Posts Tagged ‘Irish poets’

Telemachus 0010

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

[Cf. 1922: 5:2-15; Gabler 1:67-80]Stephen has just been complaining about Haines and his nightmare. Mulligan is changing the topic, staying on his tear about “Hellenization.”

Mulligan jokingly suggests that the new art color for Irish poets is “snotgreen.”  The color green is not a trivial thing to the Irish, especially not in 1904, when the memory of the Penal Laws (which repressed Catholicism and symbols of Irish identity) would still have been present.  At this moment in history, Irish identity, and the future of Irish identity, is up for grabs.  There is a newly emerging school of scholars and artists who are turning back to the native culture of Ireland as the source of its future–people are just starting to learn the Irish language again and read ancient Irish poetry.   Mulligan is basically making fun of this.  Instead, he’s looking to ancient Greece, perhaps thinking about a new Irish classical age.  But Stephen isn’t much interested in this either.  I’ll suggest that instead of looking backward into history, Stephen is looking towards the new artistic capital of Paris.

In the second panel, Rob has drawn Mulligan and Stephen in an odd pose. Stephen seems to be surprised in mid-phrase, and Mulligan is reaching into his pocket. Specifically he “thrust his hand into Stephen’s upper pocket.” It’s an interesting moment, one that the comic allows us to show the body language for. Mulligan is intruding, being forward, in Stephen’s space. “Thalatta thalatta” means, unsurprisingly, “The sea, the sea!” It’s from Xenophon. You can look it up…

A small textual point–there’s an omission in this early draft–Mulligan says “Lend us a loan of your noserag to wipe my razor” –we left out the “your.” Also, in the Rosenbach manuscript, Mulligan’s first mention of the sea in this moment is “she is our “great” sweet mother.” That’s in Joyce’s handwriting, and it’s quite clear. It’s repeated a few lines later. But in his errata for the first edition, Joyce specified that he wanted this to be “grey” sweet mother. A nice allusion to grey-eyed Athena, Odysseus’ protector, but otherwise obscure.

And as for the Greek– “Epi Oinopa Ponton” means (according to Gifford) “upon the winedark sea,” a common epithet in Homer’s Odyssey. This is another moment when I wonder if Joyce was raising another flag to his readers… “Hey! The Odyssey! It’s important!” We know the Odyssey is important now, eighty years after it was published… but this might have been a more useful to early readers.

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Haines

Friday, April 17th, 2009

The Oxy Chap staying with Stephen Dedalus and Buck Mulligan in Telemachus. According to Stephen, he raves all night about shooting a black panther.

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Buck Mulligan

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

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

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Telemachus 0011

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

[cf. 1922 5.18, Gabler 1.85]

A moment ago, Mulligan was quoting Swinburne when he referred to the sea as our “great sweet mother.”  He’s modulated into George William Russell a/k/a AE, who often referred to nature as the Mighty Mother. Russell was a preeminent literary figure in turn of the century Dublin, and in 1904 he became the first person to publish a short story by Joyce–in a newspaper he edited called The Irish Homestead.  Russell has a prominent part in Episode 9–“Scylla and Charybdis”–and we’ll certainly talk more about him then.

Back here in “Telemachus”, Mulligan’s comment will lead, a moment from now, into a discussion of Stephen’s mother’s death.  There’s a lot to be said about the different roles of mothers and fathers in Joyce’s world–especially in Episode 9.  Very briefly–mothers are associated with ultimate, undeniable truth–truth beyond language.  They may be the one true thing in life (a paraphrase). Paternity, however–especially in the days before genetic testing–was uncertain.  This uncertainty creates an intolerable vacuum, that has to be cemented over with legal, verbal certainties. In “Scylla,” Stephen talks about paternity as a “legal fiction,” (and you should put as much emphasis on the fiction as on the legal here).  You should also be thinking about Hamlet again, and always!

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Reader’s Guide for I: Telemachus

Dramatis Personae for I: Telemachus

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



Telemachus 0015

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

[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.

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