Day One at the International James Joyce Symposium, Trinity College Dublin.
Nathan Wallace (Ohio State University) probes Joyce’s cinematic “chase scene” when Leopold Bloom evades Blazes Boylan on the street by ducking into the Library to escape — similarities to Charlie Chaplin. Bloom’s inner speech and third person of the narrator works like cross-cutting film images. The quick rush of monosyllabic words to show Bloom’s quickened pace. Goal to break the audience’s expectations of a conventional narrative.
In her talk “Ulysses as an Early Talkie,” Sara Bryant (University of Virginia) is describing Joyce’s involvement with the Reisman-Zukofsky screenplay version of Ulysses. Who knew? Would have been great to know how Joyce envisioned his novel turned into a Hollywood-style talking film. The screenplay had a few short avant-garde style segments, but overall strived for conventional “American” narrative. But Ulysses “thwarts” what film audiences would expect from film: a realized narrative, conclusions.
Many of the speakers in this Penelope Roundtable (“Joyce’s Magnolious Molly in the New Millennium”) presented divergent takes on Molly’s brief memory in the “Penelope” episode of burying her son Rudy in the jacket she herself knitted (a most poignant passage for this reader). Suzette Henke (University of Louisville) looked at it from the angle of post-traumatic fiction. A lot of profound traumatic events behind the humor in Ulysses: Stephen’s mother’s death, Bloom lost his father (suicide) and his son (Rudy), Molly haunted by the loss of her mother. People can deal with trauma in two different ways: working through it and denial. Molly is in denial, and successfully so. She uses all the classic defense mechanisms in order to defend herself from returning to “the glooms.” She is trying to move with her life as best she can, with gusto.
Walking into the small Trinity classroom for the first session, “Bread and Circuses: Three Perspectives on Joycean Eurcharistics,” I was certain I had arrived at the Eucharistic Congress taking place in Dublin this week instead of the Joyce Symposium. Three tall men garbed as monseigneur, cardinal, and pope (black, red, white).
In this catholic setting, Roberto D’Alonzo (Rock Valley College, Illinois) talked about the eucharistic moments in Ulysses through the lens of the cynical philosophy of Diogenes. The cynics promoted the literally naked life, the unconcealed life, and in early Christianity a mode of “following Christ’s nakedness.” Joyce resonated with this physical manifestation of Christianity as opposed to the rigid Roman Catholicism of his day.
The dog as a symbol of the cynic was often seen as a scout, one who looks out for what’s hostile and good for others. Bloom plays this role for Stephen. Mulligan, in ribbing Stephen in the opening pages (when he conducts a mock eucharist atop Martello Tower) calls him “poor dog’s body” in kindly terms.
The final eucharistic moment in Ulysses at the cabman’s shelter has Stephen leaning on Bloom and feeling his “strange flesh.”