A Cheery “Millgrimage” to Flannery O’Connor’s Environs in Milledgeville

Drop-down arrows from the main menu and the link to the NEXT entry below will access the entries posted. If you have made your own trip to Flannery’s Milledgeville and would like to post a photo, leave a Comment here and I will post it for you, or you can also Direct Message me on Facebook. Best~Don

U22E6 Bowing My Head to the Hades Episode

Listening to U22 this week, I contemplate my rumored mortality. I can ignore it for days at a time, but the obscuring clouds are stratus now, not cumulus, so I rode in the carriage with Paddy Dignam’s mourners. Simon Dedalus was sufficiently decrepit and feared that the horses shook bells for him. Cunningham and Power could talk of death but, like those casting their pod upon the waters, could not really taste it yet. The podcast was crafted for the young, not for the over-ripe.

This “Centenary” episode (I love Dr. Flynn’s vocalization of the word) dealt not with death but with footnotes. An interesting rat, fat, superannuated, and successful in the Hades-trade scuttles across the podcast. Another commentary explores Irish political shades as Greek heroes. Death became a fleeting distraction in the interior monolog of Outsider Bloom. The dead, Rudy and Virag, threw a shroud over the vital infidelity of Mrs. Molly Bloom. There is the discussion of the trappings of death but without Dignam’s widow, his orphaned brood, Paddy’s wastrel life, or Macintosh.

This week I am reading and writing about the same mourners. They swirl in a vortex of identities from historical Edwardian Dublin into Joyce’s story “Grace,” again in Ulysses, and occasionally beyond. An incident from the life of John S. Joyce inspired “Grace.” The model for the “protagonist” better identifies with one-time Joyce neighbor and tea taster Dicky Boy Thornton. Kernan travels in another carriage but is spoken of with disdain by John S. He might as well be dead for, as the saying goes, “if we cannot speak ill of the dead, then whom?” Jack Power draws from the personage of Tom Devan. M’Coy is an unevolved Leopold Bloom, a canvasser for ads and married to an opera soprano. Another contributor to Bloom’s character is the Dubliner Alfred Hunter, who attended a funeral with Joyce and who, also like Bloom, showed him kindness during a Joycean drunken escapade. Charles Chance attended the retreat in the historical company that was to become “Grace.” Chance was married to the woman who modeled for Molly Bloom. Kane is everywhere. A real-in-death Paddy Dignam in the grave, a lost-at-sea corpse unrecovered, the organizer of the party to attend the actual retreat on Gardiner Street, and Martin Cunningham.

The overt subject of the Hades episode of Ulysses is Requiem, while “Grace” metes out Penitence. But the sub-rosa themes in each are simony and Jansenism. The mourners and penitents misunderstand the rites and fail the facts of the religious practice. They afford all top-hatted adherence to form without regard for substance. These “gentlemen” prove to have no better understanding of the rituals or history of their faith than does Mrs. Kernan in Grace. For her, “faith was bounded by her kitchen, but, if she was put to it, she could believe also in the banshee and in the Holy Ghost.”

It’s all genuflection, a coin, and a handful of soil exchanged for salvation.

*****************

I was thrilled to hear Amanda Greenwood comment on the affinity of the Korean people for the Irish. Her comment on the shared buffeting of Ireland and Korea by imperial powers echos something I have often said. It is also true that the Koreans were responsible for curating written language in Asia as the Irish were in the Dark Ages of Europe. Furthermore, the imperial powers in the East and in the West are large populous, continental empires (China and France) and insular maritime powers (Japan and England).

Aquinas, Gilson, and The Hillbilly Bulldog of Milledgeville

The earliest appearance of Mary Flannery as the Avenging Hillbilly Thomist seems to have been in 1944. The sweater-clad crusader emerged from her Fortress of Silence while taking Introduction to Modern Philosophy (Philosophy 412) with Professor George Beiswanger. Her instructor was known as Dr. He-B, his wife on the Arts faculty at the Georgia State College for Women was called Dr. She-B. The Doctors B were curiosities in Milledgeville for having cosmopolitan and Modernist approaches respectively to philosophy and terpsichore. He-B assigned Randall’s The Making of the Modern Mind to his students; She-B instructed in “godless” modern dance. 

Randall’s book championed Descartes, the Enlightenment, and philosophical Pragmatism and was dismissive of Medieval thought in general and Aquinas in particular. O’Connor is described as being sullen during lectures and shaken before being stirred. When Dr. He-B proposed the Medieval Church was “polytheistic,” she cast away her shyness, challenging him in class. His reaction was cold and “anthropologistic.” She continued her defense of Thomas to Beiswanger outside of class. Beigwanger became convinced of her potential if not her astuteness. While he would only concede that she had a solid foundation in “earlier philosophy,” it was he who pushed her and endorsed her applications to graduate school at Iowa and Duke University (Gooch 112-115).

Beset at every corner after the Reformation, Catholicism had withdrawn from debates about most theological and ethical refinements choosing to focus on the necessary defense of fundamental tenets like the Ressurection and the divinity of Christ. Unfortunately for Aquinas’ reputation, many of his writings, like the classification of lies and the criteria for justifiable war seemed less critical to a Papacy under attack. Furthermore, Aquinas was sometimes out of step with Suarez, the most prominent Jesuit thinker. Thomist thinking fell from the mainstream of Catholic intellectualism. In 1827, when an Italian Thomist was named to teach logic at the Roman College, objections caused the appointment to be withdrawn.

Leo XIII began a recall of Thomas from his exile in 1879. This occurred only through two Thomist champions, a Medieval scholar and the second a convert who was anxious to separate the philosophical from the theological writings of Aquinas. The first was Etienne Gilson, whose influence on O’Connor will be discussed a bit here; the second is Maritain whose contribution will keep until another day.

Gilson wrote his doctoral dissertation about Rene Descartes, but as years passed, he became increasingly disillusioned with Human rationality’s ineffectiveness in dealing with core theological problems. Descartes had attempted, for example, to prove the existence of God with logic. I believe, and some smart people agree, that the proof was unsatisfactory. Faith seems to be the cornerstone of theological logic. Gilson said: “Faith comes to intelligence as a light that overflows it with joy and inspires it with a certitude that does away with question.” The instability of unguided reason seems to be central to the themes that emerge in Flannery O’Connor’s writing. In her letters, she takes Descartes to task but saves her most vociferous concern for Nihilism.

I don’t know yet and may never know how much Etienne Gilson influenced O’Connor by the day she fenced with Professor Beigwanger in 1944. It wasn’t until 1946 that Gilson was elected an “Immortal” of the Académie française (“Gilson, Etienne,” Wikipedia). She may not have known his work as an undergraduate, but by September 1955, she described herself as an admirer of Gilson’s Unity of Philosophical Experience and reported that she was reading his Christain Philosophy in the Middle Ages (O’Connor 107). We do know that she was already well versed in the Summa Theologicae when an undergraduate. Even better evidence may be found in her fiction, particularly in her two finished novels. It was Gilson who wrote before her: “Man is not a mind that thinks, but a being who knows other beings as true, who loves them as good, and who enjoys them as beautiful.” 

 

Works Cited

Gilson, Etienne,”Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/philosophy 26 August 2021.

Gooch, Brad. Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor. Bay Back Books., 2010, pp. 112-115.

Herr, William A. Catholic Thinkers in the Clear: Giants of Catholic Thought from Augustine To Rahner. The Thomas More Press, 1985, pp. 195–206. 

O’Connor, Flannery. The Habit of Being, Ed. Sally Fitzgerald. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1999, p. 107

Sundell, Carl “ETIENNE GILSON ON MAD-HATTERS AND METAPHYSICS,” Catholic Insight, 12 November 2018. https://catholicinsight.com/etienne-gilson-on-mad-hatters-and-metaphysic/ 26 August 2021.

A Review of Nick Sweeney’s Laikonik Express

The Book

If Jesus ever came here, it was to be tempted by the devil that time. I happen to think, however, that Jesus kept the idea of this place to Himself just so He could maintain the fiction that Hell was a different place altogether and not to be found on this globe at all. (The opening words of Don Darius’ novel found within Nick Sweeney’s novel)

Everyone knows a book unshared will poison you. Darius writes the fatal book and then attempts to leave it orphaned while he races North from Istanbul to outrun the truth, and truth reveals us all to be slaves. Historically, enslavement originates in race, religion, or culture. It’s also true that no people have escaped slavery. The truth of enslavement was to claw wealth or labor. Don’s unnamed masterpiece discloses that slavery persists as materialism.

One thing I guess I like about the Arabs, in fact, maybe the only thing, is the way they make it clear how they hold non-Muslims in total contempt. They don’t pussyfoot around pretending they want into our culture. It’s just, “We hate your guts, and in recognition of that, here’s a shitload of dollars…, for teaching us your horrible language.”

The author’s grandfather’s answered to Dariusz. In rejection of neo-slavery, Don flees Istanbul and through time and space to rediscover the locale (Mlava), the saint (“virginal,” unavailable Ola), and the relic (The Venerable Snickers) of his past and to reclaim the “Z” lost from his slave name.

The Train

When a lit match falls aboard Einstein’s Laikonik Express, it falls both at a ninety-degree angle and concurrently horizontally into the past. Express destinations are also ahead and in the past. Every locale changes meanwhile at laser speed. On the train, Christmas travels straight ahead until February. Only the passengers momentarily pause in time. One pilgrim sports a hair knot opportuning “a housing project facelift,” perhaps traveling at the speed of light bolted her age in one moment. A tiny Bulgarian woman, it may have been a requirement of her billet, evolves into hand luggage for the journey. Over branch lines, across spurs, the train chugs into Ostrava and Gdynia. All important Mlava goes unnoticed. Regrets are left behind in Novy Sad. An important but absent passenger will “pull her t-shirt over her head and … smell of fresh leaves, taste of ginger and aniseed.” Boxcars fill with frozen tears for winter Abel or hot summer saline flowing back toward the Marmara Sea.

The Search

I learned English,’ the man repeated. ‘However, I have listened to you gentlemen throughout this journey.’ He made a pause straight out of Stanislavski. ‘And I must say that I can not understand a word you have uttered. Thank you, gentlemen.’

It doesn’t diminish the book to say that it’s uncertain if the book in question is this book or that book. It doesn’t reduce the book, not to know if the love interest pursued is presently unknown or eternally unknowable, a Chinese princess or a blond children’s nurse. Bruno and Guy are said to be the same person on Hitchcock’s train. One willed the murder; the other performed the act. Maybe there is only one book, one station, and one missing lover. Other options could be branch lines off the Laikonik Railroad. It certainly did matter that the falcon under newsworthy facts was lead and not the jewel-encrusted one. That worthless bird was more, not less, “the stuff that dreams are made of.”

The Characters

Speeding north from Istanbul, passengers shapeshift. New identities are distributed as pop culture pops up in a cargo cult late to Stalin-somnolent Poland. Sherlock Holmes appears. Ginger Rogers warbles Pig Latin. Pilgrims emerge from cocoons practicing “…Charlie Chaplin little tramp jaywalks, the inspector doing Ben Turpin as he crossed his eyes and shook a fist at them.” Salinger morphs into Pynchon. A dentist emerges as her own crying patient. In a third-hand transformation, Don and Kennedy become Keats and Shelley, who become Laurel and Hardy. And now comes Buster Keaton and a bar full of pirates. Tinkers to Evers to Chance becomes Yatsek to Jacob to Jack. Most in evidence is that other troop of brigands venturing out of Istanbul in The Falcon of Malta– Spade, Archer destroyed by inscrutable Ola O’Shaunnesy, and ever-practical Caspar Guttman now sitting at his desk in the consulate. They were misinformed, every one. 

Unharnessed Change

-In fact, it’s a pity you’re not going to be here on a Sunday, or you could’ve come along.

-I am so. Kennedy put a question mark into his face. -Today’s Friday. 

-Oh. Yes, you’re right. 

-So? 

-I lose track of time here, Don claimed. -You’re in Warsaw. Right.

The currency pocketed is never legal tender. If you offer dollars, they need dinars. Your Amex, not accepted, we will need jetons. You will find it impossible to catch up with time-traveling customs. The tourist gets a visa but fails to buy a buy ticket in advance. If you return to Soldau, you’ll find it’s Dzialdowo. If you learn the lyrics, you’ll only lose your religion. La Clemenza di Tito’ “lampoons” toga-ed Animal House. On the journey, bars become cobbler shops in triumphs of neon commercialism. When Don asks for tea, he expects to find it fermented into vodka. Pedestrians are ungendered and without species, “so well wrapped up you could not tell if they were men or women or bears or buffalo.” The sainted Pope becomes a family man.

The people overseas

Don and Kennedy fled Istanbul for points north, not for love as you might suspect. Don escaped Istanbul and his novel earlier and found infatuation on arrival; Kennedy’s “she” is in Cathay of another place and time. They are chasing the leaden falcon, a token of blind hope. Hope is why Don wishes for a girl who understands breakfast; breakfast is the sunrise’s promise for every new day. They join the other incognito refugees, hoping to reach a far-away present before the future cheats them and dismantles it. They are overseas people who only exist by displacement (“If we are not overseas, we have no voice, and without our foreignness, we have no reason to exist”). But the traditional past has already been outstripped. On the Avenue of the Marshalls, an enormous McDonalds is mushrooming. And all the North will lose its sui gener-ousity, like the South, falling to the material West, then succumbing again perhaps to the East. The Wisla, like the Bosphorous, will be choaked with bloated sheep carcasses.

The False Prophet and the True Prophet

Along the way, the pilgrims circle through defeat and victory. A dissertation on disappointment dogma is defended by the doc. He was drawn to them by the dead, the defeatism, and the indecipherable connection of Kennedy’s name with the assassination. The doc responds to banter by saying: Rather yes. I think your humour, whilst being funny, is derivated from bitterness…. You seem to me like a sensualist, a man who seeks only to enjoy what he can enjoy…. Kennedy thinks him kind and accepts criticism with persistent good manners. doc’s gospel preaches: Abandon all joy. 

Counterbalancing the False Prophet is the heroine of Laikonik’s odyssey. Krystyna has suffered a lifetime of transitions waif, wartime refugee, Nazi fighter, scientist, Hero of the Communist State, Polish national treasure, industrialist, curator, and sorceress capable of making a Fial operable. Today, however, she finishes with the past and the future. In her final transmogrification, she first appears like Death in the interminable Ingmar Bergman movie. But she is relentlessly life-affirming.

‘Who’s dying?’ Don appeared big knife in hand making him look like the star of an old-dark-house slasher B-feature. ‘

‘Ah,’ was all he had to say for himself as he got caught in the woman’s stare. 

‘We are,’ Kennedy said. 

…the woman turned back to him and broke out in a little smile. 

Throughout her time on stage, she remains positive, rational, and a champion of youthful love. ‘Mister Kennedy?’ Krystyna was not asking him. ‘I feel as if I am acting in a movie – as if I am a character in a story. Yes.’ She let out a giggle that startled Kennedy and Jack, it was so loud. ‘And it’s a good story.’ 

Available at:

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Laikonik+Express&ref=nb_sb_noss

U22 Podcast, Lotus Eaters: Welcome, Global Reader!

If you are an international reader of Ulysses, that is, anyone not born in Dublin, there is something in the U22 podcast on Lotus Eaters, especially for your musings.

http://U22pod.com

I tweak the noses of my friends in Ireland by telling them there are only a few genuinely Irish surviving, and these are all in the northeastern United States. Irish noses like Napper Tandy’s are the best suited for tweaking; I submit my own into evidence. But having DNA that passed through Ireland without the Irish culture, language or habitation is not being Irish. Neither does being Irish without the ways, slang, or intimate familiarity with Dublin equip the Ulysses reader to understand the context of Joyce’s City. Don’t despair. In U22E5, Ato Quayson reveals how Ulysses became his key to better understanding his own city. And mine. And yours.

Few academics in U22’s cadre have contributed to the appreciation of Ulysses as Professor Quayson has. He has examined the novel not like a researcher or an instructor but as a reader. I hope I honor him by calling him a reader of our ilk rather than as an academic. Honor is what I intend. He confesses that he had difficulty finishing his first reading of The Dublin book. Then everything changed. He put together Oxford Street, Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism (2014), his book about “… Accra, the city in which I grew up.” His Accra is a postcolonial city with a slave culture plastered over with a master’s culture like Dublin. Walking down the Sackville Street he knew best (also colonially labeled Oxford Street, Accra), he found a sack of sub-cultures. Around this corner is a youth culture and, at the next, the iron-pumping gym culture. He found that, like Dublin-city, street life opened when Ulysses helped “turn the urban key” for him. Joyce, Quayson says,”might have been writing Accra.” And Newark, New Jersey for me. And City Yours, Nation Yours for you.

If you only know London, Vienna, Paris, Tokyo, Moscow or Petrograd, Istanbul, Berlin, or the Beijing of the last twenty years, you might think there is nothing to gain from viewing Ulysses through Ato’s lens. I think you could reconsider. The capitols of the great empires are now themselves postcolonial cities populated and acculturated by the peoples they “refined” and enslaved. We have all been postcolonial slaves. Many of the same were also dynastic conquerors- Saxons, Teutons, Egyptians, Swedes, Mongols, Celts, Magyars, Americans, Hittites, et al.. All aboard!

Only about twenty percent of the readership of the James Joyce Reading Circle is in Ireland. Fewer than half of those are in Dublin, and some of those are not native-born Dubliners. Almost everyone reading this site is an internationalist reader of Ulysses without an intimate knowledge of the city. We are the others who apply the Quayson principles to understand our native or adopted cities. Our Book is about humanism, not geography, not any one theology, nor prescribed political form.

Ulysses is for and about readers. Readers read for joy. This is why we welcome Ato Quayman. We aren’t academics sentenced to count the steps across Monto or weigh pork kidneys so that they might sell hats to each other. We read for pleasure, not to earn our daily.

(D) about “A Mother,” August 27, Joyce’s Antient Concert Rooms Performance

In her essay “Stifled Back Answers,” Margot Norris cites from “The Dead” to mark the role of women in Dubliners, whether courting or married. Her examples include “…the men that is now is all palaver and what they can get out of you”; and “That’s a nice husband for you, Mrs. Malins.”) (480). The status of a Dublin deb is not lofty. Many critics accept “The Dead” to be a capstone of the collection, reprising themes from the preceding stories. The treatment of Dublin’s women by the patriarchy in “The Dead” resurrects the theme from “A Mother.” Mary Reynolds finds Dublin society to be a construct like Dante’s Inferno, a “venal ruling establishment” insisting on conformity. She accuses Mrs. Kearney of the great sin of “fomenting discord” (Miller 350).

Charity in Dublin is a delicate business, particularly for women. A socialite may approach ineffectual Holohan with a decanter and a silver biscuit barrel, but afterward, that socialite needs to adhere to a complexity of unwritten rules. Dictating rules is the province of men like Holohan. His name rises from the Irish ûallach, meaning scattered but also proud (Jackson and McGinley 132), a combination difficult to navigate. Fitzpatrick, Secretary of the Society, equals Holohan as a clown and organizational vagrant. He is absent in the face of work but magically appears when conditions suit him. Mr. Fitzpatrick offers “a white vacant face” (Joyce 235) that belies his duplicity. As a Committee gentleman, he makes necessary decisions. The Committee decides to schedule too many performances for the talent available. It decides to boost attendance with free tickets (Joyce 239) and to break the contracts with powerless artists. Then it resumes invisibility assigning earnest, enthusiastic-faced Miss Beirne to handle objections from the abused artists. Her little “screwed” mouth turned vicious when faced with objections. Beirne enforces the delicate rules for women– do detailed work, follow orders without question, and never discuss financial matters. Mrs. Kearney recognizes it would be imprudent to demand the identity of the full “Cometty,” secret as the Illuminati. Like Lily in “The Dead,” Mrs. Kearney “stifled her ‘back answers'” (Norris 480).

Many years after their nuptials, Mrs. Kearney and Greta Conroy have assumed comfortable married lives. Their husbands are as formidable as the institutions of colonialized Dublin. One husband mirrors the General Post Office; the other, after taking his education at the Royal University, now teaches and writes for the institutions of occupied Dublin. Mrs. Conroy married above her station, although the Conroys resisted the match; Her counterpart had accepted a disappointing suitor “out of spite” (Joyce 231). Miss Devlin’s suitors were so unsatisfactory to her that she “console(d) her romantic desires by eating a great deal of Turkish Delight in secret” (Joyce 232). As a Galway convent girl, Greta found her life’s love in Michael Furey, losing him to tuberculosis. Despite disappointments in love, both wives settle into marriages. Without a name or an identity of her own, Mrs. Kearney always transforms into an institution: She mirrors the Catholic Church: “she offers wine and biscuits,” “slips doubtful items between the old favorites,” insists on payments, and excommunicates rule-breakers (Tindall 37). But for all their disappointments, the wives are faithful partners to their husbands, like Mrs. Kearney’s namesake, Annie Devlin, who suffered torture rather than betray Robert Emmet (Torciana 198).

Disappointed brides accept compromise grooms, respectable and prosperous providers. This was Edwardian Dublin’s way. Perhaps the appeal of these particular suitors was that they are somewhat timid in the face of female opposition. Mr. Kearney is likely to be cowed by his wife’s instructions. Although Gabriel callously marks his aunts as “two ignorant old women” (Norris 492), he buckles under confrontation from Miss Ivors and Polly’s bitterness over sexual manipulation (Miller 355). Irish bachelors customarily delayed marriage until they are financially secure. Kearney has made his fortune dedicating himself to making boots. Torciana likens him to the solitary cluricaun, the “withered” one-shoe-at-a-time cobbling (and thus old-fashioned) leprechaun (Torciana 197). Conroy is himself overly concerned with footwear in his obsession with continental galoshes. His caution compares poorly with Greta’s first lover, who died after serenading her in the rain (Norris 491).

Merely satisfactory and less than satisfactory substitutions shape these two stories, with “A Mother” emerging from Joyce’s experience at the Antient Concert Performance on August 27, 1904. Ellmann might have done more to clear the mist that surrounds the characters and actual Dubliners who inspired them (151-152). He tells us Joyce practiced for his performance at the home of Eileen Reidy, but on the night of the performance, Reidy left the stage after the first performer and did not return. Ellmann later interviewed Reidy but fails to report why she deserted (Miller 368). Ellmann adopted Holloway’s account of the concert and identified Olive Kennedy as the Dubliner who presented as Kathleen Kearney (Torciana 188). Joyce intended to sing “The Croppy Boy,” but the replacement accompanist could not play the tune after several attempts. He improvised and accompanying himself, changing songs to meet his instrumental repertoire (Ellmann 168).

Tenor Joyce’s performance at the Antient Concert Rooms put him in the company of John McCormack and J.C. Doyle. McCormack had not yet achieved great fame, but the caliber of performers during the 1904 concert was more consistent than the Eire Abu Society’s fictional event. In “A Mother,” high-quality performances intersperse with amateurish ones, a strategy intended to prevent early exits. According to caustic Kathleen Kearney, one sub-standard performer dug up for the occasion was faded, meager Miss Glynn (Joyce 244). In “The Dead,” Aunt Julia reprises the performer Hayman called an “apparition” ((123). Best days past, the elder Morkan is befuddled and as spectral as her counterpart. Hovering near the old women are the images of moribundity, Hoppy Holohan in “A Mother” and Browne in “The Dead.” Loud talking advocates of “the decanter and the silver biscuit-barrel,” the Angels of Death are ineffectual, unable to staff a concert or even hail a cab.

Betrayal is a common thread woven through Dubliners. Julia Morkan’s banishment from the choir loft by the Pope echoes the betrayals of “An Encounter,” “Counterparts,” “A Painful Case,” “After the Race,” “The Boarding House,” and “Ivy Day in the Committee Room.” In “Two Gallants,” Lenehan walks a trail past a score of local monuments to national and personal treachery. Meanwhile, he waits for another betrayal of the slavey by Lord Corley. In “A Mother,” a gender-entitled dismissal of Mrs. Kearney is executed by grandiloquent O’Madden-Burke. He gratuitously turns on Mrs. Kearney to repay the Committee for his welcome to the room where the manly porter and stouts hide. But the freelancing writer’s condemnation of the Kearneys is not gender-conspicuous. He hides behind the skirt of a female member of the Eire Abu (“I agree with Miss Beirne,” said Mr. O’Madden Burke. “Pay her nothing.”) (Joyce 252). Miller says, “Speaking of payments breaks social codes of silence” like speaking ill of the Pope’s decisions” (357), and misdirection hides his sexual snub. For his gender, he is unreproachable, but Jackson and McGinley call O’Madden Burke another like Lenehan- a “sponge and idler”(Jackson and Mc Ginley 129). Torciana calls him a “talented failure” (196). 

The O’Madden-Burkes have a history of betrayal. The clans betrayed each other and other relationships that could turn for profit or political advantage. More surprising is a betrayal by Kathleen’s friend and nationalist partisan companion, Miss Healy. The leverage relied on by Mrs. Kearney dissipated when Healy “kindly consented” to replace Kathleen at the keyboard. As a replacement accompanist, she endorsed a woman’s role as discardable and replaceable. Miss Healy has flirted with betrayal since the company assembled at the concert hall. Her flirtation with Hendrick is literal, hoping to improve her career prospects. He enjoys her attention without disclosing that he would not be writing any coverage of the program. Her next collaboration in the man’s game is her wish to abandon her friend Kathleen for the group that gossips against her. If the O’Madden-Burke family names predict betrayal, so does the name Healy. It was Tim Healy’s defection that struck the fatal blow to Parnell. In “The Dead,” it is Father Healy who dismisses Julia from the choir.

Stanislaus Joyce tells us that only two stories in the collection rely on events of his brother’s life (62). Joyce also engaged in a brief flirtation with Irish language studies. This became a secondary backdrop to “A Mother.” William York Tindall thought that pan-European Joyce thought the Irish language movement provincial (37), but Norris pits the author more broadly against Dublin’s patriarchy and provincialism.

Joyce’s text, as art, reproduces the social ideology that devalues female talent and depreciates female art. But Joyce inscribes into the oppressive discourse of his narration a “back answer” that will be stifled, to be sure, but that at least manages to write in the clearest, most factual, historical terms the formal institutionalization of the abolition of female art. (Norris 498)

Kathleen’s sole defender among the performers seems to be timid, slight Mr. Bell, who, like Joyce, won the Bronze Medal at the Feis Ceoil nationalist music competition (Ellmann 151-152). This may have been done merely to draw attention to Joyce’s performance. It’s also possible that Joyce’s role in the story reinforces his low regard for the lazy machinations of the Dublin old boys’ regime.

 

Works Cited

Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce, Oxford University Press, New York. 1983, pp. 151-152, 168.

Hayman, David. “A Mother,” James Joyce’s Dubliners: Critical Essays, edited by Clive Hart, Viking Press, 1969, pp. 122-133. 

Joyce, James. Dubliners. Enhanced Media, 2016, Retrieved July 23- July 25. 2021.

Joyce, James. “A Mother,” James Joyce’s Dubliners: An Illustrated Edition with Annotations, edited by John Wyse Jackson and Bernard McGinley, St. Martin’s Press, 1993, pp. 122-134.

Joyce, Stanislaus. My Brother’s Keeper: James Joyce’s Early Years, edited by Richard Ellmann, Da Capo Press, 1958, pp. 61-62. 

Miller, Jane E.” ‘O, She’s a Nice Lady!’: A Rereading of ‘A Mother’,” Scholes, Robert and A. Walton Litz, editors. James Joyce’s Dubliners: Text and Criticism. Penguin Books, 1996, pp. 348–372. 

Norris, Margot. “Stifled Back Answers: The Gender Politics of Art in Joyce’s ‘The Dead.'” JSTOR, Modern Fiction Studies, 1989, http://www.jstor.org/stable/26282998. 

Tindall, William York. “Dubliners.” A Reader’s Guide to James Joyce, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1959, pp. 36-38. 

Torchiana, Donald T.” ‘A Mother’: A Ourselves Alone,” Backgrounds for Joyce’s Dubliners, Allen & Unwin, 1986, pp. 188-204.

 

Thoughts on The International Flannery O’Connor Conference, Day 1: Place & Displacement (August 2, 2021 in CyberWhere)

 

The stated subject of the presentations was Place & Displacement. The discussion shifted into economics. The economics were limited to the macro variety, supported by a three-card-monte-like redistribution of abundance. Logically, it’s evident that if divine grace is infinite, it is a divine error that there be human suffering. Humanity can correct that divine error. The government intervention card was bent at the corner.

In a subsequent panel discussion, another paper suggested a connection between consumerism and nihilism. “nihilism” is a word never appropriate for capitalization according to its own dogma. The proposition of the second paper cautioned against consumerism. It prescribed individual responsibility and “demanded” Charity rather than begging for Charity. “Charity” (it is only a half-pun to say) should always be capitalized. Uncomfortable Charity, giving until it hurts, is prophylactic against nihilism. That is my belief not a claim by the presenter. I’ll further venture that government is incapable of Charity.

The solution to irrefutable human scarcity is not within our grasp. Individual salvations are (even for those who don’t believe in an After-This) dependent on, among other unpleasant factors, a personal commitment to corporeal mercies if that term resonates with you. No souls are saved through government intervention. Having had hunger claw at the inside of my belly, I would say government also bungles the job of keeping bodies upright. Ask the veterans you find discarded in the street. Foisting my charity-debt onto government agencies is an equivalency with moral littering. However, it scatters more immediate and lethal consequences. The results of deficit spending, for example, commit violence against those who honor rules. The resultant inflation drops on them from misplaced attempts to take revenge against economic rule breakers. The scrupulously self-sufficient citizens suffer, and the indigent are doomed to indignity and perpetual dependence. 

The formulas of Place & Displacement were masked in the mist. Redistribution of wealth might hold firm until the second coming or the unethical might cheat the tax and double-digit inflation continue (one international food brokerage firm in 3Q21 cited food inflation at 9%). Rates of precipitation might be equitably distributed eliminating all regional advantages, or government could ineffectively promote winners and pummel losers to satisfy political campaign debts. Educational requirements could be controlled by government mandate, every child at birth being awarded an M.S.W. and Ph.D. in Philosophy, or education could continue to flag with little effect on abilities to read, reason, or perform simple calculations. This all has already been done. We could now pass twice as much paper.

The ostensible reason for discussing government spending and United Nations ministrations at a conference dedicated to a writer is that the conference is honestly not about literature but about Ethics. With another measure of honesty, the conference was not about Ethics but religion. In total, painful candor the conference was almost exclusively about Catholicism. Attendees were mostly white, middle-aged, academics. The conference served a maximum audience of 35 attendees at any time and one-third of that audience were participants. This does not bode well for the legacy of Mary Flannery O’Connor. That is bad news for readers, instructors, ethicists, religiously observant individuals, and Roman Catholics. It is also deprivation to everyone who is none of the above. O’Connor makes the world a better place. Diluting her message with politics and liberalism, what she called a “gateway to nihilism,” turns ears away from her song. Mixing politics and charity is not only a disgrace but also disGrace. 

What Are You Reading at the JJRC?

A review of which website files were most interesting to you revealed…

JUL.         AUG

JJRC Homepage                               31%.        23%

Ulysses Episodes.                             23%.        21%

Giacomo Joyce.                                   4%.          7%.

Dubliners                                              13%.         7%

Where Has Your Ulysses Been?       8%.         3%

Reviews                                                12%.         8%

The Flannery O’Corner                       3%.       23%

Related Websites.                                1%.          0%

Bloomsday around the Globe.         <1%.         3%

I’ll use this information in preparing new content. I’ll immediately stop promoting Giacomo Joyce and plan future expansions of content on the Ulysses episodes, for example. Thanks for your input direct and indirect, positive or remedial. ~Don

 

 

A Few Notes on the International Flannery O’Connor Conference, Day 1: Magic and Freakery

 

Yesterday (on August 2) I viewed online the International Flannery O’Connor Conference  marked with the legend “No Kind of Place: Location, Migration, and Imagination.” The conference was hosted virtually and theoretically by Nipissing University. The conference organizers and host did a fine job of amalgamating materials around topics. However, the pandemic extracted a toll. Participant cancellations abound and the preparedness of presenters was uneven. On the first day, some of the most thorough and best-presented papers came from outside of the community of instructors and researchers who bake their bread on the fire stoked by Mary Flannery O’Connor. Among these presenters Trotter and Gutherie were commendable.

I was anxious for a discussion comparing O’Connor and Marquez. The discussion of magical realism versus grotesquery was sometimes illuminating. Later, Dr. Gentry’s examination of amputation as a symbol provided a spark. O’Connor’s tales inspired treatment that evolved over a short but supercharged timespan with other notable writers picking up the theme. Flannery’s grotesquery has emerged flying the “freak flag” as popularized in the 1990s. The new age Freak is now branded as unique, proud, and as intentionally garish as Oates’ Trump Taj Mahal setting. She now flashes a neon sexuality.

I must apologize for asking a question the first panel was unable to answer: What will attract another generation of students to Flannery O’Connor? Dr. Gentry did see the attraction of Fundamentalist Christians to O’Connor. Off the panel, Dr. O’Donnell posted a comment that her students focus on the quirky humor found in Flannery and the allure of the bizarre. This latter facet was noted across the first panel. I may have framed my question poorly, but I fear for the prospects of another generation of O’Connor readers. There were no students apparent in virtual attendance or presenting at the conference. I’ll post again about the conference over the next week.

U22 Podcast: Two thoughts about the Calypso Discussion

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.