ULYSSES readalong ch 15: Circe 3/3


Stephen, prone, breathes to the stars. (Vintage 607)

The above illustration is by Jun-Pierre Shiozawa, who read Ulysses last year and started a project to illustrate it.

Welcome back, fellow friends and masochists, who continue to blaze and slog through Ulysses. Congratulations on making it this far! In my Vintage edition, we are over 3/4 of the way through, and this chapter, 15, Circe, was nearly a quarter of the book, pages-wise at least.

The song for this week is “Start Me Up”, by the Rolling Stones, which has a lyric that matches a passage I’ll quote below.

After the full-on masochistic fantasy of last week, I thought I’d reached my limit of being shocked by this book. But no, Joyce had further provocations in mind, as he brings us back to the erection of a hanged man, earlier referred to in the Cyclops chapter:

–There’s one thing it hasn’t a deterrent effect on, says Alf.

–What’s that? says Joe.

–The poor bugger’s tool that’s being hanged, says Alf.

–That so? says Joe.

–God’s truth, says Alf. I heard that from the head warder that was in

Kilmainham when they hanged Joe Brady, the invincible. He told me when they cut him down after the drop it was standing up in their faces like a poker.

–Ruling passion strong in death, says Joe, as someone said.

–That can be explained by science, says Bloom. It’s only a natural phenomenon, don’t you see, because on account of the…

And then he starts with his jawbreakers about phenomenon and science and this phenomenon and the other phenomenon. (Vintage, 304)

Lo and behold, in the final third of the very long chapter 15, Circe, look what pops up again when The Croppy Boy is hanged. Forgive me for the naughty pun, but I don’t think Joyce would disapprove. Also, if I didn’t do it, reader Vince probably would.

He gives up the ghost. A violent erection of the hanged sends gouts
of sperm spouting through his deathclothes on to the cobblestones.
Mrs Bellingham, Mrs Yelverton Barry and the Honourable Mrs
Mervyn Talboys rush forward with their handkerchiefs to sop it

I must say, that’s an image I’d prefer to not have encountered.

And the other eyebrow-r

aising passage for me was:

Bloom, holding [Stephen’s} hat and ashplant, stands erect. A dog barks in the
distance. Bloom tightens and loosens his grip on the ashplant. (Vintage 609)

If you, as I am, read Stephen’s ashplant as an extension of his phallus, then that is pretty explicit, and not necessarily the kind, fatherly figure of the rest of the passage.

As for the rest, we zip in and out of Bloom’s and Stephen’s brains. Stephen has an encounter with his dead mother, reminding me of the ghost scene in Gertrude’s closet from Hamlet.

The reality of this last segment was clearer to me, though, than in the earlier parts of the chapter, as Bloom pays for and looks out for Stephen, who ends the chapter drunk and passed out, but not beaten or in jail or robbed. The paternal care is emphasized by the appearance of Leopold’s dead son Rudy, as he might’ve looked if he’d lived.

What did everyone else think?

Join us next Monday 5/25 (yes, I know, it’s Memorial Day) for chapter 16, Eumaeus (the poor but loyal pig keeper of the Odyssey.) Just over 4 weeks till Bloomsday!

Past and future:

Schedule and past posts:

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
Week 10: book 13
Week 11: book 14
Week 12: book 15 part 1/3
Week 13: book 15 part 2/3

6 Responses to “ULYSSES readalong ch 15: Circe 3/3”

  1. Amy Says:

    Heh on the Stones song.

  2. Beth Says:

    Schmoop was very helpful on thinking the Circe section over as a whole. I don’t have much to add, and I agree that this section was clearer than earlier sections of Circe. Both Bloom and Stephen seem to have some past traumas to deal with, but I very much enjoyed seeing them interact.

    Favorite line of the section:
    STEPHEN: “Doesn’t matter a rambling damn.” (559)

  3. crystal Says:

    As provocative as this episode is and as intimidating and insane.  O, what a wonderful ride!!

    My fave bits to share:

    “Ineluctable modality of the visible.”

    p. 591
    “My methods are new and are causing surprise.  To make the blind see I throw dust in their eyes.”


    Giving up the ghost: Symbology of spilling of seed in/after death

    His son, Rudy, a nymph holding Jesus as childish toy in his pocket?

  4. David Says:

    I’ve been slogging through this without much to say, but I want to make sure I give props to Kristen on her moderating. Although, I don’t have a lot to say, I’ve been very much enjoying your posts!

  5. girldetective Says:

    Thanks, David! And there’s no need to “talk”; reading along is what counts.

  6. V Says:

    So glad my reputation precedes me, but I’m still 20 pages to the end of “Circe,” so any punning here now would be … premature.