Reader's Guide: 0001 Nestor

 

“Nestor” is the second episode of Ulysses but the third in Rob’s adaptation of the novel. Thus, we have arrived at the third reader’s guide, and also the fourth; our title page tells us that something different is afoot: two Ulysses episodes spliced into one Ulysses Seen section. In “Nestor,” we’ll get to see Stephen Dedalus’s 10 o’clock hour, spent at his teaching job at Mr. Deasy’s school. Meanwhile, “The Lotus Eaters” depicts Leopold Bloom’s 10 o’clock hour, spent perambulating Dublin, slightly aimlessly, taking care of some tasks and killing some time. Rob’s montage technique, his cross-cutting between the two every so often, will allow him to illuminate cross-references between the two characters’ stories, ruminate visually over some of Joyce’s literary techniques, and have some fun besides.

Now, some purists (and some non-purists) might argue that such remixing of the novel is unsuitable in some way. (Purists, have at it in the comments!) Interactive technology being what it is (umm … interactive), some readers may choose to simply read “Nestor” and “Lotus-Eaters” separately, following the sequence in which they appear in Ulysses. Your choice, readers. The reader’s guide pages address the chapters both as discrete episodes and for the way Rob weaves them together.

On to some nuts and bolts. Why is the chapter called “Nestor”? The first three chapters of Ulysses follow Stephen Dedalus, who is meant as Joyce’s parallel for Telemachus of The Odyssey. In the second episode of The Odyssey, Telemachus leaves Ithaca in search of news of his father. He travels to Pylos, ruled by Nestor, the eminence grise or elder statesman of the Greek city-states who has survived the Trojan War and returned home safely although many younger, sprier (and less canny) rulers have not. From this aged king, Telemachus hears of Odysseus’s heroics but is disappointed in his quest for information about his father’s current whereabouts. Ulysses follows the sequence of The Odyssey by having Stephen, a parallel for Telemachus, leave his island home of sorts (the Martello Tower) and head for the mainland. The role of Nestor in this episode will be played by Mr. Deasy, Stephen’s boss, who is one of the more unequivocally dislikable characters in Ulysses. And yet, Mr. Deasy, like all of Joyce’s Homeric correspondences, is only part satire; he is also part earnest attempt to translate Homer’s Nestor into 1904 Dublin culture.

 

Why Is Bloom’s episode called “Lotus-Eaters”? We’ll get to that.

 

You may have noticed that Rob starts each chapter with an “establishing shot,” a full-page image to orient readers in space. The “Nestor” chapter’s establishing shot is a picture of the school building as Rob imagines it; it is a private (in US terms–meaning exclusive and costly) school for boys, in Dalkey, a Dublin suburb about a mile from where we last saw Stephen.

 

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