‘Ulysses’ Rendered: An Epic Drawing (2009)

Yes, Bloomsday 2012 has passed, but here is another creative expression of James Joyce’s Ulysses for your enlightenment: an epic drawing rendered in 2009. — Steve Cole

THE HUMAN BODYSSEY by Travis Williams

“Among other things, my book is the epic of the human body.” – James Joyce

In a chart published in Stuart Gilbert’s James Joyce’s Ulysses, each of the eighteen episodes of Ulysses are shown to correspond to an episode or character of Homer’s Odyssey and, with the exception of three episodes, to a specific organ of the human body. Using this systematic diagram as my guide, I have reconstructed Joyce’s Ulysses in the form of a life-sized drawing of the human body, illustrating each organ using only words from the corresponding episodes of the novel. Pictorially situating Ulysses in this somatic context simultaneously represents and re-presents the novel’s themes, creating a visual microcosm of Joyce’s masterpiece.

Close-up photos of portions of the drawing are shown below with my commentary following. The complete image is available online: click on the title, “The Human Bodyssey,” or Download to view. It is a large file and may take a few minutes to load.

Date: 2009

Medium: Pencil on paper

Dimensions: 74 x 37 inches

Photos by Lynn DeVore

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Calypso (Kidneys)

“Be near her ample bedwarmed flesh. Yes, yes.”

Bloom’s “Yes, yes,” is disconnected from Molly’s “Yes,” showing their impending separation at the beginning of the day, but as Stephen will later understand in the library, “There can be no reconciliation, Stephen said, if there has not been a sundering.”

Lotus Eaters (Genitals)

“the limp father of thousands, a languid floating flower”

Hades (Heart)

“Ought to be sideways and red it should be painted like a real heart.”

Aeolus (Lungs)

“Grossbooted draymen rolled barrels dullthudding out of Prince’s stores and bumped them up on the brewery float. On the brewery float bumped dullthudding barrels rolled by grossbooted draymen out of Prince’s stores.”

These sentences form the outline of the right and left lung, respectively.

Lestrygonians (Esophagus)

“A warm shock of air heat of mustard hanched on Mr Bloom’s (heart)”

Scylla and Charybdis (Brain)

“Engulfed with wailing creecries, whirled, whirling, they bewail.”

Lost in a whirlpool of thought; Stephen’s restless, unstable mind.

Wandering Rocks (Blood)

The first sentence of this episode, “The superior, the very reverend John Conmee S.J. reset his smooth watch in his interior pocket as he came down the presbytery steps,” comes out of the aorta, where the blood is first pumped to the limbs. As the words move down the arm, the artery branches off into smaller blood vessels, constructed from phrases of the remaining eighteen sections of this episode. Additionally, at each branch, I introduce a quote from the next section of text, thus illustrating Joyce’s technique to represent the movement of blood. The first sentence of the final section completes the cycle by returning back to the heart.

Stephen’s “We. Agenbite of inwit. Inwit’s agenbite. Misery! Misery!” is also positioned farthest from the heart, echoing his mother’s wish in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: “She prays now, she says, that I may learn in my own life and away from home and friends what the heart is and what it feels.”

Cyclops (Muscle)

“The figure seated on a large boulder at the foot of a round tower was that of a broadshouldered deepchested stronglimbed frankeyed redhaired freelyfreckled shaggybearded widemouthed largenosed longheaded deepvoiced barekneed brawnyhanded hairylegged ruddyfaced sinewyarmed hero.”

Nausicaa (Eye, Nose)

“See ourselves as others see us.”

“Know her smell in a thousand.”

The third eye represents the blind Cyclops: “By Jesus, I’ll crucify him so I will”

Although from “Penelope,” Molly’s words, “and then I asked him with my eyes,” form the left eye.

The large black dot ending Ithaca is used as the pupil of the right eye: “Where?”

Sirens (Ear)

“Tap. Tap. Tap. Cockcarracarra.” / “Hee hee hee hee. Co-ome, thou dear one!

Eumaeus (Nerves)

“Though they didn’t see eye to eye in everything a certain analogy there somehow was as if both their minds were travelling, so to speak, in the one train of thought.”

Bloom’s words (eye) to Stephen, “At least that’s my idea for what it’s worth. I call that patriotism…You both belong to Ireland, the brain and the brawn. Each is equally important,” are on one side of the main nerve, while Stephen’s (eye) words, “We can’t change the country. Let us change the subject,” appear on the other, symbolizing their divergent views.

Ithaca (Skeleton)

“What parallel courses did Bloom and Stephen follow returning?”

“What two temperaments did they individually represent?”

“The Father and the Son idea. The Son striving to be atoned with the Father.” (Telemachus)

“The scientific. The artistic.”

suil, suil, suil arun, suil go siocair agus suil go cuin

kifeloch, harimon, rakatejch m’baad l’zamatejch

The questions are positioned in the upper bone, while the answers are in the lower bone. Bloom, the Father, represents the larger bone; Stephen, the Son, as the smaller. Bloom’s answers and Stephen’s answers are placed in the exact parallel position on their respective bones, showing them simultaneously separate and together. Bloom and Stephen’s words in each bone, though, when followed, do not remain parallel, but converge, (“Stephen dissented openly  from Bloom’s views on the importance of dietary and civic selfhelp / while Bloom dissented tacitly from Stephen’s views on the eternal affirmation of the spirit of man in literature.”) representing Stephen’s idea in the library: “We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love, but always meeting ourselves.” And yet, they are both connected to:

“The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.”

Penelope (Flesh)

The union of Molly and Bloom—

Word made Flesh

Molly’s soliloquy begins at the genitals, tracing the outline of the entire body, hearing the sound and echo of the passing train, “frsseeeeeeeefronnnng,” and ultimately reaffirming her love for Bloom, returning at the end to the origin—the stream of life:

“…yes I said yes I will Yes…Always passing, the stream of life, which in the stream of life we trace is dearer thaaan them all…Yes because he never…”

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