ULYSSES Readalong Ch 12: Cyclops


Well, sort of. I read the chapter in its entirety and was left with the uncomfortable feeling of having bathed in so much anti-semitism that it wouldn’t wash off. The things people say about Bloom are so appalling, and I take umbrage on his behalf as if he were a friend, which he is rather getting to be over this book, even with all the TMI of shitting and farting and such.

I do not yet feel I can write a proper post on Cyclops, though, because I’ve only read it once, and am not yet even halfway through the Gifford notes. Which, if you’ve read the chapter and encountered those long Biblical-begat-esque lists, you know are a killer this week as they attempt to ’splain every Tom Dick and Harry in a chapter Joyce was working hard to make the most reference heavy EVER.

But I’m a day late in putting up this post, for two reasons. One, I had to take my elder, 11yo Drake, in for a strep test yesterday. It’s a weird parental thing where I both hope he is positive to justify having schlepped in for a test, and negative because, well, duh. He was positive so now we have to make sure he takes his anti-b’s 3x a day for 10 days. I made a chart so we don’t forget.

Also I started the book Reconstructing Amelia that my friend Sam lent me ages ago, and while I almost put it down at the beginning because I felt like I could see where it was going, I’m glad I didn’t, because it spun out to satisfying and in many ways unexpected conclusions. But that meant I didn’t get to chapter 12 of Ulysses till Sunday, which was too late for this behemoth of a chapter. It’s not like I wasn’t warned: the title is Cyclops after all.

So, before I delve back into the notes and a re-read, here is what I’ve got for you: the chapter is narrated by a nameless man, one who nearly loses an eye right off the bat:

a bloody* sweep came along and he near drove his gear into my eye

The chapter is interspersed throughout with long parodies of other written material, such as legal writs, Irish folktales, newspaper articles, and more. These alternate with the conversations of the unnamed Cylopean character with others in the bar as they drink. A lot. One man, named only The Citizen, becomes increasingly incensed at Bloom.

*Gifford’s note: A mysteriously offensive curse to the Victorian and Edwardian ear that continued to be offensive until the 1930’s; no one can quite explain how or why. Joyce thought, or at least said he thought, that it derived from By Our Lady; others suggest By God’s Blood.

My own idea: no matter its origins, I suspect an inferred connection to menstrual blood is what made it so offensive for so long.

On a completely different note, I enjoyed this malapropism, which made me picture someone throwing edible flowers at people:

Don’t cast your nasturtiums on my character. (vintage 320)

I will embiggen this later after I’ve finished Giffording, Schmooping, and re-reading. EDITED TO ADD: I found this note at Schmoop.com helpful. The myopia of the chapter applies to nationalism, to racism, and even to just sitting in the bar:

As readers, we’re subjected to the narrator’s very limited point-of-view, and we begin to notice just how constraining it can be to hear a story in the first person. The pronoun “I” becomes another metaphor for the Cyclops, for only being able to see things one way. It’s directly opposed to the idea of parallax — seeing one thing from a number of different points of view in order to get a fuller sense of the thing— that runs through the entire novel.

What did everyone else think?

See you here next Monday 4/20 for chapter 13: Nausicaa. Which I might just supplement with a viewing of Miyazaki’s debut masterpiece of the same name.

The schedule for the rest:

4/27/15 discuss and tweet section 14
(3 weeks to read the very long section 15 which we’ll spit into three chunks)
5/18/15 read, then discuss and tweet all of section 15
5/25/15 discuss and tweet section 16
(extra week to read the longer section 17)
6/8/15 read then discuss and tweet section 17
6/15/15 discuss and tweet section 18
6/16/15 Bloomsday!

Past posts:

Week 1: books 1 and 2
Week 2: books 3 and 4
Week 3: books 5, 6
Week 4: book 7
Week 5: book 8
Week 6: book 9
Week 7: book 10
Week 8: book 11

3 Responses to “ULYSSES Readalong Ch 12: Cyclops”

  1. crystal Says:

    Speaking about cajoling with the “druidy druids,” this episode is inebriating.

    Fave line:

    -Could you make a hole in another pint?
    -Could a swim duck?(p.312)

    And a few sobering lines from Bloom:

    -Some people, says Bloom, can see the mote in others’ eyes but they can’t see the beam in their own.(p. 326)


    -Persecution, all the history of the world is full of it.  Perpetuating national hatred among nations.(p. 331)

  2. Heidi Says:

    What a strange episode! On the one hand, I found myself cringing at The Citizen’s blatant anti-Semitic, heck anti-immigrant in general views; while on the other I was jotting down amusing colloquial expressions and trying to figure out ways to slip them into everyday conversation (like the one about nasturtiums).

    Like you Kristin, I’ve come to view Poldy as a friend, even if a little bumbling and socially awkward friend. I’m tired of seeing him get treated like a mongrel dog (or worse) and cheered when he stood up for himself, growled a bit like Garryowen if you will, “Force, hatred, history, all that. That’s not life for men and women, insult and hatred. And everybody knows that it’s the very opposite of that [love] that is really life.” [ML 1946 p. 326-327] Sadly though, he gets shouted down and insulted by the bullies once again.

    The interspersed parodies were interesting. Schmoop says there are 33. I’ve only been able to count 32, and I went thru their list TWICE again after using it as a guide 1st time thru chapter. Anyone else get 33?

    Those amusing colloquial expressions (mostly about drink):
    “And he waiting for what the sky would drop in the way of drink.”
    “I was blue mouldy for the want of that pint. Declare to God I could hear it hit the pit of my stomach with a click.”
    “I beg your parsnips”
    “…and by the holy farmer…” “…by herrings…” (and other assorted oaths)
    “Could you make a hole in another pint?”
    “Teach your grandmother how to milk ducks.”
    “I declare to my antimacassar…”

    I declare to my antimacassar we’ve made it about halfway through!

  3. Beth Says:

    Problematic sentiments aside, the wordsmithing in this section was super impressive. Actually, I’ve come to realize that I’m continuing with Ulysses more for the interesting renderings of language more so than an attachment to the plot or a character.

    This is probably the longest description of a person that I have ever read:
    “…of a broadshouldered deepchested stronglimbed frankeyed redhaired freely freckled shaggybearded widemouthed largenosed longheaded deepvoiced barekneed brawnyhanded hairylegged ruddyfaced sinewyarmed hero.” (296)

    My favorite word is sinewyarmed.

    There was also wordsmithing of logic, here:
    “That explains the milk in the coconut and absence of hair on the animal’s chest.” (319)

    And here:
    “Some people, says Bloom, can see the mole in others’ eyes but they can’t see the beam in their own.” (326)

    Finally, I enjoyed this rumination:
    “Love loves to love love.” (333)