Seminar, 13 October – ‘Aeolus’, 1006-1030

Having had only a brief two weeks since our previous seminar, we began again at 7.1006 ‘Some Column! – That’s What One Waddler Said’.

We noted that this headline displays more coherence than many have for a while: it’s easy to imagine this as a real headline. There’s a tabloid feel about this one, though, and we repeatedly noted during the seminar that it’s important to have a clear sense of what an Irish paper of 1904 would have thought of a scandal, innuendo, or straight-up yarn.

Does Myles Crawford want to publish Stephen’s story? He appears to praise it (‘that’s new’) but some seminar members couldn’t agree on the tone of ‘copy’: is this slightly derogatory? Is the story of the vestal virgins new, really? We did agree, however, on the fact of the headline acting as a metaphor for the content of the passage: Crawford is now the waddler. The waxie Dargle is reference to a rare, harmless enough, leisurely day out, yet ‘trickies’ threw us a little. Whether this is a reference to old prostitutes, or schemers, or just evokes a slightly mysterious air about the women, we could not agree. ‘Trick’ is also an American turn, applied playfully, towards a ‘small or amusing person’ (OED, first citation 1887) – we’ve noted a few Americanisms or links with the country in this chapter – while ‘trick’ to mean a sexual act (either paid for or free) doesn’t seem to be recorded until 1920s America.  Whatever Crawford is trying to get at, he drops in a ‘what?’, a word that both emphasises his point yet draws attention to his need to be validated in conversation. At this point we compared Stephen and Myles’ conversational styles: one has a subtle, drawn-out storytelling style; the other is crude, obnoxious, and drunk.

The women’s experience at the top of the column is that of a typical tourist, pointing out notable landmarks. Adam and Eve’s is the same as at that mentioned at the start of the Wake; the Rathmines church with the blue dome is the Church of Mary Immaculate, and in January 1920 a fire broke out as a result of IRA weapons being stored in the Church. This site gives a reference to the Irish Times, which discussed the rebuilt dome and recorded that ‘It will be a much more ornate dome than that existing before the fire, as well as being much higher’ (Irish Times, April 19, 1923, p.5).

Throughout the later part of this episode, we’ve had mixed views on Joyce’s characterisation of these women. The adjective ‘rambunctious’ only compounded this: is Myles trying to turn them into boisterous or exuberant women, perhaps inaccurately or unfairly? We discussed the term ‘female’ and its use in headlines of the time, also recalling the use of ‘those’ in ‘those lovely seaside girls’ or ‘those girl graduates’. Does this headline veer towards something like ‘clickbait’ for 1904? We couldn’t agree but realise that more research into headlines is required.

The gesture of settling their striped petticoats suggested to us the feeling of vertigo these women must be experiencing, a touching gesture that hints at their naivety. This sits at odds with Myles’ implicit suggestion that Stephen is trying to ‘sex up’ the story. That said, the quip of ‘onehandled’ is rather good, hence the Professor’s effusive response. Does the professor really understand the joke, though? We noted his slow, gradual response – starting with delight and only eventually ending with understanding. The very slow pace of the storytelling, which sits in contrast to some of the abrupt language and gestures of the passage, is especially self-conscious; we thought back to earlier in the episode and the status of storytelling and rhetoric. The lack of epiphany is also conspicuous.

So much for the relative clarity of the previous two headlines. This one contains the clear allusion to ‘dear dirty Dublin’, which contrasts with the (mock) grandeur of the two women. ‘Cits’ is short for citizen, but this doesn’t exactly help that much, as the syntax is still off, yet would almost make sense with a comma after ‘speedpills’. ‘Velocitous’ isn’t a word (not according to the OED, anyway, and Gilbert notes that this is a neologism) but does have a futurist tone about it. The spitting of the stones is clear (aerolith is a little-used word for a meteorite), but the final word left us puzzled.

Stephen slows the pace, yet again, by returning to his story and refusing ‘onehandled’ adulterer to become the punchline. He demonstrates his skill at rhetoric — the story’s final sentence is long and evocative — yet despite this, the climax is, fittingly for ‘Aeolus’, something of an anti-climax. Stephen has a habit of laughing awkwardly or nervously – compare ‘Nestor’, ‘He stood up and gave a shout of nervous laughter to which their cries echoed dismay’ – though this laugh seems different for being consciously put on: slightly unsure of his ability still, he uses this laugh to explicitly signal the end of the story.

We begin again at ‘Finished?’ (U 7.1031) on Friday 10th November.





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Seminar, 22 September – ‘Aeolus’, 983-1005

And we’re back. On the 22nd of September, the seminar reconvened to consider lines 983 to 1005 of ‘Aeolus’. Some of our findings and observations follow.

Following on from “stables”, “nervy” relates to horses also (“a big nervous foolish noodly kind of a horse” at 16.1789, for example) and then gives way to a nautical register, “squalls” anticipating Lenehan’s cap. “All off for a drink” – but not Bloom, of course: “Arm in arm” may be metaphorical, but plays up the importance of physical gesture, Crawford “throwing out his arm” just before.

Lenehan’s yachting cap is mentioned in ‘Two Gallants’ (where it is “shoved far back from his forehead”), so it may be pretty well-worn here. It is borrowed garb, in the sense that it seeks to project an affluence and a social connectedness that are not Lenehan’s: he is here “on the cadge”, so holding out that cap, metaphorically speaking.

Bloom is not taken in by the “Usual blarney”: we were reminded here of Bloom’s idiosyncratic Irishness, in his blunt and unqualified use of this term. We were also reminded of the connexion Ezra Pound established between Joyce and the word, in The Pisan Cantos (Canto LXXIV):

Lordly men are to earth o’ergiven
these the companions
Fordie that wrote of giants
and William who dreamed of nobility
and Jim the comedian singing:
“Blarney castle me darlin’
you’re nothing now but a stOWne”

Bloom seems to be wondering whether Stephen is the one moving the others off for a drink: the Little Review version of this passage is less ambiguous, but “spirit” picks up other meanings here, of course.

The “good pair of boots” are, of course, Mulligan’s – this is literally borrowed garb – and the “muck” on them is from Sandymount Strand (where Stephen was hardly ‘careless’, an ironic word to use of him in any case). We wondered how well Bloom knows Stephen and when he would last have seen him (recently enough, given “heels on view” perhaps).

In speaking as he does,  Bloom is acting as though Crawford has said nothing. Bloom is revisiting the terms of the deal he was attempting to work out with Nannetti earlier: it is almost as though he is trying to advise the editor here; and, in commercial terms, advising him well enough. He has, however, failed to pick up on Crawford’s mood, due in part to the editor having to break hard news to O’Molloy.

“K.M.R.I.A.” – the addition of “royal Irish” took us back to Mr Deasy: “We are all Irish, all kings’ sons” (2.279-80). Myles Crawford is walking away “jerkily” from Bloom here, but it is not clear that Bloom knows how to respond anyway: “the point” he is “weighing” may still be his own from the previous section and “about to smile” is clearly not the same as smiling.

“RAISING THE WIND” took us back to Stephen as “weaver of the wind” (2.33). The gesture of Crawford’s hand precedes his meaning and we wondered about the specific derivation of “through the hoop” (its meaning in context is apparent enough). We detected an anti-semitic undercurrent here, in Crawford being so gentle with O’Molloy having been so abrupt with Bloom.

The meaning in context of “to back a bill” is obvious enough too, but the language is parliamentary (reminding us of Nannetti again), accompanying the legalistic register of “will” and “deed”. Taking “the will for the deed” can be found in Charles Lamb and Elizabeth Gaskell; the phrase “heart and a half” is noted by Gilbert as an example of hyperbole: the rhetoric stands in for any direct mention of money.

O’Molloy’s “long face” reminded us of horses again and we assumed that he and Crawford and the professor and Stephen are walking abreast in pairs, rather than all four alongside each other. Stephen returns to his parable with the fabulous “twenty fingers” and reaches the railings as the two women have worked their own way up to these.

MacHugh’s “Something for you” refers to a story worth hearing but also alludes to Crawford’s earlier invitation to Stephen to write something for the paper. All that has preceded this point in Stephen’s narration is boiled down to its gist in a striking (perhaps, for Stephen, disheartening) way by the professor.

I’m afraid this blog entry has ended up left behind almost as badly as Bloom, so that there is no point passing on information about the next seminar, because it has already happened. The blog for the October session has also already happened, put together by a swifter and more conscientious hand than mine. See below!

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Seminar, 2 June – ‘Aeolus’, 951-983

A long time ago, in early June 2017, we had our final Ulysses meeting before the summer break.

  • We noted that ‘antithesis’ carries a lot of weight in this sentence: not only is the professor referring to Anne Kearns and Florence MacCabe having quite different appetites, the word itself marks a pivot within this section, this second half being quite different in tone to the previous half; the professor provides a narrative explanation of what is happening. The professor nods twice, gesturing again to the sense of doubling that runs through this section.


  • In remarking that he ‘can see them’, the Professor hints to Stephen that he is familiar with real women of the character Stephen suggests, flattering Stephen that he’s telling a good story. Yet at the same time, there’s a sense that the Professor doesn’t, actually, know any women like this – he’s very quick to break off his flattery and to discuss the urgent matter of getting to the pub with ‘our friend’. This is an odd way to describe Crawford – barbed, rather than aspirational, we thought – maybe touching on a sense of irritation too; when Myles Crawford returns in a few lines time, the Professor’s ‘cry’ and gesture of ‘waving his arm’ compounds this sense.


  • ‘Bevy’ is a rich description of the newsboys, testifying to the perceived number of them and their scattered arrangement. The vocabulary used in this sentence is strikingly similar to the previous sentences: ‘newsboys’, ‘scamp’ and ‘scampering’, and ‘yelling’ are all used repeatedly in conjunction in ‘Aeolus’. Their papers are different to the racing papers that featured earlier in the episode, and in drawing in these different kinds of papers, Joyce offers readers a really material sense of journalism and the production process behind it at this time. We noted that the newsboys give away copies of the ‘Racing special’ edition of the paper, which goes on to have great significance throughout the novel (Bloom’s ‘throwaway’, Boylan’s betting ticket, and so on).


  • ‘RETURN OF BLOOM’, it’s worth noting, puts Bloom, for once, centre stage. The line has a stagey, cinematic feel to it, and in this aggrandises our sense of Bloom’s presence. He is ‘breathless’ in a ‘whirl of wind’ created by the newsboys’ scamping. Curiously, despite being ‘Mr. Bloom’ to the narrator throughout the episode, he is ‘Bloom’ in the headline. Compounding the sense that Bloom is of at least some significance in this section is the fact of Crawford not responding to the Professor, but to Bloom, even amid a gaggle of noisy newsboys.


  • We paused at this time to discuss the Irish Catholic and Dublin Penny Journal and to think about the offices of these journals (we have yet to establish whether these two papers actually shared an office). The Irish Catholic was founded in 1888 by T. D. Sullivan, a Lord Mayor of Dublin who came from a journalistic family. The Dublin Penny Journal was, originally, an Irish language publication.


  • ‘Terrible tragedy in Rathmines’ is, it transpires, a bit of a joke. The phrase ‘terrible tragedy’ was used abundantly in the press of the time – a quick British Library search suggests the phrase appeared repeatedly in headlines in the Irish Times and Weekly Irish Times between 1890 and 1905 – so Joyce gestures towards this contemporary journalistic cliché. The phrase was reserved for real tragedies – murders, suicides, mass deaths – heightening the bathos of this line. We noted that the joke anticipates ‘Circe’ in its anthropomorphising of supposedly inanimate objects, and that altogether this scene offers a very striking impression of compressed urban modernity.


  • ‘Interview with the editor’ is another somewhat ironic headline, as the entire section is Bloom’s monologue, tiresomely explaining yet again his plans for the advertisement. Bloom’s tone is awkward yet apologetic. We wondered if ‘what will I tell…’ had a touch of Hiberno-English to it.


  • Gilbert identifies ‘abbreviation’ as the technique for ‘K. M. A.’, which doesn’t seem entirely correct – it is an acronym – but it also a euphemism for something much cruder (‘kiss my arse’). We also wondered if KMA might suggest any other significant acronyms or meanings at this time. We remarked on the self-consciousness and metaphorical strength of Joyce’s ‘for emphasis’ as a way to describe Crawford’s gesture. If Crawford’s ‘the stable’ is a somewhat confused rehash of a cliché, Bloom’s interior ‘nervy’, by contrast, is politely euphemistic.


We meet again on Friday 22nd September and will be reading from U 7.983 (‘Look out for squalls’).

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Recently launched by Ian Gunn, co-author of James Joyce’s Dublin: A Topographical Guide to the Dublin of Ulysses, and in honour of Clive Hart, JoyceTools is a new website that contains a number of resources of interest to Joyce scholars. It has been created from many of the tools that Hart used in his own scholarship.

The site includes digitized versions of Thom’s, maps, guides to tram routes, and the Dublin Evening Telegraph for 16 June 1904, among other materials.

A tribute to Clive Hart, written by his stepson, can be viewed here. Please note the list of charities at the bottom of the page.

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Seminar Dates 2017-2018

We have dates for the forthcoming academic year:

22 September 18.00-20.00
13 October 18.00-20.00
10 November 18.00-20.00
1 December 18.00-20.00
5 January 18.00-20.00
2 February 18.00-20.00
2 March 18.00-20.00
6 April 18.00-20.00
4 May 18.00-20.00
1 June 18.00-20.00

We don’t seem to have rooms, but all will be held in Senate House and the first session will be in room 243, when we will be picking up at line . . . actually, since I wasn’t there in June I’m not sure where we will be picking up from. We must be nearly at line 1,000?

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I’ve just been contacted by Darrell Hooper, grandson of Paddy Hooper (“They’re gone round to the Oval for a drink. Paddy Hooper is there with Jack Hall. Came over last night” 7.455-56) and great-grandson of Alderman John Hooper (“the wedding present alderman Hooper gave us” 6.949-50), concerning a rather special Bloomsday meeting for descendants and relatives of the ‘real’ characters of Ulysses. Fascinated as I am, I had to share – if anyone happens to be lucky enough to be in Dublin this Friday, you could always bluff your way in by claiming descent from the man in the mackintosh.

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Seminar, 8 May – ‘Aeolus’, 927-951


We continued with our vestals virgins, beginning the seminar at line 7.927.


  • We spent a long time considering the image of ‘damp nights reeking of hungry dough’. The Little Review copy read ‘The damp night’, and we decided that the removal of the article is both characteristic of Stephen’s interior monologue and, moreover, potentially sets up the scene as an impression of Dublin, more than the recollection of a specific memory: does it contain Stephen, or not? Hungry dough, with its transferred epithet, recalls the grateful winejug of a few lines earlier; the line also anticipates the ‘mighty cheese’s of ‘Lestrygonians’. The image is one of unrefined, desperate poverty, a feeling perhaps compounded by the yeasty relationship between bread and beer; one is also ‘on the breadline’ when in poverty, as Stephen would well know. The next two lines compound the dire feeling of the scene. Glistering, caught awkwardly between glistening and glittering, gives an unhealthy air to the woman, and perhaps recalls Gerty’s ‘waxen pallor’ too. We discussed the tallow of candles and the cracked surface of these looking like her skin.


  • The changes in register in the next three sentences (‘Frantic hearts. Akasic records. Quicker, darlint!’) kept us busy. We compared the brief moment of ‘frantic hearts’ with all the moments in time (‘akasic’). Why does Joyce return to these akasic moments repeatedly in ’Aeolus’, and what is he trying to say here? Perhaps that everything is remembered, that even this moment up against the wall is remembered, in contrast to the big historical narratives discussed in the previous section (Monster Meetings and so on). Thinking about ‘moments’ in more depth, we compared the newspaper form – as something designed to record the moments of daily life as well as big historical moments, as something ephemeral and forgotten – with Stephen’s interest in the akasic. Finally, we noted that this is the only ‘darlint’ in Ulysses and that, at this stage in Joyce’s career, using spelling variants to evoke character is unusual for Joyce.


  • Stephen’s interior monologue continues with this statement of intent (‘On now. Dare it. Let there be life’), which refers to the next paragraph, but also gives life to the nuns, the kind of minor character so often overlooked by fiction. We noted that Stephen is quite shy, so for him to perform a yarn like this is actually quite daring, in a way. Over ‘Aeolus’ we get a strong sense of Stephen’s weaknesses, shyness, and self-consciousness.


  • What draws these women to the column? They’ve presumably seen it promoted as a local tourist attraction, but one not without difficulty, at least for them, as they have to save up their money and ‘coax’ these out of their savings box, an infantile image that reminded us of Milly Bloom’s ‘she shook with shocks her money box’. We noted too that Joyce is attentive to shades of red, the post box at the start of the episode being ‘vermillion’ in colour (something we spent a long time discussing).


  • The women reminded us of the women in The Sisters, and of Maria in Clay. We thought about their clothes – Joyce dresses them in bonnets to make them seem old-fashioned? – and their slightly antiquated language (‘come on to rain’). We discussed bonnets at length, wondering if there was an etiquette at play about covered heads and marriage, though the bonnet already gestures to a feeling of being old-fashioned. Never can one not comment on the presence of an umbrella in Joyce’s works.


  • ‘Life on the Raw’ is another confusing headline. Is Joyce gesturing at ‘a raw account of life’? Or, ‘an account of a raw life’? We discussed brawn and the significance of buying it from a dining room, the second detail suggesting again the tight budget of these women (dining rooms such as this one served meals at fixed prices). We thought about Miss Kate Collins, noting the ubiquity of Kates, Kathleens, and Katherines in Joyce’s texts, and about her role, apparently, as an independent businesswoman. And, maybe relatedly, her status as an unmarried woman. As we noted the Dubinersesque atmosphere of Stephen’s story, we detected a Eumaeun register about this story, specifically ‘Kate Collins, proprietor…’.


  • We discussed the girl selling fruit, wondering specifically about the quality of this fruit (if you have to shout that it’s ripe, is it?) and about the nursery-rhyme effects of ‘four and twenty’. Unlike the apple seller Bloom sees in Lestrygonians, this girl’s market appears to be limited to those going up the column. The presence of the turnstile, as an early example of crowd control, suggests this is a popular destination.


  • The women ‘waddle’ up the column. Is this derogatory in tone? Affectionate? We detected several shades of innuendo: they are grunting and panting, too, and peeping out of slits. Stephen is perhaps having a bit of banter with Professor MacHugh about these women by using such innuendo. We noted that his storytelling is so different here to that in Scylla. Thinking about of the relationship between Joyce as storyteller and Stephen as storyteller, we wondered if Joyce had ever been up the tower.


  • Both women have distinctive names. There is a woman of the name Anne Kearns in Thom’s of 1904, while Florence MacCabe appeared in Proteus. Is Stephen’s image in Proteus a rehearsal for this story? Moreover is Stephen being disdainful of the two women in his descriptions of their attachment to Lourdes water and double XX (originally stout, in the Little Review), respectively? Does he understand their lives, or not? Does MacHugh, listening to this story, have any real idea about these women, either?


  • The seminar ended with a brief discussion of Joyce’s role in all this. The line ‘Dubliners’ at the top of this page encourages us to read the story as though it could neatly fit into that collection. Is there some anxiety on Stephen’s part, that he isn’t able to write Dubliners? Which is to say, we detected a distancing between Joyce and Stephen, one able to write that text, one very much aware that he can’t render the city that way.


We begin again on Friday 2nd June, starting at line 7.952 (‘Antithesis’). This will be our last session before the Autumn.






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