Archive for the ‘irish literature’ Category

on Ulysses & omnitemporality

March 23, 2007

Rebecca is considering the meaning of the word omnitemporal. She is wondering if omnitemporal means “in all times at the same time” and “time [is] a succession of moments, how can something be in all of a succession at one point in the succession?” It is a good question. I think perhaps Ulysses has the answer. Actually, I don’t think it does at all but it reminded me of an essay I wrote a couple of years back on aesthetics and the transcendence of time through art and it made me think, since, as Rebecca Writes, everything’s coming up Irish, I guess omnitemporality must come up Irish this month too. So, by way of killing two birds with one stone, here is an excerpt from an essay I wrote which I am now using to express my take on omnitemporality in Irish literature. It’s a longbow, I know.


“The Homeric parallels, and in fact all mythic parallels in Ulysses, contribute to the aesthetics of the text in which a continuum is created enabling the past, present and future to continually influence each other. The effect adheres to the aesthetic theory T.S.Eliot deems essential to the creation of an immortal work which is not static but constantly changing in relation to past, present and future works of art.[1] In this way, Ulysses has relevance to society at all times in history: it is universal and immortal: it is art…

“…Homeric parallels and symbolism in the Cyclops episode enable Joyce to depict the action occurring in Barney Kiernan’s pub on 16th June, 1904, while simultaneously transcending this temporality to make references to future events in Ireland, namely the Easter Uprising of 1916. The action is simultaneously reflective of the past, present and the future; however, the representation and achievement of such is anything but simple. Consider the Homeric parallels within this episode: The characterisation reveals the first, perhaps most obvious, parallel, for on entering Kiernan’s pub, the reader is confronted with the grotesque gargantuan form of the citizen.[1] The citizen parallels the giant one-eyed Cyclops of the Odyssey; yet he is also representative of a Nationalist Irish consciousness and the historical figure of Michael Cusack, founder of the Gaelic Athletic Association.[2] Into the cave of the one-eyed giant walks Bloom, Joyce’s Odysseus, and without delay he finds himself in conflict with violent one-eyed nationalism as embodied by the citizen. The image is powerful and the complexity profound; for in such a seemingly simple allusion Joyce represents ancient, contemporary, and recent historical eras in simultaneity. We must observe that the parallels between the Odyssey and Ulysses are not literal. Bloom is not heroic in the same manner as Odysseus: he does not slay his aggressor; he is not even proficient with a red hot poker;[3] yet Bloom, like Odysseus, escapes the savagery of the Cyclops. The futility and barbarity of the Nationalist ethos is revealed as the grotesque citizen espouses violence as a remedy and defence against English imperialism.

While the mythic parallels are part of Joyce’s aesthetic technique, they also serve to further meaning through allusions to ancient and contemporary myths. Time and space are transcended as the ancient and the modern converge in moments located within the experience of the characters on June 16, 1904. In these moments, the mythic and the modern reciprocally comment upon and interrogate each other through allusion, symbolism, paradox and parody. For example, the Jacob’s biscuit tin in the Cyclops episode, is a symbol, which when placed in the hands of the citizen – who is simultaneously Irish Nationalist consciousness, Michael Cusack, a plethora of Irish heroes,[4] and the Cyclops – gains greater significance than is first evident; for it symbolises the Jacob’s biscuit factory in which insurgents in the Easter Uprising of 1916 barricaded themselves in rebellion against the English and their occupation of Ireland. The climax of the episode in which the citizen hurls the biscuit tin at Bloom contains many references drawn from myth which shape and bring significance to past, present and future events. Firstly, the action mirrors that of the Cyclops in the Odyssey who throws a rock at Odysseus as he escapes the island. Secondly, the action reflects Michael Cusack’s skill as a hurler,[5] his desire to revive hurling as a national sport,[6] and the association of sport with warfare[7] which is also addressed earlier in the episode.[8] Cusack also drew upon mythology and mysticism in the founding of the Gaelic Athletic Association when he sought to re-establish hurling as a notional sport.[9] Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, the action reflects the association between the Jacob’s biscuit factory, the Gaelic Athletic Association’s Fenian ties,[10] and the violence of the Easter Uprising. It is all three of these allusions together which contribute to the meaning derived from the Cyclops episode. Further, the meaning is derived from many myths – ancient Homeric myth in the Odyssey; contemporary cultural myth surrounding national figures such as Cusack; and ancient Irish myths – which though spanning many eras, blend in a contemporary moment situated on the 16th June, 1904. When we are aware of these multiple allusions, it is impossible to read the episode as being representative of one particular moment in time. The representation clearly scrutinises the events of the Easter Uprising of 1916 by associating them with the barbaric brutality of the Cyclops in the Odyssey. As the events of the Easter Uprising have not yet occurred in the Dublin of Ulysses in 1904, Joyce’s representation of Bloom’s interaction with the citizen is at once prophetic and reflective. Joyce has effectively used myth to transcend time and space and manipulates “a continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity”[11] in which the meaning derived from allusions to myth in Ulysses transcend the time of the events represented and produce a relevance to the past, present and the future.”

Mellifluous, M., (UNSW, ©2005)

Clearly Ulysses is omnitemporal.

If you have a clearer example of omnitemporality why not go and join the discussion at Rebecca’s blog. I’m sure she’d appreciate it.

[1] Eliot writes “ No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean as a principle of aesthetic, not merely historical, criticism. The necessity that he shall conform, that he shall cohere is not onesided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new. Whoever has approved this idea of order, of the form of European, of English literature will not find it preposterous that the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past.” ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent,’ in The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, Vincent B., Leitch (Gen. Ed.) New York: W.W.Norton & Co., 2001,p1093

[1]Joyce, Ulysses, p284

[2] Notes on Uysses in Ulysses, 281.33, p885

[3] Joyce, Ulysses, p318

[4] As signified by the images of the heroic, and not so heroic, Irish and not so Irish, characters on his belt. Joyce, Ulysses, p284-285

[5] Mandel, W.F., ‘To Test the Pulse of a Nation,’ The Gaelic Athletic Association & Irish Nationalist Politics 1884-1924, Dublin: Gill & MacMillian, 1987, p1

[6] Ibid

[7] Hurling “was an aristocratic, even royal, game, always associated with violence and death.” Ibid, p15

[8] Joyce, Ulysses, p305

[9] “’In my dreams,’[Cusack] later wrote, ‘I was living with the men of Erin of pre-Christian times. Inspirit I hunted and fished with Fionn’s invincible hosts from Antrim to Kerry. I hurled with Fenians of sixteen centuries ago from Tara to Killarney. Iresolved to bring back the hurling.’” Mandel, p2;

“The boy Setana became Cuchulain by driving a hurling ball into the mouth of Culann’s monstrous hound and killing it.” Mandel, p16;

“Many traditionalist argue that the origins of the [Irish] games stretch back into the depths of time, and sit in the long history of Ireland alongside such legendary figures as Cú Chulainn (who was reputed to have been a useful hurler).” Cronin, Mike., ‘Gaelic Games,’ Sport & Nationalism in Ireland: Gaelic Games, Soccer and Irish Identity Since 1884, Great Britain: Four Courts Press, 1999, p70

[10] “In time, and a very short time at that, the IRB was to take open control of the GAA,” Mandel, p10

[11] Eliot,Ulysses, Order, and Myth,’ p27




who loves books? me[!]me[!]

March 10, 2007

For the Bookworms among us:

Hardback or trade paperback or mass market paperback?

Never a hardback unless it is all there is available, or it is a quaint old antique. Since I don’t even know what a trade paperback is, I’m guessing I don’t choose them. It’s the mass market paperback with a very pretty cover for me. Cover designs are important to me. I know it’s superficial but I am always tempted to judge, and even choose, a book by its cover.

Online purchase or brick and mortar?

Brick and mortar, or old shack by the side of the road, or plush store with shiny wooden floorboards with leather lounges, or the internet, or even the discarded books in a university corridor piled up under the FREE sign. Who asks where a good book comes from? Really!

Barnes & Noble or Borders?

Who are Barnes & Noble? I don’t think they’ve made their way downunder. Borders! Borders! It’s all there: books, coffee, lounges, books, cds, books, movies, books, coffee. Do you want to know how long I spent in Borders today? When I go there I wonder why I should ever leave.

Bookmark or dog-ear?

Gasp! Neither actually – unless I have a special bookmark made by a special person, which I do. Oh, and I just happen to know where you can find some. Otherwise, I just remember the page number.

Mark or not mark?

Depends on the reason for reading. I mark the books I study. Those I read to relax and enjoy can only be read without a pencil in my hand. I love a well marked book, as long as it is not highlighted!

Alphabetise by author or alphabetize by title or random?

Arranged by subject, alphabetised according to author, then by title for books by the same author. Is there another way?

Keep, throw away, or sell?

Keep. Unless I didn’t like it then sell on ebay to buy more books.

Keep dustjacket or toss it?

Can you read comfortably with a jacket on? I think not. I do not subject my books to anything I would not put up with myself, therefore, books may remove their jackets when being read. On the shelf they will wear them so as to keep from getting cold. I would never throw another’s jacket away.

Read with dustjacket or remove it?

Oh, I rushed ahead. See above.

Short story or novel?

Novel. Though I do appreciate a good short story. The only thing I don’t like about short stories is that they are inevitably too short.

Collection (short stories by same author) or anthology (short stories by different authors)?


Lord of the Rings or Narnia.


Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?

Just one more chapter, just one more chapter, just one more chapter until I f a l l a s l e e p.

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?

Do I have to choose? Both usually at the same time depending on my mood or fancy and the weather.

Buy or Borrow?

Buy…and borrow though I am hopeless at returning. It is best for me to buy books, it prevents me from inadvertently stealing them from the library.

New or used?

Depends on the book. Both.

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendation or browse?

Browse. That’s half the fun.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger?

Neither. I like realistic sad-but-good kind of endings. Tidy endings annoy me. Cliffhangers also annoy me.

Morning reading, afternoon reading or night time reading?

Huh? How about every waking moment. I read as I walk, as I eat, as I brush teeth, as I wait for a page on the net to load, as I drive – although I probably shouldn’t confess that.

Standalone or series?


Favorite series?

Mmmmm. None at the moment. I am reading more poetry right now.

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?

The Last September, Elizabeth Bowen. Though it would be arrogant of me to think that nobody else had heard of it! I have read a few great books written by little ones, I’m sure you would not have heard of those so it is quite difficult to mention them. What a strange question!

Favorite books read last year?

Finders Keepers, Seamus Heaney

The poetry of Pablo Neruda

A Sentimental Journey, Sterne

Clarissa, Samuel Richardson (read but not finished – yet)

The Complete Short Fiction of Oscar Wilde

Charlie and Lola books, Lauren Child

Ohhh! there are so many more… I also liked reading medieval plays, 18th century poetry and many books I began and never finished. Sometimes I just like to dip in.

also, see below.

Favorite book of all time?

Cry the Beloved Country, Alan Paton

The Bible, the only living breathing book I have read over and over again for more years than I care to count written by the Creator of the Universe. The only book that gave me life.

Play along…I’d love to read your answers. And don’t forget to buy a beautiful custom made bookmark.

in which I succumb to the ineluctable attraction of irish literature

March 8, 2007

It is the month of all things Irish over at Rebecca’s blog. Till now I have not participated, mainly because I was overcome with excitement. Irish is one of my favourite things. Irish literature in particular.

So, I have been wading through my piles and piles of novels, plays, poems and essays on Irish literature and have been trying to decide what I should acquaint you with. I love Wilde, I get wonderfully lost in Heaney’s poetry, I love Elizabeth Bowen novels… there’s just too much to share.

I have chosen to begin by sharing one of my favourite Joyce quotes with you. I love the language in this excerpt but I’m not going to write about it. I’ll just let you read and hope you like it too.

Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot. Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust: coloured signs. Limits of the diaphane. But he adds: in bodies. Then he was aware of them bodies before of them coloured. How? By knocking his sconce against them, sure. Go easy. Bald he was and a millionaire, maestro di colour che sanno. Limit of the diaphane in. Why in? Diaphane, adiaphane. If you can put your five fingers through it, it’s a gate, if not a door. Shut your eyes and see.

Stephen closed his eyes to hear his boots crush crackling wrack and shells. You are walking through it howsomever. I am, a stride at a time. A very short space of time through very short times of space. Five, six: the nacheinander. Exactly: and that is the ineluctable modality of the audible. Open your eyes. No. Jesus! If I fell over a cliff that beetles o’er his base, fell through the nebeneinander ineluctably. I am getting on nicely in the dark. My ash sword hangs at my side. Tap with it: they do. My two feet in his boots are at the end of his legs, nebeneinander. Sounds solid: made by the mallet of Los Demiurgos. Am I walking into eternity along Sandymount strand? Crush, crack, crick crick. Wild sea money. Dominic Deasy kens them ’a.

Won’t you come to Sandymount,

Madeline the mare?

Rhythm begins, you see. I hear. A catalectic tetrameter of iambs march ing. No, agallop: deline the mare.

Open your eyes now. I will. One moment. Has all vanished since? If I open and am for ever in the black adiaphane. Basta! I will see if I can see.

See now. There all the time without you: and ever shall be, world without end.

They came down the steps from Leahey’s terrace prudently, Frauenzimmer: and down the shelving shore flabbily their splayed feet sinking in the silted sand. Like me, like Algy, coming down to our mighty mother. Number one swung lourdily her midwife’s bag, the others gamp poked in the beach. From liberties, out for the day. Mrs Florence MacCabe, relict of the late Patk MacCabe, deeply lamented, of Bride Street. One of her sisterhood lugged me squealing into life. Creation from nothing. What has she in the bag? A misbirth with a trailing navelcord, hushed in ruddy wool. The cords of all link back, strandentwining cable of all flesh. That is why mystic monks. Will you be as gods? Gaze into your omphalos. Hello. Kinch here. Put me on to Edenville. Aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one.

Spouse and helpmate of Adam Kadmon: Heva, naked Eve. She had no navel. Gaze. Belly without blemish, bulging big, a buckler of taut vellum, no, whiteheaped corn, orient and immortal, standing from everlasting to everlasting. Womb of sin.

Wombed in sin darkness I was too, made not begotten.

James Joyce, Ulysses, Oxford: OUP, 1922, pp 37-38

Joyce did my head in for a whole session at uni but I loved it. He is a true master of language and the more I look at his work the more I am convinced that he was a vanguard. I like to read this passage, especially the beginning, just letting the words wash over me. Then I love pulling it apart for meaning. The text is so dense I’m sure I could tease it out for years and still keep on but I won’t. There are many scholars who already do that. I’ll enjoy it.