Saturday, August 1, 2015

Ulysses – Episode 9 (Scylla & Charybdis)

Halfway through!

Episode 9 reintroduces Stephen Dedalus as the main character, and this is the first episode in which Stephen and Bloom encounter one another on this day, June 16, 1904. The action of the episode takes place entirely in one room at the library, among Stephen and Buck Mulligan and a few other men. Stephen is trying to convince the older men of his theories of Shakespearian writing, specifically of Hamlet, and what the play says about Shakespeare's own life and relationships. Stephen has a hard time convincing anyone of his ideas or his proposal to have his theory published. Again, much convoluted, intricate writing in this episode, heavy on themes of Shakespeare/Hamlet – fathers & sons – and Homer's Odyssey, specifically of Odysseus' dangerous quest to sail between Scylla, the six-headed monster on a rock, and Charybdis, a deadly whirlpool. (Hence the title of this episode.) There is mention of women in the men's conversation, but no female characters appear in this episode. Interestingly, the idea that men can give birth only to ideas comes up with this line regarding Buck Mulligan: "He clasped his paunchbrow with both birthaiding hands." (Episode 9, p. 200)

And, of course, there is a lot of philosophizing going on throughout:

"The supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring." (Episode 9, p. 177)

"Hold to the now, the here, which all future plunges to the past." (Episode 9, p. 178)

and my favourite...

"In the intense instant of imagination, when the mind, Shelley says, is a fading coal that which I was is that which I am and that which in possibility I may come to be. So in the future, the sister of the past, I may see myself as I sit here now but by reflection from that which then I shall be." (Episode 9, p. 186-187)

Whoa. Heady stuff. Tomorrow, Episode 10: The Wandering Rocks

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