Telemachus 0028

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Again here, an explanation of what’s going on in the comic beggars what the comic itself does on this page.  Stephen is caught up in his “brooding brain,” [another example of the Uncle Charles Principle, as the word “brooding,” which ostensibly comes from some kind of narrator, has been very much part of Stephen’s thoughts in this scene.]  Stephen does another deep dive into memories of his mother’s death, bringing up wonderfully precise images–the “shapely fingernails” (Q: what are shapely fingernails?) stained red with the blood of squashed lice, etc.

The question I’ve been asking myself about this moment is “If we look at Stephen as a writer struggling to come into his own, can we better understand his struggle with the memory of his mother?”  Certainly his command to her to leave him alone and let him live makes some sense.  I imagine Stephen here is struggling between  a writer’s impulse to record every detail of what he remembers of her (almost in the style of an epiphany), and his terror at bringing back the horror-movie-style guilt and terror of her death.

And about that Latin… Professor Gifford gives us a translation from the “Layman’s Missal”: May the glittering throng of confessors, bright as lilies, gather about you. May the glorious choir of virgins receive you.” It is a prayer for the dying, which can be said (according to the missal via Gifford) to commend the dying person to God if there is no priest present.  This is what Stephen should have prayed, if he had prayed.