“Voice, Knowledge, and Truth” or “Saying Nothing”

The 27th Annual Bloomsday Omniscientific Joyce event alternately titled “Voice, Knowledge, and Truth” or “Saying Nothing” was conducted on BloomsWeek Tuesday during Session 5. The session explored the unsaid in Joyce, open secrets, and anonymity all attributing to “the unspeakable and the unspoken.” Presenters included participating Chairperson Vincent Cheng delivering  “Saying Nothing in Joyce,” Margot Norris presenting “Obscure Dubliners in Dubliners,” and M. Teresa Caneda-Cabrera’s “Joyce and Silence.” The connecting theme of the presentations was the significance of “the unsaid in the stories of Dubliners. 

Examples of the significance of the unsaid included meaningful silences, open secrets, actions that communicate in place of words, and punctuations that invite the reader to conjure dialog. 

Margot Norris asked the audience to consider the similarity of the silences as the boy communicants receive and drink the blood of Parnell and Father Flynn without making any ritualistic response. She further showed that the open secret of Father Keon’s defrocking in “Ivy Day in the Committee Room” was his weakness for drink. Caneda-Cabrera highlighted the unspoken shame of the laundry women of Dublin by Gaslight as they roll down sleeves over their seared and rough red arms before entering the polite company of their matrons. This presentation also contended that in “The Dead” those who have gone before speak through ellipses. Vincent Chung’s concluding piece focused on its title “Whatever you say, say nothing.” This title might be interpreted to mean that meaningless, incomplete, equivocal, or dishonest words can be acceptable substitutions for silence.

The most engaging element of the discussion came via a question posed by Catherine Flynn to the panel. She asked for opinions about a comment made by Brian O’Nolan (Flann O’Brien) in an interview. O’Nolan’s question pondered whether silence had the same meaning in the Irish language as it does in English. No stimulating response was forthcoming, but the question seems important. 

Silence would have the same pronunciation in Irish or English with an Aussie or Northeastern American accent, but the meaning might be dissimilar based on cultural biases. Not being a native speaker of Irish or a native of Dublin or Liverpool, any of my speculation on the meaning of silence would leave the pool of understanding unchanged or worse-muddied. Having age as my only talent, I can claim to compare American cultural influences on silence over time. Here I think I might contribute.

While I am not Irish, I claim to be distinctly and distinctively Irish-American. That culture no longer exists as an American demographic due to distance (from Ireland but also through an exodus from Irish-American communities), dissolution (assimilation), and distillation (every Irish-American of my generation married an Italian-American). Between the nostalgia of the 1950s and brutal contemporary clarity, the institutions of Parochial School education, The Urban Democratic Party loyalty, and Labor Union membership eroded. With it, solidarity and unquestioned obedience to religious, political, and fraternal or sororal order faded away. In halcyon days, silence was the only response to authority and golden. 

By contrast, America’s current blend of highest common denominator pop culture values chatter above all things. Here and now silence is nearly extinguished. But in the event that silence is encountered in response to any order, opinion, or icon, the meaning of silence is opposition or defiance. Silence is the perfection of the passive-aggressive response, and acceptance is not indicated by silence as once promised.  

Neither the writings of Joyce nor O’Nolan are important, except to the few who earn their bread writing about or teaching them. What is vital to those who read them is that they prod simple readers like me to contemplate gemstones and lumps of coal.

Mary Lawton on the Interrelationship of Jame Joyce’s Ulysses and Phineas Fletcher’s Purple Island or The Isle of Man

The third frame of the FestivalBloomsdayMontréal triptych was Mary Lawton’s discussion of the connection between Fletcher’s 17th Century “The Purple Island” and Joyce’s use of body structures and organs in the anatomy of Ulysses.

At the outset, I believed the comparison to be a false one. Fletcher’s construction is an allegory, more like a medieval morality play and without connection to an illustrative use of symbols in Ulysses, I thought. Some claim that Ulysses has no plot at all, but if we allow “plot” to mean exactly the bit of land on which Dublin sits, I can see the connection more clearly. The “wards” (with pun intended) on watch from my purple island failed to make sense of the meaning gathering in the mist offshore.

In “‘The Purple Island’ of Phineas Fletcher: allusions to the anatomy of the human body in English poetry up to the end of the seventeenth century,” John Riddington Young summarizes: 

A human’s sight is a warder; the teeth are porters. A human’s tongue and their ability to taste are embodied as a man and his wife. A person’s intelligence is the island’s prince and the prince’s counselors are the person’s five senses. The island prince’s enemies are epitomized as diseases and vices, while the island prince’s allies are exemplified by virtues.

If the Isle of Man is an appropriate alternate title, and if Dublin is a character of Ulysses’ plot (who could doubt that?), then an identity emerges. The allegorical body of man in Fletcher serves the same purpose as the body of Dublin does for Joyce. Let’s examine only the first and the last organs to appear on Gilbert’s Schema for Ulysses and compare these to Fletcher’s verse.

Canto II, 25-28

Beside the bladder there are six speciall parts contained in this lower region: the liver, stomack, with the guts; the gall, the splene, or milt; the kidneys, and parts for generation.

Fletcher described these conduits as passageways within the island. In the novel, the kidneys express the Isle of Calypso. From here, Bloom ventures out. When he is at home (“Who’s he when he’s at home?” demands Molly) a body sustains himself, Molly, daughter, and a cat. Molly is also equipped with a chamber pot. Ingress and evacuation are both prepared for in the structures that comprise Dublin. 

In the same room at the novel’s end, Molly represents the civic flesh.

Canto II, 14-15

The native colour of the skinne is white but (as Hippocrates) changed into the same colour which is brought by the humour predominant. Where melancholie abounds, it is swarthy; where flegme, it is white, and pale; where holer reignes, it is red and firy; but in sanguine of a rosie colour.

The skinne is covered with the cuticle, or flourishing of the skinne, it is the mean of touching, without which we feel, but with pain. It polisheth the skinne, which many times is hanged, and (as it is with snakes) put off, and a new, and more amiable brought in.

Molly is the flesh that draws the men of Dublin across the four bodily humors from phlegmatic to sanguine, choleric to melancholic. She is the flesh that brings the bones of Fletcher’s island houses alive. 

A city, a body, an island, a story are designed to survive invasions, viruses, storms, and short-sighted criticism like mine. Lawton said it was Joyce’s medical training that drew the analogy of the body’s organs and structures. Sensibly so.



Casey Lawrence “From Cap and Apron to Bella Cohen: the genetics of vicelike corsets”

Casey Lawrence’s presentation was well-organized and practiced. The focus of the presentation was tight (I won’t say corsetted) and properly so for the short duration of the time allowed. 

I was recently surreptitiously prodded to contribute to a student’s assignment: What is the theme of the Circe episode of Ulysses? I declined to write content in response to the coyly-asked question since I would never know what grade I received for the assignment. I limited my response to a prompt rather than content fit to be plagiarized. “Transformation,” I wrote.

Every reader of Ulysses personalizes the novel. I do, certainly. My prism for thinking about the Circe episode is a focus on, in Molly’s rendering, “metAmpsychosis,” the sharing of a soul by Bloom and Stephen. I recognize that Bloom’s purpose in the novel is to represent all humanity, both genders and every religion. No, this brief report won’t waste any more ink on what the text means to me.

Lawrence’s interpretation is more narrowly focused on “gendering,” although I hesitate to impose any labels on her understanding. Bloom’s nocturnal transformation is seen as a sexually inspired one. 

Of greatest interest to me was the changing composition of sexual characteristics and the range of their influences. This facet of transformation is undeniably, but not exclusively, true of the novel. One need only look to Nora’s delight in walking out in Galway dressed in manly attire (even boldly “hallo-ing” her uncle) to glimpse some of Joyce’s inspiration. Joyce also transformed Molly into a Turk and a gull into a summoned witness.

An important scholarly contribution that Lawrence makes to the understanding of Circe and other “Bits” of Ulysses is the discussion of the serpentine evolution of Tit Bits and Photo Bits from and to “Something-Bits-Something.” Then a photo gazette, now a soft porn tabloid, changing names and publishers, it weaved through decades dodging debts and censure. She offered that Joyce may have seen a copy of one incarnation of the tabloid earlier in its evolution. When he requested that Budgen bring him a copy of the publication from England, he was delivered a source that was very different in its degree of prurience from the one he remembered. However, if there is a mistake in the representation of the manifestation of “Something-Bits-Something” in 1904, it would have no bearing on Joyce’s intention and meaning as he wrote the episode.

Previously, I have expressed that I think it is a disservice to subscribers (for that is what we are who contribute to offset the expenses of events) not to provide materials used in the delivery of online or in-person presentations. Lawrence’s PERT chart depicting the archeology of Bits would have been useful and appreciated.

John McCourt: The Origins of Bloomsday.

My recollection (sometimes or usually faulty) is that Professor McCourt said the earliest celebrations were called Ulysses Day with the first occurring in 1924. Attempting to improve on my memory I found a claim that Joyce’s unnamed friends began annual celebrations immediately after publication. Joyce mentioned the celebration in a letter after being presented a bouquet of blue and white flowers while hospitalized on that Bloomsday. Joyce actually scrawled in his notebook “ …twenty years after. Will anyone remember the date (?)”

In 1929 on the twentieth anniversary of the fictive date, Sylvia Beach’s publishing partner celebrated by releasing Ulysse, a French translation.

Joyce may have been prophetic in that it was not until thirty years after that date (on the 50th anniversary) that a Bloomsday we might admit to recognizing first assembled. In 1954, two horse-drawn cabs were rented to carry revelers in promenade along the Dublin Odyssey. Brian O’Nolan, prepared for an accurate, fortified portrayal of John S. Joyce long before the group assembled. He was joined by Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, Tom Joyce, and AJ Leventhal as living representations of males characters of the plot. A more modern news feature on the assemblage was headlined: “First major Bloomsday with Flann O’Brien, Patrick Kavanagh was a wild, drunk time.”

Somehow, I had survived to my advanced age without knowing that graduate students of Montclair State College in New Jersey studying Finnegans Wake under Frederick H. Young, funded and arranged for the installation of a 35‐pound bronze plaque, 18 by 24 inches on the site of Joyce’s birthplace. The site had previously been unmarked. The installation was unveiled on Bloomsday 1964.” It’s appropriate to note this same institution, now Montclair State University, also houses the museum dedicated to another word crafter of renown, Yogi Berra, who was reported to say: “You can observe a lot just by watchin’.”

Served an off-topic lob by the moderator, Dr. McCourt was asked about the desecration (my term) of the house memorialized in Joyce’s capstone of Dubliners. Developers owning Fifteen Usher’s Island of “The Dead” have received final approval for plans to convert the literary site into a 56-bed hostel. McCourt seems to hold out hope that somehow the approval might be reversed. No plan was disclosed.

Another question interjected by the moderator asked if Joyce’s remains should be repatriated to Ireland. His answer: “No.”  Zurich honored Joyce’s remains since his death and Ireland has proven a poor steward of Joyce’s literary heritage as evidenced by the fate of 15 Usher’s Island and 7 Eccles Street.

Festival Bloomsday Montréal, Academic Panel Number 1

On the morning of June 14th in anticipation of the Celebration of Festival Bloomsday Montréal, Academic Panel Number 1 dissembled in the style of Wandering Rocks. The speakers, neither crossed paths nor colocated and never had the opportunity to share exchanges. Some of that can be blamed on the specter of Covid. 

This year’s management of the technology showed a great improvement over last year’s first-ever online program. Testing the link with Rome before the presentations might have allowed for technical tuning that would have improved the sound quality of this year’s presentation.

The sessions began with two administrative introductions, followed by three speakers each followed by questions, interjections, and moderator commentary.

The academic speakers were three: John McCourt, Casey Lawrence, and Mary Lawton.

What follows are not intended to be minutes of the presentations, rather impressions. I might be forgiven if I overlook ideas of particular importance to the presenters. Transcripts are not available from BloomsdayMontréal. If my notes are inadequate and I err in my reporting, I apologize in advance. I am not so proud that I am prevented from begging for transcripts for future Bloomsdays. Please? I trust that my inept reporting of what transpired will not end all future Bloomsday celebrations.

(D) about “The Boarding House,” March 25, The Feast of the Annunciation

In “The Boarding House,” Joyce presents his case for the victimized male impressed into domesticity through deception, coercion, societal and economic pressure. The result is a sham Annunciation predicting a stumbling future for a timid Joseph, bound and gagged in holy matrimony.

Mrs. Mooney, a failed butcher’s wife, fell even lower into the role of a metaphorical madam (Dubliners 98). Her establishment lands hard on Hardwicke Street, serving tourists, a residency of clerks, rowdy music hall performers, and a rough commercial crowd not timid about the proximity to the brothels of Monto (99). The Joyce family knew the street well, having lived at Number 27 in one of their many brief occupancies. The street name also recalls the Hardwick Act of 1754 that regulated marriage in Edwardian Ireland (James Joyce’s Dubliners 53).

The “Madam” Mooney’s boy, Jack, enforced her cute and cunning rules. Jack “was fond of using soldiers’ obscenities” and who, working on Fleet Street, is likely bi-lingual, also fluent in nautical vulgarities. He showed himself often to be fancy with his fists but “sang comic songs” to hide his darker side (100). Although Mrs. Mooney’s only son made boarders toe the line according to house rules, he might carry two bottles of Bass into his room while “entertaining company.” Still, the house enforcer was quick to defend his sister’s slight honor when a slight at her honor was offered, even when Sister Polly invited the offense by vamping a suggestive song at the piano (Dubliners 100).

The establishment is convenient to a variety of after-hours houses, churches, and brothels. This locale affords itself the comforts of both the profound and the profane. The pro-cathedral is near at hand, but for express salvation, Marlborough Street worshipers might avail themselves of “a short twelve” at a side altar that will be adjourning just as the celebrant at the main altar begins his homily. Adam and Eve’s on Merchant Quay was, appropriately to this story, once a mass-house disguised as a tavern (Torchiana 112). Intrusive bells call from the belfry of Church of Ireland’s Saint George’s. George slew the dragon of evil in defense of a maiden’s virtue. Vaults under Saint George’s stored potable spirits (Torchiana 118). From Monto, it’s just a short walk to confess at either of the Catholic churches. The locale offers every brand and packaging of salvation.

Mrs. Mooney was the daughter and the wife of butchers. When her husband went after her with the cleaver, she left his house for a neighbor’s. She separated from Mooney using the protections of Canon Law and carved out a new occupation for herself. After ruining the butcher shop’s trade, her husband earned a meager living sitting on the sheriff’s bench waiting to do some dirty business in the name of the law. Meanwhile, Mrs. Mooney kept her butchering ways honed even after selling the shop. The Mooney’s shop had been on Mud Island, where rogues lived under a rough code of law (Torchiana 111). There she learned to administer a rationalized justice, dealing “with moral problems as a cleaver deals with meat” (Dubliners 102). Her authority was a stew of “religious and secular” ingredients under “‘cleaver’ morality,” according to Gerald Doherty (473-74).

Like an Etruscan soothsayer, Madam Mooney read the entrails as she made her incantations and observed the smoke (Doherty 477). She bides her time and allows events to transpire until the time is ripe to privately, then publicly, declare what she has known, allowed, and encouraged.

     Things were as she had suspected: she
     had been frank in her questions and 
     Polly had been frank in her answers. 
     Both had been somewhat awkward, of 
     course. She had been made awkward by 
     her not wishing to receive the news 
     in too cavalier a fashion or to seem 
     to have connived and Polly had been 
     made awkward not merely because allusions
     of that kind always made her awkward but
     also because she did not wish it to be
     thought that in her wise innocence she
     had divined the intention behind her 
     mother's tolerance. (Dubliners 102-03)

Daughter Polly’s eyes vacillate grey and green. Green is the color of sexual predation elsewhere in Dubliners and Ulysses. She is, at times, demure, at others, “a little perverse madonna” (Dubliners 101). Mrs. Mooney’s daughter is an attraction of the house, singing suggestive songs and coquetting with the clientele. Her mother, The Madam, oversees her friendly flirting with an eye out for suitable suitors. In critical moments, the Boarding House Venus falls into a trance, lost to the events around her. She rests her chin on the bedstead and loses the memory of the symbolic pillows that lay on Doran’s bed. Halper attributes the unfolding to her “immaturity, (and) tenacious adolescence.” But those feather pillows, instrumental to her impregnation, are also symbolic of the Holy Ghost (Torchiana 114). Halper further objects to the story’s older adolescent “protagonist,” Doran, age thirty-five or thirty-six. All the other protagonists in this group of stories are very young. With all respect to Halper, it seems the protagonist here is not Doran but Polly, and the story is a retelling of a perverse annunciation to that “little perverse madonna.”

Even Halper agrees that “In her wise innocence, Polly Mooney has divined what her mother is doing” (Halper 75). She is not an active conspirator. Torchiana shows her consciousness to be adrift as if waiting for some mystical empowerment. When her senses reset, she looks into the mirror, perhaps not from vanity but to be sure that she has returned to her familiar body. Her mother had also looked into the mirror as she dispatched Mary to fetch Doran. Finally, Scholes and Litz point out that the word epicleti shares its origin with Joyce’s central theme of epiphany. 


copyright (C) don ward 2021



 Epiklesis, the Greek term, is used by the Eastern Church for the role of the Holy Ghost in transforming the consecrated wafer and wine into Christ’s body and blood (250). As the Annunciation transforms the Virgin into the Mother of God, so is Miss Mooney transformed with her mother’s summons. With less than a page remaining in the story, as Torchiana notes, Joyce cleaves the page with a string of ellipses marking Polly’s Annunciation. It’s here that the story partitions, all before or after (109). 

Deoradh, the Irish word at the source of the Doran surname, indicates a stranger or exile. This Doran considers a self-imposed exile to escape his fate. That suggests a break from tradition, from family, and from his employer. Mrs. Mooney resolved her marital problems in that way too. She put aside her husband, giving up the butcher shop that had belonged to her father, and moving to Hardwicke Street to host tenants. Bob and the Madam also share an interest in the mixing of business and religious practice. Doran has worked “for thirteen years in a great Catholic wine merchant’s office.” Either exile or scandal would end his career of handling that eucharistic species. His counterpart shares her name with J.G. Mooney public houses and bakery and John Mooney’s Clonliffe Bakery (Torchiana 109). He deals in the grape; she the grain.

Confession summons Bob Doran. Doherty even calls Doran “a compulsive confessee” (475). His clerical confessor wrings the smallest details of his sin from him, maximizing guilt. This transforms the “loophole of reparation” into an apparent gateway to salvation. In this case, the sacrament is insufficient. The bridegroom must face three confessors, each offering a different brand of penance. They are priest, madam, and enforcement agent Jack. The steam rising from his confessions fogs his glasses, blinding him to the future (Dubliners 110).

In his analysis, Bruce Rosenberg calls Doran “a diminished Jesus,” pushed toward decency. The boarder agrees to become the victim. Moreover, Gifford and Seidman suggest that “Manuo,” Doran’s Monto pseudonym, originates in manu or hand, suggesting one who works with his hands– like a carpenter. These are all Christlike attributes. Torchiana, however, objects, saying that the other joiner, Joseph, is a better fit “in his justness, his kindness, basic celibacy, thoughtfulness,…his wish to spare (Polly) disgrace” (114). Like Joseph, Bob Doran might have questioned the justification of his call to imposed husbanding. In fact, Doran had “a notion he was being had.”

Despite malleability, a reader would not call Groom Doran heroic. Hubert and Mauss say, as a victim, he mediates “between the sacred and the profane” (Doherty 475). Even his greatest asset as a husband and provider comes cloaked in a corrupted vocabulary. His job lists as a “good screw,” which Jackson and McGinley tell us also means a good wine (and he will drink to excess). That term also has a sexual connotation (56). The “tumbler of punch” Polly served him combines two sexually charged terms. A “tumble” is well known to readers of Shakespeare; “punch” suggests lost virginity. Approaching middle age, he still read Reynolds Newspaper that courted a Red and anarchist readership. His annual drunken binges included consorting with shawls in Monto brothels. During these prolonged escapes from marital obligations, he referred to Christ as a “bloody ruffian” (Torchiana 112). Even the name “Bob” means to cheat (James Joyce’s Dubliners 57). By the first Bloomsday, Bob Doran is known to be the “lowest blackguard in Dublin” when binging. https://jamesjoycereadingcircle.com/2020/05/26/episode-8-lestrygonians-pp-149-181/

“The Boarding House” title also conjoins Hubert and Mauss’ sacred and profane, recalling the biblical invocation to marriage: “a man … shall cleave to his wife.” “Boarding,” however, is also the Shakespearean term for sexual advances (James Joyce’s Dubliners 53) and suggests a coffin, carpentry, and crucifixion (Torchiana 122).

James Joyce, author and sinner, evaded formal responsibilities as a spouse and parent until 1931 when Nora made him an honest man. He finally succumbed for legal considerations related to inheritance rather than for reparation, reputation, or redemption. Dubliners’ stories use misgivings about marital commitments to drive plots (“A Painful Case,” “Eveline,” and “The Boarding House”), and “A Little Cloud” and “Counterparts” present disastrous or unsatisfactory marriages. The possibilities plagued Joyce, so he equivocated a defense for his delayed commitment. He objected, “Some people in Ireland think…the whole duty of man consists in paying one’s debts” and generalized his defense even more in correspondence to Stannie “…the whole structure of [male ] heroism is, and always was, a damned lie” (Doherty 477). He has now exacted his revenge against another societal norm with his weapon of choice, the pen.


Works Cited

Doherty, Gerald. “There Must Be Reparation: A Sacrificial Reading of ‘The Boarding House,'” James Joyce Quarterly Vol. 49, No. 3/4, Spring-Summer 2012, pp. 473-491.

Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce, Oxford University Press, New York. 1983.

Halper, Nathan. “The Boarding House,” James Joyce’s Dubliners, Critical Essays, editor Clive Hart.  First edition. Viking Adult, 1969, pp. 72–83.

Joyce, James. Dubliners. Enhanced Media, https://books.apple.com, 2016, Retrieved 26 April 2021

Joyce, James. James Joyce’s Dubliners: An Illustrated Edition with      Annotations, edited by John Wyse Jackson and Bernard McGinley, St. Martin’s Press, 1993, pp. 21-27.

Joyce, James, et al. Ulysses. Modern Library, 1961, 149-181.

Kenner, Hugh. Joyce’s Voices. Dalkey Archive Press, 2007. 

Scholes, Robert and A. Walton Litz, Editors, “‘Epiphanies and Epicleti” and “Evidence of the Letters.” Joyce, James. Dubliners: Text and Criticism, edited by Robert Scholes and A. Walton Litz, Penguin Books, 1996, pp. 247–285. 

Tindall, William York. “Dubliners.” A Reader’s Guide to James Joyce, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1959, pp. 25-26. 

Torchiana, Donald T.” ‘The Boarding House’: The Sacrament of Marriage, The Annunciation, and The Bells of Saint George’s,” Backgrounds for Joyce’s Dubliners, Allen & Unwin, 1986, pp. 109-124.


(D) about “An Encounter,” June 14, anniversary of The Joyce Brothers’ “miching” expedition

The school year traditionally ended on June 30 (Terrence Murphy in “James Joyce and Narrative Territory: The Distinct Functions of Lost Time in ‘An Encounter” and ‘The Sisters'”), and Jackson and McGinley indicate Pluck’s first issue, in Joe Dillon’s “little library,” would not be available until June. Most significantly, the Joyce brothers miching expedition occurred on June 14. That is where we will place this story on our calendar.

Nautical invaders brought sexual segregation and sexual violence to Ireland. That segregation later extended through the educational system was part of a strategy, explicit or implicit, to emasculate the conquered race. Clerical celibacy, long contended against by the Catholic Church in Ireland, the product of aestheticism, misogyny, and avarice by the universal Church, has fueled sexual abuses even to modern times.

Fierce Celtic warriors went to battle painted and naked. The Greek Strabo described them as “war mad” (Wood The Celts 121). In Welsh lore, warriors fight eternally on Mayday for the singular most beautiful woman (124). The Celtic men were accompanied and led in battle by Celtic heroines and goddesses (Wood The Celtic Way 15). In Irish tradition, the separation of the sexes was long resisted, past the time when Roman Catholicism insisted on clerical celibacy. When finally imposed, the effects of clerical celibacy included hidden disgraces. Educational and nautical traditions, segregating the sexes and contributing to Celtic manhood’s emasculation, are also featured in Joyce’s “An Encounter.”

Irish wildness needed taming for the comfort and profit of Empire and Church. By the 4th Century, aesthetic influences flogged the Roman Church toward celibacy influenced by the writings of Saints Jerome, Ambrose, and a Spanish synod. This despite the refusal of The Council of Nicea to endorse celibacy in 325. By the 11th Century, much of the argument centered around the inheritance of priests’ property. In Ireland, clerical marriage was unquestioned, being status quo during the First Synod of Patrick. The saint’s father, in fact, was a deacon and his grandfather a priest. Brehon code also settled law about both married and unmarried priests and addressed the inheritance rights of clergys’ wives. At large in the Roman Church, the debate continued whether married priests’ would give first allegiance to Church or family. That argument continued until celibacy became another divisive issue between Luther and the Church of Rome (Ellis). 

Both law and canon regulation forbade Celtic tradition. Foreign refinements also superseded it, so Joe Dillon, the future celibate priest, converts from his tribe to pursue a new ideal. His regime will conquer and punish the natives, scorn female contact, and replace that contact with sadism and humiliation of the subjugated. Empire-building demands deployment away from familiar lovers, teaches regimented violence, and excuses larceny in the service of a vengeful deity. This is especially necessary to subvert the youth who might prefer “unkempt fierce and beautiful girls” (Joyce 24). The boys of “An Encounter” dream of sailing the three-master in the company of men. Their strategy is to lay siege to the Smoothing Iron. They have impounded Leo Dillon’s sixpence (28-29). In keeping with their indoctrination, “Smith and Murphy” set out on a males-only expedition with Mahoney chasing off “ragged girls.” Meanwhile, the unnamed boy plays sycophant to the Anglicized literary tastes of the “josser,” but he soon feels threatened with sadism as punishment for having a sweetheart (35).

Empires exist to seize the land and treasure of conquered indigenous peoples. Similarly, the Church took worldly wealth held by priests on their deaths. The indoctrinated boys have applied these lessons and impounded Leo Dillon’s sixpence (28-29). Mahoney scorns his companion’s fear they might “encounter” Fr. Butler during their miching: “What would Father Butler be doing out at the Pigeon House?” Torchiana points out that the Butlers, unlike most Irish Norman families, had never been entirely Hibernianized (38). Due to Crown loyalty, they retained great tracts of land, including property near the Pigeon House. The priest might have been there to look after family property seized from disenfranchised Celts (Tindall 18). Some or all of this property might pass to the Church on Butler’s death. This practice was no longer a requirement of Canon Law in Edwardian Ireland but a custom as described in Dubliners first story, “The Sisters.”

As the Stranger approaches, the unnamed boy chews at the shoots of the plant “on which girls tell fortunes” (Joyce 32). The device predicts an unholy meeting, recalls the old druidic worship of nature, and reflects on the traditional Celtic female’s good offices. Meanwhile, the josser circles rehearsing his lines, ” shabbily dressed in a suit of greenish-black and wore what we used to call a jerry hat with a high crown” (34). He re-establishes the ruined priest who in the collection’s first story has “a great wish for him (the boy)” (7). 

“about ‘An Encounter'”
(c) don ward 2021

Boy-Smith has been seduced into self-loathing by the “bullying vigor” of the future priest Joe Dillon. He is an indifferent Indian, and disappointed, he cultivated a desire for superiority from his peers. As a consequence, he inclines toward the green-eyed Other (Mooney 226-227). The analysis that James Degnan offers springs from Psychology. Living under foreign laws, conflicting traditions, commandments, and superego “… runs the risk of neurosis, emotional paralysis (the inability to function caused by perfectionism and scrupulosity) and of perverting his nature.” He fears that his refinements of taste and nature “have in them the seeds of the vices the old man embodies…” (Degnan 91-92).

To shed his Irish-Otherness, the boy gravitates to the Josser’s accent, education, and experience. These are the lures baited. The adventurers passed the site of the Danes’ Thingmote, the symbol of a foreign and imposed law. The Thingmote is also the site where Danes meted out punishment (Torchiana 46). It is the place for scourging, and scourging is another heritage of the maritime way. Joyce connects Mahoney’s catapult and harrying of the Pigeon House cat to the maritime discipline of the cat-o-nine-tails.

This pedophile’s syllabus for acolytes includes the writings of Lytton whose personal life was infamous, Scott, the model for A Portrait’s “perverse… captain,” and Moore who burned Byron’s diary because his friend George was “a bad man” (James Joyce’s Dubliners 16). Could Moore have been implicated in the journals? Irish education also adopted the practice of flailing the Otherness out of young scholars. In the story, Father Butler administers pedagogical abuse. Biographically, Joyce would “mich” on the day of the catechetical exam. This event concluded with his conflict with Father Henry, who then became the model for the green-eyed pervert (Ellmann 56).

The pedophile shifts his strategy from the seduction of Anglo-curious Boy-Smith to the trashing of Celtic-wild Mahoney-Murphy. He attempts to recruit Smith into his service:

He said that my friend was a very rough boy and asked did he get whipped often at school. I was going to reply indignantly that we were not National School boys to be whipped, as he called it; but I remained silent. He began to speak on the subject of chastising boys. (Joyce 37)

Alarmed, Smith withdraws, but tentatively. His hesitancy stems from a reluctance to abandon the Josser and return to Mahoney-Murphy whom he might have betrayed. He dallies, pretending to tie his shoe. The Josser holds a mystical and exotic power that holds the boy. A joss stick is an incense burned in honor of a Chinese god; in Finnegans Wake, “Lord Joss” refers to Jesus (Tindall 18). The boy has been under the trance of a Stranger, disguised in false religiosity, propriety and refinement. As Feshbach warns us, “The society’s purpose is to cloak disorder with mock virtues” ( 87).

The protagonist weakly confesses Mahoney’s near-betrayal as the story ends: “And I was penitent; for in my heart I had always despised him a little” (Joyce 39). How could it be otherwise after Leo Dillon’s defection, Dillon, who carried the names of Pope Leo, who spurned Home Rule for the Irish, and John Dillon, who declared against Parnell in his lowest days? Duplicitous Joe Dillion shifts between savagery and piety. Even the setting suggests betrayal. Here, government influence squelched O’Connell’s planned Dublin monster rally in 1843 (Torchiana 38-40). Betrayal is encouraged everywhere by the Stranger.

When discussing their actual day of truancy, Stanislaus referred to the odd fellow as “The Captain of Fifty.” The phrase refers to a biblical passage from 3. Isiah 3-10. In the selection, Isreal is threatened with the loss of its leaders. The younger Joyce brother suggested that “Captain of Fifty” become the title of the story. This title would be doubly appropriate since the Josser was about fifty years of age with a military bearing (Stanislaus Joyce 62). An elder, also disguised as a conquerer, a cleric, and a teacher would demand the boys’ respect and obedience.

Ireland would also lose its captains of fifty. Seafaring conquerors came from a nautical society where discipline had replaced affection, supplanting the native wild Celtic captains and queens. Perhaps the strangers were twenty years away from their natural loves. Perhaps they sailed under a situational ethic like green-eyed Odysseus. Perhaps, like the later Joycean Murphy in Ulysses’ Eumaeus episode, the raider had abandoned his wife and child for the sake of adventure. The Boy-Smith epiphanies that he is drifting without heritage or legacy: “As I did so I met the gaze of a pair of bottle-green eyes peering at me from under a twitching forehead” (Joyce 38). 

Works Cited

Degnan, James P. “The Encounter in Joyce’s ‘An      Encounter.'” Twentieth Century Literature, vol. 35, no. 1, 1989, pp. 89–93. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/441777. Retrieved April 2. 2021.

Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce, Oxford University Press, New York. 1983.

Ellis, P. B. (2005, September 21). “Celibacy in the Catholic Church,” https://www.archive.irishdemocrat.co.uk/features/celibacy-in-the-church/. Retrieved April 5, 2021. 

Feshbach, Sidney. “Death in ‘An Encounter.'” James Joyce Quarterly, vol. 2, no. 2, 1965, pp. 82–89. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25486485. Retrieved April 2. 2021.

Hartdegen, Stephen J, and Christian P Ceroke. The New American Bible, Catholic Book Pub. Co, 1970, p. 749, 3. Isiah 3-10.

Joyce, James. Dubliners. Enhanced Media, 2016, Retrieved March 28- April 12. 2021.

Joyce, James. James Joyce’s Dubliners: An Illustrated Edition with      Annotations, edited by John Wyse Jackson and Bernard McGinley, St. Martin’s Press, 1993, pp. 21-27.

Joyce, Stanislaus. My Brother’s Keeper: James Joyce’s Early Years, edited by Richard Ellmann, Da Capo Press, 1958, p. 62. 

Mooney, Susan. “Interrupted Masculinity in Dubliners: Anxiety, Shame, and Shontological Ethics.” Joyce Studies Annual, 2017, pp. 220–256. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/26798617. Retrieved March 31. 2021.

Power, Patrick. Sex and Marriage in Ancient Ireland. Mercier Press, 1976.

Tindall, William York. “Dubliners.” A Reader’s Guide to James Joyce, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1959, pp. 17-19. 

Torchiana, Donald T.” ‘An Encounter’: Joyce’s History of Irish Failure in Roman, Saxon, and Scandinavian Dublin,” Backgrounds for Joyce’s Dubliners, Allen & Unwin, 1986, pp. 36-51.

Wood, Juliette. The Celtic Book of Living and Dying: the Illustrated Guide to Celtic Wisdom. Chartwell Books, Inc., 2012, pp. 12–19. 

Wood, Juliette. The Celts: Life, Myth, and Art, Watkins Pub., 2014, pp. 121–135. 

Joyce Seeing Eye to Eye with Picasso?: A Review of “James Joyce and the Cubist Esthetic.” by JO-ANNA ISAAK 


Source: Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal, WINTER 1981, Vol. 14, No. 1 (WINTER 1981), pp. 61-90 

Published by: University of Manitoba

 Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/24780356 


I am neither a physicist nor an art historian. I do have a layman’s interest in these disciplines but claim no expertise. I know a bit more about the writings of James Joyce, so my comments will lean toward the written word and may ignore some important points related to Cubism, Futurism, Photons, and Quantum Physics. The breadth of Isaak’s analysis is impressive. However, the reader should note that her work is forty years old, and these sciences are dynamic, not in content but in our knowledge of that content.

While I appreciate Isaak’s analysis, I find her discussion to be a comprehensive review of the art forms that emerged at the outset of the Twentieth Century. Joyce’s writing reflects only a few of these concepts and devices. In this review, I address matters related to the plastic arts, Simulteism, artistic image reflection, fluidity, and most importantly, the parallax as a device connecting artist, characters, and audience. 


p.63 (Isaak’s pagination)

“…(what) Stephen takes issue with is that painting and sculpture are essentially spatial form and therefore static whereas poetry is temporal a realization of sequence in time, and therefore dynamic.”

Joyce first wrote Stephen Hero during the period from 1904 to 1905. In 1905, Einstein experienced his “Miracle Year” when he authored his Nobel Prize-winning paper on Photons and his papers on General and Special Relativities. Joyce was famously a voracious reader but how much of Einstein’s theorizing was available to Joyce as he wrote these words is unknown. We can determine from Stephen Hero that Joyce was considering the perspective of the artist interacting with external objects as he created his art. But even the artist looking at the creation sees only one perspective of an object at a time. Futurists might say that all sculpture is dynamic since the observer in motion around an object “changes” the sculpture’s image. If Mr. Bloom walks around the statue of Venus in the National Museum in Scylla and Charybdis, he might stoop and twist to create a new perspective. In the context of Joyce’s novel, it is probably more important that the character interacts with a statue’s objective reality by creating new perspectives to elicit an altered subjective fluidity. Poldy looks for a feature in the statue that is not present. Its absence shapes his experience as surely as anatomical accuracy would have. One interpretation might be that art does not and cannot reflect objective reality. Fluidity (not the school of art but the experience) may result nonetheless. 

If a “reality” is a statue, it is not merely the result of the artist’s vision. It is also a view of art itself, in this case by Poldy’s character influencing the author who created him as much as by the sharpness of a specific chisel. There are also perspectives of other characters created by the artist and the perspective of the reader/viewer too. In fact, an infinite number of reader/viewer perspectives must be allowed for (or summarily dismissed). There are three classes of reality then to be considered. There is an objective reality that exists within the object observed. At any time, there can be only one objective reality, but over time even objectivity changes. A block of ice evaporates, gradually changing the mass of the block and creating water from the lost mass. Eventually, the ice ceases to exist, and the reality is only a puddle. That reality then evaporates. The realities most often addressed by Isaak’s experts are artistic egocentricities. That is, they are concerned only with how the artist perceives reality. This is itself a subjective reality. 

What we know of reality, even at a specified instant, is also dynamic. Our planetary world is dynamic, rotating on its axis, circumnavigating our star, and as a component of an expanding universe. At the opposite end of our scale of measurement are our atomic building blocks, always in motion. Another possibility, if String Theory is correct, might be that there are nine, eleven, thirteen iterations of every reality.

Monet’s treatment of gently shimmering colors and lights was, in part, the result of his degenerated vision. Degas also reproduced a reality that only existed for him. One of every twenty viewers of their paintings suffered from blue-green color blindness. The reality for that audience is different than the reality of the other ninety-five percent of viewers. And those realities are different than those of Monet or Degas. 

Next, we might consider the reality perceived by Joyce. Joyce remarks that the rhythm of poetry is fluid, so is observed reality. When the author describes the Irish Sea in Proteus, fireworks over the Star of the Sea in Nausicaa, or Circe’s crashing chandelier, he does so without the benefit of depth perception since his left eye is blurred or covered with a patch. His reality is not the reality of almost anyone else.

For Einstein, Joyce, Poldy, Monet, Degas, you or me, there is no objective reality, neither fluid nor static.

Mutability of Plastic Art Forms

p.64 and p.83

“Form in the plastic arts, according to Lessing, is necessarily spatial. Literature, on the other hand, makes use of language; composed of a succession of words proceeding through time, it is necessarily sequential.” 

Lessing’s definition doesn’t completely reflect the artistic tastes and styles of the last two centuries. Sculpture and graphic arts often include words, numbers, and symbols. Sometimes to the exclusion of other content. Robert Indiana’s sculpture “LOVE” might be the best example. This piece was first created as graphic art in 1965, then transposed to sculpture in 1970. According to Lessing’s description, Indiana’s work must be called literature. View the sculpture here:


Indiana’s recorded description of the sculpture includes. a short discussion of his poem “When the Word Is Love.” The sculpture is also a poem, the verse a physical message. The sculpture, as I view it, is more than a single word. There are several translations of the WORD (AMOR being one), but, in English, “VE” support “LO.” The “O” leans away from its “L” but retains some contact, distinct but also part of something greater than itself. The communication is greater than the sculpture. The meaning is greater than the physical structure of the word.

Isaak makes clear for us how kinetic is HELY’S wander through Joyce’s prose and static newsprint headline and copy become symbolic in ways that extend beyond the meaning of the words themselves. The heroic-sized S-M-P that begin the books of Ulysses, Isaak might have added, are more than letters, more than the words “Stately,” “Mr.,” and “Pursuant.” They are monuments attesting to the stature of the gods and goddess of Joyce’s new mythology. 

Similarly, “Picasso’s stenciled letters and Gris’ fragments of newspaper” are, at the same instant, as plastic and as fluid as Joycean prose. As discussed, Bloom’s examination of The Venus is not merely the review of a static object but also an exercise in stretching perception through time, space, perspective, the page’s prose, and the reader’s interaction.

Reflection and Perspective


“Once the apparent deformations of Cubism are seen in relation to the Theory of Relativity, then “the fact of moving around an object to seize several successive appearances, which, fused in a single image, reconstitute it in time, will no longer make thoughtful people indignant.” 13 What Metzinger seems to be echoing here is Einstein’s statement that ‘the description of an event will vary according to the position and relative motion of the observer.’ 14 Metzinger’s idea was to use the new physics to justify the Cubist method by arguing that Cubism, while apparently ‘irrelevant to reality,’ did, in fact, present a truer picture of things because it represented time, as the new theories did, as a dimension of space.” 

I find myself disagreeing with Metzinger’s assessment of Cubism as “irrelevant to reality,” both artistically and scientifically. However, the Cubist must be willing to share reality with others. The artist’s perspectives are only some of the infinite varieties of perspectives that may be drawing on subjective reality. The artist’s generosity must extend to subjects of art and viewers who interact with the art. 

Sometimes there might also be perspectives working inside the art among its subjects. Velásquez’ “Las Meninas,” conceived in the mid-Seventeenth Century, is the only example I may ever have the need to know. Here the primary subjects are The Infanta and her attendants. Excluding the canine perspective, there are eleven sets of optics active in the painting’s amber instant. All but the perspective of the Infanta are those of “Meninas” whose roles are to attend the princess. Only two of them are attentive to their charge. Millions of other Meninas have also craned necks in The Prado, some kneeling in front of the crowd, some to the left, others right, a few may inch past the limits of the tape on the floor, a poor few may never approach the canvas but only view it from across the gallery. Similarly, in Wandering Rocks, young Master Dignam’s reflection is at odds with his current mental state. His reflection is unrecognizable even to its owner. He is thinking not of his father’s passing but of a boxing match, not of a corpse but of pork chops.


Page 73

“Fragmentation is one of the most familiar characteristics of twentieth-century art: Yeat’s reference to our pluralistic world as one in which “the centre cannot hold” has become a cliché. But for the most part, the modern artist is not concerned with things holding, for holding implies stasis. He is not interested in the perfect, static state of being, but rather in the dynamism of becoming which inevitably involves destruction.” 

One example of the denial of the constant center in Joyce is his use of the parallax, the intersection of perspectives for common understanding. Bloom’s internal dialog of shifting mental perspective considers the proximate and distant marking of time with totems: physical, mental, and artistic. 

Episode 8, Ulysses

“Now that I come to think of it that ball falls at Greenwich time. It’s the clock is worked by an electric wire from Dunsink. Must go out there some first Saturday of the month. If I could get an introduction to professor Joly or learn up something about his family. That would do to: man always feels complimented. Flattery where least expected. Nobleman proud to be descended from some king’s mistress. His foremother. Lay it on with a trowel. Cap in hand goes through the land. Not go in and blurt out what you know you’re not to: what’s parallax? Show this gentleman the door.” 

Here in the Lestrygonian Episode, Mr. Bloom is considering optics under the influence of spacetime. Confronted with Dunsink Time and Molly’s approaching assignation with Boylan, Bloom wonders how the sight of the proximate (Molly’s meeting) can be offset by viewing it with the backdrop of a distant event (Bloom’s first kissing of Molly across time and space). The consideration of the infidelity on Greenwich Time would delay its occurrence by twenty-five minutes. When the hour arrives, Boylan seems to have delayed his departure for Eccles Street perhaps by twenty-five minutes as Bloom wished.

Episode 14, Ulysses

“Agendath is a wasteland….Parallax stalks behind and goads them,…. magnified in the deserted heavens, nay to heaven’s own magnitude, till it looms, vast, over the house of Virgo (Molly’s birth sign, my parenthetical). And lo, wonder of metempsychosis, it is she, the everlasting bride, harbinger of the daystar, the bride, ever virgin. It is she, Martha, thou lost one, Millicent, the young, the dear, the radiant. How serene does she now arise, a queen among the Pleiades, in the penultimate antelucan hour, shod in sandals of bright gold, coifed with a veil of what do you call it gossamer. It floats, it flows about her starborn flesh and loose it streams, emerald, sapphire, mauve[…]”

The episode Oxen of the Sun is a song of birth held up against the parallax of death. Bloom begins in contemplation of Rudy’s birth and descends to the conclusion that dearth, drought, and death plague his race. Then behind the proximate horrors appear a celestial constant, the parallax of Molly, virgin, Mother, and the model for all females. She connects today’s sorrow with a yesterday filled with hope and joy that persists today and will shine again tomorrow.

Episode 15, Ulysses

“CHRIS CALLINAN: What is the parallax of the subsolar ecliptic of Aldebaran?”

Barbara Stevens Huesel used Kain’s theory in describing how “parallax” joins the artist’s perspective with the common man’s, creating an integrated and focused vision. Failing to develop that perspective results in absurd misinterpretations of universal truths. Callinan represents the resulting absurdity. He was a journalist, conspicuous for comical inaccuracies and miscues. 


Joyce intersects artistic point of view, the melange of perspectives, image reflection, audience interplay, and parallax in Wandering Rocks. Wandering Rocks appears neither at the beginning nor the end of Ulysses but near the center where time, space, motion, and personality vectors converge. It’s also fitting that Wandering Rocks is not present in the Odyssey, known but never observed in the epic. 

In the ballet playing out on Dublin thoroughfares, the reader sees Poldy from his dark back and Molly’s alms-dropping arm from below. The Blooms separately appear, disappear and reappear in an instant but also in a sequence of events. Father Conmee strolls, stops, sits on a moving tram, and dispatches a post without ever nearing the box. The atomic H.E.L.Y.’S, having split to announce Eli’s prophesy, now re-fuse in their original energy, silently broadcasting messages in obverse and reverse. There is a shuffling of living and dead in a game of names, and the cavalcade of the viceregent becomes the parallax against which Kernan’s battered hat marks his prominence. Wandering Rocks unsettles any belief in objective reality. This is how Joyce and Picasso would have it, although neither needed the other’s perspective for confirmation.

(D) about “Araby,” May 18 the Bazaar of 1894

Residents of Dublin are paralyzed by the darkness. That darkness gathers under an enchanted cloak thrown across them. The cloak is woven of mythical threads of secrets of religious ritual, sexual mysteries, and the imperfection of courtly love.

Blindness has many causes. A Jackson and McGinley note for “Araby” points out that Launcelot found himself with “a great lust to sleep” after riding through summer’s heat (Malory 330). The knight fell into an incapacitating slumber under an apple tree like the one on Joyce’s Richmond Street blind and in that other Garden. While Launcelot shut his eyes, his nephew Lionel was taken prisoner and scourged with a cord of thorns, reminiscent of Christ’s passion. Deprived of his senses by sleep, Launcelot lost sight of the Godhead.

Asleep, a knight errant might lose contact with reality playing out around him. He might also dream, creating a different reality replacing the physical. He might be awake but hallucinating too, his senses “enchanted.” Illness could deprive him of sight or weaken it, or darkness obscure the physical world. Religious traditions, distortions of history, and sexual myths like those in Le Mort D’Arthur, may darken the historical past into legend. In the same way, Joyce’s stories begin in dark truth bent into myths of social and religious conventions. Launcelot and “Araby’s” boy are blinded by the myths of heroism and chivalry. They also lose sight of Christ, now under the Church’s shadow. William York Tindall in “Araby,” finds “… a disappointed quest, not for God…but for Ireland’s Church” (19).

“about ‘Araby'”
copyright(c) don ward 2021

While sleep is necessary, natural, and restorative to the senses, including sight, it may also be a vehicle for self-deception. “Araby” concludes Joyce’s treatment of childhood when dreams are most instrumental in development. Dreams are cryptical, deceptively symbolic, and elusive. In Joyce’s “The Sisters,” Joyce’s story about the dark mysteries of the Church and clergy, the boy dreams about the fallen priest. The dream is a revelation, but after the shade lifts, the boy cannot recall the truth revealed to him. He says, “I remembered that I had noticed long velvet curtains and a swinging lamp of antique fashion. I felt that I had been very far away, in some land where the customs were strange—in Persia” (Dubliners 13-14). Tindall observed that “The Church… is a more or less Oriental foundation” (20).

In “‘Araby’ and the Writings of James Joyce,” Harry Stone finds a mirror of Yeats’ “Our Lady of the Hills.” There, Catholic children mistake a well-heeled Protestant girl for the Virgin. They are justifiably outraged by the deception foisted on them by The Church and Irish culture under the clergy’s influence. The boy cries out: “Dad’s a divil, mum’s a divil and I’m a divil, and you are only an ordinary lady” (Stone 306-307).

In the Arthurian myths, in Joyce’s works, and in modern psychoanalysis, hallucinations or enchantments cheat the senses, especially the sense of sight. Arthur is born illegitimately but the rightful heir to the crown when Merlin casts a spell and Uther Pendragon appears in the guise of the rightful king. This deception results in the birth of “the once and future king.” In turn, Morgan Le Fay transforms herself and sleeps with her brother Arthur. The issue of this witchcraft is Arthur’s nephew-son and arch-enemy Mordred. Lady Elaine appears as Gwenievere; Launcelot impregnates her (Malory 1157-158). In Yeats, as discussed above, the Church deceives the children into believing the Mother of Christ is likely to walk the Earth. In Edwardian Dublin, enchantment continues too, as Masonic candidates transform through rites of initiation “in the light of secret knowledge” (Torchiana 61). That secret knowledge blinds the Catholic population as they flock to bazaars of 1892 (openly referred to as Masonic), the bazaar called the Kosmos 1893, and Araby in 1894. That last market drew 92,000 local, mostly Catholic pilgrims despite bad weather (58). In Joyce’s story, the sound of the bazaar’s name leaves the boy spellbound: “The syllables of the word Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me” (Dubliners 46). One result is that he sees Mangan’s sister where he knows she cannot be in the magical night.

… I looked over at the dark house where she lived. I may have stood there for an hour, seeing nothing but the brown-clad figure cast by my imagination, touched discreetly by the lamplight at the curved neck, at the hand upon the railings and at the border below the dress” (47).

Optical failures result from the darkness as well as pathology. Other senses might also overpower sight. For example, the sound in “dark dripping gardens” or the smells in “dark odorous stables” (Joyce 41) can overwhelm the visual. As the hall goes dark, giant oriental jars become eunuchs guarding the harem against the boy, and his quest is foiled. In “The Sisters” and “An Encounter,” the boy has been indoctrinated into the power of ritual and sexual darkness. In the opening paragraphs of “Araby,” he welcomed and took advantage of the darkness where he “hid in the shadows” (James Joyce’s Dubliners 21), a partner to deception. He has also championed the lady of poet James Clarence Mangan’s “Dark Rosaleen” (Torchiana 61). The final realization of his unworthiness burns his eyes “with anguish and anger (52).

The boy’s indoctrination into the clandestine arts is central to what Burgess, summarizing the import of Dubliners’ opening stories, calls the “external mysteries- ritual and dementia and … now… love’s bitter mystery…” (39). The priest’s library offered a syllabus of deceit. Vidoc is “a double agent, vacillating between good and evil” (Torchiana 53) and a master of darkness and disguise. The author of The Devout Communicant sponsored Edward Gibbon’s conversion to Catholicism. Gibbon subsequently betrayed Catholicism blaming Christianity for the fall of the Roman Empire (54). In Walter Scott’s The Abbot, allegiances vacillate between Catholic and Protestant monarchs, and Mary Queen of Scots is thought to be alternately a saint and a “harlot” (Stone 310). The youth learned the power of secret rituals from the priest, about sexual depravity in “An Encounter,” and the corruption of simony around the edges of Araby’s profiteering. In the concluding story, he also practiced stealth, spying from beneath the hall curtain and pretending to share an accidental schedule with Mangan’s sister. Those small corruptions make him as unworthy of the Grail as the questing knights in Le Mort d’Arthur.

A trusted eye, less prone to deception, might guide the knight errant through the dark. In the simoniac’s way, “Araby” betrays that loyal eye for silver. “The Arab’s Farewell to His Steed” laments that “proudly arched and glossy neck, and dark and fiery eye,…. my steed, thou’rt sold” (James Joyce’s Dubliners  25). The poet, Caroline Norton, who wrote those lines, was herself bartered away by her husband, who facilitated her affair with Lord Melbourne (Stone 33). Norton then sued unsuccessfully for divorce on the grounds of adultery.

All ladies championed in quests may not be worthy. Mangan’s sister cannot attend the bazaar because she attends a retreat but twists her silver bracelet, signaling to the boy that he should bring her treasure from the quest. Stone notes that Joyce’s reference to Thomas de Quincey’s “Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow” blends the virgin and the temptress: “Him I led astray, him I beguiled, and from heaven I stole away his young heart to mine. Through me he did become idolatrous….” (307). Like Raphael’s teenaged prostitute, his model for the Virgin, Mangan’s sister is also a corrupting influence. Stone continues to say that as women rise to the status of ideals, male devotion is corrupted: “…men in their yearning to worship, contrive (even desire) their own betrayal and insure (sic) their own disillusionment” (313).

In Malory, Sir Bors follows four holy women into the relic’s chamber. Bors, however, is unable to complete his mission because he is unworthy of the Grail. He is stricken blind by a silver sword (1157). Lancelot’s quest ends incomplete too. He encounters a holy man who counsels:

…seek it ye may well, but though it were here ye shall have no power to see it no more than a blind man should see a bright sword, and that is long on your sin,…. (1323).

Earlier, King Evelake obsessively seeks to view the Grail. For this reason, he is beaten, left with bruises across his body and face. In the end, he prays not that he would be allowed to see the Grail but to live until a kinsmen of his would see it (1297). In “The Sisters,” an unworthy priest drops the Grail and breaks it. The boy in “Araby” admits his unworthiness by looking for a child’s discount for admission. The Grail demands perfection.

The lessons of the childhood stories of Dubliners and of Le Mort d’Arthur reach the same conclusion. The ideals imposed by the Church, the mysteries of sex, and courtly love all lead to blindness. The boy of Dubliners might recite with Launcelot from Moore’s poem “Lalla Rookh”: “Oh ever thus from childhood’s hour/ I’ve seen my fondest hopes decay” (Torchiana 59).

Works Cited

Burgess, Anthony. ReJoyce. W.W. Norton & Co., 1966.

Joyce, James. Dubliners. Enhanced Media, 2016.

Joyce, James. James Joyce’s Dubliners: An Illustrated Edition with Annotations, edited by John     Wyse Jackson and Bernard McGinley. St. Martin’s Press, 1993.

Malory, Thomas, Sir. Le Morte d’Arthur. The Modern Library, 1994. Apple Books.

Stone, Harry, “‘Araby’ and the Writings of James Joyce.” Joyce, James. Dubliners: Text and Criticism, edited by Robert Scholes and A. Walton Litz, Penguin Books, 1996.

Tindall, William York. “Dubliners.” A Reader’s Guide to James Joyce. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1959.

Torchiana, Donald T.” ‘Araby’: “The Self-Discovery of a Double Agent,” Backgrounds for Joyce’s Dubliners. Allen & Unwin, 1986.




Bloomsday Celebrations ’21 around the Globe


Neste ano, o Bloomsday de Florianópolis acontecerá nas páginas de um jornal, “O Dia de Hoje” que circulará online em 16 de junho, porém, o ano será o de 1904, data em que transcorre o enredo de “Ulisses” romance de Joyce
cujo protagonista, Leopoldo Bloom, leva e traz mensagens, por meio de núncios que recolhe entre os habitantes de Dublin para serem publicados, a
seguir, nos jornais locais.
A fim de criar o referido jornal, convidamos os interessados a enviar, até o dia 15 de maio, anúncios (sobre nascimentos, batizados, formaturas, casamentos, velórios etc.), escritos em inglês ou português, para o seguinte
e-mail: waltrickdoamarantedirce@gmail.com
Cada anúncio deverá ter cerca de cinco linhas, e poderá vir acompanhado ou não de uma imagem.
Além dos anúncios, o jornal também trará notícias verídicas sobre a Irlanda e o Brasil, tendo como referência o mês de junho de 1904. Quem
desejar colaborar com notícias, poderá enviá-las junto com o(s) anúncio(s).
Os organizadores
Clélia Mello,
Dirce Waltrick do Amarante e
Sérgio Medeiros
Florianopópolis ’21 Bloomsday (Brazil)
This year Florianópolis’ Bloomsday will come alive in the pages of a newspaper titled “Today”, which will circulate online on June 16th. The year, however, will be 1904, the date will be the day when the plot of Ulysses takes place. The protagonist of the novel, Leopold Bloom, corresponds with the inhabitants of Dublin through advertisements that he collects and arranges to publish in the local newspaper.
In order to create this journal, we invite those interested to participate in this celebration by sending announcements (about births, baptisms, graduations, weddings, funerals, etc.) they create for the publication. Announcements may be written in English or Portuguese and can be submitted until May 15th. Please send these by email to waltrickdoamarantedirce@gmail.com
Each announcement should have about five lines and can be sent with or without an image.
In addition to the announcements, the newspaper will also bring actual news about Ireland and Brazil from June 1904. Anyone who wishes to collaborate with news articles can send these alone or with an announcement(s).
The organizers
Clélia Mello,
Dirce Waltrick do Amarante e
Sergio Medeiros

Roger Cummisky’s Bloomsday Celebration: A Graphic Moment from the Tower in Amber

“The James Joyce Tower interior, Sandycove, Co Dublin by Roger Cummiskey”

Roger invites you to his celebration:


“Join us for Bloomsday 2021 in Kilfenora, Co Clare. We will read episode 11, Sirens set in the Ormond Hotel between 11 h and 12:30 h.”

Celebrating Like an Omniscientific Triestine

Des Gunning will spend Bloomsday ’21 at the annual Omniscientific Joyce event:

Between 14 and 18 June 2021, the city of Trieste and the Trieste Joyce School – Università degli studi di Trieste will play host to the 27th International James Joyce Symposium. Trieste, the city that Joyce dubbed ‘la mia seconda patria’, was his home for over a decade.

[NOTE: 30 May 2021. I have no direct communication from The Trieste School, but there appears to have been a major change to the plans for OmniScientific Joyce. The link I have available is limited to Online Registration. You may find additional information at https://docs.google.com/…/1FAIpQLSdBA6e30CSjGM…/viewform         ]


Alessandra Estreet Di Sante’s Personal, Private, and Catechetical Celebrations

(in the style of the Ithaca episode)

How will I celebrate Bloomsday?

Thinking back to when they celebrated in their home with friends. While children played nearby, indifferent to the celebration, we drank Guinness. Remembering the many readings of Joycian pieces. Remembering friends singing an old sad song. Remembering with enthusiasm and regret their Bloomsday in Dublin with gorgonzola and burgundy and Sandycove and Sandymount where they met a man, a woman, and a dog.

A loveletter from Molly Bloom of the Triestine Grand Canal ~ Don Ward, Belmont, North Carolina, USA

Between now and Bloomsday, I’ll share a few lines daily from Fulvio Rogantin’s El Monalogo de Molly. During that time I’ll be attempting to read the masters’ prose in Triestine, the city where the novel Ulysses was born. I won’t subject readers to my translations since I know no Triestine dialect today and my Italian is limited to the New Jersey dialect which includes only a vocabulary of food and a fluency of insults.

This will become my submission to “Bloomsday ’21 Celebrations around the Globe,” timed to conclude on June 16th with Molly’s finale- “Si.”

Ceren Kuşdemir Özbilek

I will be attending the annual Joyce conference online (not as a presenter) and in the evening we are planning a Zoom get together with Turkish Joyceans. We are going to read our favorite Joyce lines and talk about what drove us to read Joyce etc. I am really excited! Happy Bloomsday in advance! Love from Turkey.
A favorite quote for today:”I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it calls itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use — silence, exile, and cunning.”
and from Ulysses
“Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love, but always meeting ourselves.”

Fulvio Rogantin and Elisa Susmel of Trieste and known on the streets of Dublin…


will celebrate this Bloomsday by kicking off his study of Joyce’s own European Odyssey.

“On Bloomsday, we officially start our project, citiesofjoyce, an inventory of places related to James Joyce. I am also preparing a James Joyce Bloomsday calendar that will be sold online.” Visit https://citiesofjoyce.com/calendar.html     for additional details.


Frank Folan who resides in the very center of the universe in The Burren, County Clare, Ireland will celebrate in Bronze by Gold style 

…by ‘Going to Kilfenora for the Sirens reading.”

And recalls another of his poems honoring the ghost of 7 Eccles Street


The red door of No.16
North Frederick Street
slams behind him as he
enters into this newly minted
sunshine so thick
one feels like a fish
swimming through it.
Sunlight spangles
a tiny puddle
turning it into a jewel
that only the eye can cherish.
Ahhhh “…the ineluctable
modality of the visible.”
He turns right into Upper
Dorset Street
pulling an “Ahhh…howya!”
out of the man who makes the false
Then turning left into
Eccles Street
giving the nod to No. 7
Bloom’s house in ULYSSES.
Here in its run down state
though still shining in his fictionality.
Soon they will knock it
down and what will the tourists
do then
poor things.
Sure some bright spark
will rescue it from its rubble
and the door will live again
some streets away again.
Ahhh….” the ineluctable
modality of the visible.”
I go to Quinn’s gym
to get my Molly
( Philomena her name is)
a cottage cheese with pineapple
on a Weetabix base.
It is a 16th of June
somewhere in the 80’s
as I retrace my own earlier
Joycean footsteps.
Rat-a-tat-tat on Bloom’s door.
“Are ya there Leopold?”
But the bold Leopold
doesn’t answer.
The 16th of
forever I am
“…walking through it
The sun smirks
as such Joyceisms.
“I am, a stride of a time.
A very short space of time
through very short times of space.”
A horse and cart as if
from the past
saunters by
Ah “…the ineluctable
modality of the audible.”
My Molly who is really
a Philomena
spoons the deliciousness
of the creamy dessert
into her
and yes she says


Dónall of the Dempseys


If we are the Global Community of Joyceana, and you prove every day that we are, nothing could be better than…

Lucilla Micacchi’s Bloomsday Celebration— an Italian—in Madrid—celebrating at the Irish Embassy

Your Bloomsday Festa

Only 16 days remaining. It would be sad not to celebrate.

Join us in announcing your plans for celebrating Bloomsday ’21. The plan of other luminaries can be viewed at the link below. Message your plans to us on Facebook or post a comment at


Your plan may be to join or host a grand celebration, to dine on the inner organs of beasts and fowl, to read aloud alone or in company, or to contemplate the ninety-nine Bloomsdays that preceded this one

Victor Herzberg will celebrate the Bloomsday “Day of Peace” on Zoom

YouTube can be linked to here.

Elisa Susmel will celebrate in true Triestine tradition with the Online Omniscientific Joyce, the 27th International James Joyce Symposium.

Below of photo from a past proceeding.


Ilaria Susmel Will Float Her Bloomsday ’21

I am spending the day in Venice and taking part in an event to launch Catherine Flynn’s Ulysses Centenary podcast https://events.berkeley.edu/index.php/calendar/sn/ies/?event_ID=139797
I am then reading Lotus Eaters with Sweny’s Pharmacy https://www.facebook.com/123672820988189/posts/4214263571929073/?d=n

Aquinaldo Severino of Sao Paulo, Brazil Invites You to “Join our Cloud HD Video Meeting”

[He is well stocked for Bloomsday fun.]

Happy Bloomsday, to you and all Bloomsday Santa Maria 2021 UCT 5pm / Brazil 2pm via Zoom https://us05web.zoom.us/j/9138476647?pwd=dlhHUlVySzJXSS95dC9XVTNIVUxTUT09 ID da reunião: 913 847 6647 Senha de acesso: g5CPSx