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The Disease of Anti-Semitism

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Twentieth-Century Fiction
Prof. Avishek Parui
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Indian Institute of Technology, Madras
Lecture - 41
Ulysses - Part 3
(Refer Slide Time: 00:13)

So, hello and welcome to this NPTEL course entitled Twentieth Century Fiction. We were looking at James Joyce’s Ulysses. So, in this very short lecture, we will just look at a particular scene from this novel and this is a very important scene, it is apparently a very innocuous conversation between the headmaster of the school in which Stephen Dedalus is teaching and Dedalus himself. But, this scene is packed with some of the very political things and this could be looked from a post-colonial perspective and also some of the very anti-Semitic things which Ulysses dramatizes.
So, the anti-Semitic sentiments in Dublin at that point of time is something which is very deliberately dramatized by Joyce over here. So, first of all we see Mr. Deasy who is a headmaster who is about to pay Stephen for his classes and a conversation takes place inside his office and you know. So, this is you know a conversation between the headmaster and Stephen, where he gives him the money for his class and this should be on your screen. You know this is a sovereign had been delivered to Stephen.
A sovereign fell, bright and new, on the soft pile of the tablecloth.
Three, Mr. Deasy said, turning his little savings box about in his hand. These are handy things to have. See. This is for sovereigns. This is for the shillings. Sixpences, halfcrowns. And here crowns. See.
He shot from it two crowns and two shillings.
Three twelve, he said. I think you will find that is right.
Thank you, sir, Stephen said, gathering the money together with shy haste and putting it all in a pocket of his trousers.
No thanks at all, Mr. Deasy said. You have earned it.
Stephen’s hand, free again, went back to the hollow shells. Symbols too of beauty and power. A lump in my pocket: symbols soiled by greed and misery.
Now, this is one of the really interesting features of Ulysses in terms of how, it manages to merge the materiality of life and the affect produced out of materiality. So, on one hand we have a series of streams of consciousness, where the characters go into reveries, they have daydreams, they move into different kinds of visions. But, at the same time they keep coming back to some very hardcore, sometimes filthy material signifiers, and the filthiness of Dublin is something which is never quite lost sight of in this entire narrative.
So, we have this conversation taking place between the headmaster and Stephen. Stephen obviously, being the employee of this of this institution, but at the same time we see him moving off in different directions in the reveries. So, on the one hand he is getting money from the headmaster, but he is very conscious of his consciousness, and this metacognitive quality of being conscious of his consciousness is something which both Dedalus and Leopold bloom exhibit in different degrees in Ulysses which makes it such a phenomenal text despite the one day frame.
We talked about how the one calendar day is a very superficial temporal structure within which different kinds of psychological times are operative in different degrees crisscrossing each other, sometimes. So, he accepts some money and then he is very immediately aware of the symbolic significance of the money and the materiality of the money, at the same time he is feeling it in a very tactile kind of a way. So, the tactility, the materiality, the earthiness, and the filth, they are all merged together to produce this very complex affect in Ulysses which is something which pervades the entire novel. And then of course, Mr. Deasy would advise him further, before this gets more political and anti-Semitic and this is something where I want to highlight a little bit in this section.
Do not carry it like that, Mr. Deasy said. You will pull it out somewhere and lose it. You just buy one of those machines. You will find them very handy.
Answer something.
Mine would often be empty, Stephen said.
So, this answer something is obviously Stephen’s head telling him to do something, and this is the metacognitive quality I talked about, the aware of awareness, right which is something the Ulysses does very often. Which is why it is such an important text for people working on cognition, people who are working on awareness, people working on consciousness, it is a brain telling you what to do, it is a mind telling you what to do, how to embody yourself, how to articulate yourself in certain social spaces.
So, what it does is it brings the entire idea of embodiment as a very complex act, a very complex activity because in one hand embodiment is obviously, a very embedded neural phenomenon, but equally it is an extended discursive phenomenon and this entanglement between the neural embedded order and the discursive extended order is something which is very fractured in Ulysses. So, the cognition of, the cognitive schema is very fractured in Ulysses. So, we have characters telling themselves all the time, they are talking to themselves all the time, as a result of which they end up being failed narrators quite often, ok.
(Refer Slide Time: 04:35)

The same room and hour, the same wisdom: and I the same. Three times now. Three nooses round me here. Well? I can break them in this instant if I will.
Because you do not save, Mr. Deasy said, pointing his finger. So, that noose figure is very important and it is a stream of consciousness telling him that this is a imprisonment, this school institution is actually a prison house of agency, a prison house of will.
And we saw the same figure of the institution curbing freedom curbing agency even in Dubliners, the short story which we did, Araby, we found the entire story began with this institution setting the children free I mean at the end of the school day, which is to suggest that they held them together as prisoners for the entirety of the day.
So, the noose figure is interesting every time Stephen enters this room to get paid he feels like he is putting his head in the noose, in a sense of being imprisoned by this institution and obviously, Mr. Deasy over here who is the headmaster, the embodiment of the institution in terms of all his hierarchy and his very rigid regime to which he subjects his students to, ok.
Because you do not save and he is exhorting Stephen now to save money, Mr. Deasy said, pointing his finger. You do not know yet what money is. Money is power. When you have lived as long as I have. I know, I know. If youth but knew. But what does Shakespeare say? Put but money in thy purse.
Iago, Stephen murmured.
So, this is you know this is like a knowledge game going on between the headmaster and Stephen, and Stephen accurately said it is from Othello Iago.
He lifted his gaze from the idle shells to the old man’s stare.
He knew what money was, Mr. Deasy said. He made money. A poet, yes, but an Englishman too. Do you know what is the pride of the English? Do you know what the what is the proudest word you will ever hear from an Englishman’s mouth?
The sea’s ruler. His seacold eyes looked on the empty bay: it seems history is to blame: on me and my words, unhating.
That on his empire, Stephen said, the sun never sets.
Ba, Mr. Deasy said, Mr. Deasy cried. That is not English. A French Celt said that. He tapped his savings box against his thumbnail.
I will tell you, he said solemnly, what is his proudest boast. I paid my way.
(Refer Slide Time: 06:39)

So, we can see two different kinds of knowledge narrratives that order, I mean Stephen is asked what is the proudest an English man can say, and his immediate connect is with the empire, right. And he says the proudest thing an English man can say in a very obnoxious way, is that a sun never sets on the empire. But Mr. Deasy would beg to differ and he because he occupies a solemn position over here, a position of superiority. So, he has ownership and knowledge, even though the knowledge may be fake, and phony, and not quite correct. So, he says, the proudest thing that the Englishman can say is I paid my way.
Good man, good man.
I paid my way, I never borrowed a shilling in my life. Can you feel that? I owe nothing, Can you?
Mulligan, nine pounds, three pairs of socks, one pair of brogues, ties. Curran, ten guineas. McCann, one guinea. Fred Ryan, two shillings. Temple, two lunches. Russell, one guinea. Cousins, ten shillings. Bob Reynolds, half a guinea. Kochler, three guineas, Mrs. MacKernan, five week’s board. The lump I have is useless.
So, again look at the way in which he moves on again, he shoots off into another reverie. The moment he talks about, he hears about borrowing and owing money he has an entire rattle in his brain about the amount of money he owes to different kinds of people, the money and the different other objects he owes to people. So, again look at the way in which the very hardcore filthy materiality of Dublin is actually juxtaposed together with the abstraction of consciousness, which is never quite let loose, it is very much part of the materiality which makes Joyce such a phenomenal writer in the sense how he navigates consciousness along with material markers, right. So these material markers are actually part of the consciousness, part of the abstraction. So, we have on the other hand a very hardcore material filthy figures, the money, socks, dirty things, linen for instance and on the other hand we have these streams of consciousness gurgling out as it were out of these material markers, which is a very interesting combination of materiality and abstraction which is something I have talked about already. So, the entire affect, the entire consciousness in Dublin over here in Ulysses is a combination or emerges from the combination of materiality and abstraction, ok.
So, for the moment, no, Stephen answered.
Mr. Deasy laughed with a rich delight, putting back his savings box.
I knew you would not, he said joyously. But one day you must feel it. We are a generous people but you must also be just.
I fear those big words, Stephen said, which make us so unhappy.
Mr. Deasy stared sternly for some moments over the mantelpiece at the shapely bulk of a man in tartan filibegs.
Albert Edward, Prince of Wales.
(Refer Slide Time: 09:14)

You think of me as an old fogey and an old Tory, his thoughtful voice said. I saw three generations since O’Connell’s time. I remember the famine in 1946, a reference to the potato famine over here. Do you know that the orange lodges agitated for repeal of the union twenty years before O’Connell did or before the prelates of a communion denounced him as a demagogue? You fenians forget some things.
Glorious, pious and immortal memory. The lodge of Diamond in Armagh the splendid behung with corpses of papishes. Hoarse, masked and armed, the planter’s covenant. The black north and the true blue bible. Croppies lie down.
So, we have again, these different kinds of markers coming in and we have kind of a contest going on about history. And Mr. Deasy over here, who claims to be you know more knowledgeable, he you know he is getting a bit defensive because he thinks Stephen attacks him for being a tory for being a pro-establishment person, whereas Stephen over here as a young artist as a young poet, he has a subversive imagination of place. We have two different kinds of masculinity also in order over here.
(Refer Slide Time: 10:10)

(Refer Slide Time: 10:17)

So, let us cut into the really interesting section over here, where you know you know Deasy talk about you know the Jews in England, and how he talks about the entire Jewish presence as a pathological presence you know in England and how England was obviously getting degenerated because of the Jews, right.
(Refer Slide Time: 10:22)

So, this is something which we will spend some time with, ok.
(Refer Slide Time: 10:29)

So, this is, this should be on your screen and this is the part of the very strong antiSemitic sentiment that Ulysses exhibits which was obviously a reflection of the antiSemitic sentiments in Dublin, of Joyce’s Dublin at that point of time.
Mark my words, Mr. Dedalus, he said. England is in the hands of the Jews. In all the highest places: her finance, her press. And they are the signs of a nation’s decay. Wherever they gather they eat up the nation’s vital strength. I have seen it coming these years. As sure as we are standing here the Jew merchants are already at their work of destruction. Old England is dying.
Right. So, we have this entire sentiment of the anti-Semitic feeling coming in very strongly. And of course, this is not something foreign to England as well, I mean the only Jewish prime minister at that point of time before you know this particular historical time was Benjamin Disraeli, and he too was seen as a figure, this corrupting pathological presence to the English imagination.
And this anti-Semitic thing which is rampant in 19th century literature also, we found if you read something like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, you find that the physiognomy of Dracula, the vampire comes and sucks away the blood of England. It is very Semite, stereotypically Semite in quality in terms of all the racist rhetoric around, the figure of the vampire. So, you know in Dracula, the fear, the real figure, fear of Dracula is not about blood infection; it is about unregulated capitalism, the count with this unlimited wealth comes and buys up everything in England and that is the real fear in Dracula as dramatized by Bram Stoker.
So, you have a similar kind of sentiment over here as well. Where you know this headmaster of an educational institution which is the irony over here, he is telling a young school teacher that England is degenerating because of Jews. So, we have this similar kind of a xenophobic feeling at work which is being articulated in a very mainstream institutional way, ok.
(Refer Slide Time: 12:35)

He stepped swiftly off, his eyes coming to blue life as they passed a broad sunbeam. He faced about and back again.
Dying, he said again, if not dead by now.
His eyes opened wide in vision stared sternly across the sunbeam in which he halted.
A merchant, Stephen said, is one who buys cheap and sells dear, Jew or gentile, is he not?
So, Stephen’s very meek defence is interesting over here. He says they are all businessmen, it does not matter the Jews or gentile, a merchant is someone who buys cheaply and sells dearly. It is profit making enterprise, it does not matter who is Jew and who is not.
They sinned against the light, Mr. Deasy said gravely. And you can see the darkness in their eyes. And that is why they are wanderers on the earth to this day. So, again the whole idea of the persecution of the Jews is something which is seen as a rightful retribution for having disobeyed the God, and as a result of which they are wandering even today, right. So, this is very mainstream, very institutional articulation of antiSemitism which is being said over here.
And then of course, the whole idea of history is you know given in a very quasi half chopped logical way with knowledge used very strategically and the response to which Stephen says, history, Stephen said is a nightmare from which I am trying to wake. This is a very oft-quoted line from Ulysses. But this is obviously, part of the you know the entire historical narrative that Ulysses is trying to present. It is the very deeply political novel, and we have different kinds of narrative strains at play over here.
And obviously, if you read the entire novel you find the irony over here and the reason why it is so political is because the protagonist in Ulysses happens to be a Jew, Leopold Bloom is a Jew, an Irish Jew and that obviously, forms part of his identity in a very massive way. So, he is someone, Bloom, we will come to Bloom later in the next lecture. We find that Bloom is obviously trying to navigate his way through a very anti-Semitic Dublin which makes his entire identity quite political in quality as well, ok.
(Refer Slide Time: 14:11)

From the playfield the boys raised a shout. A whirring whistle goal. What if the nightmare gave you back a kick?
The ways of the Creator are not our ways, Mr. Deasy said. All human history moves towards one great goal, the manifestation of God.
Stephen jerked his thumb towards the window, saying:
That is God.
Hooray. Ay. Whrrwhee.
What? Mr. Deasy asked.
A shout in the street, Stephen answered, shrugging his shoulders.
So, the whole idea of God is being described in a very interesting way. Stephen said that God happens to be a shout in the street. God is an act of randomness. God is an act of accident sometimes. God is an act of joy, a shrieking of joy in the streets which is completely the ontological opposite, of any institutional understanding of God and you know the whole idea of deification which is embodied by this institution over here, ok.
And then of course, Mr. Deasy goes on to say I am happier than you are, he said. We have committed many errors and many sins. A woman brought sin into the world. For a woman who was no better than she should she should be. Helen, the runaway wife of Menelaus, ten years of Greeks made war on Troy. A faithless wife, first brought the strangers to our shore here.
So, again a reference to Helen is interesting and the reference of the faithless wife is also interesting, because we find there is a faithless wife here as well someone who is being unfaithful to her husband, you know, Molly Bloom over here who is who is modelled on the entire idea of Penelope, the original and Greek narrative, the Greek myth that is being mimicked over here. So, the whole idea of faithlessness is being parodied, especially if it comes from a you know someone whose embodiment of institutions such as Mr. Deasy, ok.
(Refer Slide Time: 15:50)

So, I will just wind up now.
(Refer Slide Time: 15:56)

(Refer Slide Time: 15:57)

With this section coming to an end where Stephen obviously, does not want to engage with Mr. Deasy anymore. So, he goes off running errands for him and as he is about to depart, this real drama takes place. He finds Mr. Deasy coming after him in order to say him tell him the right finishing line, the signing off sentence what would that be.
I just wanted to say, he said, Ireland, they say, has the honour of being the only country which has never persecuted the Jews. Do you know why? Do you know that? No. And do you know why?
He frowned sternly on the bright air.
Why, sir? Stephen asked, beginning to smile.
Because she never let them in, Mr. Deasy said solemnly.
A coughball of laughter leaped from his throat dragging it after it a rattling chain of phlegm. He turned back quickly, coughing, laughing, his lifted arms waving to the air.
She never let them in, he cried again through his laughter as he stamped on gaitered feet over the gravel of the path. That is why.
On his wise shoulders through the checkerwork of leaves the sun flung spangles, dancing coins.
So, again look at the coin imagery in the end which stands for the signifier greed which is normally associated with the Jews over here and he obviously is transferred over here to the anti-Semite in a very symbolic kind of a way. And also this entire idea of the cough, the phlegm, the congestion is part of the disease metaphor that Joyce is trying to describe over here.
So, the real disease lies in anti-Semitism not in the Semites over here, which is quite clearly which is quite clearly apparent over here. And obviously, you know Stephen does not want to engage with him because he is an employee, a lowly employee in this institution. But Joyce, the narrator over here is very clearly telling us that entire disease of anti-Semitism is what pervades Dublin at this point of time and the final image of dancing coins is obviously quite symbolic and it is a bit of a tell away, a giveaway to the entire idea of greed which is located not in a Jew, but in the anti-Semite as embodied by the headmaster of this religious institution.
So, I stop at this point today. But this is a very short section, but which nonetheless it gives a sense of the political picture of Dublin in that point of time, the racist picture of Dublin that point of time, in which navigates central protagonist Leopold Bloom with which we will begin the next lecture.
Thank you for your attention.