Ineluctable modality of the podcast! A discussion of the first paragraph of “Proteus,” in which Kelly and Dermot try to make sense of Stephen’s untethered inner monologue. We discuss Aristotle’s theory of vision, Bishop George’s Berkeley’s mistrust of sense perception, an interpretation of a famous meme, who Jakob Boehme was and what he meant by “signature of all things.” This episode will leave you with a pleasing sense of superiority over your friends.
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 first phase of apprehension is a bounding line drawn about the object to be apprehended. An esthetic image is presented to us either in space or in time. What is audible is presented in time, what is visible is presented in space. – Stephen Dedalus, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
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 page 37 in my copy (1990 Vintage International). We’ll be looking at the passage that begins “Ineluctable modality of the visible” and ends “world without end,” roughly the first five paragraphs of the episode.
So begins my attempt to translate “Proteus” into plain English and offer analysis. Hopefully this doesn’t turn me (any more) insane.
There are two ways to tackle these first five paragraphs, which are important paragraphs indeed. They seem to be some of the most quoted lines in “Proteus,” though I suspect that may be because that’s when many of us stopped reading. Or it’s just the right amount to quote to make it seem like you read the rest. Kidding, kidding. These first five set the stage for Stephen’s increasingly meandering musings as the episode progresses. They’re also a prime example of Joycean stream of conscious. However, they are as shifty as the sand and tides on Sandymount Strand and slippery as a Greek god eluding capture.