Episode 12: Cyclops, ~pp. 287-339.

Important Themes of Episode 12

  • Gigantism: Gilbert’s matrix lists the technic for the “Cyclops” episode as Gigantism. If we extend this beyond physical size and into the realm of ideas, Gigantism refers to an overblown concept, one given too much importance. The episode weaves Gigantism through the art of politics, lending it gigantic proportions. A one-eyed combatant denied perspective views only one side of an issue. Malcolm Gladwell, in David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, points out that the Philistine giant suffered several disadvantages against the boy David. One problem was severely blurred vision, a side effect of abnormal growth. Since David never approached Goliath, the giant was ignorant of his opponent’s age, size, armament, or that he had no intention of fighting conventional combat. Cycloptic, non-perspectived vision is typical of modern tribalism. We guard against opposing viewpoints by choosing media sources that are also one-eyed, without perspective, and dedicated to confirming our biases. Joyce’s Goliath ironically attempts revenge by slinging his armament (a biscuit tin of Jewish manufacture) from a distance like Little David. Overcoming the Cyclops signals the end of Vico’s age of titans and the Blooming of the democratic era.
  • Parodies: include Summons for non-payment of debt; Irish Revivalist reworkings of ancient Irish legends, poems, and medieval romances; newspaper accounts of news frequently with embedded advertisements, sports journalism; baby talk; the Apostles’ Creed and religious rituals (this last not noted by Gifford and Seidman). Ulysses replaces The Odyssey as literature, like humanity, evolves. The technical evolution of writing tools and styles is one facet of the transformational theme.
  • Language, sport, and rebellion: Irish Nationalism after the mid-nineteenth century sprouted from two seemingly insignificant and disparate interests- the Irish Language (championed by among others Douglas Hyde. It later became a cornerstone of Eammon DeValera’s vision for the Irish Free State) and traditional Gaelic sport (captained by Michael Cusack). Gifford and Seidman declare the character of the citizen as an alter-ego for Cusack. They quote Ellmann’s report of Cusack’s customary aggressive greeting: “I’m Citizen Cusack (my italics) from the parish of Carron in the Barony of Burren in the County of Claire, you Protestant dog.” The athletic association he founded became a feeder pool for fighting rebel organizations. In “Cyclops,” listeners are brought to tears at the retelling of a condemned man and his love’s last farewells as the guest of honor heads to his hanging. The assemblage “begins talking about the Irish language” as a distraction. Nannetti’s assignment is to complain to Parliament about the Gaelic sports prohibition in Phoenix Park, where English play polo. Bickering is raised to a boil and requires resolution at the highest levels of government. Bloom is indifferent to Gaelic sport because he is a non-partisan and internationalist.
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