Sunday, August 22, 2010


We have a longer than usual break in between meetings right now, so during the lull, I'll just mention that  my sister happened to tell me of going to see Travesties by Tom Stoppard recently. I like Stoppard, but hadn't seen this play, so was surprised that part of its plot involved James Joyce in Zurich, attempting to mount a production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.

Stoppard, Wilde, Joyce. Now that is a play I definitely have to see. (The illustrator of the poster, by the way, is Sam Webber.)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pages 131-33 continued (well, actually, started)

All right. Enough for the copying things out, now for the hard part. I'll start with "his threefaced stone head  was found on a whitehorse hill and the print of his costellous feet is seen in the goat's grass circle". A. recalled seeing a sculpted one in the National Museum in Dublin, in which two heads faced away from each other, Janus style, but one smaller one was nestled in between. I wasn't able to find an image of it, but this article does mention it.

T. asked whether all these clauses have a kind of balanced "on the one hand, on the other hand" kind  of rhythm to them. The answer is no, but it is definitely one of the patterns:"figure right, he is hoisted by the scurve of his shaggy neck, figure left, he is rationed in isobaric patties among the crew". But another style is exemplified in: "harrier, marrier, terrier, tav".

Some clauses we especially liked: "passed for baabaa blacksheep till he grew white woo woo woolly" and "calls upon Allthing when he fails to appeal to Eachovos". And one I liked, but only after grasping the pun from someone else's commentary: "Has the most conical hodpiece of confucianist heronim and that chuchuffuous chinchin of his is like a footsey kungaloo around Taishanty land". One (though only one) way of reading this is, "he had the most comical headpiece of Confucianist "hair on him" and that Chufu chin of his is like Fu-Tse Kung, ie, Kung Fu-Tse, ie. Confucius around  the sacred mountain of Tai Shan.

A couple of things have come up around my researches on these pages. The first is that according to Grace Eckley in her First Question article, which is well worth reading, there is an actual person that brings some unity to this complex figure represented in these clauses, and that is a journalist that we haven't even heard of yet. His name was W. T. Stead, and in order to expose the white slave trade going on in London of 1885, he purchased a girl named Eliza from her mother for five pounds, and mixing it with the story of another stolen girl named Lily, he wrote an article called "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon". Although some praised him for his expose, many agreed with his arrest and his being brought before a judge for having "deluged London with a quantity of filth". So when we see Flood (or even flood) imagery in the Wake, we are to think of this flood of excrement as well. Much of the trial of HCE and his fallen role relates to this actual man's story. As Eckley has it, Joyce needed an  Everyman figure to play HCE/Finn McCool in contemporary, historical form and Stead provided that. But read the article, you'll see what she's getting at.

The other thing I've gathered is that we've been scanting the importance of Parnell to Joyce a bit. We know he's important, we just don't know how important. There's a good article here. We do know a bit about the fact of his adulterous affair with "Kitty" O'Shea, and how the revelation of this led to his final downfall. But I don't think it's come up yet that before this there was another scandal. In 1887, he was accused of having written letters in support of the murders of two British officials in Phoenix Park (!)in 1882. These letters were finally revealed to be the forgeries of Richard Piggott, "a disreputable anti-Parnellite rogue journalist", who was finally given away by his characteristic spelling of the word "hesitant" as "hesitent". And you will find evidence of Joyce's interest on page 133 in this clause of the riddle: "is unhesitent in his unionism and yet a piggotted nationalist". Now this delights me, because my eyes had run across that "unhesitent" earlier in the day and I wondered about the mispelling, knowing that with Joyce, it could not be accidental. I am just surprised that I was able to unearth the answer so fast.

Poor Richard Piggott, though. After he confessed, he went off to Madrid and killed himself. W.T. Stead, (who was apparently Parnell's opponent, though I have not been able to get to the bottom of his role at Parnell's trial) started a fund to take care of Piggott's children. Stead himself went down on the Titanic, strangely, after writing an article about the need for liners to have more lifeboats.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


We began our last meeting with a short reading from L. from a scholarly essay she had read in the interim. It comes from an essay by Brook Thomas called "Formal Re-creation: Re-reading and Re-joycing the Re-rightings of Ulysses" and can be found in a book called Critical Essays on James Joyce's Ulysses. I thought I'd put it in for the record, as it seemed to answer some of the questions brought up by our last meeting.

"What my example,which is by no means unusual, should make clear is that Joyce's process of writing, re-reading, and re-writing is potentially an endless one. Having once revised a passage Joyce would re-read his revisions, causing him to discover even more potential verbal connections, causing more re-writing, and so on. Thus, it is easy to see how Ulysses came to be more and more about its own creation. The book becomes reflexive because as Arnold Goldman claims, "By its fifteenth chapter, Ulysses has begun to provide its author enough in the way of material to become self-perpetuating." It also becomes reflexive because Joyce re-read every sentence he wrote in so many ways that each one required expansion and qualification. Or put another way, the material that the book has amassed is not only character, plot or details of a Dublin setting, but its own language. That language, as part of a language system without beginning or end, allows Joyce continually to create new meanings and and formal possibilities for his book. But in one sense, it is not really Joyce who is "creating" these meanings and potential forms. They are meanings and forms already available in a language which already exists prior to any one reader or writer of that language. It is Joyce's awareness of this potentiality of language that allows us to talk about the book writing itself and that makes Ulysses the perfect example of Valéry statement that "a work of art is never finished, only abandoned". My point is, however, that Ulysses has been abandoned only by Joyce, not by its readers, for each time a reader reads and re-reads Ulysses, he repeats with a difference the process by which Joyce created the book."

(In my case, the "difference" is that Joyce knew a hell of a lot more than I do.)

C. pointed out that this implied a lot of faith on Joyce's part, not just in language, but in life, and those of us who know his biography well (i.e., not me) spoke of his lack of anxiety, how he was always struggling for money and yet gave it away open-handedly when it came to him. And that of course, he always had  a lot of people mad at him, but didn't care. We agreed it was a good model for those of us who might be a bit more prone to the anxious side.

And all this before we'd even looked at the text!

To be Continued...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pages 129-131--The Riddles Continue

So this post will probably be briefer than the last, as we will only have a week in between. We're packing the meetings in since some of our members are traveling these next few months. The good news is that part of their trip will be to Dublin. We will of course expect a full report...

What did Joyce know and when did he know it? This in some sense was the "riddle" we posed ourselves at our last meeting. It's basically the question that comes up in discussions of authors all the time. How much of this was conscious and how much of it was accidental? My own position is that Joyce was at the intentional end of the spectrum. There might be some 'found' pieces in there, there could even be a multitude of them, but my sense of this is that if we think of them and make the connections, Joyce probably thought of them first.

But to get to the text. First just an odd coincidence which anyone who's reading the Wake will surely find life to be full of. At the bottom of page 128, Joyce  writes "piles big pelium on little ossas like the pilluls of hirculeads" At the moment I happen to be reading Henry Miller's The Colossus of Maroussi and have just come across this part:

"Katsimbalis would take me on his monologues to Mt. Athos, to Pelion and Ossa, to Leonidion and Monemvasia".

Pelion and Ossa are both famous Greek mountains, and it turns out that in Greek mythology, the Aloadae are supposed to have tried to pile Ossa on Pelion (or as above, the reverse)  in order to storm Mt. Olympus and kidnap some goddesses.

But on to some of the things we picked out this last time. We liked "seven dovecotes cooclaim to have been pigeonheim to this homer, Smerrnion, Rhoebok, Kolonsreagh, Seapoint, Quayhowth, Ashtown, Ratheny", especially after we realized that "homer" referred not just to this homing pigeon, but that the cities just mentioned (or their proper variants) all claim to be the birthplace of Homer. Think that's over? Here's a little chamber of commerce type thing from Izmir formerly Smyrna, in the present day:

The first and the greatest poet of history and the poet of the legendary works named Iliad and Odyssey, Homer was born in İzmir. There is no other poet like Homer, who lived between 750-700 B.C. and affected all civilizations in the world. Seven cities claimed that Homer is their countryman. These cities are Salamis, Argos, Athens, Rhodes, Chios, Kolophon, and Smyrna. It is impossible for him to be from Salamis, Argos, Athens or Rhodos since he wrote his legends with a mixture of Ionian-Aeolian style that are particularly Anatolian dialects. He is said to be exiled to Chios. For this reason there is a place called Homer Rocks on the particular island. Moreover, the most favourite nickname of Homer was ‘Melesigenes’ which means ‘Child of Meles Brook’. It becomes obvious that Homer was born in İzmir since Meles Brook is located within the territory of the city.

Obvious-- right. Wonder what Rhodes would have to say...

We liked one true riddle here: "his first's a young rose and his second's French-Egyptian and his whole means a slump at Christie's." This sorts it self out as a.) Bud, b.) Nile or Nil  and c.) Null bid, which, as I don't think we quite got to, turns out to be and anagram of "Dublin". Or, as is common with Joyce, sort of.

And I liked, "the gleam of the glow of the shine of the sun through the dearth of the dirth on the blush of the brick of the viled ville of Barnehulme has dust turned to brown"

Twas purely for the sound...

Here's an interesting short article which I just found on the First Question, when I was trying to figure out what Barnehulme was (a Danish island, as it happens.)