Part Two of UD’s Bloomsday Series…

… is now up at Inside Higher Education.

My Second Bloomsday Post…

… will appear at Inside Higher Ed tonight.

Feel free to read UD’s thoughts as she…

… revs up for her Bloomsday readings. Here.

A Bloomsday Website

Bloomsday Central, part of the Rosenbach Library website, lists details of Bloomsday (June 16) celebrations all over the world. It doesn’t yet list Washington’s, in which UD will perform, both at the Irish Embassy and at the Cosmos Club.

UD will read, at the Club, from the end of the Ithaca chapter from Joyce’s Ulysses, when after a long day Leopold Bloom finally falls asleep next to his wife, Molly. UD loves the way, as Bloom loses consciousness, the text itself drops off.

He kissed the plump mellow yellow smellow melons of her rump, on each plump melonous hemisphere, in their mellow yellow furrow, with obscure prolonged provocative melonsmellonous osculation.

The visible signs of postsatisfaction?

A silent contemplation: a tentative velation: a gradual abasement: a solicitous aversion: a proximate erection.

What followed this silent action?

Somnolent invocation, less somnolent recognition, incipient excitation, catechetical interrogation.

With what modifications did the narrator reply to this interrogation?

Negative: he omitted to mention the clandestine correspondence between Martha Clifford and Henry Flower, the public altercation at, in and in the vicinity of the licensed premises of Bernard Kiernan and Co, Limited, 8, 9 and 10 Little Britain street, the erotic provocation and response thereto caused by the exhibitionism of Gertrude (Gerty), surname unknown. Positive: he included mention of a performance by Mrs Bandman Palmer of Leah at the Gaiety Theatre, 46, 47, 48, 49 South King street, an invitation to supper at Wynn’s (Murphy’s) Hotel, 35, 36, and 37 Lower Abbey street, a volume of peccaminous pornographical tendency entitled Sweets of Sin, anonymous, author a gentleman of fashion, a temporary concussion caused by a falsely calculated movement in the course of postcenal gymnastic display, the victim (since completely recovered) being Stephen Dedalus, professor and author, eldest surviving son of Simon Dedalus, of no fixed occupation, an aeronautical feat executed by him (narrator) in the presence of a witness, the professor and author aforesaid, with promptitude of decision and gymnastic flexibility.

Was the narration otherwise unaltered by modifications?

Absolutely.

Which event or person emerged as the salient point of his narration?

Stephen Dedalus, professor and author.

What limitations of activity and inhibitions of conjugal rights were perceived by listener and narrator concerning themselves during the course of this intermittent and increasingly more laconic narration?

By the listener a limitation of fertility inasmuch as marriage had been celebrated 1 calendar month after the 18th anniversary of her birth (8 September 1870), viz. 8 October, and consummated on the same date with female issue born 15 June 1889, having been anticipatorily consummated on the 10 September of the same year and complete carnal intercourse, with ejaculation of semen within the natural female organ, having last taken place 5 weeks previous, viz. 27 November 1893, to the birth on 29 December 1893 of second (and only male) issue, deceased 9 January 1894, aged 11 days, there remained a period of 10 years, 5 months and 18 days during which carnal intercourse had been incomplete, without ejaculation of semen within the natural female organ. By the narrator a limitation of activity, mental and corporal, inasmuch as complete mental intercourse between himself and the listener had not taken place since the consummation of puberty, indicated by catamenic hemorrhage, of the female issue of narrator and listener, 15 September 1903, there remained a period of 9 months and 1 day during which in consequence of a preestablished natural comprehension in incomprehension between the consummated females (listener and issue), complete corporal liberty of action had been circumscribed.

How?

By various reiterated feminine interrogation concerning the masculine destination whither, the place where, the time at which, the duration for which, the object with which in the case of temporary absences, projected or effected.

What moved visibly above the listener’s and the narrator’s invisible thoughts?

The upcast reflection of a lamp and shade, an inconstant series of concentric circles of varying gradations of light and shadow.

In what directions did listener and narrator lie?

Listener, S. E. by E.; Narrator, N. W. by W.: on the 53rd parallel of latitude, N. and 6th meridian of longitude, W.: at an angle of 45ø to the terrestrial equator.

In what state of rest or motion?

At rest relatively to themselves and to each other. In motion being each and both carried westward, forward and rereward respectively, by the proper perpetual motion of the earth through everchanging tracks of neverchanging space.

In what posture?

Listener: reclined semilaterally, left, left hand under head, right leg extended in a straight line and resting on left leg, flexed, in the attitude of Gea-Tellus, fulfilled, recumbent, big with seed. Narrator: reclined laterally, left, with right and left legs flexed, the indexfinger and thumb of the right hand resting on the bridge of the nose, in the attitude depicted on a snapshot photograph made by Percy Apjohn, the childman weary, the manchild in the womb.

Womb? Weary?

He rests. He has travelled.

With?

Sinbad the Sailor and Tinbad the Tailor and Jinbad the Jailer and Whinbad the Whaler and Ninbad the Nailer and Finbad the Failer and Binbad the Bailer and Pinbad the Pailer and Minbad the Mailer and Hinbad the Hailer and Rinbad the Railer and Dinbad the Kailer and Vinbad the Quailer and Linbad the Yailer and Xinbad the Phthailer.

When?

Going to a dark bed there was a square round Sinbad the Sailor roc’s auk’s egg in the night of the bed of all the auks of the rocs of Darkinbad the Brightdayler.

Where?

At the embassy, UD will get about five minutes to read excerpts she’ll select from Molly Bloom’s soliloquy. She is grazing that grassy consciousness now, seeking outcrops.

UD has been asked to read from Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy…

… at the Irish Embassy this Bloomsday (June 16) at 6 PM.

A lesser man might tremble at the thought of throbbing out those orgasmic yeses in front of H.E. Ambassador Michael Collins, but not UD! No sir! Lemme at him!

Freedom of …

Joyce.

The Warren Commission Report, Don DeLillo wrote in his novel …

Libra, is “the megaton novel James Joyce would have written if he’d moved to Iowa City and lived to be a hundred.”

But Joyce is more likely to have written the upcoming fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The DSM’s predecessor, four, has a thousand pages, and we may be sure that five will have many more than that. It’s a megaton psychotropic prescription machine. As Allen Frances, editor of earlier, more sane, DSMs, writes, “DSM-5 is suggesting many new and untested diagnoses and also markedly reduced thresholds for old ones.”

Frances offers an example:

‘Attenuated psychosis syndrome’ will have a ridiculously high false positive rate ( 80-90%), no effective treatment, would promote unnecessary exposure to harmful antipsychotics, and would cause needless worry and stigma. Since studies prove conclusively that the symptoms are so very rarely predictive of psychosis, why in the world would DSM-5 give someone the stigmatizing and absurdly misleading label ‘attenuated psychosis syndrome’ and open the door to inappropriate antipsychotic use? Recognizing all these risks, a large portion of schizophrenia and prodromal researchers are sensibly opposed to the inclusion of ‘attenuated psychosis syndrome’ in DSM-5. But unaccountably, the work group stubbornly clings to its proposal and, without the petition, there is a good chance it may sneak into DSM-5.

In great part, the DSM-5 is a work of the imagination. Like all ambitious novels, it exhibits enormous scope and imaginative energy. Told from the point of view of a detached omniscient narrator, it chronicles the plummeting of populations into pre-psychosis, and their ultimate rescue by “the number one revenue producer of all classes of drugs,” anti-psychotics. Its pages evoke a les misérables America, massively prodromal, holding out its butyrophenone-bowl on every street corner.

Bloomsday at the Beach

UD, who usually takes part in Washington’s Bloomsday reading, is this year at Rehoboth Beach.

The Irish beach Stephen Dedalus walks:

The grainy sand had gone from under his feet. His boots trod again a damp crackling mast, razorshells, squeaking pebbles, that on the unnumbered pebbles beats, wood sieved by the shipworm, lost Armada. Unwholesome sandflats waited to suck his treading soles, breathing upward sewage breath. He coasted them, walking warily. A porter-bottle stood up, stogged to its waist, in the cakey sand dough. A sentinel: isle of dreadful thirst. Broken hoops on the shore; at the land a maze of dark cunning nets; farther away chalkscrawled backdoors and on the higher beach a dryingline with two crucified shirts. Ringsend: wigwams of brown steersmen and master mariners. Human shells.

Sentences and phrases from this chapter that UD loves:

Paris rawly waking, crude sunlight on her lemon streets. Moist pith of farls of bread, the froggreen wormwood, her matin incense, court the air.

**************************

Who ever anywhere will read these written words? Signs on a white field…. You find my words dark. Darkness is in our souls, do you not think?

**************************

Morrissey is in Dublin…

…and staying, or so they say, at The Clarence Hotel.

In a couple of weeks, UD and her Morrissey-mad sister will be at the same hotel for a few nights, on their way to Galway to see La Kid.

The hotel’s right on the Liffey, where, a few days ago, the city’s Anna Livia statue was floated down that river on its way to Croppy Acre park.

“We floated her down the Liffey. We could have brought her in a truck but given all the circumstances the sculptor made the suggestion in a slightly offhand manner,” said [the Dublin parks superintendent.] This small idea turned into a reality when the organisers got in touch with Ringsend Boat Club, who were more than happy to bring Anna Livia to her new home. “We brought her down the river at lunchtime, so that people were able to see her. We thought it was appropriate that on her last journey she would float down the middle of the city. It gave it a sense of occasion.”

Here’s what UD might have seen (enlarge the picture) from the balcony of The Clarence if she’d been staying there this week. Lord, that would’ve been lovely.

The great Irish writers as earners.

[Q.] If you had to rank the great Irish writers as earners, who would be in your top five?

[A.] Well, Joyce is obviously first and foremost. He’s huge on the international market and has held his value very well. Second, Wilde. We’ve got a few signed first editions of his. Third, Yeats. Fourth, Beckett. He also holds his value on the international market but unless it’s a signed Waiting for Godot, not at the same level. Finally, of course, Seamus Heaney.

“Throughout his life, Joyce considered his birthday to be an auspicious day, and he often contrived to make it …

particularly special.”

This year a group of Washington DC Joyceans is contriving to make it special by doing another reading (they did one on Bloomsday, natch).

The James Joyce Birthday Party, on Wednesday, February 2, 2011, takes place at 5:00 PM, upstairs at Guapo’s Restaurant at 4515 Wisconsin Avenue, NW.

UD will be reading excerpts from Proteus, Sirens, and Penelope.

I’m all of a mucksweat.

Every day’s going to be Bloomsday.

Ireland may be on its way to elect a gay president after the first opinion poll in the race showed Senator David Norris, a Dublin-based gay activist, well-ahead.

… The size of the Norris lead is surprising. The Joyce scholar and gay rights campaigner is an independent senator representing Trinity College in the Irish senate and has never been considered a candidate for national office…

A protestant, he was actually born in what was then the Belgian Congo in 1944 but came to Ireland a few years later…

[Norris] has also played a major role in popularizing Bloomsday, now celebrated on June 16th every year.

If they want to go even further and elect a Jew and a Joyce freak, there’s always UD.

“Stream of consciousness…”

… is the last phrase uttered by Antonio Damasio in this interview. Damasio is a neuroscientist.

UD thinks a good deal about consciousness. The novels she teaches tend to be stream of consciousness works by the high modernists — James Joyce, Virginia Woolf. UD suspects she loves modernist novels precisely because they put consciousness, and degrees of consciousness, in motion, over time; they feature characters actively, eloquently, being conscious. These characters are basically saying, over and over again in their narratives, I exist, I have a life, I am surrounded by a particular world, I have a self that observes my organism, that organizes my experience… These modes of being are, as Damasio describes them, the constituents of consciousness.

Damasio calls consciousness “an add-on” to the comparatively passive, registering “mind.” It’s something “specialized, to create what we call the self.”

A passage like this one in Ulysses, in which Leopold Bloom, at a cemetery, ponders what it must be like to be conscious that you’re dying, is, what, a tour de force of consciousness…. It begins not with Bloom’s stream of consciousness, but with a few lines from the novel’s disembodied third-person narrative voice. Only with “Well cut frockcoat” do we enter Bloom’s speaking consciousness.

Gentle sweet air blew round the bared heads in a whisper. Whisper. The boy by the gravehead held his wreath with both hands staring quietly in the black open space. Mr Bloom moved behind the portly kindly caretaker. Well cut frockcoat. Weighing them up perhaps to see which will go next. Well it is a long rest. Feel no more. It’s the moment you feel. Must be damned unpleasant. Can’t believe it at first. Mistake must be: someone else. Try the house opposite. Wait, I wanted to. I haven’t yet. Then darkened deathchamber. Light they want. Whispering around you. Would you like to see a priest? Then rambling and wandering. Delirium all you hid all your life. The death struggle. His sleep is not natural. Press his lower eyelid. Watching is his nose pointed is his jaw sinking are the soles of his feet yellow. Pull the pillow away and finish it off on the floor since he’s doomed. Devil in that picture of sinner’s death showing him a woman. Dying to embrace her in his shirt. Last act of Lucia. Shall I nevermore behold thee? Bam! expires. Gone at last. People talk about you a bit: forget you. Don’t forget to pray for him. Remember him in your prayers. Even Parnell. Ivy day dying out. Then they follow: dropping into a hole one after the other.

We are praying now for the repose of his soul. Hoping you’re well and not in hell.

So this is exciting, no? This is James Joyce’s consciousness in brilliant compassionate synergy with the consciousness of his creation – that’s the first reason it’s exciting. He’s making a never-alive human being live fictively. Great fiction raises the dead, or, rather, the never alive. Great art is the strongest and most beautiful reaching out of an individual consciousness to resuscitate human reality.

But in its own terms, Bloom’s consciousness, aroused by all the death around him to a most acute morbidity, is just as exciting. In this insanely condensed paragraph, these few moments out of Bloom’s consciousness-stream, we experience something more profound (if you ask UD) than, say, Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilych.

Indeed, Bloom’s rapid-fire dawning-death narrative is a sort of Ivan Ilych for Dummies, ain’t it? The two-minute version…

Only it doesn’t really feel reductive, because it’s attached to a consciousness in whose reality we believe (even though, if you ask me now, I’ll concede that Leopold Bloom does not, and never did, exist), and whose comic, philosophic richness we admire, recognizing its intellectual maneuvers in the face of this sort of threat to its integrity (I mean, cemeteries, funerals – that threat) as rather similar to our own.

This is the great joy, the triumphant feeling, of Ulysses, the reason people adore it and perform their Bloomsday bacchanalia every year… Antonio Damasio calls consciousness an add-on, which falls rather short, descriptively, of the intoxicating miracle of this specialized thing brewed to make a self.

There’s no sweeter consciousness-cognac than James Joyce’s Ulysses.

One Last Bloomsday

UD‘s friend James sends her this article from the Chicago Tribune about Steve Diedrich, who for years organized Ulysses readings in that city.

He was too sick, with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, to take part this year. He died a few days after the reading.

When June 16 arrived this year, he was in the hospital. He insisted that the Bloomsday reading at the Cliff Dwellers Club downtown go on without him. His friends sent him a videotape.

Two days later, he lost consciousness, but not before he videotaped a reply, mustering a smile and the words “Thank you.”

A Mormon Missionary Reads Ulysses

I went to American Fork, Utah, today, where Wayne Booth, my graduate school mentor at the University of Chicago, grew up, in a fervent Mormon family.

Although a few historic buildings survive on Main Street, I can’t imagine Booth would recognize much from his past. Utah’s Wasatch Front is booming – it’s one of the fastest-growing places in the United States, right up there with Nevada – and what strikes you as you drive through Provo, Orem, American Fork, and other towns are the many large new houses on the plateau, and the astounding, gorgeous, up-close masses of mountains all around them.

The mountains – some high enough to show snow at their peaks – press in so tightly that you can study, from your car, rock faces and waterfalls and shadows.

If I abstracted from the houses, and from the upscale commercial strips, I could imagine Booth in a very small, sublimely hedged in place — hedged in geographically, and hedged in culturally.

***************************

Booth evokes the apartness of American Fork in the ‘twenties and ‘thirties in an essay he wrote in 1998, when he was 77 years old. In it, he quotes from a journal he kept in his twenties, when he was already a skeptical Mormon (though still engaged in missionary work). In a kind of dialogue with his younger self, he explains the nature of his rebellion against his church.

Until I was far into my teens, I was an utterly unquestioning Mormon. My parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles were all visibly, audibly, aggressively devout–all except one uncle, a smoker, a “black sheep.” For our family, non-Mormons were beyond the pale–to be tolerated, of course, even treated kindly if they behaved themselves, viewed perhaps as potential converts, but never courted or married, and never even visited socially. They were certainly not destined, like us, to enter the celestial kingdom. We knew that in the next life those lost souls would not even be allowed to come near us, as we all continued our eternal progression, pursuing knowledge and righteousness–concepts that when defined correctly turned out to be the same thing.

What I remember as most important to me was that in heaven the non-Mormon or non-devout males down there in the lower kingdoms would have no hope for what I had a strong hope for, if I kept my nose clean: becoming the god of another world, accompanied by a pious female helpmate. Meanwhile, here and now, non-Mormons were so far beneath us that it was dangerous even to get near them. I remember feeling scared to walk too close to the one non-Mormon church in my home town, American Fork, Utah. I would always cross the road and walk on the other side, to avoid contamination, and I was thankful that we lived in another ward, far from that wicked place.

In short, until my first questioning began at about fourteen, I was a 100 percent devotee of what might be called an exclusivist, or particularist, anti-ecumenical version of Mormonism. That boy, the very young Wayne Booth, would perhaps these days be called by non-Mormons a fundamentalist (the word wasn’t in our vocabulary, I’m quite sure). Born and reared in the pre-Darwinian nineteenth century, as you might say, he was for about fifteen years unaware of what had been happening to western thought from long before he was born.

Ignorance, clannishness, grandiosity, and a visceral shrinking from your inferiors – Booth describes his young self as well on its way, in its attitudes, toward the ultra-orthodox of Israel, about whose escalating withdrawal from and violence against that country I’ve been reading and posting lately.**

Later in the essay, Booth writes that he still considers himself a Mormon, though a very non-standard one; and he says:

I have been discouraged by the difficulties in the way of intellectual improvement among my people. The Mormon ideology is so firmly rooted in superstition that it seems impossible ever to separate the two: despite all my apologetics, one is simply not a Mormon unless one believes in the literal divinity of the Book of Mormon…

The young Booth begins to sense there must be much more – to himself, to other people, and to the world. His inchoate notion of the complexity and dynamism of human beings draws him to James Joyce’s Ulysses:

Meanwhile, as the idiosyncratic mission drags on, the self-divided missionary takes refuge many hours each week in literature and music, sometimes with conscious reference to religious problems but often simply lost in the joys of art.

But almost every day he wrestles with religious questions. He says that he has discovered that every person is “a walking bundle of ineffability, a bit like God himself,” by which he apparently means that the existential richness of each person finally escapes any attempt at description: forget about conceptual problems, essentially irresolvable, and revel in the riches God’s world offers you. He reads Ulysses–can you picture it, reader, that young missionary, moving from orthodox testimony meetings to James Joyce’s night-town scenes and back to the meetings? — the “most clever, most intellectual, most sophisticated book I’ve ever read!”

Molly Bloom is, I suppose, testifying; but she’s most unorthodox… And I guess the key here is “richness” – that endless, wild novel full of characters full of contradictions, wary of the traps of communal life and history and grandiosity, must have taken the protected young Booth on quite a ride.

Booth’s discovery of Henri Bergson deepens his sense of the intense, fluid energy of each self, an energy orthodox religion may deny or contain or twist.

[Bergson argues that there’s] an original vital impetus–élan vital–which is consciousness or “life” pushing upward against materiality (which naturally is descending). Through intuition and not through intellect we can discover this élan vital. There is no limit in time to the impetus; it may even transcend death. It is a becoming–as is all movement–and the aim of philosophy should be to turn inward toward this becoming in order to apprehend, “in order to follow its present results.”

His love of William Blake (Stephen Dedalus loves him too) deepens his understanding of the sources of repression:

He falls in love with Blake’s “London,” memorizes it, and quotes it entirely in the journal, commenting on the mind-forged manacles that he feels still binding him:

In every cry of every man,
In every Infant’s cry of fear
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.

Here Booth intuits his own implication in his dilemma, as well as the possibility that, in a free exercise of his own vitality, he might overcome it.

Booth concludes by describing the passionate and indeed spiritual contingency in which he would live the rest of his life:

One could say that without quite knowing it, the young man was discovering the pluralist religion that sparks my life now: the passion for furthering multiple, always partial understandings of a world, a cosmos, a God, that/who somehow deserves to be understood and commands that we both try to understand “It” and live according to Its standards–even while It remains beyond any one formula.

A novel like Ulysses doesn’t merely acknowledge the partial understandings with which we’ll always be grappling; it celebrates that limitation as the sacred key, if you’d like, to our humanity. It is what makes us loved, and loving:  this recognition – about ourselves, about others – that at any given moment in time (June 16, 1904, say) we’re struggling, often heroically, to overcome our past, to maintain our balance and compassion in the present, and to project a survivable future. “My primary interest . . . is to get closer to reality,” writes Wayne Booth in 1942. He comes to realize that nothing’s realer than fiction.

**************************************

** From a recent column in Ha’aretz:

[T]he culture wars have led to the point where Israel is currently on the verge of falling apart as a country. The events surrounding the refusal of Haredi parents in Immanuel to have their daughters study with Mizrahi girls must be seen as what they are. The Haredi community has staged the imprisonments of these parents into a grand event of martyrdom for the Torah. For them Israel’s legal system simply has no legitimacy.

Paradoxically, not only Ashkenazi Haredim think this way – the Haredi state of mind was made fully explicit by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas’ spiritual leader, who condemned the High Court of Justice for intervening. He said that the offended Mizrahi parents should not have turned to arka’ot – the term traditionally used by Jews to designate the courts of the gentile countries in which Jews lived. It was seen as a betrayal of Jews by Jews to turn to these courts instead of a rabbinical court. Add to this that some Haredim used terms like the Chelmnitzky pogroms and ‘inquisition’ to describe these events. This rhetoric shows the depth of the chasm between the Haredim and the rest of the country.

De facto, approximately one million Jews – Haredim and part of the settler community – have ceased accepting the authority of the state.

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