Telemachus 0018

Mulligan sees he has gone too far with his teasing and condescension–more to the point, he is aware that dissheveled and depressed as Stephen may seem now, he has enormous potential as a writer, at least as a crafter of epigrams, and he wants to be on the right side of that power. He suggests that Stephen could probably get some money out of Haines for the ‘cracked lookingglass of a servant” idea, and he tries to enlist Stephen in his program to “Hellenise” Ireland.  [Rob’s transformation of Mulligan into a Greek Apollo is just a taste of what the comics format can do for this book.]

What would it mean to “Hellenise” Ireland?  A few pages ago I brought up the identity crisis of Ireland at the turn of the century–should it turn backwards to Irish history for its culture?  Should it accept its place as a British capital?  Mulligan’s interest in the Greeks (mumble your innuendo here) suggests a nominal interest in democracy, but a democracy of aristocrats, with a vibrant and metropolitan culture rooted in the ancient world. Doesn’t sound so bad. The Modernists were fascinated with the classical world–we are, after all, reading a book that is a descendant of the central story of ancient Greece.  One of the significant intellectual forces propelling Modernism in the arts was the discovery of the original site of Troy in 1870 (so the Iliad is based on a real place and a real war! wild!).

So why isn’t Stephen interested?   Because it is still looking backwards? Because there’s too much of a state power in it?  Because it’s based on aristocratic and class-driven institutions?  Joyce famously thought that the best kind of government to live under was a decaying and ineffectual empire–because it stayed out of his life and his work.  His character Robert Hand, in the 1918 play Exiles, says ““If Ireland is to become a new Ireland, she must first become European.”  Robert Hand is based, in part, on Gogarty and should not necessarily be taken to speak for Joyce or Stephen Dedalus, but the line shows the pattern of thought at work here.  Who does Ireland become in order to become something new and independent?

You see in the last panel of this page a moment of Stephen’s inner thought, just as you did a few pages ago when he was thinking about his mother.  Mulligan’s reference to the “ragging” he gave Clive Kempthorpe  is obscure, but Rob’s interpretation gives you the sense of what it’s about. So what’s with all the sexual threat here?

Buck Mulligan

Buck Mulligan is the antagonist of the Telemachus episode. He attempts to maintain superiority over Stephen Dedalus through mockery and other subtle bullying tactics.

Dramatis Personae for I: Telemachus

Read the Telemachus Comic

Go to the Telemachus Reader’s Guide

Telemachus 0015

[Cf. 1922 6:7-28; Gabler 1:112-134]

Mulligan is fencing with Stephen fairly aggressively here.  He is by turns generous and condescending, surprisingly dismissive and admiring, charming and intolerable.

One thing that strikes me on reading this passage is Mulligan’s none-too-subtle playing of “the class card” with Stephen. “Dogsbody” has all kinds of associations, and will gather even more in the “Proteus” episode, but at the very least it refers to an underling or a “gofer.” Mulligan also teases Stephen for his “second leg” trousers, his improper etiquette, and even offers his own old clothes to him. We’ll soon learn he’s wearing Mulligan’s boots already. [“Poxy Bowsy” is glossed in Gifford, but basically means vd-ridden lout.]

Stephen’s insistence that he can’t wear grey is pretty extreme. Gifford‘s gloss is very useful–like many other entries, it “reminds” us of things we don’t yet know, that Stephen’s mother died on June 23, 1903, and so it’s been almost a full year… though we actually won’t find out it’s June 16, 1904 for a few hundred pages yet. Gifford observes that under the strictest standards of Victorian mourning, a son would wear only black for a full year after his mother’s death, so Stephen’s within that period. Mulligan catches the irony of Stephen’s assiduous sartorial etiquette and his cruel treatment of his mother, but we don’t necessarily feel better about Mulligan for this.

Point of trivia: if you’re following along in your Gabler edition, you’ll see that several of Mulligan’s lines here end with exclamation points [Dogsbody! Insane! Bard!]. He’s quite an exclaimer. The exclamation points appear in the Rosenbach manuscript, but not in the 1922. Because we’re following the ’22 here, they’re not used. Write them in if you like.

Point of admiration: I love how Rob has Mulligan using the mirror here.

so, riddle me this:

1. We’ve been wondering what the mirror should look like. Anyone have a good sense of what the cracked lookingglass of a servant should look like? Please post a picture.

2. About that dogsbody. What difference does it make, given the trends and themes of this chapter, that Mulligan is talking about Stephen’s body and his appearance?

3. Why is it important that Stephen is so hyper-observant of the etiquette of mourning? Can you answer this question by going through Hamlet or the Odyssey?

Reader’s Guide for I: Telemachus

Dramatis Personae for I: Telemachus


You can buy copies of the works mentioned by clicking on the links below.