What They Are Saying, Episode 8
This website exists to serve the first time reader. As such, it shouldn’t reveal too much of the plot in advance. Good mysteries, even poor mysteries, wouldn’t do that. A bit of premature disclosure is about to happen. Many more people abandon Ulysses than finish reading it. I rationalize my blabbering ways so that the new reader can appreciate how dazzling is the book’s treasure and prevent discouragement among those who have read this far.
I have read Ulysses many times but never find the investment of time to be a capital loss. Yesterday I was treated to an analysis of two alphabetical characters left as a clue by Joyce. The letters U.P. fleshed out by James Ramey (“Intertextual Metempsychosis in Ulysses: Murphy, Sinbad, and the ‘U.P.:’ Postcard” James Joyce Quarterly, 45.1, 2007) take on a universe of new meaning.
I have never been satisfied with my understanding of those initials, that acronym, the direction. It’s not due to a lack of interpretations for the meaning of U.P. or up or U.P.: up. In Surface and Symbol Adams collected the most common:
- “you urinate”
- “you’re no good”
- Something anal
- “you can’t get it U.P. any more”
- J.J. O’Molloy “…implies that he is non compos mentis”
- Arnold Bennett’s Old Wive’s Tale uses the phrase to say of a character “It’s all up with the patient.” He’s done for.”
- In Dickens, an apothecary uses U.P. to obscure an imminent death.
- The French edition of Ulysses substitutes “Fou Tu” meaning “you’re nuts” or “you’ve been screwed.” Typesetter mischief?
In a 1983 letter, Ellmann suggests: “When erect you urinate rather than ejaculate.” Gifford and Seidman offer both the Dickensian and the fou tu option with at least two and perhaps three distinct meanings, adding “you’re all washed up” to what Adams proposed. Even two options are more than the desired.
Bloom’s mulling on the postcard yields “U.P.: up,” his interpretation— U.P. means up. Another convention might be that the person with initials U.P. says “up.” Here Ramey finds the key that I have been missing all day, many days, decades. He suggests the postcard’s sender is Ulysses Psuedoangelos, an incarnation of the Ithacan, shown as a correspondent in the Linati schema for the “Eumaeus” episode. This is Murphy but also another Odysseus too.
Molly’s interest in “metAmpsychosis” introduced the topic of the transmigration of souls. This casually drops the first clue in plain sight. Ramey points out that in several references, Aeneas stands in for Odysseus. Delaney suggests the misspelling of metempsychosis indicates metamorphosis rather than reincarnation. The next instance of U.P. will be Mr. Bloom.
Odysseus Psuedoangelos is the title of a lost play mentioned by Aristotle. The title refers to a messenger under the cloak of a false identity. Bloom suits the role and the qualities of U.P. as cataloged by Adams, Ellmann et al. to perfection. He has been obsessed with bodily functions, guilt-ridden, situationally impotent, washed up, treated as worthless, and as an outsider, his ways judged more than peculiar. But is he facing his end? Yes. He will surrender his individuality to take on a universal role as U.P.
Read Dr. Ramey’s paper if you can. It is rich in content and will not disappoint.