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Posts Tagged ‘Ulysses’

Recapping Dante: Canto 26, or You Can’t Go Home Again

April 21, 2014 | by

Alessandro_Allori_-_Odysseus_questions_the_seer_Tiresias

Alessandro Allori, Odysseus Questions the Seer Tiresias, 1580

We’re recapping the Inferno. Read along! This week: tales of brave Ulysses.

Wrapped in a shroud of fire, sputtering words from the tip of the flickering flame—this is how Ulysses appears to us in canto 26. As Dante approaches the eighth pouch of the eighth circle of hell, he sees sinners in flames; he knows he’ll find Ulysses among these “fireflies that glimmer in the valley.” The man is tied up in a flame with Diomed, both of them being punished for their ruse at Troy. Dante begs Virgil to let Ulysses speak.

When we finally put down the Inferno, Ulysses is one of the sinners we remember best. Not because he’s well known or the architect of one of the greatest schemes in history, but because, like Pier or Francesca, there’s charm, tenderness, and beauty in the way he speaks. On this point, I disagree with Robert Hollander, whose annotations explain that these aforementioned sinners are not meant to be entirely sympathetic—they’re actually self-righteous, Hollander writes, and they’re unable to see the gravity of their sins. By allowing them to speak in a manner that almost absolves them, Dante is even poking fun at them. Read More »

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Troy to Ithaca

December 10, 2013 | by

odyssey

We highly recommend you spend some time with this nifty interactive map, which plots Ulysses’s epic ten-year voyage of the Odyssey on a real-life globe, placing the sirens, the cyclops, and the lotus eaters in a recognizable geographical context.

 

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Nabokov on Joyce

August 23, 2013 | by

Of teaching Ulysses, Vladimir Nabokov wrote, “Instead of perpetuating the pretentious nonsense of Homeric, chromatic, and visceral chapter headings, instructors should prepare maps of Dublin with Bloom’s and Stephen’s intertwining itineraries clearly traced.” Below is his.

UllysesMaplarge

 

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Where’s Leo?

June 17, 2013 | by

ww600

Two years ago yesterday I followed a man dressed in black into a small pharmacy in Dublin. Bars of yellow soap covered the shop’s dark wooden shelves and countertops. I watched from across the shop as the man conversed loudly with the pharmacist, gesticulating as he spoke. He ordered a specific type of lotion. He then grabbed a bar of soap, indicating that he’d return later to pay for the soap and lotion. I lifted a bar to my nose and sniffed: lemon. The man waved goodbye to the pharmacist and left. I put down the soap and followed him out.

While I don’t usually stalk errand-running strangers in foreign cities, this was an exception: I was participating in Bloomsday, the annual reenactment of James Joyce’s Ulysses, on the anniversary of day the novel takes place, June 16, 1904. The man clad in black was an actor portraying protagonist Leopold Bloom as he moves through his day in real time, in the actual spots around Dublin where Joyce set his narrative. I was part of a spectator’s group of about thirty people—some dressed in period garb, including an unwitting infant in a lace collar and antique stroller—that trailed Bloom through the streets of Dublin throughout the day. We visited a home on Eccles Street that could have been Bloom’s. The pharmacy was Sweny’s, a Dublin establishment still selling the same lemon-scented soap that Joyce first made famous in 1922. Read More »

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Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control: Modernists Go Off-Menu

January 2, 2013 | by

The opening scenes of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times demonstrate the indignities mechanized factory production perpetrates upon the bodies of its workers. The first shot, of sheep herded into a pen, dissolves into one of men leaving the subway. They’re bound, the viewer assumes, for the kind of job in which the next cut finds Chaplin’s Little Tramp: working on an assembly line, his motions so repetitive that they become reflexive. He can’t stop twisting his wrists, as if to tighten bolts, even when he leaves the station where he tightens bolts all day. His body is so bound to the line and to the factory that the same boss who controls the conveyor belt’s speed also controls the movements of the Tramp’s body. Finally, the factory extends its control to the Tramp’s last autonomous function: eating his lunch.

A salesman so committed to mechanization that he lets a machine speak for him has brought to the factory boss’s office a prototype of “the Billows Feeding Machine, a practical device which automatically feeds your men while at work.” He asks the boss to pick one of his workers for a demonstration, and of course Chaplin’s Tramp is volunteered. Strapped into the machine, hands incapacitated, the helpless Tramp watches the machine rotate plates before him: soup, air-cooled between spoonfuls; corn, spinning on its cob; cubes of meat, pushed by a mechanical arm from the plate into his mouth; and finally cake for dessert. The machine promises to “eliminate the lunch hour.”

Even before the machine goes predictably haywire—speeding up, spilling soup on the Tramp’s shirt and cake in his face (always pausing, hilariously, to wipe his mouth)—it’s clear to the viewer that some kind of line has been crossed. Read More »

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Loving Gorey, Trashing Ulysses

August 7, 2012 | by

  • Eve Bowen on the enduring cult of Edward Gorey.
  • We love Bookdrum’s interactive maps of the real locations featured in famous novels.
  • On his tumblr Newcover, graphic designer Matt Roeser gives books the covers he thinks they should have.
  • At the Atlantic, a discussion of what grown-ups can learn from kids’ books.
  • Paolo Coelho made waves when he told a Brazilian newspaper, “One of the books that caused great harm was James Joyce’s Ulysses, which is pure style. There is nothing there. Stripped down, Ulysses is a twit.”
  • Should you happen to disagree, here is a free audiobook of the modernist classic.
  • Joshua Cohen, a visiting scribe at the Jewish Book Council, talks the art and business of writing with Justin Taylor.
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