Let’s have fun with consubstantiality! Kelly and Dermot untangle Stephen Dedalus’ thoughts on the dual nature of God the Father and God the Son, the Nicene Creed, the difference between being made and being begotten, the death of Arius, seahorses, a shocking fact about the Star Wars cantina and an even more shocking fact about the symbolism of doves.
Real talk: why are there no seagulls on Sandymount Strand on Bloomsday? Have we stumbled onto a historical seagull-based conspiracy? Stay tuned to find out! Additionally, we’ll also continue discussing how Stephen’s walk on the beach is influenced by Berkeleyan idealism, Stephen’s perception of space and time, how blind people perceive the world and the Demiurge.
This week, Kelly and Dermot explain the nightmarish history tucked into Stephen’s terse rebuttal of Mr. Deasy’s weak grasp of Irish history. The passage covered can be found on p. 31 of Kelly’s edition of Ulysses (1990 Vintage International). Topics covered include the history of the Orange Order, the Battle of the Diamond, the Planters’ Covenant, the power of copyright law over sectarianism, and how all these issues still affect us today.
History is the art of Nestor, so let’s immerse ourselves in the nightmare of history, at least the bits covered on p. 31 of Ulysses. Learn about Stephen’s hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. Mr. Deasy tries to teach Stephen a bit of history, but (spoiler alert) he doesn’t know much about history. Topics covered include Daniel O’Connell, the Orange lodges, the Famine and the Fenians. This episode covers some heavy stuff, but learning new things will make you feel like the woman in this picture.
It follows that the soul is analogous to the hand; for as the hand is a tool of tools, so the mind is the form of forms and sense the form of sensible things. – Aristotle, De Anima
I am absolutely indebted to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the book Allwisest Stagyrite: Joyce’s Quotations from Aristotle by University College Dublin professor Fran O’Rourke for the contents of this essay.
In keeping with Catholic tradition, I must open this post with a confession of guilt: I’ve avoided writing about Aristotle as much as possible on this blog because I really don’t understand him. I’ve been laboring away the last few months fully aware that I purposely skipped over the following sweet, juicy chunks of philosophy on page 25 of “Nestor” because not only did I have no idea what they meant, but I had no desire to do the research to find out:
It must be a movement then, an actuality of the possible as possible. Aristotle’s phrase formed itself within the gabbled verses and floated out into the studious silence of the library of Saint Genevieve where he had read, sheltered from the sin of Paris, night by night. By his elbow a delicate Siamese conned a handbook of strategy. Fed and feeding brains about me: under glowlamps, impaled, with faintly beating feelers: and in my mind’s darkness a sloth of the underworld, reluctant, shy of brightness, shifting her dragon scaly folds. Thought is the thought of thought. Tranquil brightness. The soul is in a manner all that is: the soul is the form of forms. Tranquility sudden, vast, candescent: form of forms.
I thought I got away with it, too. No one emailed me to ask why I skipped over that “form of forms” bit, so I thought my soul was free of the weight of guilt brought on by my own neglect.
But then, I came across this passage on page 44 of “Proteus”:
He dressed in black, a Hamlet without a wicked uncle…. – Richard Ellmann
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 pages 41-42 in my copy (1990 Vintage International). We’ll be looking at the passage that begins “My Latin quarter hat.” and ends “…curled conquistadores.”
In December 1901, a young, determined James Joyce showed up in Paris to study medicine. There were other, more sensible courses of study he could have taken. Most obviously, he could have carried on at University College Dublin where he had done his undergraduate work. However, he couldn’t afford the fees, and the university had denied him work doing grinds (tutoring), which would have helped him earn money to pay his fees. There was no particularly compelling reason for Joyce to study medicine in Paris. In fact, he had some powerful connections (W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory) who were more than happy to call in favors and get him a position in Dublin or London as a writer. But no, Paris was the only option. He wrote to Lady Gregory that he would travel to Paris “alone and friendless,” that he must “try [himself] against the powers of the world.”
Richard Ellmann wrote that Joyce was provisionally allowed entrance into the École de Médecine at La Sorbonne, despite the fact that the term was mere weeks from ending. Joyce’s younger brother Stanislaus, on the other hand, said that when his brother arrived in Paris, the university didn’t recognize his undergrad degree from Ireland and that he would have had to pay all of his student fees in advance of study, still an issue for the Young Artist. Apparently, this information could have been ascertained while Joyce was still in Dublin. It was also not clear if a French medical degree would be valid in Ireland or if Joyce intended to practice medicine in France. Such setbacks would not turn our intrepid hero aside, however. He remained in Paris, as Stanislaus tells it, “with some undefined purpose, vaguely literary.”
—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).
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:
Daedalus in Ulysses was Joyce himself, so he was terrible. Joyce was so damn romantic and intellectual about him. He’d made Bloom up. Bloom was wonderful. – Ernest Hemingway, “On Writing”
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 “Proteus,” the third episode of Ulysses. It appears on pages 37 -38 in my copy (1990 Vintage International). We’ll be looking at the passage that begins “They came down the steps…” and ends “…clotted hinderparts.”
To listen to a discussion of this topic, check out the podcast episode here.
They came down the steps from Leahy’s terrace prudently, Frauenzimmer: and down the shelving shore flabbily, their splayed feet sinking in the silted sand.
Who are “they”?
One “unhelpful” thing that pops up regularly in Stephen’s stream of conscious is unattributed pronouns. Joyce has enough faith in us, the readers, to figure out who “they” might be. I suppose we should be flattered. In this case, the “they” are “frauenzimmer” descending to Sandymount Strand. Here’s another thing Stephen likes to do – answer a question he posed himself in a foreign language. In German, “frauenzimmer” means either “lady of fashion” or a “nitwit, drab, sloven or wench.” I’m guessing, based on the description that follows, Joyce intended to conjure the latter image in your mind. Leahy’s Terrace is a street in Sandymount that is no longer near the sea due to development in the area that included extending the shoreline.
Kelly and Dermot discuss the recurring phrase “Agenbite of Inwit” and why Stephen repeats it over and over on June the sixteenth. Other topics included in the discussion are Buck Mulligan as nagging conscience, the gothic horror of growing up Irish, Catholic guilt and whether or not Stephen would have been better off praying at his mother’s bedside.