Stephen Dedalus, W.B. Yeats, The Tables of the Law, James Joyce, Ulysses

Ep. 35 – The Hundredheaded Rabble

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Joachim of Fiore

Join Kelly and Dermot for a story about James Joyce’s youthful rebellion against the literary establishment of Dublin, his obsession with the apocalyptic predictions of a 12th century monk, a tale of psychic horror by W.B. Yeats, Jonathan Swift and Dublin’s oldest public library. It’s a jam-packed episode! The paragraph discussed in this episode can be found on p. 39-40 of the 1990 Vintage International edition of Ulysses.

Bonus: Dermot interviews Kelly about completing her blog series about “Proteus.” Check out those blog posts here.

Double Bonus: The difference between Elisha and Elijah from Chuck Knows Church.

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Decoding Dedalus: God Becomes Featherbed Mountain

This is a post in a series called Decoding Dedalus where I take a passage of Ulysses and  break it down line by line.

The line below comes from “Proteus,” the third episode of Ulysses. It appears on page p. 50 in my copy (1990 Vintage International). We’ll be looking at the line that begins “God becomes…” and ends “…featherbed mountain.”

God becomes man becomes fish becomes barnacle goose becomes featherbed mountain. 

This sentence is a riddle for us, Stephen’s phantom students.

Early in “Proteus,” Stephen thinks, “Signature of all things I am here to read,” and as the episode closes, Stephen is still deciphering these signatures. All of the items in this list are, at least theoretically, signs that might appear to Stephen on the seashore. The question is, can we (or Stephen) interpret these signs? This sentence shows a progression of concepts shifting and metamorphosing into one another, staying true to the slippery, protean nature of the shore. Where does the land end and the sea begin? It’s all a matter of perspective depending on ever-changing and overlapping forms – the sand, the water, the tides that join them, all existing on a continuum, nacheinander and nebeneinander. 

How does God transform into a featherbed mountain, anyway?

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Ep. 34 – Translating Finnegans Wake into Japanese (w/ Kenji Hayakawa)

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Kelly and Dermot are joined by translator Kenji Hayakawa to discuss the gargantuan task of translating Finnegans Wake into Japanese.  We discuss Naoki Yanase’s translation of Joyce’s classic novel into Japanese, creating special software Japanese characters to tackle Joyce’s various coinages, why Japanese is an ideal language in which to read Finnegans Wake, why only translators truly understand Finnegans Wake, the sadism of Finnegans Wake, the influence of Harriet Shaw Weaver, and how Finnegans Wake is the antidote to book club hierarchies.

No need to speak Japanese or have read Finnegans Wake!

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Decoding Dedalus: Full Fathom Five

I haven’t let this young man off very lightly, have I? Many writers have written about themselves. I wonder if any one of them has been as candid as I have? – James Joyce to Frank Budgen

This is a post in a series called Decoding Dedalus where I take a passage of Ulysses and  break it down line by line.

The passage below comes from “Proteus,” the third episode of Ulysses. It appears on page p. 50 in my copy (1990 Vintage International). We’ll be looking at the passage that begins “Five fathoms…” and ends “We enjoyed ourselves immensely.”


Before we leave the shores of Sandymount at the end of “Proteus,” we should dive into one last motif just a bit deeper. We’ve previously focused on drowning in relation to the death of Stephen’s mother and as a manifestation of Stephen’s hydrophobia, but at the end of the episode, the image of a drowned man in Dublin Bay resurfaces once more. As we’ll see, Stephen fear of drowning extends beyond his memories of his mother coughing up bowls of green phlegm.

Moving his focus from the sand, stones and seaweed on Sandymount Strand, Stephen begins to contemplate the waters of Dublin Bay. He has attempted to categorize and order the scattered people, creatures and detritus of the shore through Berkeleyan idealism and the fixed language of heraldry, but the sea is still a wild place, shifting and protean. The sea contains mysteries yet untamed, the ninth wave out from land a portal to the otherworld. It is not confined to the restrictions of solid forms like those found on the shore. It is a place of possibility, and ultimately, change.

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Ep. 33 – Nuncle Richie

Stephen contemplates the horror of a visit to his Aunt Sara and Uncle Richie’s house. We discuss parallels in this scene with Joyce’s real life aunt and uncle, why Joyce’s Aunt Josephine gave away her first edition of Ulysses, the intractable Dubliner/culchie divide, middle class pretension, Hiberno-English, Wilde’s Requiescat, and the difficulty of parsing conversations written in Joyce’s signature stream of consciousness.

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