Screening of ‘The Joycean Society’, 31 March

Details of an event that may be of interest – on the 31st of March, the ICA will be screening Dora Garcia’s 2013 film, The Joycean Society.

The film ‘follows the activities of a small, Zurich-based group of Joyce enthusiasts who have met weekly for over thirty years to share their observations and interpretations of’ Finnegans Wake. ‘The film documents the group’s debates and discussions over their heavily annotated and well-thumbed copies of the book, depicting the importance of both the text and the rituals surrounding the group’s meetings.’

The screening will be followed by an informal discussion led by Dr. Joe Brooker and Professor Finn Fordham. (And it is preceded by a meeting of the London Wake reading group.)

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Seminar, 1 March – ‘Sirens’, 299 – 328

The evening before the Charles Peake group’s ‘Aeolus’ workshop, we came together to read 29 lines of the Gabler.

We began by considering, again, the flower, and how, among other things, Bloom appears to have made an error with categorisation (daisies are more white than yellow) and meaning (according to Victorian ‘language of flowers’ guides). There’s a strong sense of ‘Lotus Eaters’ in this passage and we reflected briefly on Joyce’s compositional process, editing across the work to ensure consistency, or not, in details such as this one.

Can we identify the ‘respectable girl’? It’s unlikely to be Martha, or the girl in the shop. Instead, this seems a typical Bloomian fancy, not dissimilar to his earlier ones about Plain Jane or Mr. Woods’ neighbour. There may be an allusion here too, to James’ Daisy Miller, especially as ‘awfully muchly’ is so childlike in tone.

There’s a discrepancy across some editions, between ‘tanks’ and ‘thanks’. We paused only to note that Joyce wouldn’t usually drop the ‘h’ in Hiberno-English speech.

We spent a long time discussing the advertising poster on the door. Some things are immediately obvious: Bloom, as a canvasser, is interested in the construction of the ad, for example; this is a neat combination of fire and water. ‘Nice’ has multiple meanings here and was an addition (the manuscript only had ‘mid the waves’). The choice of mermaid is interesting – mermaids have long been used in cigarette advertising, though we wondered if Joyce was ahead of others in associating women with smoking. Notably, although mermaids and sirens are similar, sirens have a greater reputation for danger: to get the real sense of what Joyce means here, one probably needs to conflate the real (the shopgirl) and the ideal (the mermaid).

Having identified a link to ‘Lotus Eaters’, ‘For Raoul’ takes us to the previous episode, ‘Wandering Rocks’. A change to note here: ‘for men’ in the manuscript became ‘for some men’, which we felt was an improvement.

Essex Bridge is not actually afar, being instead quite close; Bloom really can see Boylan’s ‘gay’ hat. Bloom has indeed seen Boylan twice already (in ‘Hades’, in ‘Lestrygonians’) and this isn’t the first time he’s displayed an interest in threes, having thought about the three bob he lent Hynes.

At ‘rubber tyres’ we recalled a paper given by David Bradshaw at the ‘Dubliners 100’ conference, organised by Joe Brooker, one of the seminar’s own, in which David discussed rubber’s presence as a colonial product in Joyce’s works. Rubber of course makes tyres, which reminded us of the ‘rheumatic wheels’ of ‘The Sisters’, as well as the Irish provenance of Dunlop tyres. Moreover, it would be wrong to overlook the allusion to contraception here. On a more literary note, ‘supple rubber’, a phrase added to the Little Review, has a lovely assonance to it, suggesting something that is flexible but also yields to influence.

Bloom’s interaction with the shop girl is brief but rich. We compared this moment briefly to that in ‘Calypso’, when Bloom buys his sausages and the giving and taking of change is spelled out in meticulous detail. By this point, Joyce expects us to be quick at identifying that ‘and four’ is the shop girl handing back Bloom’s change; we took a moment to realise this and may have made recourse to ‘Ithaca’ to check the day’s budget.

We go back to the Ormond Hotel where the register changes abruptly: ‘you hear’ introduces a metafictional element. Throughout this passage action is evoked but not sound: again, the musicality of the episode is up for debate. Relatedly, despite having read ‘a voiceless song sang’ numerous times, it took a while to realise that Joyce is drawing a comparison with the tuning fork, neither yet being warmed up.

‘Pat paid…’ requires some elucidation. Does he have a float? What is he whispering? Are food and drinks ordered separately?

A ‘duodene’ is a group of twelve notes and lends this (beautiful) passage a more specialised, technical tone than ‘birdnotes’, which suggests chirruping, does. But despite this, as with the tuning fork, we don’t really hear the sound: ‘Sirens’ offers us something closer to synaesthesia than musicality.

Lenehan forces himself back into our orbit once more. Just as the sound the piano makes is slightly unclear, we can’t tell if he’s whistling the same tune as the piano, or something else. To this end we see role reversals: he’s a disruptive force, become a siren and attracting the attentions of the barmaids.

We begin again on Friday 05 April at ‘But look this way’ (11.329).

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Registration open: Reading Joyce’s “Aeolus”

Registration is now open for Reading Joyce’s “Aeolus” on Saturday 02 March. Please follow this link to see a list of confirmed speakers and register for the event.

Tickets are £5 (the event is free for postgraduates).


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Seminar, 1 February – ‘Sirens’, 271-298

‘After an interval’ (11: 271) the group continued with ‘Sirens’, reading 27 lines of the Gabler edition. Simon Dedalus is ‘raising his grog’: an unusual noun but, as a word for alcohol and water combined, seemingly one of those several instances where James Joyce uses a word that seems incongruous yet turns out to be precisely apt. ‘Grog’ also has nautical connotations pertinent to the Homeric theme.

‘Interval’ is a musical term and also, in context, indicates a delay before Simon Dedalus’s reply to Lenehan, adding to the reply’s disdainfulness. ‘That must have been highly diverting’ is a muted reply to Lenehan’s ironically grand description of the scene in a previous pub, and ‘I see’ adds no enthusiasm. ‘I see’ becomes a minor motif around here: the narrative first picks it up with the ungrammatical formula ‘He see’ (11: 273), then the more familiar ‘He drank’. ‘With faraway mourning mountain eye’ says that Mr Dedalus is drinking with a wistful gaze: possibly actually ‘mourning’ (his wife, for instance, as in ‘Hades’), prompting a textual echo in the Mountains of Mourne (11: 219), or possibly rather the reverse: he really is still thinking of those mountains (which are after all ‘faraway’), and the verb ‘mourning’ emerges as a suggestive play on their name. ‘Set down his glass’, without a grammatical subject, is yet another kind of factual narrative statement, unconventional in a different way from ‘He see’ and a more common formulation in later writers – Thomas Pynchon, for instance.

‘He looked towards the saloon door’ is a simple statement but inevitably made us wonder again about the space of the scene. Absent a fuller check, we think that three rooms are in question: the public bar (which opens to the Quay, with people walking directly in), the dining room, and the saloon bar. It’s quite often been remarked that it’s hard to locate oneself in this episode or to realise that characters are in separate spaces. A piano is evidently visible within the saloon: presumably (‘I see you have moved the piano’) it hasn’t moved there from another room but has shifted place within it. Has it shifted because ‘The tuner was in today’? We recalled the old critical theme of Molly Bloom and Blazes Boylan shifting furniture. A ‘smoking concert’, we noted, was an all-male affair dominated by cigar smoke. The character known in episode 8 as ‘the blind stripling’ enters the discussion here, now more respectably a piano tuner: ‘I never heard such an exquisite player’, says Miss Douce. It’s Miss Kennedy who has earlier been ‘Ladylike in exquisite contrast’ (11: 106), but the word seems to retain its aspirational air, as Douce ventures to describe ‘The real classical’ (11: 280). The tuner, we may guess, tested the piano with proper classical music rather than merely popular songs.

Despite Mr Dedalus’s earlier interest in chatting to the bar staff, he now seems disengaged: ‘Is that a fact?’ is his repeated, apparently non-committal answer to Miss Douce’s two statements about the tuner. Approval of his musical skills gives way to sympathy for his condition: ‘And blind too, poor fellow’ (we thought that ‘poor fellow’ might have been most frequently used of Paddy Dignam); ‘Not twenty I’m sure he was’ (the implication perhaps being that it’s even sadder for such a young person to be blind, or that his youth makes him still more vulnerable); ‘So sad to look at his face’ – something that she could do without being looked back at. The verb for this last statement is the unusual ‘condoled’. By now Simon Dedalus has already ‘strayed away’, somewhat surprisingly uninterested in using this topic to make any conversational headway. The best explanation may be that his attention has been distracted by Lenehan’s reference to his son.

With ‘God’s curse on bitch’s bastard’ (11: 285) the narrative voice picks up what the stripling himself said about the eccentric pedestrian who obstructed him on the street in the previous episode. This is not a piece of interior monologue but a case of textual memory; the text has also compressed its content, from a longer imprecation (10: 1119-20) to this abbreviated one which could appear to contain the idea of blindness itself as a ‘curse’ from a god.

‘Tink to her pity cried a diner’s bell’ (11: 286) appears to mean that a diner in the dining room has rung a bell (on his table?) which disrupts Miss Douce’s reverie of ‘pity’. ‘Tink’, in the vicinity of ‘tinkle’, plainly keeps us in the auditory territory proper to the episode. The bell prompts the first appearance of the character Pat the waiter, at ‘the door of the bar and diningroom’: it appears that he has walked up to the ringing diner and received his order, and now appears at the edge of the bar to pass it on to the bar staff. Pat’s epithets include ‘bald’, ‘bothered’ and the grander ‘waiter of Ormond’; we noted that ‘bothered’ has historically carried the meaning ‘deaf’, especially (or even exclusively) in Hiberno-English and from an Irish-language root. ‘Lager for diner’ may be what bothered Pat literally says, or may be the narrative’s telegraphing of it. The request doesn’t much please the barmaid anyway: ‘Lager without alacrity she served’ (11: 288), in contrast to her earlier ‘grace of alacrity’ (11: 214). The most plausible source of the contrast may simply be her briefly reflective mood at the thought of the piano tuner. We noted the relative novelty and rarity of lager at this time and place; you can get it in the Ormond Bar, but surely not Barney Kiernan’s or even Davy Byrne’s.

‘With patience Lenehan waited for Boylan with impatience, for jinglejaunty blazes boy’ (11: 289-90): most simply, Lenehan is waiting patiently for Boylan. Possibly the attribution of patience is not to be taken literally but is a spin-off from a textual effect, the association of Boylan with impatience – primarily just a pun on his name, but also seemingly congruent with his character. The pun was first made by Tom Rochford in the previous episode (10: 486), heard by Lenehan, so it is conceivable that its reappearance here corresponds to Lenehan’s actual reflection while he waits. Terms like ‘jingle’ have already begun to spread through the episode, and are becoming more firmly associated with Boylan, whose name can also be broken into the relatively appropriate title of the ‘blazes boy’.

The next paragraph slightly shifts scene and perspective, in a rhetorically unusual way. ‘Upholding the lid he (who?) gazed in the coffin (coffin?) at the oblique triple (piano!) wires’ (11: 291-2): Simon Dedalus has ‘strayed’ into the saloon and is looking inside the aforementioned piano. Joyce could tell us this straightforwardly, but instead withholds the character’s name throughout the paragraph, and plays upon this lack of information with the parenthetical ‘who?’ – in effect miming or priming the reader’s response to the pronoun ‘he’. The same can be said of the parenthetical ‘coffin?’ – suggesting a reader disconcerted by the appearance of such an item. This could be another of Joyce’s odd exactitudes, as a coffin can be simply a box; or it may rather be metaphorical, suggesting that Mr Dedalus sees the piano in these terms, perhaps primed by his previous ‘mourning’ mood. The parenthetical ‘piano!’ appears to imply a reader getting back on track by recognizing the ‘oblique triple’ as belonging to that instrument. ‘He pressed (the same who pressed indulgently her hand)’ confirms that this is Mr Dedalus (the previous pressing was at 11: 201-2), but in a peculiarly coy way. What he is pressing is ‘a triple of keys’: perhaps a chord. He combines this action with ‘soft pedalling’, prudently muting the sound, and with observing the inside of the piano at work: ‘to see the thicknesses of felt advancing, to hear the muffled hammerfall in action’ (11: 293-4). For the first time in the musical episode, someone is playing a musical instrument.

The scene shifts again, more drastically: ‘Two sheets cream vellum paper one reserve two envelopes when I was in Wisdom Hely’s wise Bloom in Daly’s Henry Flower bought’ (11: 295-6). This is a wilful mess of a sentence, which we gradually parsed to mean: In Daly’s stationery shop, Leopold Bloom bought two sheets of paper and two envelopes for Henry Flower. We can add: the paper isn’t literally vellum, this name indicates its thickness; he buys two sheets (and likewise two envelopes) with ‘one reserve’ in case, with either the letter or the address, he botches the first attempt; he is ‘wise’ because of this prudent stockpiling, but the epithet is probably also transferred from his memory of ‘Wisdom’ Hely’s, recalled mainly because it’s a stationer and also because Hely’s half-rhymes with Daly’s. ‘When I was in Wisdom Hely’s’ looks like a small chunk of interior monologue dropped into a sentence otherwise working without it, but in this episode the division between interior monologue and other narrative discourse can be unusually uncertain. The next lines do, though, seem to be in Bloom’s mind: ‘Are you not happy in your home?’ is a memory of Martha Clifford’s letter (5: 246), and ‘Flower to console me and a pin cuts lo’ (11: 297) a reflection on it. The second half of this reflection, though, was as puzzling as anything we encountered in this session: the best we could do was paraphrase it as ‘The flower’s meant to console you but imagine, lo! The pin cuts you and undermines any consolation’. In ‘Means something, language of flow’ (11: 297-8), ‘flow’ is primarily an abbreviation of ‘flowers’ – an idea from episode 5 that will recur in episode 13 – but it’s abbreviated in a way that deliberately, from Joyce’s point of view, introduces the thought of ‘flow’ as well (‘stream of life’, in another of Bloom’s favoured motifs [8: 176]).

The stream of life will bring us next to reflect on Mr Bloom’s question to himself: ‘Was it a daisy?’ (11: 298).

[Posted by me, but written by Joe, to whom a big thank you.]

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Seminar, 4 January – ‘Sirens’, 242-270

In our first seminar of 2019, we marked one year of reading ‘Sirens’ by picking up at line 242:

‘Peep! Who’s in the corner?’ At the previous session, we’d spent some time considering how Lenehan would have fitted his body into this space; we now paused to think about pitch and volume. Is he whispering, or making a high-pitched noise? Either way, there’s something dramatic about this line, with a touch of the music hall or, more likely, the nursery rhyme about it, as though Miss Kennedy is a naughty child (in this way, the scene echoes the encounter between Miss Douce and Simon Dedalus, in which he play-rebukes her for her naughtiness, though Lenehan is nowhere near as charming). Peep, it might help to note, features in the ‘overture’ at the start of the episode and all kinds of objects ‘peep’ throughout the novel.

Despite Miss Kennedy not humouring him (‘No glance of Kennedy’), Lenehan hangs on. Can she really get away with ignoring him for long, though? She’s on her break but she’s still at work and visible to the public, which puts her in an awkward position, especially if others are watching. Joyce again uses the language of music (‘yet he made overtures’) but to indicate something non-musical.

‘To mind her stops’ is patronising in the extreme: while Lenehan might (might) be alluding to the line from Hamlet, this phrase was better known at the time as an instruction given to children learning to read and to distinguish between filled-in letters and empty ones. There is yet another hint of innuendo here, in the ‘round o and crooked s’, yet Lenehan fails again to attract her attention. On technique, it’s worth noting that – not for the first time – the narrator quotes a speaker indirectly rather than verbatim.

‘Jingle jaunty jingle’ suggests Boylan is on his way.

The adverb ‘Girlgold’ continues the infantilisation of Miss Kennedy. She continues to read, but what exactly? And is ‘take no notice’ an allusion (to Boots earlier on in the episode), or is it reported speech (Miss Douce calling over, perhaps), or her interior thought?

Our musical knowledge was tested once again by Lenehan’s solfa fable. As he’s ‘plappering flatly’, it’s not entirely clear if he’s singing the scale, as we might expect, or if he’s just droning on (in a spectacularly unattractive fashion). ‘Flat’ here maybe doesn’t mean a flat note but a flat sound more generally. Lenehan has his fables mixed up – The Fox and the Stork is one of Aesop’s fables, but the plot Lenehan sings is that of The Wolf and the Heron – and we paused here to note Joyce’s interest in fables elsewhere (for example, The Mookse and the Gripes). In Lenehan’s mouth, however, this fable is converted to innuendo. This led us to think about his relations with women, and specifically the modes through which he prefers to communicate with them; his behaviour here is a far cry from his treatment of the serving girl in ‘Two Gallants’, to whom he speaks ‘roughly’.

Miss Douce, it seems, has been here the whole time. Turning ‘to her tea’, ‘aside’, suggests something of the musical hall, echoed and mirrored by Lenehan sighing ‘aside’. There’s perhaps a Gilbert and Sullivan link here, though the words and gestures work on their own, too.

The interaction between Simon Dedalus and Lenehan is awkward in the extreme. Lenehan’s greeting (a hat tip? A wave?) is quickly shut down with a nod, and Simon is cool with him. The famous line – ‘famous son of a famous father’ – has a Homeric edge to it and is quite densely packed, there being good reason in Joyce’s Dublin for considering Simon as more famous than his up-and-coming son, the ‘youthful bard’. There’s an attempt at flattery on Lenehan’s part in calling Stephen this, but again he’s shut down by Simon. The ‘select company’ primarily refers to Mulligan, but could refer to anyone in the newspaper office in ‘Aeolus’, and manages to be both cutting and civil: in asking Lenehan if he’s seen Stephen lately, Simon is really suggesting that Lenehan is not a part of the ‘select’ company.

Lenehan’s response is overblown, like something out of ‘Cyclops’, and unclear: how many people exactly where with Stephen in the pub (we should really know, having spent long enough trying to piece together what happens to the disparate groups of drinkers after ‘Aeolus’ ourselves). It’s another performance – he’s imagining Miss Kennedy listening – but one that fails to charm.

‘After an interval’, we’ll start again at on Friday 01 February.

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Seminar, 7 December – ‘Sirens’, 219-241

On the 7th of December, we picked up where we left off – with Simon Dedalus’s musings about the Mountains of Mourne not quite completed – and considered the following:

“Must be a great tonic in the air down there”: tonic waters were a mainstay of Cantrell & Cochrane’s and we discussed the contemporary vogue for taking the air – but tonic and air are both musical terms, of course. The Mourne Wall, construction of which began in 1904, was also brought up, as was the fact that, from Dublin, everywhere else in Ireland is “down” (even mountains, it would seem). “But a long threatening comes at last, they say”: if this is a saying, it is not one that has retained its currency, but we riddled it out as meaning something along the lines of ‘I may have been saying it for a long time, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen at long last.’ Then a cluster of yesses, as Simon’s two are followed by one of the narrator’s own.

We suspect that Mermaid might well have been a brand of tobacco and it is still possible to find examples of pipes with mermaids on the bowl, rather in the manner of a ship’s figurehead; ‘meremaids’ was once a common enough rendering of ‘sirens’ too. The “shreds of hair” are tobacco: Stephen imagines “tobaccoshreds” catching fire in thinking of Kevin Egan in ‘Proteus’ (3.240). Maidenhair has been the name of various ferns down the ages, but the idea of it as pubic hair the OED gifts to D.H. Lawrence in Lady Chatterley’s Lover. There’s clearly something lascivious going on in the narrative here (even if, as later references in the episode suggest, this actually has to do with the way Miss Douce is wearing her hair).

The chips are off Simon’s thumbnail, the shreds tobacco, and there is yet more musing. As for “Mute” – apart from being something one puts in a trumpet to muffle the sound – the sense here is that Simon wants Miss Douce to respond (he actively desires to hear the siren’s song) and the ungrammatical and playful, but emphatic triple negative in the next line – “None nought said nothing” – is the outcome, rounded out with another, here ironic, “Yes”.

Though we took the tumblers which Miss Douce is gaily polishing to be flat-bottomed, these originally had convex bottoms, so that they couldn’t be set down until they’d been drained. Trilling – and the sense of tremulousness – goes with birdsong. The song in question, which will be recurring in many places in ‘Sirens’, is from Owen Hall’s popular musical comedy Floradora, first performed in 1899; we speculated on how Miss Douce would have known it (she certainly wouldn’t have had to attend a performance of the whole musical to hear the song recited in various places in Dublin) and noted its cheeriness as acting, in some respects, as a rebuff to Simon.

The ensuing question foxed us for a while, since the narrative seems set up to suggest this is Lenehan butting in; but we assured ourselves that the question is actually Simon’s (we’ve now encountered a number of these deliberately estranging moments in the episode – we compared them to the interpolations of ‘Wandering Rocks’ – and they haven’t all had obvious solutions). So it is actually round Simon that Lenehan is peering, but the idea that he is searching for someone (Boylan) leads to the confusion between the two possible speakers here.

Lenehan, whose views on Bloom the reader has already encountered in ‘Wandering Rocks’, gives way to Bloom – see also “Blew. Blue Bloom is on the” in the overture (11.6). Essex Bridge gave us the opportunity to think about Bloom’s location as he gets nearer to the Ormond, but also about the naming of bridges and streets: this bridge is named as Grattan Bridge in ‘Wandering Rocks’ (10.1204), with Lenehan upon it, but here it bears its pre-1872 name, named not for Elizabeth’s favourite in fact, but for a Lord Lieutenant of Ireland nonetheless. We discussed the concept of ‘official’ names – Derry/Londonderry as well as Sackville/O’Connell Street – and wondered about the tension between wordplay and political resonance: the latter cannot always be the priority, we concluded.

Then again, given it is the set-up for a gag that seems more in Lenehan’s line anyway – “Yes” and “Yessex” – perhaps the choice of the older name is not so odd. The pairing of ‘Yes’ and ‘sex’ leads the reader, if not Bloom, to Molly (when did Joyce decide on the final word of Ulysses?), whereas Bloom thinks of Martha instead. The word order is curious here – “To Martha I must write” – as if Bloom’s interior monologue is being orchestrated in some way.

The end of the paragraph may be more conventionally set up as Bloom’s, though the narrative is picking up on the connexion Lenehan made between the song and Bloom’s name in ‘Wandering Rocks’ (10.524) – rye is golden rather than blue, it should be noted. The “civil” girl in Daly’s is presumably business-like and so Bloom need not worry about her spreading gossip. We wondered whether “Old Bloom” might be a brand name of some sort.

That Mr Lidwell was “in at lunchtime” reminded us that this is the Ormond reopening; that lunch was some time ago. Lenehan is somewhat forward here as he comes forward – he offers no greeting, does not attempt to ingratiate himself. In the call and response which follows, Miss Douce responds accordingly: abruptly, formally, but not actually answering at all, merely passing the question on. We deduced that Miss Douce knows Lenehan and takes him for a bit of a chancer (he’s certainly not here to order a drink, and will wait for others to step forward in that respect).

The reference to “upstairs” makes us suddenly aware of a mysterious ‘elsewhere’ in the Ormond. That Douce addresses her friend as “Miss Kennedy” is another form of withholding and distancing, while Miss Kennedy is still out of sight, still on her break, and still, we assumed, on her crate. This constitutes another ‘elsewhere’, hidden from Lenehan’s view (and Simon’s? Did he know she was there? Miss Kennedy has been out of sight for some time). Only then do we get the “teacup poised” (a second cup of tea rather than a second cup) and the page (this is Miss Douce’s perspective, or Miss Kennedy’s own, all again withheld from Lenehan). We thought about the audible and the visible – Miss Kennedy’s “gaze” – and how this might relate to Stephen’s experiments at the opening of the ‘Proteus’ episode.

“No. He was not”: there is no mollifying here, though the response is not, we considered, quite as blunt as it might have been (‘No’). “Miss gaze” echoes “Miss voice” and plays upon the whole business of being heard and not seen (an inversion of the usual formula, as applied to children). Miss Kennedy’s concentration is unbroken throughout and we thought this a most elegant description of someone caught up in the act of reading (that what is being read is a copy of the Independent becomes clear further on). In spite of which, Lenehan is determined to intrude: around the end of the bar, he winds his body round – the body is round as seen through the sandwichbell, we assumed; Miss Kennedy’s perspective, then.

A sandwichbell is a glass cloche used to display sandwiches – it would more usually house cakes in this day and age. More discussion will ensue in January, when we will meet again on the 4th – hope to see you there.

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Seminar, 2 November – ‘Sirens’, 200-219

A pleasure to see a number of new faces at the seminar on the 2nd of November; alongside all the old faces, of course. A lively session ensued, during which we covered nineteen lines and discussed the following:

“Bronze whiteness” – an earlier draft offers some potentially useful explication here: “Comely virgins. That brings the rakes in. Her bronze whiteness.” The sense would be that Miss Douce is not tanned, then (as she might well not have been, sunbathing in Rostrevor as she was) and the “bronze” is here, as elsewhere, her hair, contrasting with her pale skin. On the other hand, the two words on their own suggest another reading: we know that the summer of 1904 was a warm one; there is evidence elsewhere that Miss Douce has caught the sun – might this be a tan line, where the bronze ends and the whiteness begins? The revision opens up the words to more than one reading, in a manner we’re having to adjust to as we go through this episode: not everything can be cracked.

Simon’s use of “naughty” can be related to the heightened register of which Douce makes such frequent use, but there is a priestly note here too, carried by the subsequent allusion to indulgence (though it is really Simon indulging himself, pressing her hand and imposing on her physically) and the reference to temptation (Miss Douce as Eve – and siren – although in the context of Rostrevor she may well have been genuinely cosmopolitan in the eyes of “simple males”). Simon treats Miss Douce as the naughty child, indulgently: we reminded ourselves at this point of the less indulgent way in which he treats his actual daughter in ‘Wandering Rocks’.

Another almost throwaway pentameter line follows. Reinforced by “satin”, the verb “douced” suggests a smooth and gentle retraction of the arm. An earlier version had “pulled” instead – the underlying intention is clear: Miss Douce has had enough of Simon pressing her hand. On one level, she is being playful, but there is something more direct as well, a change of register if one wishes to see it. (In the 1922 edition, “go away” is followed by a comma rather than an exclamation mark, which nudges the reader more one way than another, perhaps.)

The epithet “simple” might mean a number of different things: lacking in guile (and sexually innocent too); slow on the uptake (“simple in the cradle”); there is also the pennilessness of the Simple Simon of the song (‘Says the pieman to Simple Simon/Show me first your penny/Says Simple Simon to the pieman/Indeed I have not any’). The narrator’s ironic “He was” looks forward to Simon’s protestations, then, but perhaps also refers to this lack of money.

The word “doaty” is Anglo-Irish: the OED instances Shaw and Beckett alongside this very sentence from Ulysses, with a variety of spellings to boot; coming along after this, “made answer” is strangely formal. Alongside the proverbial nature of Miss Douce’s ensuing question, reference to a doctor may be an unconscious reminder of Simon’s age; this is also playing up the idea of alcohol as genuinely medicinal, a common conception/pretext as that was at the time.

We talked about the repetition of “mused” (this is not the last one, either) and the casual nature of Simon’s response, as though he’s not all that concerned about what he drinks and even whether he drinks (but, knowing what we know, he really does want a drink, no doubt). The inversion of the usual running order of whisky (we did note the spelling, but could make nothing of it) and water reminded us of the diversionary tactics of a teenager in an off-licence. The qualifications certainly take away any sense of desperation, but how long has it been since Simon’s last drink? And then a “Jingle” – of which only the rest of the chapter will make sense.

We acknowledged that the next line is dialogue, but noted also that it need not be. Alacrity was a word in much more common use at the time – in the sense of cheerful readiness – but it still feels in keeping with Miss Douce’s high register. It also reinforces Simon’s simplicity and it allows Miss Douce to get him ‘away’ in getting on with serving him (although the enthusiastic ‘agreed’ is simultaneously reinforcing and masking the professional nature of the relationship, as any good professional barworker would make sure was the case).

The two uses of “grace” follow naturally after indulgence; in Joyce’s writings, the association of the word with drinking (via Tom Kernan in Dubliners) we thought worth noting also. The mirror takes us back to lines 118-19, though only now are we told what the “gildedlettered” writing actually consists of. We then wondered who else Miss Douce might turn at this point – what function is the “herself” playing here?

We thought it would be relatively straightforward to take “crystal keg” as metaphorical here – a bottle of whiskey, in other words – but wondered whether Joyce might not intend something more literal, an artefact we nevertheless had difficulty visualising. And then, thanks to some astute searching, we actually found the very thing: a decanter shaped like a keg, with a tap to boot. Surely the thing itself.

The pouch and the pipe which Simon retrieves are delayed to the end of the sentence, so causing a little air of mystery. Nowhere is a pocket mentioned, so there are actually two pouches, one brought out from the other, provided by “the skirt of his coat”. We were forced to conclude that Simon is still dressed as he was for ‘Hades’, although no silk hat has yet been mentioned. How many sets of clothes does he have? Perhaps only slightly more than his eldest son, we assumed.

“Alacrity she served”: this we took to be not mere repetition but to refer to the actual moment of service, the point at which the glass goes down on the counter and is ready to be drunk from. Miss Douce is serving up to Simon her own alacrity – indeed, she is serving him this throughout, as she would serve the same to any valued patron – and thereby making him more alacritous too.

The sequence “blew”, “flue” and “two” gives us (three) rhymes, in imitation of the sound produced by Simon blowing through the flue of his pipe. Is this musicality functional – part of cleaning out the pipe – or playful? No reason it can’t be both, of course. With “husky fifenotes” both the dithyramb and Orange bands came up – though the sound seems perfectly exactly evoked.

“By Jove” is followed by yet another “mused”. The word is pointing towards music, as it is also placing Miss Douce in the role of muse. We took a look at the song ‘The Mountains of Mourne’ and its evocation of romantic, rural Ireland. But is Simon being sincere here – is this really a longstanding ambition – or is he merely seizing upon Miss Douce’s recent visit to Rostrevor and its proximity to these mountains, the perfect base from which to explore them (with the unstated, not to say unsayable implication that the two of them might take off there together at some point in the future, quitting the city like the singer and Mary in Percy French’s song of 1896)?

We left off at this point, to return to the Mourne Mountains in December.

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