(GJ) Canto XLI (p.14, ll. 10-18).

Take her now who will! 

Abraham heard the voice of Yahweh at the dawn of religion. Until that moment, there was no precedent for theology or ritual. The deity without predecessor whispers his promise to Abraham, and Judaism takes shape under Abraham’s paternity.

Before Abraham, there was no religious rule. In various locales, sacrifices to aspects of nature took place, but there was no broad and codified worship. The Indus Valley Goddess Cult emerged at Abraham’s birth in 2500 BCE, but for occidental James Joyce the originator of all religious authority was Abraham to whom Yahweh gave that authority. Joyce does not claim to be a godhead but treats his art like a divinity. On seeing the water girl, the personification of his art, he erupts in rapture at the deity, “—Heavenly God! cried Stephen’s soul, in an outburst of profane joy.” 

God gave Abraham the authority to install rituals under the direction of the divine. In this canto, Joyce exercises that authority in the name of art. “My voice, dying in the echoes of its words, dies like the wisdom-wearied voice of the Eternal….,” he pronounces. The poet dictates right and wrong in Giacomo Joyce, his prayer to artistic license. His holy decree is that the girl is a member of his harem, worse, his property.

Joyce declares that he has taken her. If the canto refers to Amalia Popper, it is a fantasy. He did not see her after 1909. If he refers to Martha Fleishman, it is also a work of the imagination. Some suggest Emma Cuzzi or Annie Schliemer as alternate or additional “Dark Whos.” The Maestro did not meet Martha Fleishman until he moved to Vienna. According to Ellmann, the author left the document in Trieste, and it was saved from destruction by Brother Stanislaus. James would not have an opportunity to update the copy after he arrived in Austria.

Joyce was fond of revising history for the sake of artistic endings for his work. There is no evidence to support this canto as anything more than fantasy. Signorina Popper never surrendered to him. He soothes his sore id and ego by applying artistic omnipotence. It would be his right to her since he is the moral authority who defines right and wrong, it is permissible, and now also with moral justification, he abandons her (“Take her now who will!”). Once sullied, she is no longer a worthy sacrifice.

don ward October 8, 2020

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