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The flashback continues. Stephen is thinking about his mother, thinking about her room and objects he identifies with her, thinking about her memories, things she told him about her childhood.

Remember the context–Mulligan wants to use Stephen’s money, his wit, his ideas for his own benefit.  This is mostly just selfishness, but also grandiosity, in that Mulligan wants to use Stephen for his project to “Hellenise” the island, to bring a new classical age to this struggling Ireland that’s at a critical point in its history.  Several times through the day Stephen will hear about a new plan for Ireland, people will turn to him to talk about the future, or it’s artistic future. Where does this lead him?

Backwards–to thoughts about his mother–to the creation of a scene.  In these powerful and vivid fragments, you’re seeing Stephen Dedalus begin to stretch his wings (so to speak) and show the promise of his creativity.

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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?

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[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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Reader’s Guide for I: Telemachus

Dramatis Personae for I: Telemachus


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