Thursday, 8 September 2011

013.05 to 018.16

We're making some progress! Despite being over-ambitious in trying to read nine pages for this meeting, we did an admirable job to work through almost six.

The pages we looked at encompass what Joyce calls "the pre-history of Ireland" and the meeting of Mutt and Jute, respectively the Irish everyman and the Nordic invader.

13-14 seems to include a significant number of mathematical games, which are not immediately clear. So 013.14 "Dbln. W. K. O. O." hides a pseudo-mathematical pattern. As McHugh points out, if A=1, B=2, C=3 and so on, then DBLN (4+2+12+14) = 32. This then explains the following 'W. K. O. O.' because (23+11+15+15) = 64. So you double 'Dbln' to produce double the value of Dublin. Or something.

This produces further insight if we consider the dates that Joyce uses on 13-14: 1132 AD, 566 AD, a silent point, and the returning, up what I envisage as a parabolic figure, encased in the text. 1132 is double 566, but also includes other items of significance. According to Chris, 3 men and 2 women is the beginning of a society (hence relevant to the pre-history of Ireland) whilst the 11 signifies the beginning of a new society (as Lachlan pointed out, once you count to ten on your fingers you have to begin again). 1132 is also 4 times (x) 283 AD, the year that Finn MacCool died. has a lot more to say on the motif of 1132.

I also really enjoyed the allusions to the Tower of Babel. 015.12-27 includes a series of references to the Babylonians, who were so proud of themselves that they sought to build a tower to the heavens. Of course, god didn't like this, and his punishment, aside from destroying the tower, was to scatter the tribes across the earth, and to give each tribe a different language, so that the world would be a confused place (still is...). This sensation is then partially repeated in the following paragraph (and across the dialogue between Mutt and Jute) as languages begin to clash; first with the shift from romantic language portmanteau's to linguistic references from the Low Countries. Just like Mutt and Jute struggle to find a common ground to understand each other.

We concluded with Lou and Miri reading the conversation between Mutt and Jute, which was hilarious.

For full and fair disclosure the Herald re-printed the Guardian's review of the Bowker biography of Joyce. Despite the unhappy headline, it is a more positive review. Find it HERE.

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts, please comment below.

Next meeting will be 21 September, same time and place. We'll read from 018.17 to 023.16.

See you there! JG


  1. The group is indeed enjoying swift and engaging travels through this Gulliver of a book.

  2. Blogging terrifies me. But I’ll venture a word or two (hundred). This week was pretty awesome. Loved it. ‘To the continuation of that celebration[!]’ (006.20)

    I have been thinking about your question, James, regarding the ‘present fool’ (‘Who ails tongue coddeau, aspace of dumbillsilly?’ 015.18; Annotations: ‘où est ton cadeau, espèce d'imbécile?: Where is your present fool?’). It occurred to me that the fool can only be present, i.e. can’t be past or future, for the fool has no name or number, unless it be zero. In which case, the present fool sits quite nicely in that zero year between your parabolic 1132 and 566 arrangement (013.33 ==> 014.15). I actually feel a little foolish, constantly referring back to tarot, runes, pre-christian celtic fire festivals and the wee fairy folk (or tuatha de danaan) of Ireland, especially with everyone else so well-versed in Irish political and military history (not to mention the actual characters in the book haha!) but I do love a good mythological or archetypal reference…

    So the way I see it, if we want to look at events in terms of the theme of eternal return spoken of in previous weeks, but only referred to very briefly this week amidst broader discussion of the cyclical rise and fall (of civilisations, of language, of culture, of life – ‘being humus the same roturns’ [018.5]), the ‘present fool’ can be viewed as a fulcrum, around which the ‘year![s] year![s] And laughtears’ (015.8-9) turn. The wheel turns eternally: the more things change the more they stay the same.

    All this talk of 2s and 3s, H.C.E.s and A.L.P.s has left me (who has only read 18 pages of the book, so forgive my ignorance of the bigger picture) wondering if there is such a central character – (duh, Finnegan? Both awake and a wake – ‘Only a fadograph of a yestern scene’ [007.15]) – or if the fool in question is the one posing the question… ‘Where is it?’ Everywhere and nowhere: occupying all the spaces between. The wrong question, posed in error? (in accordance with taboo - recalling the perilous chapel of Grail legend?)

    But now I am off topic and ceasing to make sense. Besides, I know your feelings about the abundant void, Dr G! Don’t get me started on the portmanteau!...

  3. Ah Lou. You're way too smart for me.

    I wonder if there's more significance in the number 11 than I posted. From memory Chris said something else, but I can't dredge it up. Can anyone remember this?

    I just plugged 'eleven' in to and it spat out a whole bunch of entries (turns out it identifies '1132' and '111' as motifs) but one that immediately looked interesting is 142.12 in which Joyce discusses the 11 districts of Dublin which spiral clockwise.

    I guess there could be some significance to the spiralling if we consider the eternal return to not be circular but to be (something like, I would argue) vortical. This then allows for eternal return to produce difference rather than similarity, but to also be very much of this world.

    So the foolish (and impossible) zero point of Dublin then spins out to 11 districts just like our parabola moves from zero to 1132?

  4. Thank you for posting such a detailed summary, it's very helpful :) I really wish I could physically attend the meetings, but this is good too!