Read Ulysses by Hugh Kenner Free Online
Book Title: Ulysses|
The author of the book: Hugh Kenner
Edition: Johns Hopkins University Press
Date of issue: March 1st 1987
ISBN 13: 9780801833847
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Reader ratings: 6.3
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 37.24 MB
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Looking for someone to play Virgil to your Dante Alighieri as you make your first descent into James Joyce's Ulysses? Take Stuart Gilbert along with you, and probably keep a lifeline open to Don Gifford. But when you're ready for your first re-read of the book, you could do far worse than bringing Hugh Kenner along for the ride. Kenner is ever thoughtful, always original in his provocative 1980 book, Ulysses, in the Unwin Critical Library series ( Claude Rawson, ed.), which remains an important contribution to criticism of that singular novel by Joyce.
The complexity of Joyce's texts, their symmetries and intricately interlacing design elements, captivated me from the beginning. Kenner has much to say about this aspect of Joyce's work, and about other aspects as well. We see how A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is indebted to the numerology and chiasmatic structure of Dante's Vita Nuova, for example (although Kenner doesn't mention it by name): the three episodes and diary entries of Chapter V reverse the overture and three episodes of Chapter I. Evolving characterization colors the narration in Portrait, and this pattern spills over into Ulysses, where the tendency expands exponentially.
The construction of Ulysses approximates two kinds of novel joined together, as Kenner points out and illustrates repeatedly. Written in the initial style, the first nine episodes ― Telemachus through Scylla and Charybdis ― can be viewed as a more traditional narrative-based novel which is most well known for its use of interior monologue. Next comes the hinge episode, Wandering Rocks, connecting the first nine episodes to the last eight. Wandering Rocks is a chimera of the initial style and the first striking intrusion by the Arranger (think of an independent second narrator or hijacker of the text; the Arranger was identified and named a decade earlier by David Hayman). This second half of the book ― Sirens through Penelope ― is dominated by the takeover of the text by the intrusive and sabotaging Arranger. Ulysses begins with two triads of episodes: the first group of three and the second group of three take place in different spaces at the same time. The last three episodes of the book ― Eumaeus, Ithaca and Penelope, comprising the final part of the novel, the Nostos, form a natural triad of their own.
Importantly, Kenner emphasizes broad structural parallelisms that, as if by magnetic force, bind together certain episodes in the different halves of the book: those linking Aeolus to Cyclops, Proteus to Nausicaa, and Scylla and Charybdis to Oxen of the Sun. These parallelisms and linkages help establish the broadest pattern trussing together the novel's stylistically divergent episodes into a single text. A few examples are demonstrative. The constantly interrupted text of Aeolus is mirrored by the gigantism interruptions, journalistic in style, which break up the text of Cyclops. The Cyclops adventure immediately follows the Aeolus adventure in The Odyssey, so the parallelism is a connection for episodes chronologically separated in Ulysses. Proteus is a two-part episode, with Stephen Dedalus first walking across the sand, then with Stephen sitting on the rocks at Sandymount Strand. Nausicaa is clearly a two-part episode, the first featuring Gerty MacDowell sitting on the sand, the second featuring Leopold Bloom on the rocks at Sandymount Strand. Both Scylla and Charybdis and Oxen of the Sun begin with Stephen as the center of attention among a group of companions until Buck Mulligan arrives to steal the spotlight from him. In The Odyssey the Oxen of the Sun incident follows immediately after the Scylla and Charybdis incident, again restoring a chronological disjunction in Ulysses.
Kenner doesn't address the fact that this approach leaves a few episodes unaccounted for; viz., Lestrygonians, Sirens and Circe. Sirens is the opening of the Arranger's grand performance while Circe is its crowning achievement, not to mention a reconstitution of the entire novel up to that point. The Lestrygonians episode, according to this schema, seems to be an orphan.
In point of fact, while these are items of interest to Kenner, they are not of overwhelming interest to him, but are illustrative of the content of Kenner's book. Kenner makes many shrewd observations about Ulysses throughout his book that I hadn't noticed previously. He tells us a great deal about Joyce's use of motifs and even of individual words and clusters of words to hold his books together. He demonstrates Buck Mulligan's full frontal nudity in the opening page of the book. He explains that Stephen may well have gone to Sandymount Strand intending to seek lodging for the night. He points out the implications of Corny Kelleher's role as a police informant. He underscores how the orderliness of the first half of the book begins to give way to the chaos of the second half in close approximation to the time of the assignation between Molly and Boylan. He notes how the tableau of Mina Purefoy in labor at the lying-in hospital, even as the doctors carouse downstairs, picks up on the imagery of Penelope and the Suitors in The Odyssey. On the first page of Scylla and Charybdis, Kenner mentions, Eglinton mentions six brave medicals, and in Oxen of the Sun Stephen confronts six not-exactly-brave medicals. Stephen imagines William Shakespeare as a restless man with a lively daughter and a dead son, uneasily yoked to a wife who conquered him once and cuckolds him now, all of which equally apply to Leopold Bloom. The sailor Murphy has tattooed on his chest a portrait of the artist as a young man. On and on.
Kenner concludes his book by referring to Ulysses as ― I paraphrase ― a hologram of words. This may be the best description of Ulysses as I've ever encountered, for reasons too complicated to spell out here. This is an excellent book about Ulysses and one that is very well written. Much to think about. Quite recommended.
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