Ulysses recap, pp. 184-204 of “Scylla and Charybdis”


Well, hopefully, my slow start on this section has given everyone a chance to catch up and make their way (in a nice, orderly fashion, of course) up to hushed reading room of “Scylla & Charybdis” (unfortunately presided over by some Quaker named Lyster, instead of Ruth Harrison, Reference Librarian).

For your edification, here are the tweets thus far, with important themes helpfully illuminated:

  • 184-We’re back in SD’s head as he talks to librarians, feeling superior. Amid literary jokes, conversation of poets, Paradise Lost & Hamlet.
  • 185-Russell argues art=ideas a la Plato; SD is over-polite then thinks of holy trinity, eastern religions & literature.SD=sacrificial butter
  • 186-J.E. tries to start debate b/w Plato & Aristotle, but no dice. Haines was reading Lovesongs but has gone.Guys think him “penitent thief”
  • 187-Best revives Hamlet discussion & teases French; Hamlet ending foreshadows holocaust? 1st mention of 2x dangers (saxon/yankee; devil/sea)
  • 188-SD prepares to defend position that King Hamlet =Shakespeare; sets scene, invokes muse, conjures images of fathers & sons (Ham & Shakes)
  • 189-Anne Shakespeare guilty queen? Russell says “who cares?” SD holds his tongue b/c owes Russ cash.Typically, SD defends debt w/ philosophy
  • 190-SD makes dreadful puns. Anne=SD’s momvia flashback. JE wonders if Anne was mistake best forgotten;SD says was “portal of discovery”
  • 191-more puns; did Anne’s seduction of Shakes influence all his female characters? SD says it’s so. JE invites Best to party– of mysticism?
  • 192-poets’ gathering; Haines invited.”necessity” defined.Moore & Mulligan=Quixote y Sancho.Cordelia=Dulcinea? SD gives Russ letter 2 publish
  • 193-librarian asks SD if he thinks Anne was unfaithful; he agrees gracefully. Then imagines Shakes’ & his own women.ponders might have beens
  • 194-JE says Shakes’s life is enigma & challenges SD to prove Shakes not Hamlet;SD says how past, present, & future become 1. Best confused
  • 195-“There can be no reconciliation if there has not been a sundering” says SD. rejects Shakes=Bacon; Argues that birth of Marina is upturn.
  • 196-Quaker urges SD to publish theories;SD says Dark Lady is wooed badly b/c Shakes lost confidence after Anne seduced him. SD poisons ears.
  • 197-king’s ghost knows b/c of God; Shakes hides from self behind own creation then becomes ghost. Buck enters & SD goes dark.Trinity=Shakes?
  • 198-Quaker tries to make peace. Buck teases. Actress is playing Hamlet; Wilde’s version of who wrote sonnets; “Of course, it’s all paradox”
  • 199- SD jealous of Buck; Buck mocks SD’s telegram & asks if he drank away the money. Says Aunt will go to SD’s father. Buck keeps the tele
  • 200-SD is blamed for Buck’s pranks; remembers France & meeting Faunman. Bloom enters library looking for newspaper & ad to copy
  • 201-Buck teases Jew, then says LB knows SD’s dad. JE asks for more on Anne; SD talks of Shake’s London lovers. Anne=Penelope under doubt
  • 202-What did Anne do? SD suspects Shakes loved a man at court; Anne took a lover. SD says case is proven by no mention of Anne by Shakes
  • 203-JE repeats old explaination of Anne & Shakes’ will. SD rebuts that Shakes was not poor & deliberately neglected Anne b/c she broke vows
  • 204-Other old wills used as contrast; Buck says Shakes died drunk. SD ignores interruption & says Shakes was tight w/ cash, like Shylock.

So, after all of the food and slobbery of the previous section, we find ourselves in what appears to be a nice, seemingly-random, academic interlude, far away from noisy, dirty ol’ Dublin.  English geeks, as I am, will easily recognize this literary debate, having participated in many like it.  Yet this prolonged conversation at this point in the narrative poses the twin dangers of its famous namesake: first, it threatens to suck Stephen Daedalus into a literary whirlpool of his own making, putting the kibosh on the rest of his journey through the city, and second, it poses a very real danger to the reader of getting utterly distracted by the gabble about Hamlet and Shakespeare and Anne and literary theory and the annoyingly chauvinistic double-standardness of it all, and thereby losing sight of how revealing the entire piece is about Stephen’s character.* [We apologize for the previous sentence.  It got a bit out of hand.  The people responsible have been sacked.  The rest of this piece has been written by highly trained llamas.]

As we have noticed many times throughout Ulysses, Joyce has carefully placed wormholes within the text, momentarily zapping us to the future.  (Note to self: be careful to avoid engaging the Borg.)  We had such a moment, way back in Telemachus, that Stephen “proved by algebra that Hamlet’s grandson is Shakespeare’s grandfather and that he himself is the ghost of his own father” (18).  Buck Mulligan prevented Stephen from telling his theory at the time, though, because he wasn’t equal to “Thomas Aquinas and the fiftyfive reasons he has made to prop it up” without  a few pints in him (17).  Here, as it is now well into the afternoon, and Stephen, Buck, and probably the poets have all had their few pints (though I, sadly, have not), they are more than equal to the discussion.

Unless you have a particular passion for all theories Bard-related (bless you, my child!), let’s just hit the points that Joyce uses to highlight some key themes from the novel, shall we?

1.  The whole mess of Shakespeare, Hamlet, the King’s ghost, fathers and sons, etc. draws attention to Stephen’s own conflicted relationship with his father and Stephen’s difficulty in recognizing how he has (and hasn’t) changed since his days as an “Artist as a Young Man.”  We are also meant to think forward to our up-coming encounter with the ghost of Bloom’s son.

2. The whole mess of Anne’s possible unfaithfulness and Shakespeare’s many (and possibly multi-gendered) lovers casts a glow around Bloom and Molly and little Miss Penpal, not to mention young Stephen’s own indiscretions.

3. We may be tempted to overlook it in the middle of all this, but our main characters are all gathering.  The Englishman Haines has been and gone.  Our frienemy Buck has crashed the literary party, and most importantly, Bloom and Stephen are in the same place at the same time– FINALLY!  Athough they still have yet to meet, Buck does point out to Stephen that Bloom is a friend of old Mr. Daedalus.

4. Our old chum “consubstantiation” makes another appearance here, now with added back-up band (197).

More will be forthcoming in our final segment of this exciting adventure!

Now, it has been a long time since we have had questions for discussion, so here is a new batch for you (because there are not yet enough lists in this post):

a. Hands up all who agree that one more doubled verb/ adjective/ or adverb out of young Stephen gives us free reign to take drastic action.

b. Compare and contrast being “the sacrificial butter” to being the walrus.  Could you be the walrus, too?  Would you still have to bum rides off people?

c. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is a Car Talk pun and 10 is a Terry Pratchett pun, rate Stephen’s puns in this section.  Explain how you calculated the negative square root of pi.

In a Head’s Up for next time’s reading: your Money Quote is on page 205.  Can you find it?

*Wi nøt trei a høliday in Sweden this yër?

ULYSSES Funmary #8: Lestrygonians


We’re back with Bloom, who is for the most part alone here. Sensual guy he is, his concern for food is central. Especially since he’s looking for lunch. Unlike the narcotic somnolent effect food has on us (as depicted in the postprandial “Lotus Eaters”) we’re preprandial here. His mind is alert. He’s on the hunt.

So “Lestrygonians” is told in food. So if we follow the food, we get a pretty good idea of what’s going on.  Cherchez l’aliment, as no one would ever say.

We begin with candy. Bloom sees a candystore sell “pineapple rock, lemon platt, butt scotch” to a teacher. These are those gross hard candies your grandma could not give away. Not an appetizing start. I’m sure the kids were thrilled. Bloom, a man with taste, does not stop.

Mmm...pineapple candy...

Mmm...pineapple candy...

And then we’re on to the lamb blood and burnt offerings of the evangelical flier Bloom gets handed and at first misreads as his own name. The misreading suggests the identification of Bloom with Christ, himself a big piece of meat or bread or fish or lamb or whatever (however a divine miracle).

And there’s a bit with food as trick, as Bloom tries to get gulls to mistake the flier he balls up as food. (Bloom’s own failed attempt at–or a Joycean slagging of–the Eucharistic miracle?)

Guilty for his shenanigans, he buys the birds cake from the apple cart. Food is everywhere.

But also from all the food thoughts, we see how much our physical, emotional, social, professional, political lives are tied up with food. All Bloom’s reflections are food-associated. Whether it be the mutton and chutney he served to Molly during happier days (possibly the night Rudy was conceived). Or the strange tastes Molly had when pregnant are linked to Mina Purefoy’s troubled third day of labor. The Plumtree’s Potted Meat ad poorly placed on the obituary page gives us insight into Bloom’s marketing acumen. That Plumtree placement is about as bad as this one…

Picture 125 Or this one…

Picture 126Or my favorite…

Picture 127

Along with food and eating, there are also the execratory parts. Enough said.  Poop happens.

The pinnacle scene in this book, is of course Bloom’s peak into the Burton. The Burton is a restaurant filled with this guy…

This intimately depicted gross eating recalls the man barbeque the Lestrygonians had of Odysseus’ fleet. And Bloom’s revulsion to the scene demonstrates a bit of his own snobbery. This is not a man we’ll find in line at the China Buffet. And it also shows the limits of his generosity. His nightmare vision of some kind of dystopia where we all somehow end up eating at the China Buffet suggests Bloom’s sensibly restrained politics. This is no socialist. Sure, he’ll help a dirty blind dude across the street, but don’t touch his potatoes.

Ulysses attempts to contain an entire life in one day. Here we get the full treatment of food’s role in our lived. How and what we eat/drink also says a lot about who we are.

The 6th beer that I’m having today says that I am an awesome dude.

ULYSSES Recap, pp. 163-173 of “Lestrygonians”


**********Wandering Rocks Alert**********

Some dude in Dublin is also tweeting though Ulysses! (I discovered this when I hashtagged Ulysses… apparently the old “#” can be helpful when it’s not abused). He’s way back in “Hades,” but he’s not really summarizing a page per tweet. So he could catch up!

We must all make a vow. We must beat JODedia to page 783.

But the good news: I got us 1.3% closer to finishing today!  Here are the tweets.

163. LB recalls run-in w/cops at antiBrit protest. Thinks Corny an informer, how Brits get youth 2 rat. Admires Sinn Fein’s cell structure.
164. LB thinks of diff’t approaches 2 Irish Home Rule movement, but politics don’t change anything. Rich get richer. LB feels eaten&spewed.
165. Coincidences. Sees lesser bro of famous nationalist Parnell & AE, famous poet & Lizzie Twigg’s boss. AE is vegetarian, which LB mocks.
166. LB recalls unsuccessful vegetar’n attempt. Poetic impulse might b caused by diet. Windowshops 4 glasses. Folks lose stuff. Looks @ sun.
167. Wants 2 visit observatory 2 ask about parallax. But won’t change anything. Thinks of happier times w/MB, then of Boylan & lovers codes.
168. Recalls how life changed after Rudy died, no sex w/MB since. Ogles ladies underthings in shop. Knows he can’t go back. Goes 2 eat.
169. Goes 2 The Burton, filled w/men eating sloppy food. Wonders if he looks as sloppy eating. Place is gross. Wants 2 leave. Men order food
170. More revolting eating. Decides 2 go 2 Davy Byrne’s instead. Thinks of the horror of a communal eating future, would make men monsters
171. LB now thinks vegetarianism may not b bad. Enters Byrne’s clean quiet pub. Flynn’s there. Sees potted meat on shelf, still mad about ad
172. Orders a gorgonzola cheese sandwich. Flynn asks about MB’s concert tour and Boylan. LB plays cool, pays 4 sandwich, puts mustard on.
173. Worries Flynn knows, but decides he’s dumb. Flynn praises Boylan’s boxing gambling. Flynn asks 4 horserace tip. Bloom eats, admires bar

Again not much happening. Bloom is still wandering and hungry. He does some window shopping. He steps into one restaurant, finds it gross, leaves. Goes into a cleaner one, orders a cheese sandwich. His thoughts are on his wife, their happier times, Irish politics, food, the difference in the apparent direction of an object seen from 2 points of view (parallax).

I’ll go into the larger themes in this section in my funmary. Here, I want to be helpful in another way.

Those facing difficulty with this book (which is all of us) should take comfort that reading Ulysses is also a process of learning to read Ulysses. By closely attending to the text we get really important clues and directions about how this book works, not just what it’s about.

In the case of this chapter (and specifically these pages), key phrases occur to Bloom that give us a clear understanding of what to pay attention to.

For example, while Bloom thinks about Dixon, the doctor who bandaged him up after his scrape during some anti-British protests, he also notes how Dixon is also the same doctor attending to Mina Purefoy in her 3rd day of labor. At which he thinks “Wheels within wheels” [163], a cliche about our interconnectedness, adapted from the biblical description of God’s creation as four great wheels. (Dante has a field day with this. And so does Mick…but it’s not as good.)


When Bloom sees both Parnell’s brother and poet A.E. just after having thought about the history and politics of Irish nationalism, as well as the response he got from Lizzie Twigg (assistant to A.E.) to his ad he placed in the Irish Times, he thinks

Now that’s really a coincidence: second-time. Coming events cast their shadows before [165]

This is essentially the definition of hysteron proteron.

As we’ve noted before, this book works a lot through its interconnections and foreshadowing. That Bloom draws attention to these phenomena in his life centralizes their function in the book. Life may be rife with instances of Kevin-Bacon-degrees and Nic Cage’s knowledge of numbers, but so is this book. By paying attention to these phenomena in the book, we have a much richer experience of the book and as well new ways to appreciate and think about how these function in our own lives.

We can also make terrible, terrible movies about them.

ULYSSES Recap, pp. 151-162 of “Lestrygonians”


First, this should have been your face…

Second, here’s the first part of my tweet-thru Ulysses‘ “Lestrygonians” chapter, minus the shameless hashtag exploitation (which was completely unsuccessful in inflating our follower number).

151. LB wandering, handed religious flyer. Recalls glowing cross they lived by before. Sees SD’s sister. Criticizes church on contraception.

152. Thinks priests r fattys. SD’s sis looks starved. On bridge, sees beer barge, recalls Dodd joke. Tosses flyer 2 gulls. Admires gull wit.

153. Buys cakes 4 gulls. Wonders about swanmeat, why saltwater fish ain’t salty. Sees floating ad. Recalls ad placed @ urinal by clap doc.

154. Worries Blazes will give MB the clap. Thinks about parallax. Admires MBs common wit. Sees bad ad from old job. Recalls boss’ stupidity.

155. Recalls how hard it was 2 get nuns 2 pay. A nun invented barbed wire. Recalls happier days with MB before Rudy died. Walks along curb.

156. LB recalls better times w/MB, the night Rudy conceived. Runs into old flame Mrs Breen. Have small talk. Milly’s like a house on fire!

157. Breen asks about LB’s mourning clothes. Funeral talk. LB asks about husband. Mr Breen is nutz. LB smells food. Breen rummages in purse.

158. Breen describes Mr. B’s nightmare about dark figure & postcard rec’d w/only “U.P.” on it. He’s trying 2 sue. LB thinks about food.

159. Talk of Mina Purefoy’s troubled pregnancy, 3 days in labor. Another nut w/a long name walks by. Reminds Breen 2 get her nutty hubby.

160. LB thinks Alf sent U.P. card as bad joke. Passes Irish Times. Recalls ad placed 2 start sexy letters w/Martha C. LB bought ladys pantys.

161. LB pities Purefoy, Thinks about breastfeeding pain, that its time 2 invent painless pregnancy, how 2 promote savings. Heads 2 library.

162. LB recalls MBs pregnancy. Sees birds, covets aerial pooping. Sees cops, weak when eating. Poet statue @urinal. No public potty 4 ladys.

So we’re moving from the windy windbags of “Aeolus”, to hunger and food motifs. If you remember from my astute funmary of the relevant episode in The Odyssey, this was where Odysseus sets up his entire fleet to be eaten by a bunch of giants after they messed up the great bag o’wind.

We also return to Bloom’s internal monologue, which is my favorite place to be in this book. There are so many great lines here, and I don’t know if I’ll ever have the presence of mind to use them. Here are my favs from this reading:

  • It was a nun they say invented barbed wire.
  • Getting on like a house on fire.
  • He’s a caution to rattlesnakes.
  • Drink till they puke again like christians.
  • Smart girls writing something catch the eye at once. Everyone dying to know what she’s writing.
Hmm..."History is a nightmare from which I cannot wake"... Oh, no. That sounds pathetic!

Hmm..."History is a nightmare from which I cannot wake"... Oh, no. That sounds self-indulgent and pathetic!

As usual, not much is actually going on in this chapter. (Seriously, you’d think by now someone couldn’t have punched this thing up with a car chase or zombies. Zombies eat people, right?) So far, it’s about 1pm and Bloom is just wandering around feeling a little peckish; runs into an old flame (Mrs Breen); has a short, pleasant conversation; decides to head to the library to look up a newspaper ad; Mrs Breen gets eaten by a zombie.

All the while Bloom is being eaten by his thoughts (get it?). He’s remembering better days with his wife, before the death of their second child ten years ago. He’s thinking about the things he’s seeing: birds flying, bad advertising, crazy people.

As a marketing-type person, I’m especially struck by his critiques of ad placements and messaging strategies. He thinks there are a lot of great places to put ads (urinals, showcarts, the river), pretty much prophesying the commercial drenched world in which we live. Where are the great humanitarian’s ethics here?

And this is not the only place Bloom’s shortcomings become apparent. Passing by the Irish Times, he remembers the ad he placed for a typist that started his naughty correspondence with Martha Clifford. He also got a response from a Lizzie Twigg, who apparently came across as too “literary” for Bloom… “No time to do her hair drinking sloppy tea with a book of poetry.”

Real nice, Bloom.

Of course, this is coming from a writer who said about Gertrude Stein, “I hate intellectual women

That said, Bloom’s humanitarianism is also on display. He’s sympathetic to Mina Purefoy, who’s laid up in the the hospital on her third day of labor. (Purefoy’s labor will become of central significance in the “Oxen of the Sun” episode.) Which leads to his sympathies for women and the troubles they have in pregnancy. (These are pre-anesthetic times. Ladies were expected to bite on a stick and push.) He also has thought on the hypocrisy women suffer from the Roman Catholic Church’s rules on contraception and the utter lack of public ladies’ restrooms.

But underneath all these thoughts is the awareness of Blazes Boylan’s hook-up with his wife later that day. These thoughts serve to distract him from this realization, but even they betray him. Thinking about the urinal-adjacent ads about clap treatments triggers the fear that Boylan will transmit an STD to his wife.

If he…




No, no. I don’t believe it. He wouldn’t surely?

No, no. [pp 153-154]

Of course Bloom’s habit of mind is to put such troublesome thoughts out of it, to “think no more about.” How long can Bloom keep this up? If he’s really worried about his wife getting gonorrhea (no joke during pre-penecillin days), shouldn’t he do more? What is it that’s holding him back? Will the zombies get to him first?

ULYSSES pp. 55-59, “Calypso”


Hi, folks!  Welcome aboard “The Odyssey” section of the novel–please have your tickets ready to be stamped.  Thank you.

This fourth section [Calypso] introduces us to the man who will be our second central character of this novel, namely Leopold Bloom.   Our narrator has backed the timeline up to the morning again, so that we meet Mr. Bloom at the beginning of his day.  After reading the first 5 pages of this section, we’ve learned quite a bit about him.  First, however, here are my tweets:

55-Leopold Bloom is introduced by his love of organ meats, how he makes b-fast, & talks to the cat–he anthropomorphizes as pretty but cruel

56-LB watches cat drink; decides on kidney for b.fast; checks on wife- she mumbles; considers loose bed springs; puts on hat w/ hidden paper

57-LB leaves key behind so won’t have to disturb wife, wanders down street in good mood; daydreams about exotic East– knows is just fantasy

58-LB greets shopkeeper after considering property values-wonders how he made his money; passes by school– hears lessons; arrives @ butcher

59-LB oogles meat & servant girl in shop; reads ads from cut sheets-thinks of cattlemarket; places order, wants to hurry so can follow girl

So, what have we learned on our first foray into Bloom-land? Well…

1. Leo is an advertising businessman who has a head for making money, property prices, potential clients, and a good land bargain.  Despite these talents, though, he seems to be living at the lower end of the spectrum. 

2. Leo endears himself to the reader through his fanciful daydreams (He is a good deal more cheerful in his thoughts than Stephen, which is a welcome change for us) and his kind treatment of his wife and his cat.  

3. Ah, on the subject of Molly (whose name we don’t learn until 3 pages into the chapter)–when we first meet Leo, he is putting together a breakfast tray for his wife, who is still in bed.  She’ll be there for the rest of the section.  Like Odysseus with Calypso, Leopold is tied to his love.  Unlike Odysseus, Leo doesn’t seem to mind much, at least we have seen no signs of it yet.  He is a devoted husband; in fact, we get the idea that he might be just a bit afraid of her.  According to the Bloomsday book, we should pay particular attention to her noisy bed-springs, which make their first appearance here.

4. Leo is not nearly as well-educated as our friend Stephen and is considerably older and more comfortable in his environment (not to mention in his own skin).  Leo knows Stephen’s father, Simon, well enough (probably in the pub) to have heard his impressions of the shop-keeper O’Rourke many times.  There are two things Leo and Stephen share at the moment: 1-that neither of them possess a key to their homes [however, Leo has only propped his door closed, and he fully intends to be back after his trip to the butcher]; 2- that both men are dressed in black because they are showing respect for the dead [Leo has a funeral to attend this morning after breakfast]. 

5. Leo has an eye for the ladies, particularly well-rounded ones.   He also loves organ meat.  These two ideas are probably connected.

6. Leo also appreciates the scatological elements of blood, guts, etc.  We shall shortly hear more about this than we ever wanted to know.

So, here are some questions for discussion as this train pulls into the station for refueling:

— How are the cat and Molly similar?

–Why does Leo carry a lucky potato?

–How does the idea of “Homerule sun rising up in the northwest” connect to our previous discussions of Irish-Anglo relations?

— Why is Leo buying pork sausage when he is supposed to be Jewish?

ULYSSES Funmary #3: Proteus


With “Proteus,” we come to the end of Ulysses‘ Part 1, its Telemachiad (the chapters focused on Dedalus-Telemachus). Although, it was a short chapter, it was long on confusing, headache-inducing obscurity. 

Not very much happens in the chapter. Stephen walks on Sandymount Strand along the polluted Dublin Bay, thinks about a bunch of stuff (past experiences, people he knows, philosophical and historical observations). He rests on a rock. Sees a floating dog’s corpse. Gets scared by another dog running nearby, owned by the gypsy cocklepickers picking cockles in the bay. Gets inspired and works out some poetic lines on a piece of paper ripped for Deasy’s letter. He (maybe) masturbates, pees, and picks his nose.

If we recall from the Odyssey, Proteus was a smelly, shape-shifting god who would tell you stuff only if you were able to pin him down. (He also had a thing for seals, but who doesn’t?)

The difficulty of the chapter has a lot to do with this homeric parallel. The reference to the Odyssey is not made with characters or plot, as it was primarily achieved in the first two chapters. Rather, the chapter’s style–Stephen’s internal monologue–is the Proteus. (This will not be the last time we’ll see the homeric reference in the chapter’s style.) And it is by pinning down this protean flux and flow of thought, memories, and observations are we able to gain some insight. This blog and your comments is our collective wrestling match with this chapter’s (and book’s) slippery mutability. Check out these takedowns…

Picture 17

Change is evident throughout. Stephen walking on the Sandymont Strand, along the flowing waters of Dublin Bay. It’s about noon, right at high tide time. Gypsy cocklypickers are a transitory people. So a lot about the physical setting Stephen finds himself is shared with his own fluctuating thoughts and inability to concentrate. (BTW…don’t mean to unnecessarily pathologize, but is Steve ADD or are we experiencing the typical flow of thought as best represented in text?)

Picture 19Another move. Fathers and sons. Before, the focus has been on moms. Here, we get introduced to Stephen’s dad through his not very kind thoughts and willful disowning of him. And there are other fathers and sons. You have Stephen’s thoughts about the bedridden Uncle Richie abusing his stuttering son Walter, and then there’s the absinthe-drinking forgotten Kevin Egan and his neglectful milk-drinking son Patrice. All of these display pretty awesome dad-son dynamics…No, they’re awful. We get a very clear sense of the directionlessness Stephen suffers in the absence of a father or even a father figure. 

Picture 22

Speaking of fathers, Bloom is once more foreshadowed in dream. This time, its Stephen’s dream (p. 47). While Haines was freaking out about stalking panther, Stephen was being led around a “street of harlots” by a melon-salesman to visit an unseen third person. You could see this as foreshadowing and/or as a manifestation of Stephen’s own unconscious desire for direction and/or melons. 

Picture 16Stephen ends his Telemachiad motherless, fatherless, and now homeless. He’s heading off to his 12:30 meet-up with Buck Mulligan at the pub called (not incidentally) the Ship. He’s still engaged in his art, however vampire-obsessed it might be. There’s still hope for Stephen, but the mast-crucifixes he sees on the horizon suggests he won’t be having it easy anytime soon.

We did it! We have made it passed where so many have fallen short. And now our efforts will truly begin to pay huge dividends. Next, we launch into the Odyssey where we follow Leopold Bloom and the fun really begins.

And find out how many more wrestling references I can make!

ULYSSES pp. 37-40, “Proteus”


I only managed 4 pages tonight. I forgot how, although short, “Proteus” was one of the more difficult episodes in Ulysses and how it’s usually at this point most Ulysses readers become Ulysses readers no more. 

If you take anything from this post, let it be simply this: don’t give up.

Here’s the twreading I managed for these pages, and it’s hopelessly incomplete:

  • P37. SD walking on strand, attempts 2 reach essence of reality beyond protean sight&sound. A lonely egghead. Sees nurse who delivered him.
  • P38. SD thinks: umbilical as phone line 2 Eve; the inconsequence of his parents. Remembers: Deasy’s letter; 12:30 meet @bar; visit w/aunt.
  • P39: SD imagines dad mocking aunt’s family. Recalls past visit. Uncle Rich a bedridden opera-loving drunk, son Walt studders. SD’s ashamed.
  • P40. SD still lost in thought, mocks own rebelliousness, earnestness & ambition. Recalls own perverted prayers 2 see naked ladies.

We are at the last chapter in Ulysses’ Telemachiad, the 3 chapters focused on Stephen Dedalus. And in this culminating chapter of the first part, we get a very up-close experience of Stephen and his machinations of his mind. 

Instead explaining the protean hodgepodge of esoterica that constitutes Stephen’s thoughts (everything from Aristotle, heretics in the early Catholic Church, Italian mystical views of history)–which I don’t think I could do competently, anyways–I find it far more worthwhile to think about this chapter more in terms of  how it develops Stephen’s character. 

His thoughts on Aristotle, Church history, all his studies in Paris, all add up to convey his sense of disconnectedness and isolation. He can’t get past sight and sound to penetrate the eternal essence, to connect. 

He can’t even find connection to his own family. He thinks of his father as  (in Blamires’ words) “a meaningless physical coincidence.” And he’s ashamed of his mother’s sister (Aunt Sara) and her sad family. 

He realizes he can find no inspiration or beauty in what’s he’s studied or his own family, and devolves into a torrent of self-mockery. 

And because he’s an egghead, his thoughts, his mockery are all constituted by arcane references. He’s trying really hard to be clever, and we shouldn’t be intimidated or turned off by this cleverness. We should instead understand how he makes it difficult for anyone to like him.

The takeaway for us should be: he’s a lonely, smart, sensitive dude who is unfulfilled by his studies, alienated and ashamed of his family.

You can try to throw your life away and try to figure out all the references, but it may drive you nuts. I would advise to give it a good effort and turn the page. There is so much more ahead which won’t require you caring about a heretic who died of bowel trouble in 336 AD.