Telemachus 0007

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[Cf. 1922; 3:24, Gabler; 3:26]

So Mulligan is doing his staged transubstantiation joke, waiting for the toot of the approaching mailboat to echo his whistle .

In the book, the word “chrysostomos” just sits in the middle of a small paragraph describing Mulligan’s face and the scene.  Note how Rob has given it a different style to set it apart from the other dialogue, internal or external. We spent some time talking about this.

People reading Ulysses for the first time are so eager to get to the difficult stuff, the allusions, or just the smutty bits, that this odd and completely symptomatic moment on the first page gets passed over.  When I teach Ulysses, I like to dwell on this word for an uncomfortably long time, because the more you look at it, the weirder it gets.

Key question: who says it?  It’s not dialogue, because it doesn’t have one of the dashes that Joyce preferred to set off actual spoken words (as opposed to pedestrian quotation marks).  It seems to be the narrator, but it’s pretty elliptical for a narrator–a normal narrator would say something like: “his teeth had gold caps, and they shone in the sun and made him golden-mouthed like St. John Chrysostomos.”  So it’s abrupt, and if you ask me, it’s a chain of logic that sounds much more like Stephen than any impartial narrator.  This the next of many examples of the Uncle Charles Principle .

But who is Chrysostomos anyway?  I’ve never found a really satisfactory connection to this allusion.  On some level, it’s just that Mulligan as noticeable gold in his teeth. He’s also a clever talker. So he’s golden-mouthed.  Gifford is a good souce for going deeper into this kind of thing. He suggests a couple of possible suspects, one being the Greek rhetorician Dion Chrysostomos, another being the early church father St. John Chrysostomos . Of course, Mulligan’s real-life model was Oliver St. John Gogarty, and Joyce may be connecting the “St. John” in both of their names.

These are perfectly legit and all, but I don’t really feel they add much to what we know about Mulligan. If anything.  Gifford’s third candidate, Pope Gregory I, is a more likely match. Called by the Irish “Gregory Goldenmouthed,” he was a Roman pope who took on the project of converting the Britons to Roman Christianity ( as opposed to the strange Irish brand being practiced next door).  If you have better candiates, please let me know!

One more thing –the electricity reference has always  struck me…  I’ve  read this as Mulligan making a reference to some kind of medical experiment he would have seen as a student, a la Frankenstein

Looking around the web, I found a nice piece of trivia–the Pigeon House, the famous unreached destination of Joyce’s short story “An Encounter,” began it’s long life as an electricity power station in 1903, only a year before the events in the tower are supposed to happen.  The Poolbeg Station now surrounds the original Pigeon House, and is easily visible from the top of the Joyce tower [It also plays a starring role in U2’s “Pride (in the name of love)” video.]

The first power station in Dublin was opened in 1892.  Clearly the tower doesn’t have electricity.  A gas lamp gets a speaking part later on in the book, and Stephen and Bloom eventually have a conversation about electric vs. gas streetlams–I’ll look forward to tracking electricity references from here…


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Reader’s Guide for I: Telemachus

Dramatis Personae for I: Telemachus


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