ULYSSES Readalong Book 9: Scylla and Charybdis


EDITED TO ADD: this was not a fine moment for me as a reader, or as a moderator. I resorted to one of the least mature reading criticisms of them all, one that I typically deplore: (whiny voice) *it was HARD. I didn’t LIKE it.*

Welcome to Ulysses, b1tch. Why do I think I’m doing this? For enjoyment? No, for pleasure, which is that complicated mix of enjoyment and almost pain when I am pushed to my limits and made to WORK, to think, to LEARN.

Also, because I told a lot of other people I would and it would be lame to quit.

I apologize for being so flip in the post below. BUT I’m going to leave it up, because it is a valid, if not valuable and if childish, response.

After going through the notes, and reading an online analysis, and re-reading, I was actually delighted by all the Hamlet talk, by Stephen’s comparison of Penelope and Ann Hathaway and by extension Will and Odysseus, and his theory that Shakespeare identified with the ghost because Ann had an affair with one of his brothers, both of whose names were villains in his plays. I also appreciated the contrast between the “don’t consider the context” school of criticism versus the “reading way too much biographical material into a work of art” rock and hard places.

And, in a clever turn of the “Titular Line” concept, Joyce calls out to his chapter Scylla and Charybdis:

Between the Saxon smile and yankee yawp. The devil and the deep sea.



Soundtrack to today’s chapter: “Wrapped Around Your Finger” by the Police, since it names Scylla and Charybdis.

Comment here or on Twitter with the hashtag #TCUlysses

I feel like a bad moderator, but I did not enjoy this week’s reading. I felt good about last week’s book 8, felt like I understood it and enjoyed the time in Bloom’s head. This week, though, we’re back in Stephen Dedalus’ head, and I don’t like it there.

Stephen’s something of a self-satisfied intellectual ass, and he and the others spent the book discussing Shakespeare and Aristotle and Plato and the intellectual wanking exhausted me. I wanted to run into the room, kick them all in the shins and run out again in a childish bid to bring them back to earth.

I read book 9, then read SO MANY PAGES of Gifford’s notes on the book 9, then read the summary and analysis at Schmoop.com, and I’m not sure I have much more to offer you than:

Stephen and some of his friends sit around and pontificate on theories about Shakespeare.

I’m a Shakespeare geek. I love Shakespeare and enjoy nerdish discussions about who wrote the plays, and who was the model for which character. I did not enjoy them here, though. Stephen and the others lack a humor, lack the earthy realism of Shakespeare (and Bloom) that allows me to connect to the plays, their author, and dicussions about them.

What I believe we’re supposed to take away is that both intellectualism and earthy realism are important, that art can (and should?) be based from life, and that Stephen is trying to figure out how to make art based on life. (Hint: get out of your head.)

What did everyone else think?

Join us next week on 3/30/15 for Book 10: The Wandering Rocks. The schedule for the rest:

4/6/15 discuss and tweet section 11
4/13/15 discuss and tweet section 12
4/20/15 discuss and tweet section 13
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 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!

For reference, here are the past posts:

Ulysses readalong week 1, books 1 and 2
Ulysses readalong week 2, books 3 and 4
Ulysses readalong week 3, books 5 and 6
Ulysses readalong week 4: book 7
Ulysses readalong week 5: book 8

10 Responses to “ULYSSES Readalong Book 9: Scylla and Charybdis”

  1. crystal Says:

    This week was difficult. I did feel the need to go to wiki on history of W. S.to learn more about Shakespeare’s family to try and follow what Stephen was going on about with his family members.

    Also trying to be a fly on the wall to Stephen’s  philosophising through dialogue was exhausting; it was like walking into a room sober after all inside has just passed a bowl around and then trying to cypher the subject of conversation.

    Stephen talking about Shakespeare, and Hamlet specifically, I think is a projection of what he feels about himself maybe?? “To be or not to be, that is the question.” He went on about Shakespeare/Hamlet as both father and son and past and present. Time being the main subject and how the ego plays a role.

    Everything Mulligan interjected to encourage his buddy, Stephen, was both cheeky and timed perfectly and made the episode bearable and laugh out loud funny(ex. play for the mummers). What was best about Mulligan is no one was amused more by him than Mulligan himself.

    “Buck Mulligan gleefully bent back, laughing to the dark eavesdropping ceiling.”

    I thought the comparison to Ann Hathaway to Penelope was a stretch.

    Some fave lines from the episode: 

    “discussions of the historicity of Jesus. Art has to reveal to us ideas, formless spiritual essences. The supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring.” (p. 185)

    “The schoolmen were once schoolboys first, Stephen said superpolitely. Aristotle was Plato’s schoolboy.” (p. 185)

    “People do not know how dangerous lovesongs can be” (p. 186),

    “A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.” (p.190)

    “He carried a memory in his wallet.” (p.190)

    “I am big with child. I have an unborn child in my brain.” (p. 208)

  2. crystal Says:

    *I agree this episode was off-putting but I was still not completely turned off probably thanks mostly to Mulligan.  Also I am probably in my head too much too. ;) Honestly right now reading this book is my only outlet right now and I find pontificating fun. :)  I am glad that you are hosting this discussion on Ulysses, Kristin, because I like reading along with others and hearing everyone’s pov and feeling a part of a group.  Also this particular book I have always meant to read.  So thanks!

  3. girldetective Says:

    I’m not sure I find the comparison of Ann Hathaway to Penelope a stretch–she stayed at home with the kids while he went off on adventures, slept around, and eventually came home when he was old.

    Much of my knowledge of Shakespeare was started by reading the Sandman comic series, which featured Will in 3 critical issues: Men of Good Fortune, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the series ender #75 The Tempest. I loved these so much they spurred me to learn more about Shakespeare and his plays.

  4. crystal Says:

    I take it back. Also should have checked out just Anne’s wiki: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Hathaway_(Shakespeare’s_wife) (a lot more info then in W.S. page)

    I can relate to the “Penelope stayathome” myself sometimes -minus the infidelity.

    P.S. I really need to finish the Sandman series.

  5. Amy Says:

    I was thinking the Penelope/Ann Hathaway analogy wasn’t bad. But yeah, this section was a slog for me. What’s in a name? What’s in a name?

  6. girldetective Says:

    Penelope wasn’t (according to Homer) unfaithful. She went above and beyond according to most, certainly to the suitors who wanted to wed and bed her, whether or no in that order. Twenty years!

    Intertextual weaving: Neil Gaiman’s twitter is @neilhimself. In this chapter of Ulysses, Stephen riffs on WH (name from sonnets, I think) as possibly Will Himself, so was Neil giving a nod to Will, as he has done before?

  7. Heidi Says:

    Bit of a slog this week, being in Stephen Dedalus’ pointy intellectual head. I prefer being in Stephen’s head when he is walking on the strand and I can be distracted by seaside environs: tides, winds, ozone odors, dead dogs and all.

    Traditional name of Episode 9, Scylla and Charybdis, always puts me in mind of my HS Mythology prof Mr. Percy who referred to it as “the original rock and a hard place.” What are are rock and hard place here? What are we finding ourselves caught between?

    Personally I sought out the base levity among all the intellectual high-mindedness. Sample: ref. to H.P.B. (Mme. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, occultist, spirit medium, co-founder and leading theoretician of Theosophy) via an elaborate pun on genitals, “You naughtn’t to look, missus, so you naughtn’t when a lady’s ashowing of her elemental.” — elemental in theosophy = the lower, or mortal nature of man (ML 1946 p. 183). Also, Leopold Bloom espied in the museum, “His pale Galilean eyes were upon her mesial groove. Venus Kallipyge [lit. beautiful buttocks]. O, the thunder of those loins!” (p. 198) And the drubbing play on Dedalus’ name “Seabedabbled, fallen, weltering. Lapwing you are.” (p. 208).

    Most quotable quote of the episode goes to, “Only crows, priests and English coal are black.”

  8. Heidi Says:

    Tell you what, I’ll take Stephen Dedalus and co. debating Shakespeare over the 2015 ToB comments section. It’s FAR more focused and civil in the National Library. ;-)

  9. girldetective Says:

    Heidi, I believe one interpretation of rock and a hard place is between the idealism of Plato (which Best and Murray like) and the realism of Aristotle (which is more Stephens thing), just as between the type of lit crit that eschewed author context (he wrote lovely plays, so it matters not what his life was) and the whole kit and kaboodle of an author’s life.

  10. Beth Says:

    Busy week! I read this week’s section on time, but am just getting around to posting comments.

    The mind of Stephen Dedalus is certainly less intriguing than Leopold Bloom, but there were still some good bits to this section. Here are my favorite lines:

    “. . . the Quaker librarian purred.” (184)

    “A hesitating soul taking arms against a sea of troubles, torn by conflicting doubts, as one sees in real life.” (184)

    “A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.” (190)

    Absolute favorite:
    “He laughed to free his mind from his mind’s bondage.” (212)