(U) Episode 2: “Nestor” ~pp 25-37.

Important Symbols of Episode 2

  • Nestor: Called The Pylonian Horseman in The Iliad, the Greek heroes honor Pylos’ old king for his wisdom. His advice seems, however, always to be off the mark. His speeches tend to be factually incomplete and out of date. Odysseus succeeds Nestor as the most effective counselor to the Greeks. Odysseus’ reasoning is crafty, situational, often dishonest, and unburdened by the old values. Deasy’s Nestor is soon to be superseded by Leopold Bloom’s Odysseus. Campbell and others point out that Deasy’s name is pronounced “daisy” and suggests a bloom. He is not Bloom, could not be for his anti-semitism, but he unwittingly prophesies the coming of Poldy.
  • Vico Road: An actual street in suburban Dalkey, it’s the address of young Sargent who may be seen as another young Stephen, unimpressive and only saved by a mother’s love. Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico proposed that all history is cyclical: First, there is an age of gods, then heroes, next democracy of common men, then destruction and a new beginning. In Vico’s view, Sargent might be a subsequent iteration of, not an improvement on Stephen.
  • “a disappointed bridge”: Stephen’s indifferent schoolboy scholars confuse Pyrrhus and pier. The Kingstown Pier is where the mailboat to Liverpool docks. It is less than a bridge, but a satisfactory path to escape.
  • Aristotle’s possible v actual: Aristotle observed that only one option can actualize while there are many possibilities. Today he would need to explain that to Schrodinger’s Cat. There seem to be many cases today when either True or False is an equally correct answer to scientific questions. “Is light a particle or a wave?” is just one of the Aristotle-busting puzzles. Quantum physics exists on a pile of similar dualities. Young Daedalus has already wondered whether some entities have only one actuality and only one possibility. Does an artistic creation have an identity outside of the artist? Does the artist simply serve as a vehicle for the art (like lice that thought to generate abiologically from human sweat without procreating)? One question further might ask “Does the artist create the art, or does the art create the artist?” In Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs, Bob Dylan tells Jobs: “They (his early songs– not Isaacson’s parenthetical) just came through me, it wasn’t like I was having to compose them.”
  • The fox and the holly bush: The riddle betrays Stephen’s preoccupation with his (grand) mother’s death. Stephen delivers the riddle with the phrase “the cock crew.” The rooster refers to Peter’s denial of Christ, a denial of religion. Stephen’s solution has the fox (symbol of “cunning”) bury his grandmother under a holly bush, an evergreen symbol of eternal life and a poisonous shrub. Tindall extends the analysis of the riddle a bit further. He tells us that ivy, the emblem of Parnell, is replaced by another evergreen, holly. The grandmother is an indication that the burial is historical rather than personal. Both grandmother and holly are symbols of an attempt to bury history.
  • Columbanus: A missionary saint and monastic who abandoned his mother to her dismay and went into exile.
  • Stuart Coins: Despite Deasy’s lectures on financial responsibility, his miser’s cache of Jacobean coins retells a story of fiscal irresponsibility. James II welcomed into Ireland when he left Scotland in retreat, minted Irish coins with little precious metal. This debased all Irish coin both the old currency and the new. He also collects shells. The scallop shell symbolizes the Campesino de Santiago, a pilgrimage or self-imposed spiritual exile like Stephen’s artistic exile. The shell is intrinsically worthless as currency. In cultures where shells are currency, the goodwill and trust of buyers and sellers secures value.
  • Averros and Maimonides: Respectively a Moorish philosopher and Jewish rabbi, they incorporated Aristotle’s thinking into religious thought within their separate writings. Each had some influence on the Catholic theology of Thomas Aquinas. Averroes and Maimonides were criticized for incorporating the ideology of the Aristotle into their theologies. Aquinas himself was called before the Inquisition but acquitted. These ecumenical allowances are early examples of the Humanism that sits at the center of Ulysses.

3 thoughts on “(U) Episode 2: “Nestor” ~pp 25-37.

  1. Hi Don, nice connection to forge with Columbanus, Stephen, and Joyce. Great series of questions in the Aristotle segment. As I read your work, I’m noting some papers you may or may not be familiar with. I’ll send you the details on Twitter, rather than here. I know you probably have oodles to read, still, they may be some use to your further analyses. Plus, you know what they say: Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy your blog and insights. All best, Mary.

  2. For the sake of my own education, I’m reading the novel (Alma edition) against the Little Review version (Yale edition). One fascinating change between the two versions: when discussing Sir John Blackwood in the novel, Deasy says he “voted for the union.” In LR, Deasy says he “voted against the union.” From what I’ve read, Blackwood promoted the notion that he voted for it but in fact voted against it. At any rate, no source (including Gifford) mentions this point. I’ve read most of the other books over the decades (I’m 70) but do not have them to hand. Any thoughts?

  3. It does seem to me that this brief chapter is all about confrontation: Stephen/students, Stephen/Deasy, England/Ireland, Greece/Rome, antisemitism/Bloom, Catholics/Protestants, reality/potentiality. Every exchange, whether actual or mental, is a challenge to see who will dominate or lose. Joyce was thoroughly confrontational, and this Episode 2 shows him yet again taking on history’s battles: one more of those and he is done for!

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