Agenbite of Inwit

—He can’t wear them, Buck Mulligan told his face in the mirror. Etiquette is etiquette. He kills his mother but he can’t wear grey trousers.

The text of Ulysses is populated by certain repeated phrases that shine light on the inner world of the characters. One of the first we encounter is “Agenbite of Inwit” in “Telemachus.”  Literally meaning “again-biting of inner wit,” it translates roughly to “remorse of conscience” and is derived from a medieval manual on morality called Ayenbite of Inwyt, which was translated, sometimes poorly, from French to English in the 1300’s. It’s remembered in modern times more as a fine example of the written form of the Kentish dialect of Middle English rather than as a work of literature or theology, and in fact, it seems that Ulysses revived its memory outside of academic circles.

Why does the title of an obscure medieval text clang through Stephen’s internal monologue again and again throughout the day? In 1903, both Stephen Dedalus and James Joyce had been medical students in Paris, striking out on their own away from the constricting culture of Edwardian Ireland. Both would receive a telegram urging them to come home due to their mother’s impending death. Both would deny their mother’s final wish – to kneel and pray at her bedside. Stephen, for his part, is haunted by guilt surrounding his mother’s death.

Continue reading “Agenbite of Inwit”

Decoding Dedalus: Glorious, Pious and Immortal Memory

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

The passage below comes from “Nestor,” the second episode of Ulysses. It appears on page 31 in my copy (1990 Vintage International).

Glorious, pious and immortal memory. The lodge of Diamond in Armagh the splendid behung with corpses of papishes. Hoarse, masked and armed, the planters’ covenant. The black north and true blue bible. Croppies lie down.

Having listened to Mr. Deasy’s imprecise recitation of history, Stephen Dedalus returns a silent retort. With great efficiency, Stephen rebuts the headmaster’s assertion that the orange lodges had actually supported the repeal of the Union, even before Catholic political hero Daniel O’Connell had. (You can find a discussion of Mr. Deasy’s comments here). While the old headmaster is eager to lessen the sectarian nature of Ireland’s historical strife, Stephen can’t look away.

Glorious, pious and immortal memory.

026-1-victoria-loyal-orange
A banner from an Orange Lodge in Ontario

These words are included in the opening of the Orange Toast. Though it sounds like a delicious brunch menu item, the Orange Toast is actually a proclamation recited in memory of King William III, also known as William of Orange, by the Orange Order (previously the Orange Society). A protestant fraternal organization, not unlike the freemasons, chapters of the Orange Order meet in the orange lodges cited by Mr. Deasy. Though they have rebranded in recent years, the Orange Order have historically been a strictly pro-Union, pro-monarchy and anti-Catholic organization, at times violently so. Continue reading “Decoding Dedalus: Glorious, Pious and Immortal Memory”

joyce ulysses haines black panther

Ep. 7 – In Defense of Dorkiness

BZwOMBNCQAAJ6ZI.jpg-largeKelly and Dermot discuss Stephen’s tower-mate, the Englishman Haines. Haines was based on a real-life roommate of James Joyce’s – Dermot Chenevix Trench. Did Joyce’s personal dislike of Trench color his characterization in the novel? What’s up with that black panther mentioned in ‘Telemachus?’ Why does Dermot (our host) have bad memories of learning Irish in school? These questions and more will be answered. Other topics include: Irish identity in 1904 and now, Joyce’s bad attitude, and Gogarty, the unreliable narrator of his own autobiography.

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On the Blog:

Say ‘Hello’ to Martello Towers

Who Was the Real Haines?

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Further Reading:

Ellmann, R. (1959). James Joyce. New York: Oxford University Press.

Fletcher, A. (2006, Apr 6). A young nationalist in the Easter Rising. History Today. Retrieved from https://www.historytoday.com/anthony-fletcher/young-nationalist-easter-rising

Gogarty, O. (1948). Mourning became Mrs. Spendlove and other portraits grave and gay. New York: Creative Age Press.

Spain, J. (2013). In the name of the fada: English giving us a lesson in Irish. The Irish Independent. Retrieved from https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/in-the-name-of-the-fada-english-giving-us-a-lesson-in-irish-29778304.html

Trench, C. (1975). Dermot Chenevix Trench and Haines of “Ulysses”. James Joyce Quarterly,13(1), 39-48. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25487234

Turner, J., & Mamigonian, M. (2004). Solar Patriot: Oliver St. John Gogarty in “Ulysses”. James Joyce Quarterly, 41(4), 633-652. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25478099

Zingg, G. (2013). Is there Hiberno-English on them? Hiberno-English in modern literature: the use of dialect in Joyce, O’Brien, Shaw and Friel. Bern: Peter Lang AG.

Music

Our theme is:

Noir – S Strong & Boogie Belgique

 

Ulysses CCD: St. Columbanus

His mother’s prostrate body the fiery Columbanus in holy zeal bestrode.

Part of an occasional series on Catholicism in Ulysses.

The line above appears on page 27 of ‘Nestor’ in the midst of Stephen’s musings on young Sargent, the student receiving the young Artist’s tutelage in algebra. It’s a random line in the midst of Stephen’s musing on amor matris – a mother’s love. Columbanus is the name of Irish saint who did exactly what this line states – stepped over the body of his own mother in order to follow a holy calling. This is a reference you could easily step over and get on your way, but let’s take a moment to learn about who this Columbanus fellow was.

St. Columbanus, pronounced like Call ‘em, Bannus, lived in the late 6th and early 7th centuries. His name is the Latinised form of Columbán, which means “white dove” in Irish (modern spelling is colm bán). There’s also an Irish saint who’s called both Columba and Colmcille, but he’s an entirely different person, so set him aside for now. St. Columbanus’ feast day is November 23, and he is patron saint of motorcycles, though they didn’t have motorcycles back in the 6th century.

Most of what we know about St. Columbanus’ life comes from an account written a few years after his death by a monk named Jonas. You can read the entirety of his account here if you’re interested. It’s certainly the most colorful of the accounts I’ve read.

Columbanus was born around 540 in the province of Leinster in the southeast of Ireland. Columbanus was a clever, handsome young man, which attracted many comely maidens and lead to worldly temptations, if you follow my drift. He met a nun around this time that told him he would continue to be lead astray by lust unless he took extreme measures. He needed to leave the place of his birth and dedicate his life and talents to holy matters, which he promptly did. His mother begged and pleaded him to stay, going so far as to lay her body in his path to prevent him leaving. Columbanus stepped over her instead and made his way into the wider world.

After spending time in a couple of Irish monasteries, Columbanus journeyed to mainland Europe, first in the Burgundy region of France and later in Bobbio, Italy. For most monks, monastic life meant staying in one monastery for their entire career, but Irish monks tended to travel abroad to spread their message. Traveling was encouraged during this era because the fall of the Roman Empire in the previous century had allowed “barbarians” (aka non-Christians) to gain ground on the continent. Young men like the handsome, charismatic Columbanus, an originator of this peripatetic practice, would bring the Faith to these godless heathens.

Though he was able to found several monasteries in Burgundy, controversy began to grow around the Irish monks’ peculiar customs. For example, the Irish monks under Columbanus’ leadership celebrated Easter on a different date than the French monks. Shocking, I know.

The real conflict arose when Columbanus butted heads with the Frankish Queen Brunhilde who was acting as regent until her son was old enough to rule. Her son Theuderic was living out of wedlock with a woman. Brunhilde allowed this arrangement because she feared a marriage would weaken her power. Columbanus was imprisoned and driven out of France. He landed on his feet, though, and was embraced by the king of Lombardy in modern-day Italy. Columbanus founded a monastery at Bobbio where he lived the remainder of his life. He wrote against the Arian controversy at this time, which is of interest to Ulysses readers since it appears elsewhere in the novel.

To bring it back to our boy Stephen, St. Columbanus leaps to mind while he contemplates that weak, willowy boys like Cyril Sargent (and Stephen Dedalus) owe their lives to the love of mother. Stephen bears an enormous guilt for refusing to pray at his mother’s deathbed because of his rejection of Catholicism, metaphorically stepping over her body, while Columbanus is venerated for physically stepping over the body of his weeping mother in order to embrace the call of Catholicism.

 

Further Reading:

Jonas the Monk’s account of St Columbanus’ life:

https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/columban.asp

 

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04137a.htm

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/saint/st-columbanus-716

 

https://www.catholicherald.com/Faith/Your_Faith/The_Saints/A_patron_saint_for_motorcyclists/

 

https://www.ancient.eu/Saint_Columbanus/

 

Irish grandmother

Ep. 6 – Tea for the Tower-Men

historical Irish grandmother
An Irish granny c. 1900

Hell is breakfast with Buck Mulligan.

Kelly and Dermot talk about the allegory of the old milk woman who visits Stephen and the boys in the Martello Tower. Topics covered include Hiberno-English, the importance of tea in Irish culture and who the hell Mother Grogan was.

 

Stream the podcast here.

 

On the Blog:

The Women of Ulysses: Mother Grogan and the Milk Woman

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Further Reading:

The full lyrics of the song “Ned Grogan” can be found here.

More on Mother Grogan:    http://web.sas.upenn.edu/ulysses-test/tag/mother-grogan/

Blamires, H. (1985). The Bloomsday Book. New York: University Paperbacks.

Burgess, A. (1968). ReJoyce. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Gifford, D., & Seidman, R. J. (1988). Ulysses annotated: Notes for James Joyce’s Ulysses. Berkeley: University of California Press.

 

Music

Our theme is:

Noir – S Strong & Boogie Belgique

Just because:

Tea for the Tillerman by Yusuf / Cat Stevens 

Decoding Dedalus: Dark Men of Mien and Movement

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

The passage below comes from “Nestor,” the second episode of Ulysses. It appears on page 28 in my copy (1990 Vintage International).


Across the page the symbols moved in grave morrice, in the mummery of their letters, wearing quaint caps of squares and cubes. Give hands, traverse, bow to partner: so: imps of fancy of the Moors. Gone too from the world, Averroes and Moses Maimonides, dark men in mien and movement, flashing in their mocking mirrors the obscure soul of the world, a darkness shining in brightness which brightness could not comprehend.

These thoughts traverse Stephen’s mind as he sits to help young Sargent with his algebra. Stephen, distracted as ever, ponders the greater mysteries and histories behind something so seemingly simple as a young student’s algebra problem. However, as you’ve certainly guessed by now, nothing is ever simple in Ulysses. Oh my god, there is so much in this one, you guys.

Let’s dive in.

Across the page the symbols moved in grave morrice, in the mummery of their letters, wearing quaint caps of squares and cubes. Give hands, traverse, bow to partner: so: imps of fancy of the Moors.

Let’s start with the word “morrice.” Usually spelled Morris dance today, this is  a traditional/ historical form of folk dance from England and Wales and, as a result, has had a lot of different spellings over the years. Morris dance does indeed involve a certain amount of mummery and the wearing of quaint caps. Some styles include blackface as part of the costume.

Stephen is slipping into a daydream as young Sargent works his algebra, watching the numbers come alive and dance across the page. It’s sort of like John Cusack in Better Off Dead, except less whimsical and less 80’s. The last line is key here. “The Moors” refer to the inhabitants of medieval Muslim Spain. While the origins of Morris dance are unknown, some believe “Morris” to have evolved from “Moorish.” The costumes of some styles of Morris dance and the unfortunate blackface seem to reflect this to me. Stephen thinks of the Moors in particular, though, because algebra was introduced to Europe by Muslim scholars.

Continue reading “Decoding Dedalus: Dark Men of Mien and Movement”

Weep No More: Lycidas in Nestor

—Tell us a story, sir. —O, do, sir. A ghoststory.
Did you ever have a teacher in school who had a tenuous-at-best grip on their lessons? They were easily distracted or maybe a little too much of a hippie. Maybe they were a substitute who wasn’t too invested in the job. Stephen Dedalus is this teacher, a learner uneasy as a teacher. Stephen’s heart is just not in this job, and it’s clear from the first lines of ‘Nestor’ that he is going through the motions on the surface. His thoughts continually intrude upon his focus as he listlessly carries out his uninspired lesson plan.  Not only does his student Armstrong know less than nothing about Pyrrhus, the rest of the boys are totally disinterested in the lesson and ready to distract their teacher. Stephen grimly realizes,“In a moment they will laugh more loudly, aware of my lack of rule and of the fees their papas pay.”
John_Milton_1
John Milton
When the history lesson doesn’t go well, Stephen leap-frogs to his own area of expertise – poetry. The little scrap of a literature lesson is a few lines recited from the John Milton poem “Lycidas.” The significance of this poem gets glossed over in some annotations, including my favorite Gifford annotation, but it’s worth pausing a moment and considering why Joyce included this poem in particular. Afterall, “’A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.” We can assume Joyce chose “Lycidas” for a reason. “Lycidas” is a pastoral elegy, that is, a poem written to commemorate and lament someone’s death, but rather than being direct, the poet uses a variety of classical and natural imagery to express their true emotions. “Lycidas” is considered one of the finest examples of this style of poetry. It was written in 1637 by John Milton, who was hugely influential on Joyce, mostly through his much more famous work Paradise Lost. Milton wrote “Lycidas” (pronounced liss-id-us) to mourn the death of his friend Edward King, a Cambridge scholar who died by drowning. Though it’s a longer poem, the lines found in ‘Nestor’ are as follows:
Weep no more, woful shepherds, weep no more For Lycidas, your sorrow, is not dead, Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor…
Continue reading “Weep No More: Lycidas in Nestor”