(Dedicated to Bernard Blistene)
"l`impossible, nous ne l atteignons pas,il nous sert de lanterne" ( Rene Char)
After a 100 years of its publication James Joyce`s masterpiece still remains one of the most imaginative pieces of writing of the 20th century. Joyce `self-imposed exile from Ireland in 1904 took him to 3 main European cities, Trieste-Zurich-Paris. Bemoaning the Ireland of which he left, an Ireland of servitude to the imperial British state and the holy Roman catholic church. Joyce however was to "forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race" by his vocation to writing. Joyce looked to himself as the artist paring his nails out of all existence. While Joyce was employed as an English teacher in the city of Trieste and later in Zurich, he was responding to the avant-garde movements of the futurist, Dada and surrealist artists in those cities at the time. These modern movements consequently helped Joyce to conceive his monster novel as he called it in searching for a new literary form, free and away from the tradition of defining characters by their moral vision, He was searching a literary form which would solve the problem of what is "significant" in human life and what incidents should be selected, in other words a microcosm-a small scale model of the whole of life to which all attitudes are possible. One of the Futurist artists, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti whose publication Words in Freedom which influenced Joyce so much so that it became the basis of a new narrative technique which abandoned punctuation, releasing words from their linear sequences but also introducing the mixing of interior monologue and the third person narrative.
It was in employing the “ìnterieur monologue" that Joyce solved the problem in relation to time. He wanted not so much to investigate the workings of his characters` minds but to register a vast array of apparently random objective phenomena. Through their stream of consciousness Joyce’s characters do not register a passive recording process but bring an active intelligence and imagination to bear on the random phenomena which flooding in on them. As there are so many astonishing examples of Joyce`s combining of narrative techniques in Ulysses, I have chosen the Proteus Episode as an example of Joyce’s masterly display of the shifting verbal multiplicity of language.
“The ineluctable modality of the visible”, the opening phrase of the episode which means the inescapable nature of that which can be seen, evokes the senses of sight and later that of sound. The reference here is to the Greek philosopher, Aristotle`s "De Anima" which was part of Joyce`s studies of him and Thomas Aquinas in his Jesuit education. So Stephen communicates the sensory view of human experience as he strolls along Sandymount Stand, "Seaspawn and seawrack the nearing tide, that rusty boot, snotgreen----link of the diaphane" (transparent)¬. Stephen`s interior monologue proceeds on what he thinks, which is in turn, prompted by what he sees --a fusion of experience of the outer and the inner worlds. Thus his thinking begins and ends with touch
--"-His setting forth, stepping, feels it all in his bones --the outside world --time is the "nacheinander" the one thing after another, and of space "nebeneinander" things next to one another. But Stephen poses a question? -Is the world of phenomena dependent on the perceiver? He opens his eyes to find that the world is there—“all the time without you and ever shall be world without end".
Now every object which is touched upon is sharply focused in Stephen`s consciousness as when he catches the sight of Mrs. McCabe, a midwife, to reflect on his own life from birth--"one of her sisterhood lugged me squaling into life---that was wombed in sin darkness" Again his thoughts proceed to associate on viewing a telephone cable with the unbiblical cords which in turns leads comically from midwife to Genesis --from his own birth to that of the race. The stream of consciousness in Stephen`s character is portrayed to wonderful effect in the way Joyce leads Stephen back the metaphysical path to the cords of the habits of monks, symbols of chastity and linked to the mystical body of Christ to the naked Eve who¬ has no navel but a belly without blemish¬ and here it was out of original sin came the generation of life "not miraculously but made not begotten".
Back to reflecting on his own birth again "on the coming of two strangers" Stephens mind moves from the idea of a physical parenthood to a spiritual one indicating a sign in his anticipated assumption of later Bloom into Stephen. However he hears in his consciousness, "his consubstantial father’s voice, O weeping God, the things I married into" .
Stephen consciousness rushes from subject to subject from self-examination to self- deception He walks on warily towards a pigeon house and thinks "Qui vous a mis dans cette fichue position? Cèst le pigeon, Joseph". The French language reminded him of his time in Paris and consequently gave Stephen the feeling of being a dupe like Joseph in not comprehending the phenomenal world. This world intrudes again in Stephen’s consciousness when a dog runs across the sand and which in turns intensifies his sense of acceptation of the material existence of the world and its cycles of birth and death. "The dogsbody’s body" image represents his own "felt" body with its suffering poor sight, rotting teeth etc. Stephen tries to control and tame this protean flux when he tells himself "put a pin in that chap will you?".
A temporary resolution is reached in Stephen’s consciousness in the idea of death by water
"A seachange this, brown eyes saltblue. Seadeath----- Old Father Ocean"
Finally, we are left with an augury of the future;
-"-A treemaster, her sails brailed up on the cross-trees, homing, upstream silently moving, a silent ship".
Here the silent ship will bring Stephen to encounter Bloom, his surrogate father, who awaits him and will teach him the ways of the body as we migrate from Stephen’s brooding consciousness.