*Change of Date* – April Seminar

I’ve had to move the April seminar forward a week, so that it is now a second March seminar, which will take place on Friday the 27th, usual time and usual room. The details have been updated on the IES website, but I thought best to circulate the news here as well. No, it does not clash with the Finnegans Wake seminar (I’ve checked), nor is it Good Friday (ditto).

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Seminar, 10 January – ‘Sirens’, 490-513

The start of a new decade – our fifth! – saw us make good progress: here follows a digest of matters noted, discussed, and resolved (or not).

Having been asked, Ben Dollard does indeed remember the events Cowley has just described. We thought “visage” a bit high, however it might be pronounced – ‘envisage’ might relate to remembering and wondering both – whereas “broad” indicates Dollard’s plumpness once more. We had a number of questions about this “other business” of Molly’s, few of them having definitive answers. How much space do the Blooms have for all these clothes in this house or these rooms in Holles Street? Where have the clothes come from? Were women more likely to be involved in this kind of business? Are any of the garments Molly’s own? We noted a mix here of genuinely fashionable attire – the operacloaks are “luxurious” – and what must be theatrical costume, though there is also a blurring of the distinction (a secondhand operacloak, no matter how luxurious, might end up with a member of the audience or on the stage).

As Ben wonders, Simon wanders back in a dilatory fashion. Holles Street runs off Merrion Square, which is associated with the Anglo-Irish and high society (the Wildes’ address, of course), the sort of place where ladies might own more than one balldress and debutantes would require suitable attire in which to attend court (scurrilous suggestions were made that these clothes might have made their way off these premisses in the hands of light-fingered servants, but Dollard is only attending to the style, of course). Bloom’s generosity is demonstrated again, though we noted that this is Molly’s business and wondered what she might have made of this refusal of payment.

Dollard’s “What?” (and other effusions) seemed a bit over the top to us. He references some more unequivocally theatrical items here: the cocked hat (though we wondered how many in the viceregal cavalcade might have been wearing these), the bolero (appropriate for the ‘Spanish’ Molly), and the trunkhose; all archaic, operatic, even pantomimic.

Simon’s “Ay, ay” might be sounded in a number of different ways, but is clearing space for the joke to come, which is something of an old chestnut, the wording of genuine advertisements for left-off (secondhand) clothing (if it were to be written down, as it is not, the hyphen would spoil the same joke, which really needs to be spoken aloud to work). His “Mrs Marion Bloom” repeats the affront to her husband of Boylan’s letter in ‘Calypso’, but it did occur to us that this is possibly the name under which Molly performs as well (which excuses Simon saying it, if not Boylan writing it).

We return to the jingle as the cab heads along the quays: the “bounding tyres” may relate to the bouncing of these across cobbles, though the first word relates to the bounder within as well, “sprawled” in his solitude, manspreading avant la lettre. With the next line, we weren’t sure if this was the food being ordered or the food arriving at Bloom and Goulding’s table  – we ended up leaning more towards the latter, Pat repeating the order as he arrives with it (and “Right, Pat” possibly the narrator then).

The next two lines repeat verbatim little bits from ‘Calypso’, all bar the “Mrs Marion” being the words of Molly herself (though she does not go all the way to “pike hoses” there, Bloom having supplied the phrase entire in ‘Lestrygonians’). We came down against considering this as interior monologue: Bloom cannot hear the conversation in the bar (a glance ahead confirms this); this is the narrator at play (but we did note how “Kock” echoed “cocked” and “hoses” “trunkhose”).

In the ensuing exchanges, we had difficulty working out who was saying what, since we couldn’t discount the idea that Cowley might be chipping in somewhere, but the opening question and the observation on buxomness is Dollard asking to be reminded, rather than informed, what Molly’s maiden name was. It is presumably Simon who supplies the answer. We eventually took “alive” (“And kicking”) less literally than we did at first sight: there were some sharp observations here about forms of exaggeration in Irish speech that can catch out non-Irish listeners, especially where it comes to blurring the distinction between life and death; we also recalled Molly Malone’s cockles and mussels, ‘alive, alive, oh’.

“Daughter of the regiment” translates the title of Donizetti’s La fille du régiment, while “the old drummajor” alludes to Offenbach’s adaptation of the same, La fille du tambour-major: Simon and Dollard are steeped in this musical culture. Molly is not daughter of the entire regiment (though we caught the insinuation: one woman, many men), nor was her father a Drum-Major (he was a Major in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers), though this continues the musical theme. Both men presumably knew Tweedy, or knew of him.

We admired the lighting of Simon’s pipe and the stress laid on sound here, especially “whizzed”, which we took to be capturing the noise of a match of the time (we don’t know for sure what kind of match this is, of course, but in 1904 none were obliged to conform to modern safety standards regarding use of various forms of phosphorus – thus a proper good whizz?). It also suggests the match being brought to the pipe swiftly.

[In the Gabler, there is no full stop after “after”, though there is in both the Little Review and the 1922 versions. Having subsequently consulted the synoptic edition, I’m afraid I’m none the wiser: this version, no full stop, falls under the heading of “authorial reading conjectured for the lost final working draft by the evidence of the typescript”, which is way beyond me in the absence of that typescript and the Rosenbach manuscript, also instanced (aR) at this point – though, from what I can see, supportive of the other version, i.e. the one with the full stop. A dropped full stop in a chapter where there aren’t many, if any, other dropped full stops is all I’m saying. Expert advice gratefully received. Should the next “Puff” really take a capital ‘P’ in this case?]

The next question – “Irish?”, presumably Dollard’s – seems to arrive out of thin air, in response to the actually unnamed ‘Tweedy’: if something has been omitted here, it might relate to Simon’s distracted state as he concentrates on his pipe (he seems to catch on to it quite slowly when he does respond). With the discussion of the same question in relation to Bloom in ‘Cyclops’ in mind, we wondered what ‘Irish’ might mean exactly here (we tried not to make too much of “faith” and rightly so), given Gibraltar below and various references elsewhere to Molly’s Spanish looks.

A “stiff” intake of breath here, but also the stiffening of the wad of tobacco in the bowl of the pipe, the two being parts of the same attempt to get this little fire started (a tricky operation not much practised any more, at least in public, let alone in hotel bars). As Stephen tells us in A Portrait, Simon has been a medical student at some point, but “Buccinator” is quite the mouthful; the word derives, delightfully, from the Latin buccinare, ‘to blow the crooked trumpet’ according to the OED. Is he still cavilling at the prospect of singing: “bit rusty” – or is this referring to his memory? ‘My Irish Molly O’ was a popular ballad of the time, though there is some suggestion that it was American in origin, which would complicate all this affirming of Irishness: we thought here also of the description of Simon in ‘Eumaeus’ as “Irish […] All Irish […] All too Irish” (16.382-84).

We overran; and still didn’t quite get to the natural break that arrives with the pining sirens at line 516. Dutiful to the last, we will resume at line 514 in February, “He puffed a pungent, plumy blast.”

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Seminar, 6 December – ‘Sirens’, 453-489

Our December seminar was another packed and pointed affair, at odds with the underpopulated bar we were considering.

Miss Kennedy here returns from dealing with the teatray; Pat, still bothered, is wanting the drinks for Goulding and Bloom not only in the sense of asking for them, but in that of lacking them too. Miss Douce has returned to the window (where she was found at the start of the chapter) to watch Boylan departing. The doubleness of “watched” – created by the comma which precedes it, which we were intrigued to find is missing from 1922 edition – was discussed at length. Who might be watching her? Boylan, as he leaves? Has this something to do with her reflection in the window?

The “Jingle” we know, but the “tinkle” is new (the only use of the word in ‘Sirens’): made by the glasses, perhaps by the piano? The “jing” which Bloom then hears is less than a full sound (it is a word in its own right, though archaic in 1904), but real – “He’s off” – where it is from this point on (and at many points previously) an imagined or displaced sound. The real display of emotion – “Light sob of breath” – is unusual and we considered some of the previous play with Bloom’s name: “Bloowho” (86) for boohoo and “ryebloom” (390) in relation to the “bluehued flowers”.

Love and War” is a duet, Simon offering to sing with Dollard, as in “old times” perhaps (though the parts in the song are for a soldier and his lover). Miss Douce is putting a brave face on things, “unregarded”, also positioned between two commas, linking back to “watched” (and also to ‘blind’ in “crossblind”), giving a sense of her diminishment, until we reach “smitten by sunlight”. This was discussed at some length, lovely as it is: has the carriage previously been blocking this light, it smiting her as Boylan’s driver pulls away? So too was the presence of Miss Douce’s thoughts and even, in “Gone”, possibly interior monologue, in what follows, but we found it difficult to be precise: of the three pieces in parenthesis, the middle one – “the smiting light” – is hard to see as coming from Miss Douce herself, whereas the last, with its “quick” for quickly and the concern that she may have been too vulgar, clearly does.

The remainder of the paragraph is no less striking, as Miss Douce lowers the blind and the smiting light is transformed into “slow cool dim seagreen sliding depth of shadow”. We thought this might well be looking back to ‘Proteus’ (the sense of drowning relates to Gifford’s notion of the relevance of the failed siren Parthenope who drowns herself) and ‘seagreen’ to the “snotgreen” sea of ‘Telemachus’. There are other references backwards: “sister gold” to “sister bronze” (347), the “exquisite contrast” of colour Miss Kennedy noted (68) become an “inexquisite contrast” between Pat and Miss Kennedy, a full head of hair and its opposite (‘inexquisite’ is Joyce’s coinage according to the OED; it doesn’t have “nonexquisite” so that must be too). We considered also how all these colours, the bathetic “eau de Nil” (465), might relate to Miss Douce’s sun-smitten sight, adjusting slowly to this seachange.

Bloom thought about Professor Goodwin in ‘Calypso’ and again in ‘Lestrygonians’, establishing that he was indeed old and a “sot” (8.189). (The real Goodwin, a professor of music, died in 1892; John Joyce and Christopher Dollard both performed at two concerts where he was conductor in 1880, though neither appears to be the occasion being referred to here.) The difference of opinion with the “Collard grand” (piano) is not explained, but the “There was” issued by the narrator summons up a sense of consensus and of bonhomie as well.

Simon is employing “symposium” in the original sense of a drinking party. The word “crochety” contains the kind of play on musical terminology that so abounds in the chapter that we occasionally lose sight of it. We wondered if the “primary stage of drink” is simply referring to a level of drunkenness, or is outlining the downward trajectory of a heavy drinker.

“Ben bulky Dollard”: we almost found the bulkiness too much by this point (after all the plump jolliness last time), though here it allowed us to draw in the Irish word for mountain, another way of indicating Dollard’s size. His plumping it is that has been punishing the keyboard. As with ‘jing’, so with “Japers”: this too is a word, but here one of the many ways recorded in Ulysses of avoiding taking names in vain; “wedding garment” is scriptural too (Matthew 22.11-12), suggestive of a kind of schoolboy naughtiness.

The laughter we took it to be what is causing the shortening of the phrases here, though there is some musical forming going on as well, appropriately enough for something performed by a “trio”. “Our friend Bloom” would be a funny way of referring to someone actually considered a friend and we thought there was a trace of antisemitic distancing and objectification in “handy” too. Simon set down his “lost chord pipe” at line 259. We noted the pairing of “Richie and Poldy”, the latter very intimate (everyone calls Goulding Richie, but only Molly refers to her husband as Poldy).

Cowley has cheered up a great deal at this stage. Opinions differed as to whether “averred” was a rather high, even legalistic, word for the narrator to use at this point, though we were in closer agreement about the transference of brilliance from Bloom – he and Molly it was who actually saved the day – to Cowley. More usually red, Cowley’s ears are now “purply”; more foreshortening, reflective of laughter, follows (“Tight trou” might be a tight spot as well, though, remembering the French word for ‘hole’).

Bloom it is who was “on the rocks”, appropriately enough for ‘Sirens’. We discussed the coffee palace (attached to the Dublin Temperance Institute) in relation to the better known gin palace (good reason to think customers at the former might not be such generous tippers as those attending the latter); “the other business” makes it sound seedy, but both men know what that business was (hiring out theatrical garb). Neither the person who gave Cowley “the wheeze”, nor “the chap in Keogh’s” who provided the Blooms’ address comes to mind here.

[Some post-seminar discussion focussed on the reference to ‘in Keogh’s’, Eleni having found a family of Keoghs living on Holles Street in the 1901 census, myself finding via Thom’s Directory a Keogh’s family grocer a ten minute walk away, and Joe suggesting that Joyce might have meant Kehoe’s pub – further away from Holles Street but much more conceivable as a point of reference Cowley expects Dollard to recognise immediately – but nothing was established with any certainty. He may have made it up? If anyone has a better theory, do let us know.]

We will reconvene on Friday the 10th of January at line 490, “Ben remembered, his broad visage wondering.” A Jolly Christmas and a Bulky New Year to all.

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Seminar, 8 November – ‘Sirens’, 424-452

At our rescheduled November seminar, we made good progress, waving off Blazes Boylan and Lenehan both.

Another Yes, and then an echo and inversion of the much-deployed ‘afar’ in the form of “anearby”: Miss Douce relative to her image in the mirror as she moves away? It seems unlikely that it is the last line of ‘Goodbye. Sweetheart, Goodbye’ that has prompted Boylan to decide: “I’m off” and we discussed the impatience with which he is boiling. “He slid his chalice brisk away” returned us to the Arthurian note again (though – some post-seminar digging here – neither ‘chalice’ nor ‘brisk’ does appear in Malory) and we noted the doubleness of “grasping”: greed and speed.

The “shake” is proverbially that of a lamb’s tail, but it does have musical meaning as well, as another word for ‘trill’. Lenehan promised he would sound out Boylan about Tom Rochford’s invention in ‘Wandering Rocks’; Rochford’s reply being played on here: “Tell him I’m Boylan with impatience” (10.484-86). Telling someone to go to blazes is the more usual form, and the sentence includes both come and go, as well as the two ‘blazes’. We wondered whether Boylan’s fondness for this term might be the source of his nickname: in ‘Penelope’ Molly has him “swearing blazes” and describing the day as “hot as blazes” (18.424, 951).

We thought there was something rather cringing about the “gulped”, though Lenehan is not likely just to leave his drink unfinished either. With Miss Douce’s own going away, Lenehan feels free to lower the tone (and then some), adopting a more masculine register in her absence. We thought it interesting that he has to ask “Got the horn or what?” – and so does not know where Boylan is off to? – since this might not be figurative (it’s hardly a euphemism at all) if Boylan had been visibly aroused by ‘sonnez la cloche’. Waiting and coming and going are performing a dance all of their own here.

Lenehan is following Boylan’s new shoes rather than Boylan: we considered the body being broken down into parts again, and noted that such parts are often those which relate to noise. Lenehan’s nimbleness here is worth comparing with his encounter with Bloom in ‘Aeolus’ (7.415-20). On the threshhold, Lenehan observes the proper form, but the bulky and slender figures are also ‘forms’ perhaps because they are silhouetted against the light outside.

Lenehan’s full salute is answered in abbreviated form by Ben Dollard, the opening “Eh?” registering his surprise at being saluted at all, perhaps: “vague” in respect of Lenehan, worth only an “instant”. The details of Father Cowley’s woe are recorded in ‘Wandering Rocks’; while Alf Bergan is yet to appear (though Bloom has thought about him, in relation to the card sent to Denis Breen, but not as an intimate of Long John Fanning). As for “barleystraw” the OED has this as meaning ‘a trifle’, but we assumed it was more of an irritant here, a more literal straw to poke in someone’s ear, that someone being the figure of Judas, the default focalising device for antisemitism.

“Sighing”, Simon may have been moved by his rendition of the song and the “finger soothing an eyelid” may then be disguising the fact. It is not clear when exactly Dollard spots him, his words following on directly from what he was saying to Cowley, attempting to jolly him up. For all that ‘yodel’ is a loan word from German, it was often spelled ‘yodle’ during the 19th century; and “jollily”, a kind of trill, is rather yodel/yodle-like itself. A request for a “ditty” continues this idea of perhaps rather forced jollity.

In Irish English, “bothered” carries the sense of being deafened by noise, which is appropriate to the chapter, but we thought Pat might also be bothered in the more usual sense. Goulding asks for a particular brand of whiskey, where Simon, earlier, could not afford to be so choosy. We read these lines by the light of Nosey Flynn’s observation in ‘Lestrygonians’ (8.978-81) that whenever Bloom is asked what he wants to drink, he checks his watch. There is perhaps, then, a doubleness to “Let me see” (as there wouldn’t be to ‘let me think’, which is what Bloom surely means) and to “Four now” as well (a mental tick, the most resonant time in the book, but also the actual time verified by looking at his watch). Bloom is caught between not wanting to be rushed and kindness to Pat and his corns (detectable from the way he is walking, we assumed).

The “nerves”, then, are presumably a consequence of the time and its significance. Bloom has asked this question about whether the black clothes refract heat before (in ‘Calypso’, 4.80, in the same terms) and it is presumably serving as a distraction. Unlike Goulding, Bloom does not ask for a particular variety of his chosen drink, so we weren’t able to chase too far the suspicion that commercially produced cider might most likely be English at this point.

The word “vamping” has many meanings, but one of those is indeed improvising musically. Dollard’s “Come on, come on” may be issued to Simon and Cowley both in this way and “Begone dull care” is both proverb and title of a traditional, uplifting ballad. We noted the odd placing of “ambled” in the next sentence and how it seems to place “Dollard” in the position of an adverb missing its ‘ly’. The “bulky slops” are Dollard’s trousers – “hold that fellow with the: hold him now” is reworking the reference to the same trousers in ‘Wandering Rocks’ (10.905-6) – though the word ‘slops’ has other significance in the setting of the bar.

We also discussed how Ben Dollard’s plumpness and his jolliness are working a rather stereotypical association between the two. His “gouty paws” might be swollen as a result of actual gout, although it then seems unlikely that he would be playing the piano (albeit we also wondered about the action of ‘plumping’): ‘gouty’ might be more figurative in this case. We finished by noting that “abrupt” is yet another thwarted adverb.

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Friday Seminar (6 Dec)

The blog for November will appear eventually, but since it hasn’t yet: a reminder for Friday that we will be beginning at line 453 of ‘Sirens’: “Bald Pat in the doorway met tealess gold returning.” Hope to see you there.

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Seminar, 11 October – ‘Sirens’, 398-423

A new academic year and onwards with ‘Sirens’. On the 11th of October, the seminar reconvened once more and made the following progress, beginning at line 398:

For all the play on bronze and Douce, this is the only appearance of “Bronzedouce” in the episode, or indeed the book. We discussed “communing” and noted the punning on the double meaning of “rose”, but played with the grammatical ambiguity this sentence might just about permit: that the rose itself might be seeking Boylan’s flower (of the same colour, the two mirroring each other).

Lenehan’s wheedling pleading, his two pleases seeking a yes (or a double yes), contrasts with the “returning phrases of avowal” from ‘Goodbye, Sweetheart, Goodbye’, as it also does with Miss Douce’s “Afterwits”. Although it prompted some discussion and the OED had been checked, we couldn’t quite see what to make of this word. When Stephen uses it (9.1137), it is in the precise sense of something realised afterwards that would have been apropos at the time, but that hardly fits here. Is Miss Douce simply playing with the word ‘afterwards’ so as to soften the blow of her immediate refusal?

Maybe she’s being too soft, given Lenehan’s undiminished urgency. His “do” abbreviates Douce as the narrator’s “Kenn” will Kennedy shortly after (a need for speed – “Quick” – here): Miss Kennedy being out of earshot speaks to her refinement, but suggests she will know what’s occurring merely by hearing the ‘smack’. She has heard it before? If Lenehan and Boylan are “no-one”, who else has been present previously as like no-ones when Miss Douce has ‘rung the bell’? (Boylan has not experienced it before: “He never heard” at line 395.)

We noted the double meaning of “Sudden bent” (yielding to her own inclination and also, by physically bending, to theirs). The “kindling faces” watch her: a check on the OED suggested the word ‘kindling’ is even nicer than it first appears here, with the suggestion of warmth, but also the intimation of arousal and eagerness. We wondered whether she really needs to bend, but thought this might be in the interests of concealing herself behind the bar; a somewhat exaggerated movement nonetheless (she can reach the top of her stockings without going all the way to bending).

‘The Lost Chord’ is a song of 1877 composed by Arthur Sullivan, no less. We were reminded that Simon isn’t exactly performing here, but rather testing the piano: this line captures that sense of rehearsal and experiment. We initially wondered why Lenehan needs to keep insisting, when Miss Douce is now committed, reaching for “a peak of skirt”; but the mounting tension being created – “Delayed”, “taunted”, “wilful” – shows up the dynamic between this performer and her audience. We also learnt that “suspending” might apply to the music as well, suspension referring to an additional note being introduced into a chord before it is resolved.

The bald “Smack” – a word then associated with disciplining children (see the interaction between Simon and Miss Douce earlier) – contrasts with the sensual evocation of the smack itself in the following sentence. Alongside the sound of the smack, all of what is happening is concealed from view, of course, and the warmth and the thigh are both inferred and imagined. Other than by Miss Douce herself, but the imagination at work in this fragmentation and objectification of her body – we were reminded of Bloom’s thoughts about the nextdoor girl in ‘Calypso’ (4.148-51) – does not seem to be her own.

Is Lenehan really identifying himself as Miss Douce’s “owner” in considering how she has been “trained”? He’s undoubtedly likening her to a racehorse – vulgar indeed. We eventually riddled out that “sawdust”, much cheaper bedding than straw, is what does not fly up from the better sort of horse when, in another act of smacking, the crop is applied.

The “smilesmirked” seems to leave it open as to whether Miss Douce’s superciliousness punctures the mood or not. The “aren’t men?” points us back to line 79: “frightful idiots”. Miss Douce’s “lightward gliding”, aside from the summoned picture of her moving gracefully behind the bar with her legs hidden from view, suggests a movement away from the dark and the hidden and the act she’s just performed. We noted also the rhyme of “mild” and “smiled”: is Boylan or Lenehan “the essence of vulgarity” here?

In like manner, “eyed, eyed” might be Boylan looking at Miss Douce, but it might equally be she eyeing him (we remembered “your other eye” at line 148). It also suggests a double ‘aye’ (or a double yes; see above) in response to Miss Douce’s statement. The image of Boylan drinking his sloe gin from a tiny chalice is comical, though ‘toss’ did carry a sexual connotation even then: we discussed the function of the chalice in the Mass (and in ‘The Sisters’) but noted its relation to the Arthurian note we detected some sessions back, when Boylan was ordering the drinks.

We thought of Homer’s sirens in considering Boylan as “spellbound” and the union of drinking and eyeing was noted too: the play with eyes and mirrors (and the mirrored top of the bar as well) as Miss Douce withdraws and becomes one among all the other trappings, the glasses, the shell, all “concerted”.

To be blunt, we ran out of time, and may not have said all that might have been said about the last couple of lines. We can make sure we haven’t missed much next time, but a nominal start, perhaps, at line 424: “Yes, bronze from anearby.” Next time has now been confirmed as November the 8th (the IES listing has been updated) – hope to see you then.

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Change of Date – November Seminar

I’ll be posting the blog from our first seminar of the new academic year as soon as I can, but this is to let you know that our next seminar will take place, not on November the 1st, but on November the 8th instead. I’m waiting to hear back from the IES about a room.

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