The Hypertext Chapbook (ii)

Ulysses_DavysOnce more my weekly round-up of links, articles, conversations and general stuff pertaining to Ulysses and James Joyce himself – and sometimes even not. Here’s an old article from Newsweek that explores the idea and purpose of re-reading novels, something I’ll no doubt have to do myself after I finish my first go through the great book.

And what book can’t be improved by pleasant surroundings and an flagon of ale. There is an aspect to this novel which is more social than academic – something which is hinted at by this post from Chuck Boyd’s blog Chuckography. Must try that tour myself one day.

Although taking this tour through Las Vegas might be more exciting – Davy’s Locker where neither James Joyce nor Frank Sinatra ever drank.

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More Beginnings Than Endings

c_a001I’m sitting back on my first chapter and it’s good to make a start. Legend has it that this novels has many levels and more than a few nooks and crannies to explore – that might be the understatement of the year, but I’ll let you who have been there already be the judge of that. I’m thinking that this first chapter may be lulling me into a false sense of security as in itself it didn’t seem terribly difficult to read. I’m fairly sure I’m not picking up everything but it began and ended and made some familiar narrative sense, so I’m grateful for that at least.

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The Linati Schema

19041There are many different ways to enter the labyrinth of Joyce’s text and, challenging bastard that he was, Joyce often left many well-intended but ultimately false breadcrumb trails for us to foolishly follow while he sat safely in the the shade of a forest elm  laughing at our academic and misguided assurances of correct navigation. He was, at the end of the day, a genius-prankster, a terribly devious minister of his own sense of modernism, who never missed out on the opportunity to lead pilgrims astray. Hell, he longed for that opportunity and set about finding more and more ways to reach it in the new and uncharted waters of “a fully modern novel.”

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Telemachus 0001

If you know anything about Ulysses, you might know that it bears a strong family resemblance to Homer’s Odyssey. Joyce transposes elements of the ancient story to one day in the life of Dublin, a warm June day in 1904. Telemachus is the son of Odysseus (that’s Ulysses to you, if you’re Roman), and when you meet him, he is desperate to do something about the horde of suitors that is waiting to marry his mother and despoiling his home. He doesn’t remember his father, who’s been gone for a very long time.

But if you just pick up Joyce’s novel, you have no idea that the first episode is called “Telemachus.” [Nor, for that matter, do you know that it’s June 16, 1904, 8:00 a.m., or a Thursday. It takes hundreds of pages to figure this out. But we bring it to you on a platter!]

The word “Telemachus” appears nowhere in the book. Joyce had Homeric titles for all of the 18 episodes, however, and he used them regularly when talking about the book with his friends. In 1920, he created a “schema” for his friend (and writer and critic) Carlo Linati, which would quickly become the first of many tools for reading the book.

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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 0010

[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

____________________________________________________________

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