Given the fact that I am enrolled in a Ulysses course this term, and have already been thinking A LOT about James Joyce, his writing, and his life, I figure, why not do a little of what this blog’s title convey? Why not write about Joyce daily (or, semi-daily) and how he influences my life and my work, and what I find along this journey?
Episode One is due tomorrow at 10 AM, and I have been a little distracted by theatrical doings over the past few days, but I have already begun to make my way through all the referenced sources. When I say “make my way through,” I truly mean it, and also have begun to realize that I will not be able to continue on in this fashion for all of term. For instance, instead of just reading the passage referenced in Wilde’s “The Decay of Lying,” I am reading the entire play. Familiarity with all of these works has already helped me to articulate why I believe Joyce is a genius, and why I admire him so much.
James Joyce chose his references on purpose. He had to. If he didn’t, then some sort of divinity guided his thoughts and his writing. Why else, in the episode of which he himself stated that the “art” was Theology, would he quote the poem, “The Oblation” by Swinburne?
Ask nothing more of me, sweet;
All I can give you I give.
Those are the quoted/referenced lines. It is a love poem. It reads like a love poem. It is one of the most beautiful poems I have read recently. For me, it expresses true devotion. (Bear with me, I am making my point.)
What does the title mean? An Oblation is a gift or a sacrifice; formally, it is the offering of the bread and wine in the Mass to become the Eucharist.
Joyce did not choose any poem to quote. He chose “The Oblation.” Its title is not mentioned in the chapter; one would have no way of knowing the religious connotations of this love poem without searching further. I don’t think Joyce necessarily expected any reader to search further; he did not do this for the reader. He did this for himself. Maybe, because he was fairly self-centered, he expected that everyone would know the reference, or look it up.
These kinds of discoveries await the dedicated Joyce/Ulysses reader, which I will be for at least the next fourteen weeks, if not longer. My only goal is to write about Joyce eloquently enough to do him proud.