Thursday, May 26, 2011

A New Chapter--Page 169

So I missed our group reading of the end of the last riddle, and hope to go back to some thoughts about the riddles later. For now, though, I thought I'd just jot down some notes from this meeting. Apparently the last meeting dealt a lot with the ways in which the professor figure of the second to last riddle was an avatar of Wyndham Lewis, and there was some discussion of the differences between Joyce and Lewis and how they reacted to them. I think in some ways, the most interesting part of this for me was thinking about Lewis as the one who felt entitled to tell Joyce that he was a mess, and that he should do something with himself.

I notice that from getting mixed up about the Shem type and Shaun type initially, after the riddles, it has become a lot more clear to us. Always a bit tricky with Joyce, though, because, as T. said, each of these opposed figures contains their opposite as well. A case in point in this part we just read, where Joyce uses 'space' where others would use 'time'. (Examples on page 163, 164, and 169.)

Anyway, as it apparently turns out at the end of the last brief riddle, we are apparently all Shem, which is an interesting thing, because this next chapter is all about Shem. As Campbell's commentary asks, what is a chapter about Shem doing in the middle of a section which is supposed to be about ALP. Because he's his mother's son, that's why, and Campbell goes so far as to say that it is Shem who actually writes her letter. Which is, of course, strictly speaking, true, if Shem is Joyce, that is, which apparently he is. ALP is in this way the muse, the one who unleashes the poetic gifts in the artist.

Shem, however, is not the glorified romantic vision of the artist we have been given, and Joyce apparently enjoyed parodying what a total wreck of a man he is: "Shem was a sham and a low sham and his lowness first creeped out via food stuffs." He likes canned foods and even prefers them over the delicacies made from any fresh fish. And it goes on like that. He is low. Very, very low.

It's hilarious. And as a wreck, a disaster he doesn't even have the grace to meet an untimely end, such as throwing himself into the Liffey when drunk. He has the audacity to cheat death and go on living.

T. impressed us with a list he'd been making of the opposites of the Shem/Shaun type. If he manages to send me a copy, I'll post it here.

More later.


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