Seminar, 6 June 2014 – ‘Aeolus’ 124-160

On the 6th of June, in what was a very well-attended session (I think we just avoided running out of chairs), the seminar discussed lines 124 to 160 of Chapter 7, ‘Aeolus’. This was tantalisingly close to representing an entire page of the Gabler edition, bearing further witness to our new-found and surprising turn of speed.

  • Keyes “wants it in for July”: we wondered if this was implying a delay, but concluded that it was more probably a plea for urgency. Nannetti’s pencil approaches but does not arrive, as Bloom goes on to explain the changes Keyes wants made. We looked at copies of the 1896 James Cassidy advertisement from the Evening Telegraph – a known source for the fictional advert here – which also features crossed keys. We discussed the connexion to St Peter.
  • The “racket” made by the machines was originally a ‘row’, one to which Nannetti is inured. “Nannan” appears to be a contemporary nickname for Nannetti, as can be seen by Joe Hynes’s use of it in ‘Cyclops’ (12.825, 857). We took “Nannan” to be hibernicising Nannetti and noted that Bloom has no such nickname. Nannetti’s “Iron nerves” reminded some of us of “Iron nails ran in” (5.374).
  • “Maybe he understands what I”: Nannetti turns “round to hear patiently” but still remains silent. His scratching, if not quite disdainful, still indicates that Bloom is not someone he is unduly worried about impressing. With which arm does he scratch? This is not cleared up when he moves on to his “lower ribs” at lines 147 to 148, nor what is involved in scratching “quietly”.
  • Nannetti’s “alpaca jacket” was a fashionable item in 1904 and he must here have his reasons for continuing to wear it inside in June. Bradford was a major centre of production and the jacket may well be of English provenance; it is certainly, we thought, a little fancy for someone with the Councillor’s professed political views.
  • Bloom “crossing his forefingers at the top” suggested to us that, unlike in the Cassidy ad, the loops of the keys would appear at the bottom. “Let him take that in first”: is there really so much to take in here? Nannetti’s taciturnity seems to be inviting Bloom to overreach himself. The position of the two men in relation to each other, as Bloom glances “sideways up”, remains confusing.
  • There is something very intimate about Bloom regarding Nannetti’s “sallow face” (sickly or brownish yellow) and offering up his diagnosis of “a touch of jaundice” (the interior monologue dropped into the middle of this sentence is unusual as well). Jaundice would have been a lot more common then than now, but when Nannetti appears in his “dark alpaca” in ‘Circe’ he is “yellowkitefaced” (15.3386) and there are “jaundiced politicians” in ‘Oxen’ also (14.1290). We briefly considered the deployment of signs and symptoms of poor health more generally in Ulysses.
  • The reels are obedient to the presses, “feeding in huge webs of paper,” giving rise to the idea of digestion and making reeling and unreeling relate to weaving and unweaving. “Clank it” struck us as very odd.
  • “What becomes of it after?” is a country bumpkin’s query the answer to which skips over entirely the use of ‘it’ as a newspaper. We recalled the sheets (“wrap up meat”) which Bloom examines at Dlugacz’s and the use he himself makes, given the idea of digestion here, of Titbits at the end of ‘Calypso’. Characteristically, Bloom slips easily into considering how to advertise the versatility of such paper: “various uses, thousand and one things.”
  • The following sentence has Bloom as both deft and swift, casting him in heroic mode, though he is also in a position of subservience here, presumably bent over Nannetti’s desk and drawing on the woodwork with his finger.
  • “KEY(E)S”: the headline is the textual equivalent of a nudge in the ribs, deliberately labouring the joke (geddit?) so as to highlight the final obviousness of the play on words – for all Bloom’s evident enthusiasm, just how fine or how original a piece of advertising is this going to be?
  • We noted the oddness of having tea placed at the same level of importance as wine and spirits. There was a contemporary school of thought which held that drinking tea could lead to ill health, or even lunacy, especially when the tea had been allowed to stew and become too strong, allegedly an Irish foible.
  • “Better not teach him his own business”: what exactly is Nannetti’s ‘business’ here? We wondered what role, if any, the foreman would have actually had in commissioning and approving advertising, for all that this is clearly what he is doing here.
  • We discussed the use of lead in separating lines of print, but had difficulty visualising Bloom’s “leaded” text here. It is possible that, in the silence left by Nannetti, Bloom is attempting to draw the other man in by taking up the language of printing, without, however, being entirely in command of it.
  • The House of Keys is actually the lower chamber of the Tynwald, the Isle of Man’s ancient parliament. A Crown Dependency, the Isle of Man certainly did feature in contemporary discussions of Home Rule, although it is worth remembering that it still had a Lieutenant Governor, tasked with granting or withholding the assent of the Crown. We felt that Bloom was forcing a subtext on to the keys here: his notion that tourists might come from the Isle of Man (impoverished and depopulated tourist destination) all the way to Dublin (second city of Empire) in order to purchase tea is clearly grasping at straws.
  • Bloom has wondered about the pronunciation of “voglio” on more than one occasion since first raising the question in ‘Calypso’ (we thought it probable that Molly knows full well how it should be sung and that it is Bloom who is slightly at a loss). Bloom’s sensitivity leads him to want to avoid making Nannetti feel awkward, but there is something very funny in his concern that the son of an Italian sculptor might not know how to say the word. As it is, written down, we are able to tell very little about Bloom’s ideas of how it should and should not sound, so denying us a kind of precision for which Ulysses more generally encourages the reader to strive.
  • Nannetti finally speaks, saying “We can do that” twice. That the design Bloom has in mind has already appeared in a Kilkenny paper confirms that creativity is not playing much of a role here. We also wondered how Bloom intends to secure the design from the National Library, which hardly encouraged readers to cut things out of its papers. Bloom will not be running out to Keyes’s house in Kilkenny, but only to the telephone.
  • A “par” (an editorial puff) was Murray’s suggestion at lines 34 to 35 and Bloom acts on it here. Bloom is still gabbling somewhat, filling in the silences left by Nannetti’s taciturnity, the two men’s tactics in negotiation contrasting with each other. “Highclass licensed premises” and “Longfelt want” suggest the formulaic nature of such ‘par’s: “So on.” We concluded that we needed to know rather more about licensing laws in 1904, although the matter had undoubtedly gone unresearched simply because no one had anticipated we might get as far as line 157.

The seminar will resume at line 161: “A typesetter brought him a limp galleypage.” Finally, we had difficulty recalling the name for the looped bit at that end of a key which one holds in order to turn it. I really ought to have remembered that, as so often, the answer is right there in Ulysses itself, in this case in ‘Ithaca’, just before Stephen’s departure. This part of a key is called the bow (17.1216).

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3 Responses to Seminar, 6 June 2014 – ‘Aeolus’ 124-160

  1. Aki says:

    Supermen and Superwomen,

    Just wondering if “our new-found and surprising turn of speed” actually reversed time and we went back to “April”, as the heading suggests. If so, would it now be possible to spend a day in June 1904 for research purposes?

    A.T.

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