Ulysses CCD: St. Ursula

—I pinched it out of the skivvy’s room, Buck Mulligan said. It does her all right. The aunt always keeps plainlooking servants for Malachi. Lead him not into temptation. And her name is Ursula.

Part of an occasional series on Catholicism in Ulysses.


Stephen Dedalus and Buck Mulligan discuss, as Stephen puts it, a symbol of Irish art – the cracked looking glass of a servant, a literal looking glass that Mulligan stole from a literal servant. “Skivvy” means a menial laborer or a servant. Mulligan laments that his aunt only keeps unattractive servants to keep her nephew out of trouble. “Lead him not into temptation” is a play on a line from the Lord’s Prayer. But it’s her name, Ursula, that we’ll focus on today. There’s no wrong time to learn about the religious allusions found in a Buck Mulligan insult.

Naming the servant “Ursula” connects her to a saint with a distaste for the less fair sex and an interesting legend attached to her. “Ursula” is  Latin for “little female bear” and she is the patron saint of archery, England, and the cities of Cologne, Germany and Binangonan, Philippines. Her feast day was on the 21st of October until it was removed from the liturgical calendar in the late 1960’s. St. Ursula lived in the 3rd or 4th century and, based on several biographies I read, is either a valiant warrior for women’s rights or a total fabrication.

 

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The Martyrdom of St. Ursula, Caravaggio, 1610

St. Ursula’s story varies from telling to telling, but some details remain steady. She was princess from Roman-era Britain. The pagan ruler of an area in modern-day Brittany sent out a request for more wives, and Ursula’s father sent his daughter and 11,000 virgins to meet his demands. In most versions, Ursula was none too thrilled with this plan. Sometimes, her ship is blown off course by a miraculous kamikaze wind. In other versions, she takes her virgins on a whirlwind pilgrimage of the great holy sites of Europe on the way to meet her betrothed. Whatever course they took, Ursula and the virgins ended up in Cologne, Germany, where they were gruesomely beheaded to the last virgin by the invading Huns. Ursula herself was shot through with arrows. Sometimes, Ursula and the virgins went there knowingly in order to become martyrs, and in other versions they are the hapless victims of barbarians.

The most notable hard evidence for Ursula and her virgins is the Basilica of St. Ursula in Cologne. The earliest inscription in the church dedicates it to her martyrdom and claims to be built on the final resting place of Ursula and her virginal retinue. In the 12th century, graves of a large number of people were discovered on the church grounds, and because the medievals couldn’t help themselves when it came to macabre memento mori, the bones were used to cover the walls of the Golden Room inside the basilica. They are arranged in elaborate decorative patterns to catch the eye and to remind us all we too will one day be food for worms. If you find yourself in Cologne, feel free to stop by and have a look.

What a story, Mark!

The problem is, there aren’t any credible sources from Ursula’s time that back up the accounts. She is supposed to have met a Pope Cyriacus who abdicated his papal throne in order to follow Ursula and the virgins, but there is also no record of a pope by that name during Ursula’s lifetime. In fact, there isn’t much mention of Ursula at all until the 9th century, hundreds of years after her martyrdom took place. One would think it would take way less time to notice 11,001 dead virgins, but I suppose information didn’t travel as easily before the internet.

One detail that stands out amongst the others in this story is how would a regional British king gather 11,000 virgins to accompany his daughter through Europe? Believers in the legend might tell you, well, maybe she didn’t start out with 11,000, but people began joining her holy procession along the way. Even the Pope was on board! Also, as fearsome as the Huns were, murdering 11,000 people is still an enormous feat. The devil is, as always, in the details. The earliest Ursula legends usually number her ladies-in-waiting at 11, but a translation error in the Latin by the bishop of Cologne in the 900’s rendered her more reasonable 11 virginal companions to a whopping 11,000.

As for the bones buried beneath the church in Cologne, upon further inspection, the bones of men and babies were discovered amongst the graves. In a few whispered accounts, so were the bones of mastiffs.

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Flag of the British Virgin Islands

One reason the legend of St. Ursula and the 11,000 virgins is so enduring was that the cult of St. Ursula was quite popular in the Middle Ages, with literal tons of relics of Ursula and the virgins venerated in churches across the continent. Pilgrims coming to view the relics were likely a steady part of many local economies. The Order of Ursulines, founded in the 1500’s to support the education of girls and young women, further contributed to their notoriety as many generations of Catholic women were educated by Ursuline nuns. Such was their popularity that the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea were named after St. Ursula’s companions. An image of a young woman in white appears on both the flag and coat of arms of the British Virgin Islands.

Back to Buck Mulligan. I doubt that the servant’s name is actually Ursula, but rather Mulligan is disappointed in her chaste manner. She is not likely to be seduced by the wiles of the young Buck. St. Ursula is commonly associated with the rejection of both sex and marriage, more likely to conjure to one’s mind the image of a stern nun rather than a randy sex-kitten. While red-headed women are said to buck like goats, Ursulines most certainly are not.

 

Further Reading:

Filz, G. (2016, Oct 11). The story of St. Ursula the warrior princess and her 11,000 companions. Get Fed. Retrieved from https://www.catholiccompany.com/getfed/st-ursula-and-her-11000-companions/

Harper, E. (2016). St. Ursula and her 11,000 BFFs. All the Saints You Should Know. Retrieved from http://www.allthesaintsyoushouldknow.com/st-ursula-and-her-11000-bffs/

Johnson, B. Saint Ursula and the 11,000 British virgins. Historic UK. Retrieved from https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/Saint-Ursula-the-11000-British-Virgins/

 

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”

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.

Click here to stream audio.


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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

 

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

Social Media:

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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 

James Joyce Ulysses Buck Mulligan

Ep. 4 – Introibo Ad Altare Dei

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Giotto di Bondone, The Arrest of Christ (Kiss of Judas), 14th c.

Kelly and Dermot talk about page #1 of Ulysses, taking a deep dive into the symbolism of the Catholic Mass in the opening scene. There’s lots of talk about blasphemy, transubstantiation, saints and why Kelly was a terrible altar server back in the day. We finish off with wild speculation about why kids don’t learn Latin and Greek these days.

Click here to stream.

On the Blog:

Ulysses CCD – Mulligan Mocks Mass

Social Media:

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Subscribe to Blooms and Barnacles:

iTunes | Google Play Music | Stitcher

Further Reading:

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.

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

Trieste Notebook:

http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/JoyceColl/JoyceColl-idx?type=div&did=JOYCECOLL.SCHOLESWORKSHOP.I0013&isize=text 

Music

Noir – S Strong & Boogie Belgique

James Joyce Ulysses Buck Mulligan

Ep. 3 – Joyce v. Gogarty

Orpen_OSJGogarty
Oliver St John Gogarty

In this episode we tackle the falling out between James Joyce and Oliver St John Gogarty, the origins of the character Buck Mulligan, what really happened in the Martello tower, blasphemous poetry and how Joyce found his sense of humor.

Stream here:
https://embed.simplecast.com/af8957f2?color=f5f5f5

On the Blog:

Say ‘Hello’ to Martello Towers
Who was the Real Buck Mulligan?

Poetry in Ulysses: The Ballad of Joking Jesus

Social Media:

Facebook|Twitter

Subscribe to Blooms and Barnacles:

iTunes | Google Play Music | Stitcher

Further Reading:

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

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

Lyons, J. (1984). Oliver St. John Gogarty. Dublin Historical Record,38(1), 2-13. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/30100748

Riley, M. (1984). Joyce, Gogarty, and the Irish Hero. The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies,10(2), 45-54. doi:10.2307/25512607. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/25512607?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3Aafd1aaaa4471f11ab4207fabb5556216&seq=9#metadata_info_tab_contents

Trieste Notebook:

http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/JoyceColl/JoyceColl-idx?type=div&did=JOYCECOLL.SCHOLESWORKSHOP.I0013&isize=text

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

Music

Noir – S Strong & Boogie Belgique