Daily Archives: February 5, 2011

Saturday Night at the Movies: “Ulysses”


James Joyce’s birthday and the anniversary of the first publication of Ulysses just passed.  Here’s the 1967 film adaptation of the novel that was censored, reviled and made undistributable by an X rating; it was not even approved for general release in Ireland until 2000.  That lack of wide distribution means that this is an absolutely pristine print, the images as crisp as they were forty years ago — a reminder of how lost is the art of black and white film making.

Frye in “Quest and Cycle in Finnegans Wake”:

An association is implied between Stephen and Icarus, and in some respects Ulysses is a version of the fall of Icarus.  Stephen, an intellectual of the type usually described as in the clouds or up in the air, comes back to Dublin and in his contact with Bloom meets a new kind of father, neither his spiritual nor his physical father but Everyman, the man of earth and common humanity, who is yet isolated enough from his society to be an individual too, an Israel as well as an Adam.  Stephen approaches  this communion with a certain amount of shuddering and distaste, but the descent to the earth is clearly necessary for him.  Traditionally, however, the earth is Mother Earth, and what we are left with is a female monologue of a being at once maternal, marital, and meretricious, who enfolds a vast number of lovers, including Bloom and possibly Stephen, and yet is narcist too, in a state of self-absorption which absorbs the lover.  (CW 29, 110)

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Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle died on this date in 1881 (born 1795).

Frye in “New Directions from Old” cites Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus in order to make the point that literature does not present “ideas” by way of logic, but a mimesis of ideas by way of metaphor:

Literary criticism finds a good deal of difficulty in dealing with such works as Sartor Resartus takes the structure of German Romantic philosophy and extracts from it a central metaphor in which the phenomenal is to the noumenal world as clothing is to the naked body: something which conceals it, and yet, by enabling it to appear in public, paradoxically reveals it as well.

The “ideas” the poets use, therefore, are not actual propositions, but thought-forms or conceptual myths, usually dealing with images rather than abstractions, and hence normally unified by metaphor, or image phrasing, rather than by logic.  (CW 21, 121-13)