Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My Questions on Telemachus

I'll organize these by page number -- I'll use the page numbers in parentheses in the margins.

(6) Who is Algy? I notice he's mentioned on p. (37) as well.

(6) Does hyperborean mean "athiest"? Why?

(8) "I'll bring down Seymour and we'll give him a ragging worse than they gave Clive Kempthorpe." Who are Seymour and Clive Kempthorpe? Seymour shows up again on (22).

(8) What the heck is omphalos? (Okay, Wiki says omphalos stones (a religious artifact) were said to allow direct communication with the gods. There was one at Delphi.)

(10) Why does Buck call Haines "the Sassenach"?

(12) Stephen remembers how he carried the boat of incense at Clongowes. Was he an altar boy? Or is that where his mother's funeral was held?

(14) An unusual euphemism for God, I guess: "the collector of prepuces." (A prepuce is a foreskin or clitoral hood; since the foreskin is removed at a briss, God must have a collection. Naturally, this is Buck's joke.

(16) and (17) Okay, "Agenbite of inwit" has me baffled. Is he a character Stephen and Buck are creating to tell Haines about? Wiki says its a poorly translated piece of prose that gives clues to what 14th century Kentish dialect was like.

(18) They call their tower an omphalos. Interesting.

(18) Buck calls Stephen "Japhet in search of a father." Japhet was one of Noah's sons. This is also in the Hamlet discussion. (And come to think of it, this chapter is informally called "Telemachus," and Telemachus was Odysseu's son, who was searching for news of his father.)

(20) I like the wordplay in "Joking Jesus": "What's bread in the bone cannot fail me to fly." Jesus's bones (his body) were, after all, also Bread. (As would Jack of the Beanstalk's, had the giant his way. But that's probably neither here nor there.)

(20) I like that Haines isn't quite sure how to react to Buck's mocking of religion. Mustn't upset the natives. I also like that Stephen says he hears "Joking Jesus" three times a day, after meals... making it sort of an anti-prayer.

(20) I'm a little lost about Stephen's ashplant. Not sure what's going on there. (I think it's mentioned before this page, come to think of it.)

(21) Haines calls German Jews Britain's "national problem." Considering there's a lot of antisemetism coming from a character in the next chapter as well, I'm guessing this will be a recurring motif.

(22) "Says he found a sweet young thing down there. Photo girl he calls her." "Snapshot, eh? Brief exposure." How I love innuendo. I get the impression (from something I read online, can't remember where) that this is Leopold Bloom's daughter. I've only gotten to Chapter 4, so I haven't met her yet, but from what I recall she works in photography somehow.

"Brief exposure." Heh.

(24) The seal is a usurper? WTF?

So those are some questions I had while reading (and rereading) Chapter 1. If you've got answers, toss 'em in the comments (or if they're long, make a post of their own. I'll do some looking into this myself, too, and post what I find.



Travis said...

I'll help where I can which is very little. From my own research.

Algy is Algeron Charles Swineburne who was a English Poet

hyperborean: the greek mythical name for Nietzsche's "superman"

ompaholos: the navel, center on man's self-consciousness, source of poet inspiration. Three definitions so I dunno.

Clongowes: It seems he was an altar boy, Clongowes was the school

An ashplant is a walking stick, if that is what you are asking...

The antisemitism kind of shocked me at first but then I had to put into the perspective of the times.

The rest I got nothing.

Figserello said...

(10) Sassenach is the gaelic word for "English-person". It has the same root as (Anglo-)Saxon.

It is still used today as a mostly-joking term of abuse for English people by both the Irish and the Scots.

(12) Clongowes. The story of Stephen's coming of age is in 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man'. Stephen was very religious as a child and very influenced by the Jesuits, whose love of knowledge and analytical thinking he would carry with him always, even though he utterly rejected their faith. Its a big part of who Stephen is.

'Portrait' itself is an easier read than Ulysses once you realise it is a comedy makng fun of how seriously the young Stephen (Joyce) took everythng.

(16) Agenbite of Inwit. I'm not sure the origins of it, but Joyce often loves the sound of words as the best way to convey an idea. They say his works are more intelligible when heard spoken aloud.

It might have the meaning "Bite against of inward thought". His recollections and reflections are painful to his inner self. Its something he can't share with anyone. A lonely existential pain.

(20) Again I don't know why Joyce picked this particular plant, but it features in 'Portrait'. Joyce carries it around as a badge of his difference to his classmates, that he is an aesthete and they are boors.

Joyce's development years were during the fin de secle decadent years of Oscar Wilde etc.

I've just googled a bit and found that the Ash is a very sacred tree in pagan religions. The great world-tree Yggdrassil from the Norse myths is said to be ash.

(BTW the ash tree is still important in Ireland as it is the best wood for making the Hurleys - the bat which we use in one of our national sports - a beautiful game to watch if you ever get the chance!)

(21) Its important that Leopold Bloom is a Jew in the main part of the book. He's not just the wandering Ulysses, but also the Wandering Jew of medieval folklore.

To this day Ireland still divides along Catholic/Protestant lines, so Joyce was tryiing to break through that with a total outsider as a character.

The headmaster's joke about Ireland not having a history of persecuting Jews "because we never let them in!" is a very insightful one and I often think of it when considering Ireland's present issues dealing with inbound immigrants.

(22) Joyce had an unbelievably dirty mind (or perhaps no dirtier than the rest of us, but he made expressing himself truthfully his life's work) Anyway, did you know that Joyce used to entertain his fellow drinkers in the pub by putting a pair of dolls knickers over his first two fingers so they looked like ladies legs and then let them 'dance' erotically up and down the bar? SICK, I tell you!

Figserello said...

(24) I don't have Ulysses in front of me now, but is the seal you refer to the aquatic animal?

In which case Joyce might be referring to the Celtic legends where seals are thought to be one form of a magical crature called a Selkie that could take on (usurp?) the form of beautiful humans when they wished to tempt humans into the sea.

A bit of a stretch I know...

maybe they were temporarily colonising the rocks where they were sunbathing?

BTW I've just noticed your earlier request for tunes that might relate to Joyce. Pay particular attention to 'Take her up to Monto" when it comes around on your Dubliners tunes (or upload it). Its about the 'red light'/late drinking district of Dublin and the disgraceful things that went on there. Bloom and Stephen both end up there towards the end of the book and duly disgrace themselves.

The song has the same riotous ribald spirit as that chapter of Ulysses.


Rob S. said...

Thanks for all your insights, Travis and Figserello! Figs, you go out on a limb with this:

In which case Joyce might be referring to the Celtic legends where seals are thought to be one form of a magical crature called a Selkie that could take on (usurp?) the form of beautiful humans when they wished to tempt humans into the sea.

A bit of a stretch I know...

And I don't think it's the stretch you think it is. After all, Stephen (and the town) are preoccupied with the dead man lost at sea -- so when he sees the seal, he probably thinks its the floater at first. It's usurping the dead man's form, just as the selkies do.

Oh, and from a comment in Chapter 2, I'm beginning to think that Algy is Stephen's brother. I'll find the line tonight.

I'll be sure to check out that Dubliners tune once I'm home from work.


Rob S. said...

Just looking up at your comment again, Trav -- if Algy is Swineburne, I'll have to look more closely at the Algy line from Chapter 2...

Figserello said...

For some reason I thought of one of Stephen's little brothers too when I read your first question about Algy, but I can't say for sure.

The rest of Stephen's brothers and sisters had to live in extreme poverty and some of them died in childhood. Perhaps Algy is one of those?

Stephen's/Joyce's family moved from relative wealth (when Stephen was a boy and he went to posh Clongowes) to extreme poverty by the time Stephen entered college.

I hope you stick with the book. I enjoyed being able to stop and think about specific aspects of it today. Every sentence and almost every word is loaded with meaning.
(I should have been working though!)

Bill Shaw said...

I've really enjoyed the blog and comments, but the date (2008) is a puzzler. Is this ongoing, I hope???

Inara Hasanova said...

I think it doesn't. What a pity, though. I keep turning to Ulysses for years, but I am not able to finish it. Too much incogoitas for an outsider of the Irish backgroun

Inara Hasanova said...

I think it doesn't. What a pity, though. I keep turning to Ulysses for years, but I am not able to finish it. Too much incogoitas for an outsider of the Irish backgroun