Posts Tagged ‘Nietzsche’

Telemachus 0066

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Well, alright. More Nietzsche, then, as Mulligan closes the loop on his Zarathustra-inspired teaching.  One of the ways Friedrich’s term “ubermensch” has been translated is “superman.”  Whether Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had the German philosopher in mind when they invented the noblest superhero of them all is a matter of debate, but I think Rob might be having fun with it here.  Certainly our stately, plump Buck Mulligan is quite a spectacle in flight.

Stephen’s thoughts, in the black boxes, come from an old Irish proverb (according to the great Gifford): “Beware of the horns of a bull, of the heels of a horse, of the smile of an Englishman.”  Stephen has been sensing trouble throughout the chapter, and things are no different here.

Mulligan proposes meeting at “The Ship,” which was a Dublin pub, but also has a nice overtone of the ship Telemachus uses to leave Ithaca, and the ship Antinoos uses to try to catch him.  Joyce must have liked the tidiness of the reference.

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Telemachus 0065

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

The unwanted suitors in Ithaca (in Homer’s Odyssey) are described as eating and drinking up all the wealth of the household, as they wait for Penelope to make a decision about whether to remarry.  Mulligan has no compunction about living off the charity of others, which is even more galling when you consider that he’s clearly from a higher social class and greater family wealth than Stephen.  That Stephen is asked for the key and the two pence for a pint is his final indignity of the chapter.

For any of you interested in money, rest assured that Joyce keeps careful track of it throughout the novel.  Whether it was part of his quest for verisimilitude or just his own cash consciousness, the novel frequently mentions prices charged and amounts paid. There’s even a (more or less) complete budget of Leopold Bloom’s spending at one point.  In this chapter, we’ve seen the milkwoman already perform an elaborate calculation of the tower’s milk bill.

Mulligan’s priestly quote is a travesty of Proverbs 19:17 “He that hath pity on the poor lendeth unto the Lord,” done in the manner of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra.  By taking Stephen’s money, Mulligan is, in a sense, stealing from the poor indeed.

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Telemachus 0063

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Mulligan engages in a little smack-talking before diving in the water. Self-consciously or boastfully, he stands naked before jumping in and shows off his Nietzsche, and though he’s joking, he’s also revealing his not-so-secret desire to be linked with Stephen as a superman, as the architect of a new age.

One of the great things about seeing this chapter in the comic form is the way it makes obvious visual elements of the scene. Like Mulligan’s nakedness. When you read the chapter, you know that he’s taken off his clothes and is going to be swimming naked, and on some level you know that as he talks about himself as the Ubermensch, that he’s naked… but seeing it illustrated is another thing entirely.

What does it say about Mulligan? It would have been perfectly ordinary for a man to swim naked at the Forty Foot on a warm June day in 1904, but Mulligan needs to make a show out of it. He ain’t shy. And he also wants to be seen by those around him as being connected to Stephen.

I suppose there’s more I could say about Mulligan’s reference to Nietzsche–just Google “Nietzsche and Joyce” and you get a whole cascade of articles and books. [Here’s one of some interest.]  But I’m leery of going too far down the rabbit hole of references and annotations. Suffice it to say that there was a considerable intellectual fad for his writings across Europe in the early 20th century, and that Mulligan’s reference shows him to be attuned to that fad.  It’s also true that Oliver St. John Gogarty, on whom the character of Mulligan is based, was reading the German philosopher at this time.

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Telemachus 0048

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Having left the tower, Mulligan, Haines, and Stephen walk towards the sea.

Mulligan is beating the grass with his towel, seeming playful, but when Haines asks about the rent, he quickly inserts himself into the conversation. In an early version of this drawing, we had attributed the statement about the rent to Stephen–it seems like a logical thing for him to say, since he makes that following comment about paying the rent to the Secretary of State for War. But Joyce clearly puts those words in Mulligan’s mouth. What this does is to remind us of Mulligan’s interest in money, particularly in making some money off of their gentleman houseguest. He needs to make sure that Haines knows what the rent is–perhaps in order to set up an “ask” later on–and doesn’t want Stephen to step in the opportunity again.

Richard Ellmann’s biography of Joyce has a surprising amount to say about Joyce’s life in the actual Martello tower. It also has a great image of the original lease from the government, which was signed by Oliver St. John Gogarty, and was for 8 pounds, not 12. Ellmann describes Gogarty as wanting the tower to seem a a “haven of unrespectability in ‘priestridden godforsaken’ Ireland” a “temple of neo-paganism” where “Nietzsche was the principal prophet, Swinburne the poet laureate” (172).

Skipping back to Ulysses for a moment–Mulligan also has these dreams of the tower being an “omphalos,” a kind of center of bohemian and free thought.  But his credibility depends on Stephen, who’s the real artist.  But Stephen doesn’t look like he’s going to want to play this part.

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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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