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Parody of Significance

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Twentieth-Century Fiction
Prof. Avishek Parui
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Indian Institute of Technology, Madras

Lecture – 40
Ulysses – Part 2


(Refer Slide Time: 00:12)

So, hello and welcome to this course entitled Twentieth Century Fiction. We were looking at James Joyce’s Ulysses. So, we had a lecture talking about the some of the concerns, some of the style, some of the thematic narratives which informed this particular text. And, we talked about particularly about how the narrative technique used by Joyce relies a lot on the stream of consciousness technique, in a sense that you know it cuts back and across time, it cuts back and across space and we have different characters crisscrossing each other in different narratives.
So, in a way this becomes quite similar in some sense with to Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf which is what we just finished prior to this. Like Mrs. Dalloway by Woolf, Ulysses too is about one day in Dublin. So, it is about one day in one city different characters crisscrossing each other in that one calendar day. But, of course, we know that the whole idea of calendar day in modernism is very superficial because it just appears as some kind of a structure, temporal structure inside which we have different kinds of psychological time inhabiting.
So, people inhabiting different kinds of psychological time, mental time, memory time, you know psychic time and all these are obviously, complicating the one calendar day time which is the superficial temporal frame ok. So, this is the opening line of Ulysses. Well obviously, it is not possible for us to read the entire novel. So, like Mrs. Dalloway we will look at certain sections I mean this is a bigger and longer and more bulky novel than Mrs. Dalloway.
So, we will look at certain selected passages in the novel in terms of how that connect, those connect to some of the concerns we talked about in terms of memory, mourning, masculinity, you know the whole idea of gender - the whole idea of femininity in Ulysses because we will also take a look at some of the characters were often understudied for instance Molly Bloom is a character who is often under-studied in Ulysses.
So, we look at how Molly Bloom’s dramatic interior monologue with which Ulysses ends, how that actually foregrounds the female body, the female sexuality in a way which is quite subversive in quality. But, this is the beginning of the novel which is in a big tower you know this is the Sandycove tower in Dublin close to Dublin.
Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A young dressing gown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him on the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned: Introibo ad altare Dei. So, again this is Latin for you know I give myself to your altar for youth for life. So, this is obviously, an address to God. So, to God’s altar I give myself in hope of youth, in hope of eternal youth, in hope of eternal health right.
So, we have Buck Mulligan who comes in here. He is a medical student and he is someone that you know co-inhabits the space along with Stephen Dedalus who is the one of the most central characters in Ulysses and he is the Telemachus version. So, you know I just mentioned in the previous lecture that Ulysses it conforms to the epic style, the mythic style and a mythic or the myth, the original myth of Ulysses is obviously, Ulysses the Homeric warrior coming back from a series of wars to his home and Telemachus his son who is now ruling, who is now in charge of the island and Penelope the wife of Ulysses who had been visited by different suitors at different points of time because people had presumed him to be dead that is the you know that is the original myth the original mythical narrative.
Now, obviously, that mythic method is used by Joyce to sometimes parody, sometimes to conform or sometimes to depart from the original story. So, for instance in this story Penelope, Molly Bloom who happens to be Penelope, the Penelope character she is not faithful to her husband all the time. So, there are episodes of for instance the last one is entirely Molly Bloom’s subversive sexuality or subversive sexual morality which is a dramatic departure from the Penelope figure, the Penelope persona in Homer’s original epic, original myth right.
So, that mythic method is sustained and Stephen Dedalus over here he is the modern version of Telemachus, son of Leopold Bloom you know Leopold Bloom being Ulysses over here ok. So, these characters are obviously, very loosely structured around the original myth and Joyce obviously, is trying to rewrite the original myth in modern day Dublin and obviously, sometimes there is a degree of deflation, there is a degree of you know parody, there is a degree of departure from the original you know this structure etcetera ok.
(Refer Slide Time: 05:07)

Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called out coarsely: Come up, Kinch! Come up, you fearful jesuit! Solemnly he came forward. And mounted the round gunrest. He faced about and blessed gravely thrice the tower, the surrounding this is a Martello tower in Santa Clau by the way where Ulysses opens he faced about and blessed gravely thrice the tower the surrounding land and the awaking sorry the waking mountains.
Then, catching sight of Stephen Dedalus, he bent towards him and made rapid crosses in the air, gurgling in his throat and shaking his head. Stephen Dedalus, displeased and sleepy, leaned his arms on the top of the staircase and looked coldly at the shaking gurgling face that blessed him, equine in its length, and in the light untonsured hair, grained and hued like pale oak right. So, Dedalus comes up sleepy, Dedalus is displeased, Dedalus comes up moody and Buck Mulligan is someone who is in charge who is an English medical student here in Dublin.
Buck Mulligan peeped an instant under the mirror and then covered the bowl the bowl smartly.
(Refer Slide Time: 06:07)

Back to barracks! he said sternly. He added in a preacher’s tone: - For this, O dearly beloved, is the genuine Christine: body and soul and blood and ouns. Slow music, please. Shut your eyes, gents. One moment. A little trouble about those white corpuscles.
Silence, all.
So, we find that this is obviously, and we discussed already how Ulysses was such a scandal at the catholic church and we found in the very beginning of in this novel we have a medical student who is quoting the scriptures who is quoting the holy phrases - the Latin phrases only to Parody the same because he the Buck Mulligan over here he does not believe in eternity of the soul, he does not believe in you know the holiness, the sacrality of the body either and very soon we will talk about Stephen’s dead mother you know that whole idea of you know the dead mother being unheeded to at the time of his of her death. We will come back very quickly.
But, Buck Mulligan’s take on the entire thing about death and life is strictly medical in quality. So, him quoting the scriptures, him quoting the Latin lines, the holy lines obviously carries a parodic significance which is something that Ulysses is trying to foreground in the very beginning of the novel ok.
(Refer Slide Time: 07:18)

So, and then obviously, the mockery of Dedalus’ name comes in and as some of you would know that Dedalus was the son of Icarus in the original Greek myth. So, Icarus was someone who made those you know waxen wings to fly away from the prison which he and Dedalus were imprisoned. And, the warning of course, was not to fly too close to the sun or Dedalus becomes the you know you know he flies close to the sun and Icarus obviously, tries to rescue him and. So, Icarus becomes and both of them died. So, Icarus becomes this the entire you know the whole myth becomes a metaphor of human hubris ok.
So, Dedalus and Icarus they obviously, the father son relationship Dedalus becomes the archetypal craftsman and that craftsman quality is interesting because Dedalus over here he wants to be the writer, he wants to be the artist, he wants to be the perfect craftsman in that sense. So, he is a modern craftsman, he is a modern maker of waxen wings. You know if you read The portrait of the Artist as a Young Man you find that you know the same Dedalus persona is projected over here. So, Stephen Dedalus obviously, is a struggling writer and he is co inhabiting here this particular house with Buck Mulligan who happens to be a medical student ok
He pointed so, the mockery I mean his Greek name is being mocked at. The mockery of it! he said gaily. Your absurd name, an ancient Greek! He pointed his finger in friendly jest and went over to the parapet, laughing to himself. Stephen Dedalus stepped up, followed him wearily halfway and sat down on the edge of the gunrest, watching him. (Refer Slide Time: 09:02)

still as he propped his mirror on the parapet, dipped the brush in the bowl and lathered cheeks and neck.
Now, you find that Ulysses is full of this very daily banal bodily activities you know these two people shaving and very soon quickly in the second section we find Leopold Bloom who will be defecating and that too will be described in very graphic detail. So, all kinds of bodily functions obviously, sexual functions which are coming later will be foregrounded and described in vivid graphic details which obviously, was part of the scandal quotient of this book ok.
Buck Mulligan’s gay voice went on. My name is absurd too: Malachi Mulligan, two dactyls, but it has a Hellenic ring, has not it? Tripping and sunny like the buck himself we must go to Athens. Will you come if I can get the aunt to fork out twenty quid? You know so, the whole idea of going back to Athens becomes interesting because you know that becomes in a sense going back to Athens is by going back to the center of culture, going back to the centre of where it all started from the whole idea of Mulligan and Dedalus and Icarus you know all these Greek myths from which the entire white civilization so to speak sort of emanated or blossomed it is something which is referred to over here.
And, interestingly that Greek that that the entire Greek you know origin space or the genesis space is obviously, in some kind of a conflict with the Christian idea of origin the Christian idea of the original story narrative and so, they are obviously, undercutting each other in that sense. Will he come? The jejune jesuit! Ceasing, he began to shave with care. Tell me, Mulligan, Stephen said quietly. Yes, my love? How long is Haines going to stay in this tower? Buck Mulligan showed a shaven cheek over his right shoulder.
(Refer Slide Time: 10:45)

God, isn’t he dreadful? he said frankly. A ponderous Saxon. He thinks you are not a gentleman. God, these bloody English! Bursting with money and indigestion. Because he comes from Oxford. You know, Dedalus, you have the real Oxford manner. He can’t make you out. O, my name for you is the best: Kinch, the knife-blade. He shaved warily over his chin.
(Refer Slide Time: 11:04)

So, we have something similar to what we saw in the at the end of the short story Araby.
If you remember the story Araby which we did earlier we had this whole idea of the English versus the Irish tension and that tension gets manifested in terms of language, in terms of accent in terms of the manner of speaking in terms of choice of words etcetera. So, Haines over here is an Englishman who is supposedly in some kind of a tense relationship with you know Stephen Dedalus over here.

Refer Slide Time: 11:36)

And, so, this whole conversation about you know Dedalus and Haines goes on and now the whole idea of the dead mother comes up. The dead mother becomes very conspicuous absence in the novel. So, Dedalus; obviously, comes from you know family of deadness - there is no one alive over here in terms of his parents and so, he becomes very quickly appropriated or appropriable by someone like Leopold Bloom and you know Molly Bloom, who are you know childless. So, they become the surrogate parents so to speak, the spiritual parents or the narrative parents so to speak of Dedalus in this particular novel ok.
Now, the mother figure becomes interesting because originally the mother figure comes in as the sea figure. So, the amniotic quality of the sea is obviously, extended into the mother figure, the protector, nurturer figure that very quickly cuts into the biological mother of the Dedalus who has long since been dead and the dead mother comes in as a very conspicuous presence in the novel; she keeps coming up as a metaphor of guilt, as a metaphor of you know unrequited love as a metaphor of you know you know filial ingratitude or filial lack of duty. So, that becomes interesting point, that becomes almost a traumatic point for Stephen Dedalus, the fact that he did not do something he ought to have done as the son right.

(Refer Slide Time: 13:04)

The aunt thinks you killed your mother, he said. That’s why she won’t let me have anything to do with you. Someone killed her, Stephen said gloomily. You could have knelt down, damn it, Kinch, when your dying mother asked you. Buck Mulligan said. I am hyperborean as much as you. But to think of your mother begging you with her last breath to kneel down and pray for her. And you refused. There is something sinister in you.
So, that we get this back story now. The Dedalus say Stephen over here. She says he suffers from this continual guilt, this continual pang of remorse, repentance because he had not prayed for her mother his mother on her deathbed when he implored her, when she implored him to do it when she begged him to do it on her deathbed where he refused to do it and this refusal obviously, becomes something, her permanent guilt a permanent marker of guilt and trauma in his mind ok.
Refer Slide Time: 13:46)

Stephen, an elbow rested on a jagged granite, leaned his palm against his brow and gazed at the fraying edge of the shiny black coat-sleeve. Pain, that was not yet the pain of love, fretted his heart. Silently, in a dream she had come to him after her death. So, the posthumous appearance of the mother becomes important, it is a symbolic reminder of Stephens’s recursive guilt. So, she keeps coming back in his dreams as a ghostly spectral character who has obviously, long since been dead and that obviously, informs his guilt on trauma even more. So, she makes keeps making appearances in her dream.
Silently, in a dream she had come to him after her death, her wasted body within its loose brown grave clothes giving off an odour of wax and rosewood, her breath, that had bent upon him, mute, reproachful, a faint odour of wetted ashes. Across the threadbare cuffedge he saw the sea hailed as a great sweet mother by the wellfed voice beside him. So, we have different kinds of mother figures over here. The sea is described as a mother figure something which is nourishing humankind with this amniotic quality.
With its endless amniotic quality, the endlessness of love, the endlessness of the sea’s resources obviously, in equation with the endlessness of mother’s love and compared to in comparison to that we have the real mother who is you know unrequited in her love Stephen never you know return his you know her love to her and let her die being unrequited you know someone you know who wanted him to do something requested to do something and he failed to do it he refused to do it.
So, in his refusal he had failed to be the good son. So, the sea becomes the macro, a spectacular example of the mother figure to him which in turn reminds him of his guilt reminds him of his trauma of his remorse of not having paid heed to his mother’s request, the dying request of praying for her on her deathbed ok.
The ring of bay and skyline held a dull green mass of liquid. The bowl of white china A bowl of white china had stood beside her deathbed holding the green sluggish bile which she had torn up from her rotting liver by fits of loud groaning vomiting. So, we found again very bodily functions, sickly functions, the sick body, the diseased body is foregrounded over here. The body of the dying mother is the first real body to appear in Ulysses and how does it appear? A bowl of white china had stood beside her deathbed holding this green sluggish bile which he had torn up from her rotting liver by fits of loud groaning vomiting.
So, the greenness of the bile and the greenness of the sea are obviously, coming together in Stephen’s imagination. So, sea, the massive sea was described as a mother figure and who is obviously, which is; obviously, green in colour, green in quality is been equated with the green bile that his mother had coughed up you know you know the deathbed and that obviously, you know is something which keeps coming up in his dreams. (Refer Slide Time: 16:40)

So, right.
Refer Slide Time: 16:42)

And, then there is an interesting section later where Stephen talks about, asks (Refer Slide Time: 16:45)

Buck Mulligan a certain question about his dead mother before that there is a little symbol which I want to spend a little bit of time with. You know the broken mirror symbol. The broken mirror becomes a very interesting symbol in Ulysses as Stephen explains this to you know Buck Mulligan you know the broken mirror is a symbol of Irish art, but that obviously, takes up different political connotations as well.
So, Stephen bent forward and peered at the mirror held out to him, cleft by a crooked crack. Hair on end. As he and others see me. Who chose this face for me? This dogsbody to rid of vermin. It asks me too. I pinched it out the skivvy’s room, Buck Mulligan said. It does her whole night all right. The aunt always keeps plain looking servants for Malachi. Lead him not into temptation. And her name is Ursula. Laughing again, he brought the mirror away from Stephen’s peering eyes. The broken mirrors some there is a crack in the mirror.
The rage of Caliban at not seeing his face in a mirror, he said. If Wilde were only alive to see you! So, the reference of Wilde becomes interesting because Wilde; obviously, is a metaphor, an archetype to a certain extent of the Irish artist Irish wordsmith or the Irish craftsman in literature. So, that is a figure that you know Stephen obviously, aspires to reach, aspires to appropriate.
Drawing back and pointing, Stephen said with bitterness. It is a symbol of Irish art. The cracked looking-glass of a servant.
(Refer Slide Time: 18:15)

Buck mulligan suddenly linked his arm and Stephen’s and walked with him around the tower there, his razor and mirror clacking in the pocket where he had thrust them. – It’s not fair to tease you like that, Kinch is it? He said he said kindly. God knows you have more spirit than any of them. Parried again. He fears the lancet of my art as I fear that of his. The cold steelpen. ok.
Refer Slide Time: 18:34)

So, this is almost like a battle going on and the battle you know some kind of tension between Buck Mulligan and Stephen and the question that comes at Stephen’s mind will be quite interestingly articulated ok.
(Refer Slide Time: 18:42)


Refer Slide Time: 18:43)

So, again the whole idea of Stephen’s mother comes up the dead mother and the section is interesting where Stephen asks the question to Buck Mulligan.
(Refer Slide Time: 18:53)

And, remember when you first introduced me to your family how did you introduce me as in this section and it requires it deserves a bit of a detailed description. And this is the question that Stephen asks Buck Mulligan.
Refer Slide Time: 19:16)

Do you remember the first day when I went to your house after my mother’s death? Buck Mulligan frowned quickly and said: What? Where? I can’t remember anything. I remember only ideas and sensations. Why? What happened in the name of God? You were making tea, Stephen said, and went across the landing to get some more hot water. Your mother and some visitor had come out of the drawing room. She asked you who was in your room. Yes? Buck Mulligan said. What did I say? I forget. You said, Stephen answered, O, it’s only Dedalus whose mother is beastly dead right.
So, again the whole idea of the mother being beastly dead becomes interesting and the word beastly of course, is used in a very English sense a very upper class English sense, but it does takes up different connotations over here the beastliness of this is the is part of loneliness she does not really get any she did not really get any human empathy, she did not really get any human you know prayer any human touch any human companionship during her death. So, in that sense it is also beastly and in that sense it is also quite terribly lonely in quality.
Refer Slide Time: 20:34)

So, you said, Stephen answered O, it’s only Dedalus whose mother is beastly dead. A flush which made him seem younger and more engaging rose to Buck Mulligan’s cheek. Did I say that? He asked. Well? What harm is that? He shook his constrained from him nervously. And what is death, he asked, your mother’s or yours or my own? You saw your mother you saw only your mother die.
And, this is the medical section over here which I mentioned little while ago how did how Buck Mulligan looks at the whole experience of death, the whole image of death the whole body of death as from a medical gaze which has nothing to do with the metaphysical understanding of death at all. So, we have the sense interesting dialogue going on so to speak between the medical and the metaphysical views on the experience of death.
So, you only saw you saw only your mother die. I see them pop off every day in the Mater and Richmond place where he works as an apprentice, as a medical student and cut up into tripes in the dissecting room. It’s a beastly thing and nothing else. It simply it doesn’t matter. So, again the word beastly comes back over here in a different connotation this time. So, you say you know it is a beastly thing you know it is something which is its nothing to do with any human companionship or human qualities it is just a body, it is just a cadaver which is cut up in a dissecting room and we do it all the time, as doctors we are trained to cut dead bodies.

We are trained to look at dead from a very different perspective not from a perspective of some metaphysical understanding of mortality not that at all, but as a very earthly and a bodily phenomenon as phenomenon of functionality or dysfunctionality the body becoming dysfunctional is what we are interested in as doctors ok, it simply does not matter. You wouldn’t kneel down to pray for your mother on her deathbed when she asked you. Why? Because you have the cursed jesuit strain in you, only it’s injected in a wrong way. To me it’s all a mockery and beastly. There the word comes back again. (Refer Slide Time: 22:05)

Her cerebral lobes are not functioning. She calls the doctor sir Peter Teazle and picks the buttercups off her quilt. Humour her till it’s over. You crossed her last wish in death and yet you sulk with me because I won’t whinge I don’t whinge like some hired mute from Lalouette’s. Absurd! I suppose I did say it. I didn’t mean to offend the memory of your mother.
So, you know we find that Buck Mulligan gets quite defensive over here and he tells Stephen that you know this is a hypocrisy of the high sort. This is rich coming from you because you would not even humour her - your mother on her deathbed you would not even pay heed to her, final request for prayers and yet you are judging me for saying a word for saying an expression which you think was in poor taste and then of course, he apologizes I did not mean to offend the memory of your mother.
He had spoken himself into boldness. Stephen, shielding the gaping wounds which the words had left in his heart, said very coldly: I am not thinking of the offence to my mother. Of what then? Buck Mulligan asked. Of the offence to me, Stephen answered.
Buck Mulligan swung round on his heel. O, an impossible person! he exclaimed. (Refer Slide Time: 23:10)

He walked off quickly around the parapet. Stephen stood at his post, gazing over the calm sea towards the headland. Sea and headland now grew dim. Pulses were beating in his eyes, veiling their sight, and he felt the fever of his cheeks. So, again look at the way in which feverishness or the whole experience of having a fever comes back again a bodily function which informs an epiphany experience, we find an epiphany over here it is quite embodied in quality.
A voice within a tower called loudly: Are you up there, Mulligan? I am coming Buck Mulligan answered. He turned towards Stephen and said.
(Refer Slide Time: 23:42)

Look at the sea. What does it care about offences? Chuck Loyola, Kinch, and come on down. The Sassenach wants his mourning rashers. So, again the sea is used as a metaphor over here something which is beyond any human offence, any human insult, any human injury that is used again as a metaphor for you know, it is like a massive leveler so to speak.
His head halted again for a moment at the top of the staircase, level with the roof: Don’t mope over it all day, he said. I am inconsequent. Give up the moody brooding. So, again this brooding image is something which Stephen is associated with throughout this particular novel and you know we find two different kinds of knowledge orders are in dialogue with each other. So, Stephen is obviously, more metaphysical, more literary, more metaphoric, more imaginative whereas, Buck Mulligan is something, someone who is quoting Latin all the time.
But, his grasp of reality is far more material in quality, because he is a medical practitioner and his experience in medicine, his treatment in medicine, his training in medicine makes him more earthly more material driven compared to Stephen’s more metaphysical insights into life death and the whole process of the whole experience of living.
(Refer Slide Time: 24:57)

So, and I again the question of the dead mother comes up in Stephen’s imagination and as some kind of a memory marker. Folded away in the memory of nature with her toys. Memories beset his brooding brain. Her glass of water from the kitchen tap when she had approached the sacrament. A cored apple, filled with brown sugar, roasting for her at the hob of a dark autumn evening.
(Refer Slide Time: 25:21)

Her shapely fingernails reddened by the blood of squashed lice from the children’s shirts. In a dream, silently, she had come to him, her wasted body within its loose graveclothes giving off an odour of wax and rosewood, her breath, bent over him with mute secret words, a faint odour of wetted ashes.
Her glazing eyes, staring out of death, to shake and bend my soul. On me alone. The ghost candle to light her agony. Ghostly light on the tortured face. Her hoarse loud breath rattling in horror, while all preyed on their knees. Her eyes on me to strike me down.
So, there is something very spectral about this almost like a retribution like quality about for not having prayed for the dead mother the dead mother keeps coming back not as a nourishing figure, but as a traumatizing figure for Stephen for Stephen Dedalus. (Refer Slide Time: 26:11)

Ghoul! Chewer of corpses. The mother becomes ghost like an evil spirit of a ghost chewer of corpses. No, mother! Let me be and let me live. – Kinch ahoy! Buck Mulligan’s voice sang from within the tower. It came nearer up the staircase, calling again. Stephen, still trembling at his soul’s cry, heard warm running sunlight and in the air behind him friendly words.
So, again it is like a reverie which is broken and the reverie is inhabited by the dead mother coming back in a ghostly ghoulish quality, spectral quality almost trying to avenge the lack of prayers or the prayerlessness on her deathbed. So, she is coming back over and over again in Stephen’s imagination you know in that kind of a belief system where the dead does not find salvation or the soul does not find the peace unless prayed by the living around them living companions around them on the deathbed ok.
(Refer Slide Time: 27:09)

So, again the whole idea of the Cockney accent becomes interesting because we talked about how you know if you remember the end of Araby, the short story, where the boy goes to the fair Araby, the bazaar Araby. And, he finds a couple of men flirting with a woman and you know and he observed their English accents and the English accent obviously, is very different from the Irish accent and so, we have you know Buck Mulligan singing a song.
He flung up his hands and tramped down on the stone stairs, singing out of tune with a Cockney accent: O, won’t we have a merry time, Drinking whisky, beer and wine! On coronation, Coronation day! O, won’t we have a merry time On coronation day! So, again coronation, obviously, is a royal ritual, but over here it also becomes a symbolic ritual, so Stephen is obviously, the artist to be over here and this degree of coronation waiting for him and this particular nonsense singsong rhyme that Buck Mulligan sings at this point of time takes up different significance subsequently.
Look at the materials the material objects around this particular landscape now. Warm sunshine merrying over the sea. The nickel shavingbowl shone, forgotten, on the parapet. (Refer Slide Time: 28:24)

Why should I bring it down? Or leave it there all day, forgotten friendship? He went over to it, held it in his hands awhile, feeling its coolness, smelling the clammy slaver of the lather in which the brush was stuck. So, I carried the boat of incense then at Clongowes. I am another now and yet the same. A servant too. A server of a servant.