The 29 year old Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses while on Long Island. She's reading the Modern Library edition and appears to be engrossed in Molly Bloom's soliloquy.
November 23, 2014


I first read Ulysses when I was about 15 or 16 when I was in high school. I think I got almost all the way through, and then gave up shortly before Molly Bloom's soliloquy. As I recall I picked it up and finished it a bit later. I read it again when I was in the Cayman Islands back in 1991. I found out this year that several people I went to high school with, including one English major, had never read the book, so I decided to read it again, and try to get them to read along with me.

Now Ulysses has a bit of a problem right from the start. Most literate people are aware of it, and they're aware of the fact that it was charged with obscenity, and that Judge Woolsey let it in, and that that was a good thing. They're also aware that it is supposed to be difficult, and terribly important in modernist literature, whatever that is, and it is most probably something that they dislike.

Now Ulysses is very allusive, which accounts for a good deal of its difficulty, but it is a novel, and it can be read as a novel without a lot of agony. There is no doubt that in some cases a knowledge of the works alluded to can be helpful, and we'll get to one example of that in the first, Telemachus, episode, and it may be especially useful in the Scylla and Charybdis episode, which discusses Shakespeare, but on the whole you can get through successfully without consulting Allusions in Ulysses

I have to admit that I a minimal acquaintance with Irish history and literature, outside of the standards (Swift, Sheridan, Wilde, Shaw, Joyce). Before we left to go to Ireland I summarized my knowledge for an acquaintance in an email:

I’m not much of an authority on Ireland, but from what little I do know the important things to remember about Ireland are:
  1.  They hate the English. Henry II, back in the 1170s, conquered Ireland, and they’ve resented it ever since.
  2.  The English acted as an occupying power, and people whom we might otherwise admire, the poet Edmund Spenser, the Earl of Essex, were involved in serious oppressive acts against the Irish.
  3.  Much of legendary/mythical Irish valor is actually about minor stuff, like cattle raids, and is not of the earth shaking importance they want you to believe.
  4.  Everybody and his brother at some point claims descent from the kings of Ireland. It’s not impossible, because there aren’t enough ancestors 30 or more generations ago to fill out the mathematically required slots, but I think pre-renaissance ancestry claims should be treated suspiciously.
  5.  The Irish hatred of the English is so extreme that the Irish, though still under British control 1914-18, supported, tacitly at least, the Germans, because it would mean the end of the Empire.
  6.  In World War II the Republic, the part we’re going to, was neutral, and refused to allow Britain even limited use of Irish ports. When Hitler committed suicide, Eamon de Valera, the president of Ireland, and a figure who was much featured on television during JFK’s visit to Ireland, and during his funeral, went to the German embassy and signed condolences.
  7.  Some of the Irish, and their American families, are rather crazy about the whole British thing. Fr. Andrew Greeley, who wrote secular novels, as well as a number featuring priests as main characters, did a series of mysteries featuring a man and his Irish bride. In one he discovers that the man behind the murder of Michael Collins was Winston Churchill. It was at that point that I began to suspect that Fr. Greeley was going around the bend. He confirmed it with a later book in which he gave fulsome praise to the Haymarket anarchists.
  8.  The fondness for drink may be the stuff of legend, or it may be real. I don’t know what the evidence is either way.
  9.  You can find a lot of praise on Irish sites for its sons who are writers, but a fair number of them left Ireland, and either never came back, or took up permanent post-mortem residence on foreign soil. Shaw left at around 20, and did make visits back to Ireland, but was cremated, and his ashes scattered in his garden at Ayot-St-Laurence. Yeats spent his formative years in London, and did become a member of the Irish government. Joyce left Ireland, and never went back. Oscar Wilde achieved his fame in London, and is buried in Paris at Pere Lachaise. Sheridan spent most of his literary time in London. You can go through the list and find that most of the great Irish writers crossed over to England in pursuit of fame and fortune.
  10.  It was when the Irish emigrated from Ireland and came to America that they really started achieving great things. American history, literature, and art have a large Irish contingent after the 1840s. They also featured prominently in the Civil War, and fought on both sides. There was an Irish unit that fought at Fredericksburg in 1862, and elsewhere. Prominent actors of the 1930s and 1940s, such as Cagney and George Brent were of Irish descent, or recent immigrants. (Brent was associated with the IRA.)”
Now some of that is not terribly relevant to Ulysses, but some is. While the Brits and the Irish get along a bit better than they did a few years ago, so much so that the Queen and her family paid a visit a few years ago, there is still residual resentment. When I commented on the VAT going to Brussels to a Dublin cab driver, he responded that it was better than going to England. Given the EU's performance, I'd say that shows extreme hatred.

So I'm not terribly sympathetic to the whole Irish political thing. On the other hand, I do admire Joyce, and he with Shaw, was a major influence on me when I was growing up.

Writing the Body—Back in the late '80s through the '90s you would see listings in the MLA convention program for panels on ___ and the Body, or Writing the Body. I was on the subway back from one of the conventions, probably the one in '89, and I saw a fellow MLA member, he was wearing the convention bacge, and talked with him a bit. He said he'd given a paper on Joyce and the Body. When I asked him about it, he blushed, and said he couldn't talk about it in public. Now this is the schoolmarmish attitude par excellence. You obsess about sex in private, and in the journals, but you're afraid to talk about it on the subway.

In all seriousness though, there are problems with writing about bodily functions, not only sex, but also excretory functions. It is possible to write in the realist style, and simply omit the details. Tolstoy manages to get through the Battle of Borodino without describing what had to be a major part of battle preparation, digging latrines. Pierre and Natasha get through the whole book without a potty break. Zola's Nana may appear naked on stage, but the details of her sex life are, as I recall, implied rather than described.

If the writer does decide to include bodily functions of one sort or another, he has to choose how to do it. He can describe the functions literally, in which case he may veer toward, or indeed cross over into pornography, or he can use metaphor. We see metaphor at play in Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls in which the earth moves for the two lovers. This undoubtedly leads to high expectations for teenagers exposed to Hemingway, but it also leads to vacuous and laughable sex scenes in novels.

Joyce, in at least some passages, chooses a somewhat different strategy. He focuses on the sensation experienced as the character performs the function.

The story—Joyce divided the book into three sets of chapters. There is a Wikipedia article for Ulysses that gives a breakdown of the novel. The first three chapters, which center around Stephen, are referred to as the Telemechiad. The next twelve center around Bloom, and are referred to as The Odyssey. The last three parallel the return to Ithaca, and are referred to as the Nostos. I've divided the major sections up in the same way.


Telemachus 3.—The chapter opens with Stately, plump Malachi Mulligan intoning the Introit as he carries a shaving bowl full of soap and lather up the stairs of the Martello tower that he shares with Stephen and an Englishman. This sets the tone for much of the novel with parodies and blasphemous utterances.

When Mulligan looks out from the tower towards the sea he cries out Thalatta, Thalatta [Θάλαττα! θάλαττα!] , the cry that the Greeks uttered when in the course of their Anabasis they reached the sea. This will be echoed later in Molly Bloom's interior monologue. For the ancient Greeks the moment when they came upon the sea was not the beginning of the end, but rather, as Churchill would point out, the end of the beginning. Stephen's search for his symbolic father, and Bloom's for his absent son, will end that day.

One theme that is announced here, and that will recur throughout the novel is the death of Stephen's mother, and his refusal to pray for her when she was on her death bed.

Nestor 24.—Stephen is teaching a class to a group of students who would rather be doing anything than learning history. When the class ends he receives his pay from the headmaster, Mr. Deasey, who parallels the Homeric Nestor in that he was old, and supposedly wise. His wisdom, such as it is, consists of financial prudence, and an ingrown anti-Semitism

Proteus 37.—Ineluctable modality of the visible, is the opening of this chapter and means roughly that what is seen is inescapable. Stephen, steeped in Aquinas and Aristotle is a realist, in terms of philosophy. This chapter is largely an interior monologue in which we hear Stephen's thoughts as attention shifts. The shifting nature of events and of Stephen's attention, is paralleled in Menelaus' encounter with Proteus, who kept changing his shape as Menelaus tried to hold him.

The Odyssey

Calypso 53.—This opens with Bloom wanting a bit of kidney for breakfast, which is described, understandably, as having a faint scent of urine. Bloom visits Molly, in her bedroom, and she asks him to explain metempsychosis. Bloom gives a fairly accurate definition, but as we'll see not all of his explanations are correct. Bloom goes out to buy a kidney, gives Molly a letter from her lover Blazes Boylan, reads a letter from their daughter Millie, and makes a visit to the outhouse.

Quietly he read, restraining himself, the first column and, yielding but resisting, began the second. Midway, his last resistance yielding, he allowed his bowels to ease themselves quietly as he read, reading still patiently that slight constipation of yesterday quite gone. Hope it's not too big bring on piles again. No, just right. So. Ah! Costive. One tabloid of cascara sagrada. Life might be so.”*

* Ulysses, 66.

Maybe I was looking for other things at fifteen, when I first read Ulysses, but frankly I think that I missed what this passage was describing. Notice that Joyce retains a distance from the action, and doesn't go into the pornographic detail that you might have found in a Time Square bookstore in the '80s. What you find is the sensation that is described, and an indirect comment on size, and then a reference to a laxative preparation. Joyce's strategy here is to give himself a bit of distance from the act described.

Lotus Eaters 68.—Bloom wanders into a Catholic church during Mass. His comments during the Mass tend towards the rationalist school of thought with priests trying to dominate people and make things seem mysterious. I said earlier that Bloom was not always reliable in his explanations. That's particularly true here. He sees a crucifix with the abbreviation INRI, and rather than giving the Latin version, or even the English translation (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews), he gives another version, which is marked by greater pathos than the actual meaning of the original, Iron Nails Ran In.

Hades 84.—Bloom attends Paddy Dignam's funeral. There is some conversation about death, and Bloom thinks about the death of his son, Rudy, and the suicide of his father. Bloom's concept of death and the afterlife is materialistic at best, and grotesque at worst, as this passage shows:

Your heart perhaps but what price the fellow in the six feet by two with his toes to the daisies? No touching that. Seat of the affections. Broken heart. A pump after all, pumping thousands of gallons of blood every day. One fine day it gets bunged up: and there you are. Lots of them lying around here: lungs, hearts, livers. Old rusty pumps: damn the thing else. The resurrection and the life. Once you are dead you are dead. That last day idea. Knocking them all up out of their graves. Come forth, Lazarus! And he came fifth and lost the job. Get up! Last day! Then every fellow mousing around for his liver and his lights and the rest of his traps. Find damn all of himself that morning. Pennyweight of powder in a skull. Twelve grammes one pennyweight. Troy measure.”*

* Ulysses, 102.

The organs are reduced to their material reality, and detached from any connection that they might have had to person from whom they came. Arguably this reduces even the living person to a mere collection of parts. Bloom's line about Lazarus is funny, and sticks in the mind, as does much of Ulysses, but it is also a tad blasphemous. The idea that people at the general resurrection will be running around looking for their body parts is grotesque. It is not altogether without precedent though. There is a passage in Bram Stoker's Dracula in which a cemetery custodian speculates that tombstones are to enable the dead to establish their identities at the resurrection of the dead. Stoker's character is a minor one, somewhat uneducated, and is probably intended as a bit of comic relief.

Aeolus 112.—Bloom tries to place an ad in the newspaper, and Stephen brings Deasy's letter about a cure for foot and mouth disease to the paper. This chapter is characterized by the use of rhetorical figures, what I think are referred to as flowers of rhetoric, though I may be mistaken in that. I think most of the rhetorical features are to be found in the newspaper headlines.

A callipygous example of a godess with cleft from the British Museum. In the next episode Mulligan will comment upon Bloom looking at a statue.
Lestrygonians 144.—Bloom has lunch, burgundy and a gorgonzola sandwich, at Davy Byrne's pub. Much of the episode centers on feelings of hunger, and Bloom's back and forth movements replicate peristalsis, the movement of food through the stomach and colon. When Bloom thinks about the gods and godesses of mythology he wonders if their sculptural representations are properly cloven behind. When he almost meets Blazes Boylan, Molly's lover, he ducks into the National Museum.

One of the mysteries of Ulysses occurs in this episode. Bloom encounters Mrs. Breen and discovers that her husband is upset about a postcard that he received that morning.

—What is it? Mr Bloom asked, taking the card. U.P.?
—U.P.: up, she said. Someone taking a rise out of him. It's a great shame for them whoever he is.
—Indeed it is, Mr Bloom said.
She took back the card, sighing.
—And now he's going round to Mr Menton's office. He's going to take an action for ten thousand pounds, he says.
She folded the card into her untidy bag and snapped the catch.*

* Ulysses, 150–1.

Why one earth would anyone take action against someone for a postcard that says U.P.? £10,000 was about $50,000 in American money, the equivalent in today's economy of between $1,000,000 (official BLS CPI) to $3,000,000 (constitutionally defined in terms of the value of an ounce of gold). There doesn't seem to be any agreement, and Joyce apparently never said anything about the issue, but one suggestion is that the meaning is, You don't ejaculate through an erection, you only urinate. At least that is the suggestion that the editor of the OWC edition makes.

Scylla and Charybdis 176.—This is a discussion of Shakespeare, particularly Hamlet, and the question of paternity. Much of it relies on biographical details that were elaborated by various people. In fact little is known of Shakespeare's life, other than what can gleaned through documentary evidence, such as his marriage, his children, and his will, and incidents such as Lousy Lucy, or holding horses, are best regarded with suspicion.

Mulligan has seen Bloom observing the statues in the museum, and comments to Stephen:

—He knows you. He knows your old fellow. O, I fear me, he is Greeker than the Greeks. His pale Galilean eyes were upon her mesial groove. Venus Kallipyge. O, the thunder of those loins! The god pursuing the maiden hid.*

* Ulysses, 193.

Wandering Rocks 210.—This episode is framed by the procession of Fr. Conmee, S.J. at the beginning, and the progress of the Viceroy at the end.The episode is the tenth, and central episode of Ulysses, an like the novel has eighteen episodes within itself, including the Viceregal procession, which forms a coda, and brings the episode count to nineteen. The start and the end both contain representativeative of the powers that Stephen in revolt against, the spiritual authority of the Catholic church, and the imperial authority of Britain.

Some of the talk is about current events, as in this example:

Terrible affair that General Slocum explosion. Terrible, terrible! A thousand casualties. And heartrending scenes. Men trampling down women and children. Most brutal thing. What do they say was the cause? Spontaneous combustion. Most scandalous revelation. Not a single lifeboat would float and the firehose all burst. What I can't understand is how the inspectors ever allowed a boat like that... Now, you're talking straight, Mr Crimmins. You know why? Palm oil. Is that a fact? Without a doubt. Well now, look at that. And America they say is the land of the free. I thought we were bad here.
I smiled at him. America, I said quietly, just like that. What is it? The sweepings of every country including our own. Isn't that true? That's a fact.
Graft, my dear sir. Well, of course, where there's money going there's always someone to pick it up.”*

* Ulysses, 229-30. The wreck of the General Slocum occurred the day before in NY. It features prominently in the 1933 Clark Gable, William Powell, Myrna Loy movie Manhattan Melodrama.

Many characters that we've met before, such as Mulligan and Haines, appear and converse, and some we will meet more fully in future episodes, such as Gertie MacDowell, appear and foreshadow events to come. Here's a sample in which Mulligan and Haines discuss Stephen:
—I am sure he has an idée fixe, Haines said, pinching his chin thoughtfully with thumb and forefinger. Now I am speculating what it would be likely to be. Such persons always have. Buck Mulligan bent across the table gravely.
—They drove his wits astray, he said, by visions of hell. He will never capture the Attic note. The note of Swinburne, of all poets, the white death and the ruddy birth. That is his tragedy. He can never be a poet. The joy of creation...
—Eternal punishment, Haines said, nodding curtly. I see. I tackled him this morning on belief. There was something on his mind, I saw. It's rather interesting because professor Pokorny of Vienna makes an interesting point out of that.
Buck Mulligan's watchful eyes saw the waitress come. He helped her to unload her tray.
—He can find no trace of hell in ancient Irish myth, Haines said, amid the cheerful cups. The moral idea seems lacking, the sense of destiny, of retribution. Rather strange he should have just that fixed idea. Does he write anything for your movement?
He sank two lumps of sugar deftly longwise through the whipped cream. Buck Mulligan slit a steaming scone in two and plastered butter over its smoking pith. He bit off a soft piece hungrily.
—Ten years, he said, chewing and laughing. He is going to write something in ten years.*

* Ulysses, 239

Several things are of note here. The Victorian/Swinburne view of Greek art. A comment on Stephen's failure as a poet. A somewhat erroneous view of Celtic pre-Christian religion, and Stephen's promise, as related by Mulligan, that he would write something in ten years. Joyce, Stephen's alter ego in the more or less real world, did write Dubliners ten years after the time of Ulysses>

Sirens 245.—This is a musical episode. Joyce apparently intended to model it on a fugue. I'm not sure if this is the first literary piece modelled on a musical piece, but Aldous Huxley's Point Counterpoint is also reputedly based on the fugue form

Many of the references are to popular songs. Whether it will enrich your experience of the novel to read, or listen to the musical pieces is up to you.

Cyclops 280.—This is perhaps one of the most directly Homeric parts of the book. The character, known only as the citizen, is described in terms that are perhaps how the friends and relatives of Polyphemus, the Cyclops, would describe him:

The figure seated on a large boulder at the foot of a round tower was that of a broadshouldered deepchested stronglimbed frankeyed redhaired freelyfreckled shaggybearded widemouthed largenosed longheaded deepvoiced barekneed brawnyhanded hairylegged ruddyfaced sinewyarmed hero. From shoulder to shoulder he measured several ells and his rocklike mountainous knees were covered, as was likewise the rest of his body wherever visible, with a strong growth of tawny prickly hair in hue and toughness similar to the mountain gorse (Ulex Europeus). The widewinged nostrils, from which bristles of the same tawny hue projected, were of such capaciousness that within their cavernous obscurity the fieldlark might easily have lodged her nest. The eyes in which a tear and a smile strove ever for the mastery were of the dimensions of a goodsized cauliflower. A powerful current of warm breath issued at regular intervals from the profound cavity of his mouth while in rhythmic resonance the loud strong hale reverberations of his formidable heart thundered rumblingly causing the ground, the summit of the lofty tower and the still loftier walls of the cave to vibrate and tremble.”*

Ulysses, 284

Note the run-on nature of the passage. There are no commas to slow down the breath as you read, so the effect is of hurried, breakneck speed in the narration. Notice also the archaic measure, the ell, which dates back to the 11ᵗʰ century, and is between 27 and 45 inches. The citizen's shoulders are at a minimum 54 to 90 inches across. So we have archaism, and immensity, both qualities of Polyphemus.

There's a lot of Blarney about the kings of Ireland, and the importance of those kings. The next paragraph has a description of the citizen's clothing, and the mythological significance of the things depicted thereon:

He wore a long unsleeved garment of recently flayed oxhide reaching to the knees in a loose kilt and this was bound about his middle by a girdle of plaited straw and rushes. Beneath this he wore trews of deerskin, roughly stitched with gut. His nether extremities were encased in high Balbriggan buskins dyed in lichen purple, the feet being shod with brogues of salted cowhide laced with the windpipe of the same beast. From his girdle hung a row of seastones which jangled at every movement of his portentous frame and on these were graven with rude yet striking art the tribal images of many Irish heroes and heroines of antiquity, Cuchulin, Conn of hundred battles, Niall of nine hostages, Brian of Kincora, the ardri Malachi, Art MacMurragh, Shane O'Neill, Father John Murphy, Owen Roe, Patrick Sarsfield, Red Hugh O'Donnell, Red Jim MacDermott, Soggarth Eoghan O'Growney, Michael Dwyer, Francy Higgins, Henry Joy M'Cracken, Goliath, Horace Wheatley, Thomas Conneff, Peg Woffington, the Village Blacksmith, Captain Moonlight, Captain Boycott, Dante Alighieri, Christopher Columbus, S. Fursa, S. Brendan, Marshal MacMahon, Charlemagne, Theobald Wolfe Tone, the Mother of the Maccabees, the Last of the Mohicans, the Rose of Castile, the Man for Galway, The Man that Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, The Man in the Gap, The Woman Who Didn't, Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon Bonaparte, John L. Sullivan, Cleopatra, Savourneen Deelish, Julius Caesar, Paracelsus, sir Thomas Lipton, William Tell, Michelangelo Hayes, Muhammad, the Bride of Lammermoor, Peter the Hermit, Peter the Packer, Dark Rosaleen, Patrick W. Shakespeare, Brian Confucius, Murtagh Gutenberg, Patricio Velasquez, Captain Nemo, Tristan and Isolde, the first Prince of Wales, Thomas Cook and Son, the Bold Soldier Boy, Arrah na Pogue, Dick Turpin, Ludwig Beethoven, the Colleen Bawn, Waddler Healy, Angus the Culdee, Dolly Mount, Sidney Parade, Ben Howth, Valentine Greatrakes, Adam and Eve, Arthur Wellesley, Boss Croker, Herodotus, Jack the Giantkiller, Gautama Buddha, Lady Godiva, The Lily of Killarney, Balor of the Evil Eye, the Queen of Sheba, Acky Nagle, Joe Nagle, Alessandro Volta, Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, Don Philip O'Sullivan Beare. A couched spear of acuminated granite rested by him while at his feet reposed a savage animal of the canine tribe whose stertorous gasps announced that he was sunk in uneasy slumber, a supposition confirmed by hoarse growls and spasmodic movements which his master repressed from time to time by tranquilising blows of a mighty cudgel rudely fashioned out of paleolithic stone.

* Ulysses 284

The list is going along fine for a bit until you pull up and notice that Goliath is sticking out like a sore Philistine. Since when he is Irish? As you go along you notice that not only is Goliath in there, but so are a bunch of folk who are clearly not Irish. Here's a list of some of the easily identifiable non-Irish characters.

* Cleopatra is the last of the Ptolemys, Greek successor kings to Alexander. One of her great-grandmothers was native Egyptian, and may have been black. That would make Cleopatra an octoroon, and not nearly as dark as some actresses who have played her in recent dramas. One notable example being a Folger Shakespeare production that we saw in October of 1988.

The citizen has a representation of Goliath, a Philistine, which would fit in with his anti-Semitism, but then he has the Mother of the Maccabees, the most Jewish of Jewish mothers, how does this representation of resistance to Gentile/pagan oppression fit in with this anti-Semitic ranter? One description is clearly a parody of theosophic teachings:
In the darkness spirit hands were felt to flutter and when prayer by tantras had been directed to the proper quarter a faint but increasing luminosity of ruby light became gradually visible, the apparition of the etheric double being particularly lifelike owing to the discharge of jivic rays from the crown of the head and face. Communication was effected through the pituitary body and also by means of the orangefiery and scarlet rays emanating from the sacral region and solar plexus. Questioned by his earthname as to his whereabouts in the heavenworld he stated that he was now on the path of pr l ya or return but was still submitted to trial at the hands of certain bloodthirsty entities on the lower astral levels. In reply to a question as to his first sensations in the great divide beyond he stated that previously he had seen as in a glass darkly but that those who had passed over had summit possibilities of atmic development opened up to them. Interrogated as to whether life there resembled our experience in the flesh he stated that he had heard from more favoured beings now in the spirit that their abodes were equipped with every modern home comfort such as talafana, alavatar, hatakalda, wataklasat and that the highest adepts were steeped in waves of volupcy of the very purest nature. Having requested a quart of buttermilk this was brought and evidently afforded relief. Asked if he had any message for the living he exhorted all who were still at the wrong side of Maya to acknowledge the true path for it was reported in devanic circles that Mars and Jupiter were out for mischief on the eastern angle where the ram has power. It was then queried whether there were any special desires on the part of the defunct and the reply was: We greet you, friends of earth, who are still in the body. Mind C. K. doesn't pile it on. It was ascertained that the reference was to Mr Cornelius Kelleher, manager of Messrs H. J. O'Neill's popular funeral establishment, a personal friend of the defunct, who had been responsible for the carrying out of the interment arrangements. Before departing he requested that it should be told to his dear son Patsy that the other boot which he had been looking for was at present under the commode in the return room and that the pair should be sent to Cullen's to be soled only as the heels were still good. He stated that this had greatly perturbed his peace of mind in the other region and earnestly requested that his desire should be made known.”*

* Ulysses289.

Some of this is legitimate Buddhist/Hindu terminology, and some it is just nonsense. The overall effect is to parody the teachings of Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophists.

There's a bit in Melville's Billy Budd in which the ship's surgeon conducts a port mortem on Billy and comments on Billy's lack of an erection, or lack of ejaculation in the aftermath of his hanging. There's a discussion of the effect of hanging, and Bloom breaks in with his opinion:

So they started talking about capital punishment and of course Bloom comes out with the why and the wherefore and all the codology of the business and the old dog smelling him all the time I'm told those jewies does have a sort of a queer odour coming off them for dogs about I don't know what all deterrent effect and so forth and so on.
—There's one thing it hasn't a deterrent effect on, says Alf.
—What's that? says Joe.
—The poor bugger's tool that's being hanged, says Alf.
—That so? says Joe.
—God's truth, says Alf. I heard that from the head warder that was in Kilmainham when they hanged Joe Brady, the invincible. He told me when they cut him down after the drop it was standing up in their faces like a poker.
—Ruling passion strong in death, says Joe, as someone said.
—That can be explained by science, says Bloom. It's only a natural phenomenon, don't you see, because on account of the...
And then he starts with his jawbreakers about phenomenon and science and this phenomenon and the other phenomenon.
The distinguished scientist Herr Professor Luitpold Blumenduft tendered medical evidence to the effect that the instantaneous fracture of the cervical vertebrae and consequent scission of the spinal cord would, according to the best approved tradition of medical science, be calculated to inevitably produce in the human subject a violent ganglionic stimulus of the nerve centres of the genital apparatus, thereby causing the elastic pores of the corpora cavernosa to rapidly dilate in such a way as to instantaneously facilitate the flow of blood to that part of the human anatomy known as the penis or male organ resulting in the phenomenon which has been denominated by the faculty a morbid upwards and outwards philoprogenitive erection in articulo mortis per diminutionem capitis.

* Ulysses292.

There is a narrator, identified solely as I who is bigoted. The passage shifts from the narrator's viewpoint to reported dialog, and then back to the narrator. The narrator's attitude to Bloom is indicated by the shift in Bloom's name, from Leopold Bloom to Luitpold Blumenduft. The shift to mock Germanic indicates that the pretentions of Bloom to scientific knowledge are being mocked.

The theory of hanging by the long drop method is that the neck will break, and cause instantaneous death. Whether there is any erotic response I don't know, though I have heard that most hangings, even by the long drop method, were more likely to be strangulations than clean breaks to the vertebrae.

The citizen gives a long rant about how the English stole everything from the Irish. You hear similar discourses today about the perfidy of the Israelis v. the Palestinians, Americans v. Mexicans, and so forth. A few years back there was a meme running arounds, as memes tend to do, about how Aristotle got everything from the Library of Alexandria, which was founded after his death. Most, if not all, of these discourses can be dismissed as nonsense.

Nausicaa 330.—This is split into two parts, a narrated part that describes Gertie MacDowell and her cohort of young girls on the Sandycove beach. The parallel to the Odyssey is fairly direct here, with Gertie pretty plainly being Nausicaa. The second part is Bloom's interior monologue. It is worth noting that Bloom's monologue occurs after Gertie and her friends have left the scene.

There is some reference throughout the episode to masturbation, but as near as I can tell, and I may be mistaken here, there is no explicit performance in the episode. According to the editor's comment in the notes Joyce maintained that whatever happened happened in Bloom's mind.

There is one passage in Gertie's narrative that is revealing: the photograph of grandpapa Giltrap's lovely dog Garryowen that almost talked it was so human* Gertie's grandfather is the citizen of the Cyclops episode.

* Ulysses337.

Oxen of the Sun 366.—This episode takes place in a maternity hospital where Bloom has gone to check in on Mrs. Purefoy who has been in labor for two days with her baby. The episode models pregnancy in using a range of prose styles from the history of English literature to reflect the growth of the baby in the womb. At the earliest stage we have an Anglo-Saxon accentual prose style, by the end of the ninth month we've reached a Victorian prose style, and in the period immediately following birth we get a kind of babble.

In a very early part of the episode we get this line:

Some man that wayfaring was stood by housedoor at night's oncoming. Of Israel's folk was that man that on earth wandering far had fared. Stark ruth of man his errand that him lone led till that house. ”

* Ulysses368.

The reference to the Anglo-Saxon poem Wayfarer, which was memorably translated by Ezra Pound, and which provides the opening rhythm of the first of the Cantos, is immediately recognizable. The Wayfarer should connect us immediately to the wanderings of Osysseus, providing the resonance between the Anglo-Saxon and the Grecian.

A bit later on we get what is recognizable as a chivalric tale:

But sir Leopold was passing grave maugre his word by cause he still had pity of the terrorcausing shrieking of shrill women in their labour and as he was minded of his good lady Marion that had borne him an only manchild which on his eleventh day on live had died and no man of art could save so dark is destiny. And she was wondrous stricken of heart for that evil hap and for his burial did him on a fair corselet of lamb's wool, the flower of the flock, lest he might perish utterly and lie akeled (for it was then about the midst of the winter) and now Sir Leopold that had of his body no manchild for an heir looked upon him his friend's son and was shut up in sorrow for his forepassed happiness and as sad as he was that him failed a son of such gentle courage (for all accounted him of real parts) so grieved he also in no less measure for young Stephen for that he lived riotously with those wastrels and murdered his goods with whores.”

* Ulysses373.

The topic is birth, and there is a good deal of ribaldry and talk of sex. So we get rather ribald jokes by Mulligan:
Talis ac tanta depravatio hujus seculi, O quirites, ut matresfamiliarum nostrae lascivas cujuslibet semiviri libici titillationes testibus ponderosis atque excelsis erectionibus centurionum Romanorum magnopere anteponunt, while for those of ruder wit he drove home his point by analogies of the animal kingdom more suitable to their stomach, the buck and doe of the forest glade, the farmyard drake and duck. ”

* Ulysses384. Translation of the Latin: Such and so great is the depravity of our generation, O Citizens, that our materfamiliases greatly prefer the lascivious titillations of any barbaric half-man whomsoever to the ponderous testicles and extraordinary erections of Roman centurions. Tranlation from this Wikipedia article.

Circe 408.—From the hospital Bloom and Stephen eventually end up in Nightown, the area of Dublin where prostitutes and other members of the Dublin demi monde congregate. Joyce took the Circe episode from its Homeric counterpart. In Homer men are changed into beasts, and while there are transformations in the episode, including one in which Bloom is transformed into a woman, this episode can be taken as more psychological than magical.

There are a few moderately obscene jokes and puns such as this:

MYLES CRAWFORD: (His cock's wattles wagging) Hello, seventyseven eightfour. Hello. Freeman's Urinal and Weekly Arsewipe here. Paralyse Europe. You which? Bluebags? Who writes? Is it Bloom?”

* Ulysses, 434.

The Freeman's Journal is recognizable here, as well as the ultimate functionality, aside from wrapping fish, of the newspaper.

Later on we get references to bachelor buttons [clitoris], yoni [female genitals], and lingam [male genitals].*

* Ulysses, 482, 488.

Technically this episode is written/printed as a drama, but it is a drama in which buttons speak, and in which Bloom undergoes a number of transformations. So it would be hard to stage. There has been at least on adaptation of this episode alone, Ulysses in Nightown, which I've neither seen nor read. Some portions are realistic, and some are more surreal. How should it be staged? The demarcation between the realistic bits and the surrealist parts isn't always clear, but one could decide that certain portions are realistic, and have the actors stand onstage, but in darkness, while the surrealist bits are project onto a screen. There are probably other ways of dealing with the staging, or the visualization while reading, so I won't say anymore about that.


Eumaeus 567.—This takes place in the cabdriver's shelter. Stephen and Bloom take refuge there after leaving the brothel, and discuss a number of issues.

Ithaca 619.—This is written in the style of a catechism, i.e., question and answer, and may remind older American Catholic readers of the Baltimore Catechism of their youth. It has the illusion of science, but there is at least one serious error that calls into question the arithmetic competency of both Bloom and some famous literary critics.

Because some years previously in 1886 when occupied with the problem of the quadrature of the circle he had learned of the existence of a number computed to a relative degree of accuracy to be of such magnitude and of so many places, e.g., the 9th power of the 9th power of 9, that, the result having been obtained, 33 closely printed volumes of 1000 pages each of innumerable quires and reams of India paper would have to be requisitioned in order to contain the complete tale of its printed integers of units, tens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions, billions, the nucleus of the nebula of every digit of every series containing succinctly the potentiality of being raised to the utmost kinetic elaboration of any power of any of its powers.”

* Ulysses, 652.

I'm afraid that this is nonsense. The number is large, but its representation can be expressed in a little under 80 characters, not counting the thousands separators. Numbers can be represented as powers of 10, so 10 to the 9th power to the 9th power is 10 to the 81st power. 9 to the 9th power is large, but easily expressible as 387,420,489, or roughly the amount the government wastes every minute on the study of South American swamp rats. the last number though is 196,627,050,475,552,913,618,075,908,526,912,116,283,103,450,944,214,766,927,
315,415,537,966,391,196,809. As you can see it takes about 2 or 3 lines to print the number. The Oxford editor quotes Hugh Kenner as saying that it's a large number that begins with 4.

Some years back I saw a book that consisted of a million dots, the representation of 1 million. Now that would be about 400 pages of dots if there were 2,500 dots on a page, and 33 volumes of 1000 pages each would scarcely contain enough dots to represent the second number.

You can take much of Bloom's science with a very large grain of salt.

Of greater interest, perhaps, is the number 9 itself. In the string of single digit integers (0–9) there are 5 primes (1, 2, 3, 5, 7), and 4 numbers with factors (4 (2×2, or 2²), 6 (2×3), 8 (2×2×2, or 2³), and 9 (3×3, or 3²)). Of the numbers with factors 4 and 9 are squares, and 8 is a cube. So why did Bloom choose to investigate 9 rather than 3? The results 981 are the same as 3162, so why 9? Perhaps because it is the square of 3, the trinitarian number, and thus represents an intensification of trinitarianism.*

* 0 is an even number, but it is not considered to be a prime.

Penelope 690.—This is the episode that has the most sex in it. Molly is in bed, and reviews the events of the day, and of her life. She shifts constantly between thoughts of Bloom, and thoughts of Blazes Boylan, with a few lustful side glances at Stephen.

There are references to sex throughout, one notable example is this:

I wouldnt lee him he was awfully put out first for fear you never know consumption or leave me with a child embarazada that old servant Ines told me that one drop even if it got into you at all after I tried with the Banana but I was afraid it might break and get lost up in me somewhere because they once took something down out of a woman that was up there for years covered with limesalts theyre all mad to get in there where they come out of youd think they could never go far enough up and then theyre done with you in a way till the next time yes because theres a wonderful feeling there so tender all the time how did we finish it off yes O yes I pulled him off into my handkerchief pretending not to be excited but I opened my legs I wouldnt let him touch me inside my petticoat because I had a skirt opening up the side I tormented the life out of him first tickling him I loved rousing that dog in the hotel rrrsssstt awokwokawok his eyes shut and a bird flying below us he was shy all the same I liked him like that moaning I made him blush a little when I got over him that way when I unbuttoned him and took his out and drew back the skin it had a kind of eye in it theyre all Buttons men down the middle on the wrong side of them ”

* Ulysses, 711.

Notice the references to female masturbation with an object; the masturbation of a male by a female, and possible references to orgasm.

There's another passage towards the end that is fairly sexy:

those fine young men I could see down in Margate strand bathingplace from the side of the rock standing up in the sun naked like a God or something and then plunging into the sea with them why arent all men like that thered be some consolation for a woman like that lovely little statue he bought I could look at him all day long curly head and his shoulders his finger up for you to listen theres real beauty and poetry for you I often felt I wanted to kiss him all over also his lovely young cock there so simple I wouldnt mind taking him in my mouth if nobody was looking as if it was asking you to suck it so clean and white he looks with his boyish face I would too in 1/2 a minute even if some of it went down what its only like gruel or the dew theres no danger besides hed be so clean compared with those pigs of men I suppose never dream of washing it from I years end to the other the most of them only thats what gives the women the moustaches”

* Ulysses, 725.

Here's a reference to oral sex (fellatio), and something that might be described as ephebephilia (love of beautiful boys).

Molly closes with recollections of her courtship by Bloom, and her final remenisence is of Bloom kissing her, and her assent to him.

Next up, whatever I get for Christmas.