On Friday 12 October, we began at 11.183 (‘You horrid thing‘) and read 17 lines.
- The exchange between Misses Douce and Kennedy, which centres around the comment ‘you horrid thing’, is more complex than it first seems. ‘Horrid’ appears to have a peculiarly English inflection, which made us wonder how it came into their vocabulary: through music hall song? Does it recall a comic opera stage direction? The tone of Miss Kennedy’s remark is one of mock-protestation rather than genuine rebuke, but perhaps the tone of ‘horrid’ changes a little when it is repeated; what the repetition in brackets does do well, though, is indicate the simultaneity of the episode.
- What, precisely, is the distinction between a ‘flush’ and a ‘blush’? Characters do both throughout the novel, and we traced some of the similar instances of these words, especially in ‘Nausicaa’. Is there a distinction to draw between between emotional and intellectual responses to the situation? While there are blushes and flushes throughout Joyce’s work, it is rare that we see a flush recede, as here (‘flushed less, still less’).
- Just at the point when we think we’ve got the colours of their hair clarified, Joyce sets down another puzzle. Does ‘more goldenly’ mean ‘more like herself’ (but we know so little of either of them, really) or is the light in some way accentuating the colour of her hair against her skin? Does this mean she’s moved and her relationship with the light in the space is different?
- We spotted a Gabler oversight at the last session, in an inconsistent spelling of ‘greaseabloom’. In this session, we again discussed this inconsistency, and noted that the second instance is capitalised in both cases. Another name, Ceppi, is also worth commenting on: Ceppi is not Italian, as one might assume, but Swiss. The family had been in Dublin since the nineteenth century and sold picture frames, looking glasses and statues: with this information, the phrase ‘bright of their oils’ takes on a range of possible meanings. Is Joyce setting us a reader trap, or is he himself unsure of the details?
- From Ceppi to Nannetti to Bloom. ‘Wheedling’ isn’t the most positive term, and, recognising that he too is without an office, Bloom’s thoughts appear to be going somewhere he doesn’t want them to. ‘Doors’ might be religious as well as secular; the gist of Bloom’s thinking on religion, then, is that it pays.
- Then follows a series of seventeen monosyllabic words, notable also for including five iambic pentameter constructions. We sensed here a touch of the recitative opera and thought for a while about Joyce’s (and Bloom’s) familiarity with this form, and its relevance to this episode particularly. Again, Bloom appears to stop himself from thinking unwanted thoughts: what does he want? What is the unspoken thought between ‘I want’ and ‘not yet’? ‘Want’ here may of course suggest ‘lack’ rather than ‘desire’. This section invited us to consider the plotting of Ulysses as a whole and to this end we discussed Peter Kuch’s recently published Irish Divorce/Joyce’s Ulysses (a review by the Irish Times here), in which he suggests that Bloom allows the affair to happen – to drag on, even (‘not yet … not yet’) – so that he has reason to divorce Molly. In an extremely uncharacteristic moment for the Charles Peake group, we spent some time away from the line in question and pondered various aspects of the divorce process in Ireland in Joyce’s time. At this point, it is worth noting that all this Bloom material was added in a later draft: he interrupts the sirens.
- What is the significance of The Clarence and/or The Dolphin? Why doesn’t Joyce make Bloom think about the Ormond in this moment? We discussed the distinctions between pubs and hotels, between wet and dry institutions, and the corresponding social hierarchies therein.
- In strolls Simon Dedalus! We compared his rocky thumbnails with Bloom’s attention to his own nails in ‘Hades’ (when he and Simon share the ride in the funeral carriage and see Boylan out the window). He flirts with Miss Douce, apparently harmlessly, though he holds on to her hand for an uncomfortably long time until she pulls it away. The seminar ended with a discussion of the significance of Rostrevor as a location to take a holiday. Some wondered if it really is the kind of place to take a vacation; others read this word as a gloss for ‘free time spent with family, hardly unusual for a single woman’. We noticed the shell she brings back, which made us wonder where exactly in Rostrevor she’s been, and which reinforces the presence of the Homeric sirens. We discussed whether she had indeed been on the coast and might, therefore, be considered a ‘seaside girl’ in the manner of Gerty. This brief mention of a shell, then, arguably does some heavy lifting in painting a picture of Miss Douce as an attractive and desirable woman, showing her flesh to ‘poor simple males’.
Is it really sunny enough to get a suntan in Rostrevor? We wonder, and hope to find out at our next session. We start again on 02 November at line 200 (‘bronze whiteness’).