Episode 2: “Nestor” ~pp 25-37

Important Symbols of Episode 2

  • Nestor: Called The Pylonian Horseman in The Iliad, the aged king of Pylos is honored 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 His speeches tend to be factually incomplete and out of date.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 Deasy’s Nestor is soon to be superseded by Leopold Bloom’s Odysseus.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 next iteration of, not necessarily 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: Under the blur of 4th Century BCE optics, Aristotle observed that while there are many possibilities only one can ever be actualized for each option. Today he would need to explain that to Schrodinger’s Cat. In fact, 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 of its own outside of the artist? That is, does the artist simply serve as a vehicle for the art (like lice that were thought to generate abiologically from human sweat)? 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.” This refers to Peter’s denial that he knew Christ. This might be 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 but also a poisonous shrub. Tindall extends the analysis of the riddle a bit further. He tells us that ivy, the symbol 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 financial 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 is the symbol of the Campesino de Santiago, a pilgrimage or self-imposed spiritual exile like Stephen’s artistic exile. The shell is also an intrinsically worthless currency. In cultures where they are used only the goodwill and trust of buyers and sellers is of value.
  • Averros and Maimonides: Respectively a Moorish philosopher and Jewish rabbi, they incorporated the thinking of Aristotle 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 thinking of the non-believer Aristotle. 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.
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