Telemachus 0021

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If you didn’t already know that Mulligan was a medical student, here he proves it.  He doesn’t understand why Stephen is so offended by his “beastly dead” comment.  I suspect most readers are also a little confused by this–or at least about why Stephen has been holding on to it for so long.

You get (at the bottom of the page) a classic Stephenism–that he is not upset about the insult to his mother, but rather “of the offence to me.”

What does Stephen mean by this, and why is it coming out now?  On the simplest level, Stephen is perhaps as offended by Mulligan referring to him as “only Dedalus” as he is about his mother being “beastly dead.”  Further, if Mulligan respected Stephen, or saw him as a social equal, or saw him as the promising artist Stephen sees himself to be… he wouldn’t have said that.  It’s another small detail that shows you how Mulligan’s interest in Stephen is insincere.  The anecdote also serves to deflate, or put into context, Mulligan’s invitation to go to Greece.  I think Stephen also is offended because his mother’s death is such a huge presence in his present life–he might like to escape his fixation on it, but as we’ve already seen, the experience still haunts him.

So who was Sir Peter Teazle?  First,  a character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s School for Scandal, a hugely popular play from the late 1700s.  Second,  a prize racehorse!  I had no idea about that second one, but it’s a nice Ulyssean fit.

 

View this Page of the Comic

Reader’s Guide for I: Telemachus

Dramatis Personae for I: Telemachus

11 thoughts on “Telemachus 0021

  1. here’s a question: what makes the comment so stephen-like is its ambiguity, right? when he makes these comments, is he deliberately being obscure, possibly to cultivate an air of mystery or feed into some adolescent ‘no one understands me’ notion? or are his ideas just impossible to put into clear, simple statements? or is something else going on?
    discuss!

    • Stevie- I agree with what you’re saying about Stephen’s penchant for being deliberately obscure, even contrary… there’s more than a little bit of Wildean paradox in this. [In the “Eumaeus” episode, Bloom tells Stephen that he is important to Ireland because he is a writer. Stephen responds that “Ireland must be important because it belongs to me.”] ..the whole theory of Shakespeare that Stephen weaves in the “Scylla and Charybdis” episode is another case, as Stephen admits he doesn’t even really believe the theory. I think it’s a kind of ingenious, but ultimately empty, perverseness in Stephen’s humor that reflects his immaturity… but I think by the end of the book we see how he will improve…

  2. I think one other way in which this is characteristically Stephen is that it is his way of showing Mulligan that he is unmoved by the verbal barrage he has just received; that he has no intent of dropping his grudge. As we see on the next page, it proves to be an effective parry. Stephen knows that behind Mulligan’s bluster is a strong desire to be adored and respected, and he knows that this is a pin in Mulligan’s balloon.

  3. It’s the cruelty that’s typically Stephen … referring to your own mother as “bestly dead.” Seen also at the end of _Portrait_.

  4. Hit “submit” too soon … To continue my last comment: He’s also referred as “kinch,” the knife blade. The sharpness, the cutting of his language — without emotion. (And I also agree with the other posters here, too.)

  5. Also involved in the exchange, is that Buck urges Stephen to explain because “I remember only sensations and ideas.”
    For readers up through (app.) the thirties, this would have been a clear reference to Walter Pater’s novel *Marius the Epicurrean: His Sensations and Ideas*, which was extrmemely popular with students (like Mulligan and Deadelus), and deeply influenced Joyce (and also Woolf), an early attempt (1885) to put a far greater and more detailed focus on the psychology of the fictive subject than had been done before. The influence was so great that, when *Ulysses* first appeared, Woolf, in her diary, could dismiss it as “it’s simply Walter Pater” all over again. (By the bye, I’m doing this without any sort of library to hand, so words might be off–not to mention my nutsy dyslexic spelling–all through.)

  6. Thanks for the bump, Stevie. I’d like to second Julianne’s comment, as well, and it ties in to what I had planned to add, which is as follows: When Stephen finds himself on the receiving end of Mulligan’s mockery in later chapters, when he, himself is seeking the approval of the rest of the crowd, he seems to find it a bit harder to parry. He cannot remain emotionless. He doesn’t tend to offer anything to counter the bluster in those situations, but does continue with his own. In this opening scene, he knows he’s the smartest (or rather smartER) guy in the room. He feels his inferiority, (and the reader can feel it) when he is surrounded by Eglinton, et. al. Mulligan senses it, as well, and he pounces.

    -Josh

  7. - Traduction française / French translation –

    Si vous ne saviez pas encore que Mulligan était étudiant en médecine, il le prouve ici. Il ne comprend pas pourquoi Stephen s’offusque à ce point de sa réflexion au sujet de sa mère « crevée comme une bête ». J’imagine que cela laisse aussi la plupart des lecteurs un peu perplexes – ou du moins étonnés que Stephen le rumine aussi longuement.

    On a (en bas de page) un exemple classique de « stéphanisme » – où il se montre moins irrité par l’insulte envers sa mère que par l’offense faite à lui-même.

    Que veut dire Stephen par là, et pourquoi cela ressort-il maintenant ? Pris au premier degré, Stephen est peut-être autant agacé par Mulligan disant « c’est “seulement” Dedalus » [N.D.T. : souligné par nous] que par l’allusion à sa mère « crevée comme une bête ». Mais en allant plus loin, si Mulligan avait du respect pour Stephen, ou s’il le considérait comme son égal, ou bien encore s’il voyait en lui l’artiste prometteur que Stephen s’imagine être… il n’aurait pas parlé ainsi. C’est un autre petit détail qui nous montre combien l’intérêt de Mulligan pour Stephen est hypocrite. Cette anecdote contribue aussi à dévaloriser, ou à donner une autre teneur à l’invitation de Mulligan à un voyage en Grèce. Je pense aussi que Stephen est vexé parce que la mort de sa mère tient une place immense dans son quotidien, et qu’il aimerait échapper à la fixation qu’il fait dessus – mais comme nous l’avons vu précédemment, cela continue à le hanter.

    Et puis, qui était Sir Peter Teazle ? Premièrement, c’était un personnage de la pièce de Richard Brinsley Sheridan, « L’école de la médisance », très populaire à la fin du XVIIIe s. Deuxièmement, un cheval de course aux prix multiples ! Je n’en savais rien, mais cela cadre bien avec une perspective ulysséenne.

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