I am a fan of James Ramey who teaches and writes about Joyce from his academic seat in Mexico City. I was delighted to learn then Ramey was to be featured in The Centennary Podcast for Ulysses (u22pod.com). This week his contribution came to pass.
Dr. Ramey reported about teaching Ulysses to a group of almost exclusively female first-time readers of the book mostly in Spanish translation. I found myself doubly delighted by Ramey’s discussion because I am especially interested in the successes and the many failures of the book in translations (every translation being a newly created work of fiction, for better but mostly for worse).
In the recent past, his class convened under the shade of “Me Too” awakening. Sensibilities in Mexico were also enervated. On reading Poldy’s musings, bordering lechery at best, class members balked and asked on reading Calypso, “Will it all be like this?” Ramey’s reply, “It will get worse.” AND it does. BUT. THEN it springs into a flow of female power. Ending in a torrent by Molly, the Moon Goddess. I can think of no more powerful statement of feminism (personal and therefore lower case lettered) than Molly’s soliloquy.
The report also reflected on why Mexicans find Ulysses appealing despite some minor concepts rendered untranslatable. These readers tended to focus on techniques rather than word-for-word conversions. Having a fervent interest in politics, they found the novel’s political commentary relevant. The Mexican reader also felt anchored in the text because that country is largely Catholic and the religious imagery is familiar. Ireland like Mexico is likewise the product of colonial suppression.
It is important to me that I highlight that Ulysses has anchors for readers across genders, social strata, religions, nations and educational backgrounds. You needn’t be a Mexican Catholic to love the book. We prove this daily, sharing with readers from Japan, India, Turkey, Bulgaria, Poland, Israel, Greece, Spain, Georgia, Peru, Macedonia, etc.
Before signing off, I’d like to comment about an unrelated podcast topic- metempsychosis. In the podcast, this was presented to be a synonym for reincarnation. This is not my understanding. I believe Gifford and Seidman distinguish metempsychosis not as the assumption of a new body by a previously extant soul, but as the sharing of a single consciousness (or soul) by two personages. I think this is preferable in the context of the novel since Bloom is not reincarnated in Stephen. He may come to share a soul with him.