ULYSSES readalong: Ch 13 Nausicaa


Welcome back the Ulysses readalong. We’re through more than half the chapters, but not quite through half the book.

I was excited when chapter 13 began with three women friends on a beach, with straightforward storytelling, albeit in romanticized prose. As we spend more time in Gerty’s mind, it becomes clear she has been brainwashed by women’s magazines and novels and thinks in romantic cliches.

This chapter has a lot of close echoes of the analogous scene from the Odyssey, in which Odysseus is washed up on the shore of a river and falls asleep in a shrub. He wakes when a group of giggling young women, led by the princess Nausicaa, play with a ball that lands near him.

Gerty is daydreaming about a young man named Reggie, when she spots a dark man a little way up the beach. Her romantic imaginings transfer to him as she catches and holds his attention. Fireworks start, a nearby church is having a temperance meeting and service, Gerty shows some leg to the man, and becomes aware that he’s masturbating. Around the part of the chapter, the POV switches and we find it’s Bloom (Joyce had been withholding this detail from us till now) and we’re back in his stream of consciousness. I may have the sequence mixed up a bit–they are tangled in my memory.


Mr. Bloom with careful hand recomposed his wet shirt. O Lord that little limping devil. Begins to feel cold and clammy. Aftereffect not pleasant. Still you have to get rid of it someway. They don’t care. Complimented perhaps. (13.850-854, Gabler)

I sensed Joyce provoking the reader in this chapter. We open with a seemingly charming tableau, which becomes less lovely as we read Gerty’s silly romantic notions, her dislike of the mess and noise of children, and her deliberate and escalating provocation of Bloom, who is a willing participant. This felt like Bloom at his least likeable, ogling and jacking off to a young woman, one he thinks less of once he sees that she’s lame, also one not much older than his daughter, Milly. We hear more about his troubled marriage with Molly, and the scene ends with him dozing, interspersed with the cries of “cuckoo,” which I took as reminders of his supposed cuckolding by Boylan.

I suppose this interlude with Bloom’s masturbating was inevitable–we’ve read about him taking a shit, farting, and now this. Bloom is a man with a messy, noisy body. Additionally, Gerty, for all her outward beauty, has some ugly thoughts, and a disability. She is a virgin, but also sexual, so she denies the madonna/whore dichotomy.

What did everyone else think?

I’ve found the resources at schmoop.com helpful for summaries and analysis. Like Wikipedia, though, it’s not to be trusted completely. Searching this weekend, I also found posts on a book blog I admire, The Sheila Variations, here is the LINK to the post on Nausicaa.

Join us next Monday 4/27 to discuss chapter 14: Oxen of the Sun.

The rest of the schedule, and what we’ve done already:

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
Week 9: book 12

6 Responses to “ULYSSES readalong: Ch 13 Nausicaa”

  1. crystal Says:

    This week we are really made to be ultimate voyeurs -we’re watching her watching him watch her with a free seats in the peanut gallery inside each of their minds.  The climax with fireworks was kinda great.  

    “And then a rocket sprang and bang…”(p. 366)

    It was romantic, sexy, sticky and finally disgusting, and by disgusting I mean Bloom is very ugly in his thoughts afterward, demeaning to whom he just moments before was the object of his affection, left me disgusted with him.  

    All of this again forces us to ponder the idea of the unfiltered mind and how one might sound in one’s own mind which may also be just as disgusting.  

    Some lines I marked:

    Come what might she would be wild, untrammelled, free.(p. 365)

    Their souls met in a last lingering glance and the eyes that reached her heart, full of a strange shining, hung enraptured on her sweet flowerlike face. She half smiled at him wanly, a sweet forgiving smile, a smile that verged on tears, and then they parted.(p. 367)

    Damned glad I didn’t do it in the bath this morning over her silly I will punish you letter.(p. 368)

    *still very much digging this behemoth of a book :)*

  2. Wilson Varga Says:

    For the reader’s consideration: How is the undescribed action of Bloom’s hand the same as, different from, that of:

    1) the milkwoman (U1.403-04 [Columbia U] “her wrinkled fingers quick at the squirting dugs” ( http://ulyssesseen.com/comic/us_comic_tel_0037.html ), and

    2) miss Douce (AKA “Bronze,” U11.1113-16 [Columbia U] “her thumb and finger passed in pity: passed, reposed and, gently touching, then slid so smoothly, slowly down, a cool firm white enamel baton protruding through their sliding ring” ( http://www.printed-editions.com/artwork/richard-hamilton-bronze-by-gold-11740 ).

    There’s reading fun to be had in recognizing that artfulness when that image is raised again (pun intended). (Spoiler alert: It will be raised again.)

    Less focus on the characters’ psychological flaws and more focus on “why” something is in this work of art (e.g. Why does the milkwoman come? Why is Gerty lame? Why did Rudy die?) may be rewarding to some readers.

  3. Heidi Says:

    Joyce begins by painting us a lovely picture; three young ladies w/ their younger charges, enjoying the June twilight along the seashore. Except it’s a painting like those Dutch Baroque vanitas paintings. You look deeper at the luscious fruits and glorious blooms and discover they’re on the verge of rot and riddled w/ small insects.

    And Joyce paints a lovely picture of Gerty with her shining hair and pale complexion and whitest of teeth and blue blue eyes. Except she’s kind of a high and mighty bitch who looks down on her friends Cissy and Edy, and enjoys courting a dark stranger’s gaze, teasing w/ glimpses at her stockings and vainly cared-for panties. “Love laughs at locksmiths.” [ML 1946 p.358]

    Anyone else notice the squalling, fighting, pissing, shitting(?), spitting up babes were all male children? Or catch who haughty Gerty’s grandpapa is [p.346 hint: his dog is named Garryowen]. Were you a tiny bit surprised that Gerty’s gentlemanly European turned out to be Leopoldo Bloom?

    “A brief cold blaze shone from her eyes that spoke volumes of scorn immeasurable.” [p.356] (cat fight! mrowr!)
    “…and there was none to know or tell save the little bat that flew so softly through the evening to and fro and little bats don’t tell.” [p.361]
    “People afraid of the dark. Also glowworms, cyclists: lightingup time. Jewels diamonds flash better. Light is a kind of reassuring. Not going to hurt you.” [p.369]
    “Why me? Because you were so foreign from the others.” [p.373]

    Final thought. Doubt I’ll ever view cream of celery soup the same way again.

  4. girldetective Says:

    Heidi, I like your analogy with the Dutch painting. Wilson, there are interesting contrasts and comparisons in the three scenes you mention–what is being released among them and for what purpose: milk, beer, and semen.

    As a first-time reader, I find the psychology of the characters is so prominent it demands most attention–the art comes through on the re-read. In a chapter with two challenging stream-of-consciousness-es, I felt Joyce’s intent, or one of the main ones, was to highlight the contrast between inner, often ugly thoughts, and more pleasing appearances, inner/outer, over/under.

    Speaking of art, while Hitchcock’s fireworks scene from To Catch a Thief (pictured) is not as famous as the train tunnel one from North by Northwest, I wonder if Hitch was influenced by this chapter of Joyce’s?

    I appreciated how the sentences also echoed Bloom’s physical state, and find it fascinating that it took so long to reveal who Bloom was–I was wondering if it was Stephen prior, though Stephen is fair not dark, isn’t he?

  5. Beth Says:

    I really enjoyed the time this chapter spent with Gerty MacDowell! It definitely laid kindling to one of my favorite things: assessing the roles and possibilities for women in literature. Perhaps the role most precisely boils down to:

    “Inclination prompted her to speak out: dignity told her to be silent.” (349)

    “A defect is ten times worse in a woman.” (368)

    Restricting rules of society vs. natural inclinations and intelligent assessments.

    And, finally, another beautiful wordsmith rendering:
    “The summer evening had begun to fold the world in its mysterious embrace.” (346)

  6. Amy Says:

    I think I liked this chapter the best so far. It was enlightening to be in Gerty’s head and watch her train of thought (and sad to think that in many ways, women–especially young women–haven’t come all that far from this today), and to see the ugly side of Bloom.