning of the church; he knew more about it and its doctrines than most believers.  He took it very seriously, and he took his refusal to believe very seriously. His respect for the church amplified his defiance of it.  Stephen, who is to a large extent Joyce’s alter ego in Ulysses, clearly does not want to identify with Haines’ attitudes towards religion, but cannot pretend to really believe either.  We’ll watch Stephen continue to negotiate this paradox for… the rest of the book, really.

Rob has carefully drawn Haines’ cigarette case, which is described as a “smooth silver case in which twinkled a green  stone.”  It’s a deft symbol for the English Hibernophile… Ireland, of course, is often referred to as the “Emerald Isle,” as a beautiful green stone.  Its setting in a silver case also recalls a line from Shakespeare’s Richard II, in which England is referred to as a “precious stone set in a silver sea.”  Ireland has been substituted for England, but only as a kind of token.

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Thursday, January 28th, 2010

If you look up “Joking Jesus” on YouTube today, this is what comes up first.

With all of the talk about Hamlet and Gogarty and Irish history and Dublin, etc. etc., it’s easy to lose track of the power that this blasphemous little verse can have.  As we were saying about Mulligan’s parody of the mass at the beginnng of this episode, the blasphemy here would have been fairly shocking to pious people.

Does the song make sense to you so far?  If you haven’t had a lot of churchin’, it might not.  On the last page, for instance, when Mulligan sings “My mother’s a jew, my father’s a bird,” he’s referring to the story of the Annunciation

The Annunciation by Francesco Albani

The Annunciation by Francesco Albani, collection of The Hermitage

So Jesus’ mother Mary was a Jew. We can start with that. And Jesus’ father… well… our future friend Leopold Bloom will have some theories about that in episode 12 (“Cyclops”), but suffice it to say that Jesus came into human form through the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is often represented as a bird. A dove, I think.  Well, at the risk of killing all the jokes in such a clever way, you can just go here to learn more about the Annunciation.
In this panel — I’ll just assume that you know already that Jesus is described turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana.  “Plain” in this context means plain stout, as in a “pint of plain.” And yeah, it’s gross, but the joke here is that Jesus says “If you don’t think I’m the Messiah, you aren’t getting any of the wine I make–you’ll have to wait until I have to piss & hope it comes out beer.”  Which isn’t going to win you any points with the churchgoers. There’s more to come.

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Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Cf. 1922; 3:17, Gabler 3:19]

Mulligan’s travesty of the Catholic mass continues with a joke about transubstantiation–he pretends to be changing his shaving lather into the body and blood of Christ.

Rob and I had a long conversation about this passage and what Buck means when he says “back to barracks.” I see it as a garden-variety transubstantiation joke–wherein Mulligan is trying to keep the genie in the bottle, the spirit of Christ (or “christine,” as Mulligan will say in a moment) from escaping the shaving bowl before it can be transmuted into the shaving lather.

About the barracks. It’s important to know that in Joyce’s Dublin, a “barracks” was an all-to-familiar part of the neighborhood. In 1904, as at many times in Irish history, British troops were garrisonned in barracks that were cheek and jowl with densely populated urban areas, because their function was to control the people living in those neighborhoods. The presence of British troops on the street, their movements, their leisure entertainments, their interactions with the “natives,” are all an important part of the atmosphere of Dublin in June of 1904.

These days, the old barracks have been appropriated for various purposes… the now-called “Collins Barracks” is a stunning museum, part of the National Museum of Ireland, with exhibitions relating to decorative arts and Irish history. The barracks at “Beggars Bush” has a national printing museum.

So what’s the “genuine Christine”?  Gifford parses “Christine” as referring to the black mass “tradition” of having a naked woman serve as an altar.  Interesting thing I just learned from Wikipedia: The black mass is not a Satanic ritual per se, but rather just kind of a fun “extra,” a parody of the regular mass that’s a morale-builder for the troops.

If this all seems farfetched, there’s an lascivious and fascinating story in Ellmann’s biography (and elsewhere) about Joyce’s encounters with a young woman in Zurich named Marthe Fleischmann. In 1919, on his 37th birthday, Joyce made arrangements with his friend Frank Budgen to entertain Ms. Fleischmann in Budgen’s studio. [ Fleischmann also may have served as the model for Bloom’s correspondend Martha Clifford, and Gerty Macdowell…] We don’t know much about what happened… Joyce later claimed to have explored the “hottest and coldest” parts of a woman’s body. Very unsexy. Apparently he also brought a menorah (!) to the occasion, telling the man he bought it from that it was intended for a “black mass.” this would have happened at least two years after he wrote these lines.

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