Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Joyce and Svevo, among other things

Italo Svevo

Santa Cruz Waker A. has sent us all this link to this blog post she read after finishing Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose. It has a lot of thoughtful information in a short article.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


The Liffey Swim by Jack Yeats
After a gap, we covered quite a bit of ground this past Wednesday evening. I thought I'd start with the Shem/Shaun difference that came up and then see what else pops up from memory. Out of the text, it came up again that Shaun is related to space, while Shem is related to time. Frankly this is still one I have trouble getting my mind around--I mean, the whole space time thing generally. But C. said that we think of Shem, the artist, being 'in the moment', but actually the artist is the one who steps back and observes. So it's actually Shaun who is more the man grounded in the moment, or space, while Shem is not.

Which reminds that I have a great partial list that T. has been working on of the dualities of Shem and Shaun, but it was sent as an adobe file and I can't seem to unload the picture, so if anyone knows how to convert it to something Google can read, let me know...

We were unclear about what the whole Swithun's Day reference near the top of page 178 was, so originally I thought an easy place to start might be with that. Of course, there's easy and then there's Joyce. Turns out that St. Swithins's day, July 15th, is most famous in the British Isles for its Groundhog Day like quality.

'St. Swithin's day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St. Swithin's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mair.'

This comes from a legend about the Saxon bishop of Winchester cathedral. The story goes that when he died, he wanted to be buried outside where he would be trodden and rained on. At first the monks complied, but after awhile they didn't think this was right so they arranged to move him inside to a beautiful shrine. That night, or maybe on the anniversary, there was a heavy rainstorm, which is said to be an expression of the bishop's disapproval.

So, as  a page or so back the Wake does mention 'One hailcannon night (for his departure was attended by a heavy downpour) as very recently as some thousand rains ago...'. Maybe this is a St. Swithun tie in. But there is another perhaps more pertinent reference. The main miracle that is cited in Swithun becoming a saint is that he met an old woman on a bridge who's basket of eggs was smashed by a rude workman. Swithun in some fashion made these eggs whole again. So of course, this ties into both Humpty Dumpty and Finnegans fall, and whatever else we've had about eggs that I'm currently forgetting. Also, the fact that it took place on a bridge connects to another word that had me in particular intrigued, because I'd thought I'd heard it elsewhere: lucalizod.

Chapelizod Village

Turns out I had not, because the word is Joyce's own. It is in fact, a bridge word. Chapelizod Bridge connected the Chapelizod Road and the Lucan Road. Chapelizod is an Irish village, preserved within the city of Dublin. It was the scene of the Dubliners story "A Painful Case" and it the site of the home and pub of HCE and ALP. It is not all that far from Phoenix Park, and Going back to an even deeper layer, Chapelizod means 'chapel of Iseault'. So in the made up word Lucalizod, we have all that history.

In looking into all this, I found an old article from the Virginia Quarterly Review, dated 1939. Nowadays, VQR is a prizewinning journal, and I expect it was well-thought of back then too. But the reason there was a reference to Lucalizod was because of this passage: 

 Joyce writes "lucalizod" for "localized" because his personal experience includes the names of two Irish villages of which the word "localized" reminds him. It makes no difference to him that the majority of his readers have never heard of the two villages. Since to him language is not social, any personal association between words is valid. It is a paradox that a man who thinks that he is creating a language of universal symbols should make constant use of associations of the most narrowly personal kind.

The article, which is worth reading, is here . I don't mean just in order to make fun of it--personally I think the professor, though he does sound a bit like the professor in the riddles section we just read,has some good points about how the Wake doesn't totally succeed as a suggestion of the night/dream state. But it also gives a good sense of how the 'shock of the new' struck an obviously literate and respected scholar of the time.

You might find it interesting to compare this to the latest entry over at A Building Roam , where PQ from his next  millennium perspective finds the 'news' of Joyce's day much more accessible, although in this case, he is talking more about Dali.

The Chapelizod bridge was renamed in  1982, in honor of Joyce's centennial. It is now called the Anna Livia Bridge.

And speaking of Anna Livia Plurabella, I can't resist linking to this recent article about her (eternal?) return.  I'm sure Joyce would have loved her nickname.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Uh, where were we?

It's been a few weeks since our meeting in which we went to see Tree of Life instead of discussing the book and a few more still since we actually engaged the text. Rather than dive in beforehand, I thought I'd just post a few things that pop to the surface of memory, rather than delve too deep.

When we chatted over dinner after our movie outing, A. had a lot to chime in with after tackling Lucia Joyce, the hefty volume by Carol Schloss detailing the relationship between Joyce and his troubled daughter. She concluded that this relationship may have stepped over some boundary, leading to the question of whether this matters in the question of Joyce's genius, and whether his personal history altered that.

T. brought up the idea at some point that Joyce basically swiped everything for the book. We would read it wrongly as original in some other sense than the way he managed to frame and structure everything.

L. mentioned the fact that she has been listening to Frank Delaney's podcasts on Ulysses, which inspired me to do the same, though frankly, I haven't gotten to them.

I have been noting Shem/Shaun relationships everywhere I look. My mind seems to be stuck on a little bit in the part we recently read a time or two ago, where Joyce acknowledges his own hopelessness as an upstanding citizen, noting that Shem did not even have the decency to drown himself in the Liffey when things got beyond the pale.

Very cursory I know. Hope to do better next time.