Pretender of Pretenders

IMG_SandymountStrabd1461Remember two posts ago…all the brave talk about how “hard ons should be gotten honestly or they shouldn’t be gotten at all” and how Ulysses is words on a page, nothing more?

In Joyce’s words…

Pretenders of pretenders, then and now.

So, as referenced in Barb’s post, chapter two was not unreadable.  In fact, it was mostly dialogue and actually was relatively easy to track.  It was Chapter 3 where the pretenders were exposed.

It’s rough.  Following Barb’s advice, I read the analysis in The New Bloomsbury first and then went to read the text.  This was not especially successful if by that you mean “not successful.”  So I was reduced to reading a section of TNB, then a section of the book, and then back and forth until I got to the end.

One of the problems is that the third chapter is entirely (or 98%) inside Stephen’s head, and Joyce means to capture what goes on inside someone’s head, which is a messy and distorted set of memories and associations climbing over one another on their to the surface.

The Chapter is named Proteus.  I did a little refreshing on my mythology.  Proteus was a proteus_589sea god who knew the truth but had to be captured before he would tell it.  To avoid capture, he was capable of changing his shape to other things…which gives us our current word, protean.

It’s a beautiful association with the sea.  Anyone who has watched the ocean has seen it take many forms and colors.  Joyce is as good as anyone at cataloging the many looks of the sea, ranging from grey to snotgreen.  It’s a wonderful way to capture the mysteries of the ocean.

Daedelus’ goal is nothing less than stripping down the mind’s processes to the bare studs in an effort to finally understand how the mind and the world relate.  He gets as far back to Aristotle’s theory of “forms.”

At one point, he’s trying to flip flop his perception, first “seeing” something as he’s “seeing” it, and then another viewing it as if it were an abstraction, like a painting.  (Have you ever done that?  Picture what you are looking at and wondering how it would look if it were painted, maybe by an early impressionist.  There are apps that do this, too.  See below).

He also questions the very idea of art:

You find my words dark.  Darkness is in our souls do you not think.

In other words, if a work of art is seen as dark, who made it dark…the creator or the viewer.

And we can see how perfectly Protean this all is.  The mind is ever-shifting, between what is seen and what is perceived, once it is filtered through our “soul, shamewounded by our sin.”  Yet truth is in there, but it must be captured first.  Good luck.

I don’t feel too bad about needing help.  I don’t know if it will be necessary for all the sections.  This is unlike anything else I’ve read.  However, beneath the allusions and the invented words and the relentless speed, there’s real genius.

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