The time has come for Blooms & Barnacles to tackle Ulysses‘ third episode – “Proteus”! This is Ulysses‘ first “difficult” episode – jam-packed with multiple languages and obscure references. This week’s podcast gives an overview of many of the themes found in “Proteus,” including its connection to The Odyssey, the influence of esoteric doctrines on the text and Joyce’s love of writing in multiple languages. With guest star, Emma the cat.
Kelly and Dermot tackle the reference to Averroes and Maimonides in “Nestor.” Not only does this episode cover these two philosophers and their connection to Aristotle, there’s also plenty of discussion on Morris dance, Giordano Bruno and the thematic importance of goth kids.
—Qui vous a mis dans cette fichue position?
—c’est le pigeon, Joseph.
Midway though “Proteus,” Stephen reminisces on his time as a medical student in Paris. Amongst those reminiscences, two names are nestled. First, on page 41 (Vintage International Edition):
But he must send me La Vie de Jesus by M. Leo Taxil. Lent it to his friend.
And later (pgs. 43, 50):
And Monsieur Drumont, gentleman journalist.
There’s not indication in the text of the link connecting these two men – Léo Taxil and Édouard Drumont. Though they have become obscure in the 21st century, their public personas likely shaped the worldview of a young Stephen Dedalus (and James Joyce).
I wouldn’t be [Joyce’s] Messiah for a thousand million pounds. He would always be criticising the bad taste of his deity.” – AE Russell
Hello, dear readers. Let’s have some fun with Sanskrit today. We’re in the thick of it now, deep into the darkest reaches of “Proteus,” the point where you think you’ve got a handle on things and then BAM. Sanskrit. The art of “Proteus” is philology, so I think we should embrace James Joyce’s penchant for linguistic whimsy and dive in. This one gets weird.
The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. – H.P. Lovecraft
James Joyce had a penchant for nesting obscure references in his writing that are indecipherable to nearly anyone who isn’t James Joyce (have you noticed?). There’s something appealingly stubborn about this style of writing – the writer communicating to their reader, “Look, I’m not going to throw you a branch. Either learn how to swim or enjoy drowning.” If you do learn to swim, though, there are rewards. Tucked into Stephen’s inner monologue in “Proteus” is a passage, obscure at first (naturally), that reveals the story of a Christian mystic, a W. B. Yeats short story and an obstinate young Artist: