Category Archives: Ulysses

Why I will write — the James Joyce edition

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.

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Lightbulb #4

That which we call a rose by any other word...

This is one of my favorite Joyce quotes: “I desire to press into my arms a loveliness that has not yet come into this world.” It has come to define my ideas on art and literature, my work, my life… everything. Why am I writing about this again?

Having roses in my room has made me stop and appreciate loveliness every morning.  And this loveliness is already in the world.   I have so many pictures of these roses, which are beautiful even as they die and wilt.  What is the point of longing for that other kind of loveliness if I cannot appreciate what is right in front of me?  These two things are not mutually exclusive and should not be.

Lovely.

I love Stephen Dedalus dearly.  I identify with him on so many different things — but I think that one of his big flaws is that he has a very hard time appreciating the loveliness before him at any given moment.  While I totally relate to his striving for something greater and looking ahead, I think it would be a mistake to follow his lead.  I wonder now what Joyce’s thoughts on the matter are.  I know from Ulysses that he wrote about very immediate pleasures — eating liver, lemon soap, things like that.  And then there’s his love letters to Nora.  My instinct is saying that he saw the immediate and future loveliness.  Even if he didn’t. I will.

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Lightbulbs #1 and 2

In relation to Portrait and Stephen:

In picking apart a bit of the Daedalus/Dedalus relation, I realized the following: Stephen, in name, is related to Daedalus, and in essence his child.  Icarus was actually Daedalus’s son.  He drowned in the ocean because he flew too close to the sun.  Stephen is very afraid of the ocean.

Icarus’s drowning… Stephen’s phobia… {LIGHTBULB}

I’m sure it’s in the notes, and I am not the first one to make this connection.  BUT, I realized it without the notes.

(a few days ago) In relation to Ulysses and Portrait via Stephen/Mulligan/Cranly

In the opening episode of Ulysses, Stephen and Mulligan are talking about Stephen’s mother and his refusal to kneel and ask for forgiveness at her deathbed.  Stephen first spoke of this in Portrait during their final conversation, hence why “Cranly’s arm…” flashes through his mind when Mulligan grabs his arm in THIS conversation versus others.

Again, this has been noted by scholars — I’ve read that particular note in the annotation many many times.  It only just clicked now.

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Filed under Joyce, Lightbulbs, Portrait of the Artist, Stephen Dedalus, Ulysses