11th December 2015

On 11th December we read from 532.29 (‘As a mere matter of ficfect’) to 533.03 (‘pure beauty of hers past’), greeting Christmas with an exciting, for us, page turn.

 

‘ficfect’

Danis Rose thinks this should properly be ‘ficfact’, and also thinks that this passage should read ‘fair’ not ‘faire’. For this second word, there is an e in the typescript but this might an error; the last ever fair copy reads ‘fair’. This is pre-Beckett’s ‘Dream of Fair to Middling Women’, and possibly before Joyce and Beckett even met.

 

‘around the globelettes globes’

Noting that goblet can be a cup, and that cup can be both a noun and a verb, we spotted that HCE appears to self-correct his own description here to make these wifely breasts. We pondered the potential significance of the ‘ette’ ending, as opposed to ‘ist’, and also the sense not only of shape (roundness) but vague approximation (around).

 

‘upon which she was romping off’

Again HCE appears to infantilize his wife, with ‘romping off’ is perhaps something a child would do. In the original drafts ‘romping’ read as ‘raping’: the explicit is substituted for the suggestive.

 

‘Floss Mundai’

McHugh glosses this as ‘flower of the world’, the name given to Maurice de Portu, archbishop of Tuam, a Corkman Joyce would be familiar with. We also thought of Bishop McHale, mentioned in ‘Grace’, another Corkman, who was sent to Rome but then returned to Ireland. Quite how all this is related to the passage, we couldn’t discern. Unrelated to these interpretations, we thought ‘Floss’ maybe continued the confectionery notes of this passage, while it can also have a flirtatious edge: the OED’s first citation for ‘floss’ (v, to flirt) is from 1938.

 

‘haram’s way round Skinner’s circusalley’

‘Haram’ of course means forbidden, as well as recalling a ‘harem’ of girls. Could Skinner’s alley be a circus alley, perhaps another hidden W T Stead reference (see last seminar)? Or a reference to George Sanger, the popular C19 circus owner?

Alley was a Lord Mayor of Dublin, which lead us to note the frequency of Lord Mayor mentions in this chapter; as 1.8 is a rivery-y text, so 3.3 is a Lord Mayor-y one (see Fweet for the frequency of these mentions). An important distinction, though, is that while ALP’s rivers open up the text and make it universal, the need to know about Dublin’s administrative history certainly closes this text down for many readers. There is also a snideness to Joyce’s inclusion of these Lord Mayors, in a passage about sexual naughtiness.

 

‘consolation prize in my serial dreams of fair women, Mannequins Passe’

While this judgment is clearly a beauty contest of sorts, we were struck by the reference to the Manneken Pis, the little statue in Belgium of a boy urinating, recalling HCE watching the girls urinate in the park at the start of the work. There is something perverted here, with the beauty of the statue transformed into something seedy. Passe also suggests a catwalk, as well as a market.

We also noted the confessional mode here again, with ALP being awarded the consolation prize in HCE’s dream. We also thought about the Chaucerian and Tennysonian readings of ‘serial dreams’, thinking of the variety of tragic and great women mentioned in their poems.

 

‘handicapped by two breasts in operatops, a remarkable little endowment garment’

Again the size of ALP’s breasts becomes a concern: the breasts are handicapped as they are too big, not too small. An operatop would appear to display the breasts, which of course most fashion would not at the time.

The endowment garment, suggestive in name, is actually a Mormon outfit, given to those who have undertaken the endowment ceremony. They are austere, plain and unsuggestive items, designed to remind the wearer of the promises made during the ceremony. The endowment garment itself becomes a kind of consolation prize, especially compared to an operatop.

This led us to discuss the Mormon presence in Joyce, and specifically the Wake, on which little seems to have been written. One piece is Lee, L.L., ‘The Mormons at the Wake’, James Joyce Quarterly, 6, i (Fall 1968): 87-88.

 

What spurt!

Spurt can be glossed as peeing (as above) or as spirit, either holy (this follows the Mormon reference) or seminal. It also sounds like ‘what sport!’, suggesting a play and innocence that we are a long way away from by this stage of the passage.

 

I kickkick keenly love such … their flavours’

Such suggests a plural in this context, as does ‘their’, which would appear to suggest that HCE is thinking of the girls in the park. The stutter suggests, as it has throughout the last page, the embarrassment and shame felt by HCE, indicated in the text if not consciously by HCE himself. Kick-kick might be an allusion back to page 531, where the sense of 1890s-esque highkicking was very much in evidence.

 

‘at their most perfect best when served with heliotrope ayelips’

Heliotrope appears throughout Joyce’s work, as a flower, a colour, and a movement towards the sun, among other things. It’s also the colour of Issy’s underwear in 2.1. The ‘ayelips’ (‘yeslips’) seem typically HCE-esque, while the sentence as a whole has a Proustian feel about it, with its stress on sensory perception, beauty, and the past. As it starts with the young girls, so it ends with HCE’s wife (‘hers past’); alongside the sexual excitement (‘I do drench my jolly soul’) there is a sentimental, reflective, Bloomian ‘no more young’ tone to this sentence.

 

 

We begin again in January, reading from ‘She is my bestpreserved wholewife’ (533.04).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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