Telemachus 0004

[singlepic id=86 w=320 h=240 float=left]

[cf. Gabler 3:5, 1922 3:5]

Mulligan has come to the top of the tower to shave.  There’s light there, and a beautiful view.  He associates his morning ritual with a Catholic mass, and summons Stephen Dedalus upstairs to join him.

What he’s saying translates as: “I will go up to God’s altar.” More pertinently, it was one of the first things the priest said at the beginning of the Catholic mass, back when the Catholic mass was said in Latin.  Here‘s a rather lovely version.

So yes, Mulligan’s giving a little parody of the mass, and yes, this is a wicked and kinda funny thing to do.

I think it’s worth noting a few points of cultural context. 1) the “introibo” would not have been an obscure phrase to any Catholic reader of Ulysses in 1922, or up to the end of the Latin mass in the 1960’s. This would have been as familiar as “play ball!” to a baseball fan. 2) to a Catholic audience, in 1904 or 1922, this is sacrilege. And what follows is much worse.

What we’re supposed to think of this is a little hard to say. What Joyce thinks of it we don’t know, but (within the fourth wall) what Stephen thinks of it, we’ll see later. Joyce was an unbeliever, but the Catholicism was so deeply dyed into him, that he was really more Catholic than the Catholics. The groundwork is all so elaborately laid out in *A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man* that it seems superfluous to talk any more about it, but I’ll say for the first time of many times, that Joyce was not Stephen. it can be useful to forget that Joyce was not Stephen, but still and forever, they are not the same.

And what is Mulligan carrying: “a bowl of lather, on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.” On one level, a man is simply about to shave. But Joyce’s careful syntax invites a deeper dive. Mulligan is about to begin chanting the opening prayer of the Catholic mass, and the visual cues Robert’s been giving us have primed us to see him as a kind of priest. But here, for the moment, we get to look at Mulligan’s tools: a mirror, and a razor. The razor cuts and makes distinctions–hair from skin, mostly (analysis?). The mirror reflects an image, sends back to its viewer the appearance of a person where before there had only been a disembodied experience of impressions and thoughts (synthesis?). [And yes, I’m thinking about Jacques Lacan and his “mirror stage” here.] Neither the mirror nor the razor creates anything really new. This is the opposite of what is supposed to happen during a real mass, when the priest uses his tools and the magic of transubstantiation to bring the body and blood of Christ to the table.

Yeah, I’m pushing it a little hard here, but I do think we’re meant to see Mulligan as energetic and vital, but also as bankrupt, as barren, as a parasite. Dedalus is weak and ineffectual, but he has the creative vitality and inner strength that Mulligan lacks.

So why does Joyce have Mulligan wear a yellow robe?  Don Gifford & Bob Seidman’s Ulysses Annotated might be useful here.  Gifford cites a volume on Christian symbolism: “Yellow is sometimes used to suggest infernal light, degradation, jealousy, treason, and deceit. Thus, the traitor Judas is frequently painted in a garment of dingy yellow (I’ve been trying to get that picture–which is an image of “The Kiss of Judas” by Giotto– see below. You can click to enlarge the image.

[singlepic id=84 w=320 h=240 float=left]

Why does Mulligan call call Stephen “fearful”? Probably because of an incident that happened during the night with a house visitor–we’ll be hearing about that soon. But also because of Mulligan’s blasphemy, which we’ve been chatting about over the last few frames. Stephen isn’t a believer, but he’s not above hedging his bets.

Oliver St. John Gogarty, the person on whom the character of Mulligan is based, once referred to Joyce as an “inverted Jesuit.” Joyce identified closely with the Jesuit order–he was educated in Jesuit schools as a boy, and in one famous anecdote, said “you allude to me as a Catholic; you ought to allude to me as a Jesuit” (see Kevin Sullivan’s Joyce among the Jesuits for an exhaustive discussion). The Society of Jesus, then and now, has been closely associated with education based on rigorous and independent scholarship. Mulligan’s ‘fearful Jesuit’ may also pick up on the dreaded reputation of Jesuits as interlocutors.

Finally, remember Mulligan is the usurper. How does this bit of mockery add to that reputation?

<< previous | next >>

View this Page of the Comic

Reader’s Guide for I: Telemachus

Dramatis Personae for I: Telemachus

Telemachus 0012

[singlepic id=72 w=320 h=240 float=left]

[Cf. 1922 5:20-27, Gabler 1:86-94]

We get an important glimpse of Stephen here, as we learn that he refused to pray for his mother at her deathbed. What kind of a**hole doesn’t obey his dying mother’s wish to pray with her? Discuss.

I mean, yes, Stephen is an Artist of Profound Integrity, who cannot compromise his belief in his unbelief. And yes, we are meant to think of him as kin with Hamlet, with Telemachus, with those who fight to leave behind their lives as boys to become men. And I even think that we are meant to pity Stephen more than a little, who has become so alienated through his extremism.

Mulligan refers to himself and Stephen as “hyperborean.” What does this mean? Gifford gives us the basics–it’s a classical allusion, to a kind of perfectly youthful master race who lived at the far ends of the earth. More specifically, Gifford pegs the reference to Nietzsche & a passage in The Will to Power, wherein the Ubermensch were described as hyperborean, as beyond the constraints of conventional morality, especially Christian morality.

Anyone out there have more to say about hyperborean? About Stephen’s refusal to submit and what we’re supposed to think about it?

I love the bottom panel here… Mulligan looking stately and plump indeed, beautifully framed and posed like he’s about to start shooting lasers out of his hands. Which would make things interesting. His pose, his position, his framing, all speak together with the authority of Mulligan’s perfectly reasonable criticism of Stephen. And Stephen knows it, but he doesn’t care.

<< previous | next >>

View this Page of the Comic

Reader’s Guide for I: Telemachus

Dramatis Personae for I: Telemachus

Telemachus 0015

[singlepic id=92 w=320 h=240 float=left]

[Cf. 1922 6:7-28; Gabler 1:112-134]

Mulligan is fencing with Stephen fairly aggressively here.  He is by turns generous and condescending, surprisingly dismissive and admiring, charming and intolerable.

One thing that strikes me on reading this passage is Mulligan’s none-too-subtle playing of “the class card” with Stephen. “Dogsbody” has all kinds of associations, and will gather even more in the “Proteus” episode, but at the very least it refers to an underling or a “gofer.” Mulligan also teases Stephen for his “second leg” trousers, his improper etiquette, and even offers his own old clothes to him. We’ll soon learn he’s wearing Mulligan’s boots already. [“Poxy Bowsy” is glossed in Gifford, but basically means vd-ridden lout.]

Stephen’s insistence that he can’t wear grey is pretty extreme. Gifford‘s gloss is very useful–like many other entries, it “reminds” us of things we don’t yet know, that Stephen’s mother died on June 23, 1903, and so it’s been almost a full year… though we actually won’t find out it’s June 16, 1904 for a few hundred pages yet. Gifford observes that under the strictest standards of Victorian mourning, a son would wear only black for a full year after his mother’s death, so Stephen’s within that period. Mulligan catches the irony of Stephen’s assiduous sartorial etiquette and his cruel treatment of his mother, but we don’t necessarily feel better about Mulligan for this.

Point of trivia: if you’re following along in your Gabler edition, you’ll see that several of Mulligan’s lines here end with exclamation points [Dogsbody! Insane! Bard!]. He’s quite an exclaimer. The exclamation points appear in the Rosenbach manuscript, but not in the 1922. Because we’re following the ’22 here, they’re not used. Write them in if you like.

Point of admiration: I love how Rob has Mulligan using the mirror here.

so, riddle me this:

1. We’ve been wondering what the mirror should look like. Anyone have a good sense of what the cracked lookingglass of a servant should look like? Please post a picture.

2. About that dogsbody. What difference does it make, given the trends and themes of this chapter, that Mulligan is talking about Stephen’s body and his appearance?

3. Why is it important that Stephen is so hyper-observant of the etiquette of mourning? Can you answer this question by going through Hamlet or the Odyssey?

Reader’s Guide for I: Telemachus

Dramatis Personae for I: Telemachus


You can buy copies of the works mentioned by clicking on the links below.