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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Miss Austen did not do duets

Last week I posted in the usual places about the recent "literary fracas" raised by Kathryn Sutherland's comments on NPR confirming that the articles in various Brit publications quoting her were not offbase, and she really DID mean to suggest that the finished version of Emma had in some significant way been altered as the result of a certain Mr. Gifford's editorial interventions (has anyone made a transcription of what KS actually said on NPR?), and further that Jane Austen was not very adept at spelling, punctuation and the like.

I opined that Sutherland's comments, while ill advised, were not entirely a bad thing, because about a dozen of my NON Janeite friends had independently brought this news item to my attention. This suggests that it has gone more than a little viral, and that it is good for JA's name to be on the lips of intelligent folks generally--it might just cause them to take a closer look at JA than they previously had. I still adhere to that view.

Anyway, yesterday at the JASNA AGM in Portland (where I will be giving my talk in 3+ hours), not a single speaker failed to make some witty comment on the situation. And so I was not entirely surprised when I received an anonymous email early this morning from an anonymous someone calling herself "A Lady", in which she, evidently responding to my blog on this topic, had these memorable comments, which are obviously a reaction to Sutherland's claims, and which I pass along to you now:


"...the usual style of letter–writing among women is faultless, except in three particulars---a general deficiency of subject, a total inattention to stops, and a very frequent ignorance of grammar...I should no more lay it down as a general rule that women write better letters than men, than that they sing better duets, or draw better landscapes. In every power, of which taste is the foundation, excellence is pretty fairly divided between the sexes.”

To which I just fired off a reply as follows:


"Depend upon it, madam, Miss Austen did not do duets."


Cheers, ARNIE

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Austen, Shakespeare and my presentation THIS SATURDAY on Mrs. Tilney at the JASNA AGM

[Elissa] "Well, Arnie, I do believe you have made a very cogent argument for connecting the play scene in Mansfield Park (MP) with the play in Hamlet. It really is not refutable - the words are almost the same - a complete echoing of the Shakespeare. It seems to me the significance of this simply cannot be swept under the carpet."

Obviously, I am gratified by your endorsement, Elissa, and I do also sincerely believe there is no rational opposition possible to my claim of the Hamlet in MP.


"It is not at all speculative or fanciful - it is simply, quite plainly, *there* for all to see."

Agreed. It's not a ghost, it's real--actually, it's a "real ghost" in the sense that the shadows of MP are "ghostly" in being difficult to perceive!


"And of course Hamlet would be a play JA was familiar with, unlike, perhaps Two Gentlemen of Verona or Love's Labour's Lost that were always more obscure."

You'd be surprised, Elissa, I have evidence that she was familiar with pretty much all of his comedies and tragedies, and at least some of the histories. She was amazing, I find the 'bread crumbs' leading to all of them.


"As You Like It is another play JA would be very likely to have known well. It was far, far more performed, well known, and well read throughout the
18th century than it is now and as popular as Julius Caesar and the Scottish play."

She was not typical, she was Mary Bennet-JA was an obsessive scholar, I am certain of it.


"With specific respect to those wonderful lines of philosophical poetry, "What a piece of work is man...", they did have me thinking of the mundane corollary, "what piecework for women." And so Mrs. Norris and Maria will pass their days doing embroidery or needlepoint piecework of similar kind to the piecework the Dashwood daughters and the Ferrars women all engage in, as do Emma and Miss Taylor...."

You have a very finely attuned ear for JA's puns, Elissa, that is a direct hit-I have previously found some remarkably cool stuff about women's handiwork that fits perfectly with JA's overarching feminist themes.


I did some final tweaks the past few days to my JASNA AGM talk on Mrs. Tilney's mysterious illness which I will deliver Saturday morning in Portland. When you know the content of it, you will see how it is entirely of a piece with what we've just been discussing regarding the Shakespearean subtext of Mansfield Park.

I am really very happy with how my thinking about NA has jelled, it has all come together in the most gorgeous way, to the point where even I am a little stunned at the elegantly simple lines of the literary structure of this widely considered least substantial of JA's novels.

That's the pattern that my research has followed for 6 years now. As certain as I always am that I have gathered all relevant material on a given shadow story topic and have argued it well enough, it's only in the final stage, of writing for publication, the part that is most tortuous (at least for me, because I have to give up the adventures of cruising for fresh stuff for a while) that everything seems to crystallize into a beautiful diamond. Two days ago, one part of my talk was still not feeling quite right, but I woke up yesterday knowing EXACTLY how to fix it, and how to pull several seemingly separate strands of argument together, because they were really the same point in different "clothes", and I only saw that after struggling to get it all right. I did not change much content, but put what I had already written in the proper unifying context. Which makes all the difference in the world, because it makes it all so much easier to explain to other Janeites.

Sometimes obsessively leads to special rewards which are not otherwise accessible. ;)

Anyway, I know now more than ever before that Northanger Abbey richly deserves a FULL seat at the table with the other five novels. And I don't believe there can be any rational opposition to the conclusions I draw about Mrs. Tilney and her role in the novel.

And JA really WAS "everywhere' in the sense that her erudition was nearly boundless, I have found her footprints almost everywhere I've looked, in terms of the literature that came before her, as well as her contemporaries.

I guess that is enough obsessing over JA for today. ;)

Cheers, ARNIE

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What a piece of work is about nothing ......What a silly thing is Woman! How vain, how unreasonable!

"Does not Sir Thomas also in a way represent l'ancien regime - he comes home to encounter a full-fledged rebellion to authority and, enraged, crushes it. In this way, perhaps, the composition of this novel is quite"expressionistic" as Arnie has said: one association initiating in childhood of the situation in France initiates a long string of psychological associations encompassing both the greater world political order [and political/social morality] and symbolizes everyone's lack of safety in our timid little "creepmouse" Fanny."

Exactly, Elissa, nicely articulated! There's no doubt that Sir Thomas stands for all that was wrong in the way power was distributed in the world at that time..

"Notice most pesky little mice get caught - but not careful creepmouse Fanny who is always so guarded. I think Arnie is right about this as well - it is the "big game" - the king - that JA wants trapped in her elaborate mousetrap. But Sir Thomas is far bigger and stronger than Fanny, wilier and with greater worldly resources. She simply has her own plain cross and her stubborn refusal to walk any path but the straight and narrow."

I.e., Jesus vis a vis the Roman Empire. Sir Thomas tries every cynical trick he knows to break her spirit, but it is HE who is broken in the end. The meek does inherit Mansfield Park. You gotta love this little mouse Fanny, for her kahones!

"There are so many, many signposts here that Austen certainly does want us to think *precisely* of Hamlet - of the play being *just* the thing to catch the conscience of this king, don't you think?"

Exactly again, that was my point in writing the following a month ago:

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2010/09/mousetrap-of-mansfield-park.html

And not only are the thematic signposts in so many ways, there are also all the specific "bread crumbs" in the text which are JA's "winks and nods".

I will give one beautiful example from among several textual tidbits in MP which point to Hamlet. It is what Mrs. Norris says to Fanny at the precise moment when Fanny does not wish to act in Lover's Vows--and doesn't the entire drama in Hamlet circle around Hamlet's waffling about whether to ACT on the Ghost's admonitions and revelations?

Anyway, here is the relevant text:

"....before [Fanny] could breathe after it, Mrs Norris completed the whole by thus addressing her in a whisper at once angry and audible -- "WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS ABOUT NOTHING: I am quite ashamed of you, Fanny, to make such a difficulty of obliging your cousins in a trifle of this sort -- so kind as they are to you!"

I claim this is an echo of Hamlet's famous speech to Rosencrantz & Guildenstern "What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason!"

Taken in isolation, a hardened skeptic might try to argue that beginning a sentence with "What a piece of work is" was a cliche and not an allusion to Hamlet. Given that all literate people of JA's time would have been familiar with Hamlet in some way, and in particular with such a famous speech, PLUS Hamlet is one of the plays specifically considered for enactment at Mansfield Park, that seems an absurd degree of skepticism.

However, there's an even better reason to accept this as an intentional allusion by JA. It would be great foolishness to take anything JA wrote in isolation, because it has been shown a thousand times that she always wove a web of words from textual bits and pieces spread widely across her novels, and also BETWEEN her novels as well. So to claim that one must analyze each bit of text in isolation is even more absurd with a writer like JA than with writers who did not engage in such long-distance connections between disparate chapters and novels.

And there's more. First, Mrs. Norris's seems not only to point to Hamlet's speech (and by the way, Hamlet's speech to R&G is almost a soliloquy, and aren't Shakespearean soliloquys often delivered in an audible whisper?), but also to ANOTHER Shakespeare play, one which JA indubitably alluded to in extensive detail in P&P, i.e, Much Ado ABOUT NOTHING!

Sometime I will have to take a closer look at whether there is more of Much Ado in MP--for sure Mary Crawford shares Beatrice's verbal facility, but there is no Benedick in MP, unless it is Henry, and that incestuous implication is just too creepy to contemplate.

Anyway, I long ago also pointed out that JA loved to secretly allude to Shakespeare in all sorts of clever ways, such as in the following speech by Mrs. Elton:

“That's quite unnecessary; I see Jane every day: -- but AS YOU LIKE. IT is to be a morning scheme, you know, Knightley; quite a simple thing.”

There is clearly an intentional allusion to As You Like it in Emma, complete with all the love charades brought to a "wood house" (i.e., the FOREST of Arden)!

But back to MP and Hamlet---the piece de resistance on this particular point is the following line from JA's Catherine or the Bower (written, please note, by JA while still a teenager!):

“what a silly Thing is Woman! How vain, how unreasonable!”

I mean really! What a wonderful transformation of Hamlet's phrase, echoing just enough of the sentence structure to unmistakably point to Hamlet. And it's more than just wordplay, JA has hijacked Shakespeare's words, in the way that self confident great artists do, and turned them to her own purposes. Hamlet's speech is a masterful reversal, he starts out as if he was drinking a toast to the wonderfulness of mankind, and then abruptly pulls the rug out from that praise, and turns the tone completely sour. JA seems in that one line to be cutting to the chase, and echoing Hamlet's entire speech!

So, if the 18 year old JA was playing such sophisticated allusive games with that very same speech in Hamlet, is it possible that the mature artist JA would FORGET what she knew 20 years earlier? Of course not!

And I repeat, that is only ONE of the wordplay allusions to Hamlet in MP. Otherwise, Elissa, in my book I specifically discuss the character transformations from Hamlet to MP, and I bet you will enjoy the way I do it. It all fits so beautifully.

Thanks for your chiming in, Elissa, your good opinion on such matters is always welcome, because you are no rubber stamp for my heresies, and your opinion it is always a very well informed one, even when we disagree! ;)

Cheers, ARNIE

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Big Mouse

"Despite this, I don't think Fanny's opposition is Evangelical. I don't think she opposed the play because it was a play."

Of course, because that would be silly, and certainly not a reflection of what JA herself believed.

"I think she opposed the play because she had an inchoate feeling that it was wrong in the circumstances. Edmund mentions some of that feeling. Only a reenactment of the play shows just how wrong that play was for that group of young people.I wonder how professors teach this book and scene as it is difficult to describe and explain to 20th century people."

There were PLENTY of free thinking people of that era who loved Kotzebue's plays for the same reason that people loved populist literature like Beaumarchais's plays, operas like Don Giovanni, and novels like Caleb Williams. And I am certain that JA was one of those free thinking people. I assure you that when JA verbally horsed around with that very intelligent apothecary in London, they played fast and loose with this sort of free thinking.

I know now more than ever before that the whole furor over Lover's Vows in MP is a double bluff exactly like the double bluff in Northanger Abbey I will be talking about at the JASNA AGM in less than 5 days. All that hot air in the novel about the impropriety of the play is, in the shadow story, a smokescreen. Plenty of people back then were perfectly capable of understanding that Kotzebue was tweaking the nose and pulling the beard of the male aristocrats and pseud-aristocrats like Sir Thomas and Sir William and Sir Walter, who felt they had the privilege to exert arrogant power over women with impunity.

Baron Wildenhaim is a caricature, but what he does in the play is a story that was played out in less dramatic but equally disgusting manner a thousand times over, with rakes taking advantage of women and then dumping them. It is JA's primary interest, in my opinion. That is the true moral horror in Lover's Vows, not some extremely prudish notions about propriety.

The biggest problem with Henry Crawford is not that he seduces Maria, it's that he never had any intention of marrying her afterwards. The former is a side of disrespect for convention, and a sign that he is not going to be a solid family man. But the latter is a thousand times worse, it's despicable and cruel and ruins Maria's life, with no adverse consequences to him.

And yes, I also know now more than ever before that the Lover's Vows episode is JA's Mousetrap, and just about everybody in the play is a "mouse", whose character is exposed by how they "act" in the rehearsals of the play. But the Big Mouse is Sir Thomas, and the trap springs on him when he returns home and is confronted with his past. That's why he has to burn every copy of the play, seeing himself in the mirror of the play's words is simply unacceptable, and like Claudius, he needs to destroy what he wishes to forget.

Cheers, ARNIE

Saturday, October 23, 2010

P.S. re Never had the wit of Dr. Johnson been directed in a manner so little agreeable to Jane Austen

My responses to Nancy Mayer's response to me:

[Nancy] "Why do you think Jane Austen was incensed at what Samuel Johnson said? perhaps she just rolled her eyes at the way men deceived themselves. How could intelligent men be so dense?"

Because it was not just a matter of men deceiving themselves, with adverse consequences for themselves. It was about men deceiving themselves, with WOMEN bearing the entire brunt of men's self deception! My interpretations of Sir Thomas in MP are precisely in that vein! Sir Thomas thinks of himself as a fine upstanding moral Christian gentleman. That's the problem!

"I just don't see her wasting her time or energy on things she couldn't change."

And that is precisely what I will be demonstrating in less than a week in Portland--that quite the opposite of wasting of time on things she could not change, she belived that a covert attack was the only feasible and survivable one, and was infintely better than the passive acceptance of cruel and damaging unfairness in law, custom, religious doctrine, and gender politics.

If you were correct, then she would not have done what I have uncovered. THAT would have been the true absurdity, for her to do all of what I have found with no purpose whatsoever.

Cheers, ARNIE

The music of Jane Austen's novels

"Jane Austen often mentions how she didn't stay for concerts when there was singing. Still, she liked musicals on stage and considered herself a decent judge of the singing."

Nancy, what does that have to do with JA's understanding of, her playing of, and her appreciation for, what we today generically call "classical music"? My point was that she was quite familiar with the various forms of classical music, such as sonata form, rondo, etc., and, being the omnivorous metaphorician that she was, she would have had a sense of her novels as being, in a sense, concertos. That's what I meant when I wrote:

"Actually, my comment on the difference in language between P&P and Emma is that EMMA is the more experimental of the two--the passage in the strawberries, Miss Bates, these are innovations pointing toward James Joyce, or, in a musical context, Stravinsky. P&P is like "Mozart", absolute classical perfection of language. Emma is Expressionistic, as the prose seems, especially in the final "trimester", to explode and "give birth" to a new sort of language, verging into poetry. Whereas Persuasion strikes me as pure Romanticism in all senses."

JA was not Mrs. Bennet, she was MARY Bennet. She made extracts, she played serious music, she was a deep thinker--and she was proud of it.

Don't for a second believe that JA was on Mr. Bennet's side when he was at his worst, displaying his "inner Samuel Johnson" by repeatedly ridiculing Mary in his charmingly ad hominem misogynistic way.

Cheers, ARNIE

Friday, October 22, 2010

Never had the wit of Dr. Johnson been directed in a manner so little agreeable to Jane Austen

Earlier today, Christy Somer quoted the following epigrams spoken or written by Samuel Johnson in Austen L and Janeites:

"Men know that women are an over-match for them, and therefore they choose the weakest or most ignorant. If they did not think so, they never could be afraid of women knowing as much as themselves."

From the Boswell/Johnson: Tour of the Hebrides] "Nature has given women so much power that the law has very wisely given them little."

From Johnson: Letter to Dr. Taylor Footnoted in the Life of Johnson, Including Boswell's journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (1773) and Johnson's Diary of a Journey into North Wales. By James Boswell and Samuel Johnson "...nature has given them so much that they never find it necessary to use more than half." [Ch.14 NA]

Then Christy commented: "I cannot help thinking that Jane Austen was having some charming fun and repartee...with her Dr. J...when writing Northanger Abbey!"

To which I at first responded as follows:

Christy, as I will be demonstrating in Portland, it was only charming fun and repartee on the extreme surface--that's the (false) satire of the overt story of Northanger Abbey. But barely concealed beneath that surface, poking out in this and a hundred other ways, is the ANTI-parody, in which JA registers her genuine righteous outrage-- PARTICULARLY at the joke about the law, because the law of England was so cruelly unfair to women in SO many ways.

"NOT FUNNY, you foolish old man!" is what I am certain she was thinking about Johnson's "bon mots", but did not dare write overtly, for fear of being labeled an "unsex'd female", with attendant recriminations and consequences.

I was aware of Johnson's first quote and its connection to the famous ironic epigram in Northanger Abbey: "Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well–informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can. " However, I did not know of the last two, thanks for bringing them forward.

Alas, you and I couldn't have a more different view of JA in regard to these matters than we do, Christy. What you brought forward today was exactly the sort of casual presumption of male privilege that triggered outrage in the heart of JA the feminist.

Cheers, ARNIE

Then, a few hours later, I came back to add the following further thoughts:

Christy,

I've been thinking some more about the "wit" of Samuel Johnson which you think JA engaged with in a fond, accepting way, and I reread the wonderful article from decades ago by the prescient Allison Sulloway, which led me to the following additional bit of macho bile masquerading as wit spoken by Dr. Johnson, as reported by Boswell:

"I told him I had been that morning at a meeting of the people called Quakers, where I had heard a woman preach. Johnson: "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all." [Boswell: Life]

If anyone is going to try to tell me that JA enjoyed, or even willingly tolerated, such examples of "wit", I say "Nonsense!"

I am reminded of that great scene from What Women Want, a film JA would have LOVED, when Mel Gibson's ad man, having newly acquired the power to hear women's thoughts, tells what he thinks is a particularly clever joke to a roomful of women, a joke which just happens to have the same sort of subconscious misogynistic aggression as we find in Johnson's "joke", above. And Gibson's character is shocked and unnerved to hear the actual thoughts of the women smiling icily at him around the table, "spoken" from the safe privacy of their minds, where they were under no compunction to "make nice": suffice to say that "What a pig!" is the MILDEST of the reactions.

And I think that JA would have particularly found galling the above swipe at women, because Johnson inadvertently revealed what had triggered his aggression-it was a QUAKER female preacher, and Johnson knew very well that the Quakers were one of the few groups in all of England where full equality of the sexes was an explicit and constant goal to be striven for. Like a bull, Johnson saw red, because he obviously found genuine female equality a terrifying prospect.

Which is why he WASN"T kidding when he made the three comments you quoted, Christy. The common theme of ALL of them is that Johnson, speaking for many of his fellow men, FEARED a world with a level playing field between men and women, because he feared that he and the other men would lose more than they won. Why? Because he was not a sociopath, he had some sort of conscience he was suppressing about the way women were treated in his world, and he was also an intelligent man, intelligent enough to realize that women, as a group, WERE superior to men, as a group, in terms of emotional intelligence. And therefore he did fear a world where his own inadequacies would make him and men like him less powerful, partly because he knew what HE would do if he had been oppressed all his life and suddenly found himself with power over his former oppressors. He knew it would not be pretty. .

We see exactly the same dynamic afoot in the United States right now, with all the unacknowledged thinly veiled white racism being cleverly manipulated by right wing politicians.

But back to JA's time: none of this makes any of his "jokes" less despicable, because there is also an element of rubbing it in, where it's not enough that he gets to have the deck stacked in his favor, he has to make sure that women are forced to find humor in their own subjugation.

To which I think Lizzy Bennet is the best source for an appropriate comment on the misogynistic, gymnophobic "wit" of the likes of Dr (of Misogyny) Johnson:, after her father, a mini-Samuel Johnson, quipped:

"Mr. Darcy, who never looks at any woman but to see a blemish, and who probably never looked at you in his life! It is admirable!"

"Never had his wit been directed in a manner so little agreeable to her."

Amen, Lizzy Bennet,

Cheers, ARNIE

The Self-Slaughter of Buck Mulligan’s Melting Flying Candle

Yesterday, I revealed one of my interpretations of what Buck Mulligan is slyly referring to when we read the following in Chapter 1 of Ulysses…

“—I'm melting, [Buck] said, as the candle remarked when... But, hush! Not a word more on that subject!...”

I showed yesterday that ONE of the sources that Buck is teasingly alluding to is the mythological flying Icarus and the fatally untimely melting of the wax affixing his wings to his torso. To the best of my knowledge, I am the first to spot that allusion.

On the surface, Buck seems to be Buck suggesting, in an oblique, erudite way, that Stephen is flying too high for his own good, as an artist and a person, and that he’s headed for a hard fall. This is consistent with other things Buck says to and about Stephen in a more direct way.

Additionally, I pointed out that Buck’s comment has also generally been understood by Gifford and others as a rather witty joke on a phallic theme. Candle melting, get it? That interpretation is supported by Buck’s playful “But, hush!” which alerts the reader to seek a scandalous interpretation, if he has not already seen it.

I then wrote as follows:

“And in case you were wondering, I do have ANOTHER allusion to alert you to…one which indicates that Buck’s dirty joke was not only an allusion to the mythological Icarus--a “candle” who, like Norma Jean, burned out much too soon--- it was ALSO an allusion to ANOTHER source for Ulysses, another source which has its own very hidden-in—plain-sight dirty joke? Anyone want to take a crack at telling me what that other allusive source is, and prove it by also providing the first line of that earlier dirty joke (which actually extends for a long while)? Happy hunting, and when you put your hands on that other allusion, you will know you’ve found something which provides a very firm, unyielding foundation for a deeper understanding of Ulysses, one which will not melt away at the first onset of global warming. ;)”

As no one has presented an answer, it is time for me to do so.

I put in that last sentence every word I could think of to suggest ANOTHER word which I deliberately omitted, which would have made the answer much more visible. The words “firm” and “unyielding”, and also the suggestion of the polar ice caps melting, are all different ways of referring to an object which is………SOLID! And I also gave you a last clue in the Subject Line of this post, in the word “self-slaughter”. See it?

If not, that is my cue to now give you the OTHER passage which Buck was alluding to, as promised:


[SCROLL DOWN]


[SCROLL DOWN]


O, that this TOO TOO SOLID FLESH WOULD MELT
THAW AND RESOLVE ITSELF INTO A DEW!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
HIS CANON ‘GAINST SELF-SLAUGHTER! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
THAT GROWS TO SEED; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. THAT IT SHOULD COME TO THIS!

Although I’d imagine that to most of you a sexual interpretation of that very famous soliloquy of Hamlet is surprising, I assure you that it is an interpretation that has significant but low-profile roots in both the critical literature, and also in performance history. To run through all the nuances of Shakespeare's sexual joke would take a long while, but suffice for my purposes here to point out that in that soliloquy, we have all of the following working in tandem:

the image of a phallus as solid flesh going through a certain physiologically predictable sequence which differs strikingly from the melting of solid ice to liquid water--i.e., ice thaws FIRST, and THEN melts into water, not the reverse! ;

the image of suicide (“self-slaughter”), which is a perfect metaphor for the act of self-satisfaction, given that it is well known that Shakespeare loved the image of “death” as orgasm;

a garden is not the only living object which “grows to seed”—that is a VERY clever sexual pun, isn’t it?; AND

the metaphorical meaning of “come”, which was another of Shakespeare perennial favorites in his bawdy moods, which seemed to have been more or less constant.

So, I think it’s clear from this quick analysis that Shakespeare was indulging in some pretty elaborate sexual innuendo in that passage, in parallel and interacting with the conventional interpretations of that soliloquy as a suicidal despairing lament.

And I think it’s now equally clear from looking at Buck’s joke alongside Shakespeare's, that Joyce “got” Shakespeare’s joke!

And I can tell you further that Joyce showed his understanding of the Bard’s joke, not only in Buck’s witticism, but also in several other widely separated passages in Ulysses. My personal favorite, which, as far as I can tell, has never been noted as having a covert sexual meaning, is the following, which superficially appears to be one of the pleasantries passed back and forth by Bloom and his friends:

—I was down there for the Cork park races on Easter Monday, Ned Lambert said. Same old six and eightpence. Stopped with Dick Tivy. —AND HOW IS DICK, THE SOLID MAN?

—Nothing between himself and heaven, Ned Lambert answered. —By the holy Paul! Mr Dedalus said in subdued wonder. DICK TIVY BALD?

Standing alone, the sexual resonance in that conversation COULD very well be a coincidence, one of those countless sexual innuendoes which we all fall into without the slightest conscious intent to do so. But, combined with Buck’s joke, which points so clearly to Hamlet’s “too too solid flesh”, it cannot be an accident to have a man named “Dick” be referred to as “the solid man”!

And as icing on the cake, now consider one final bit of conversation ABOUT a sensuous meal in Ulysses:

—But wait till I tell you, he said. Delahunt of Camden street had the catering and yours truly was chief bottlewasher. Bloom and the wife were there. Lashings of stuff we put up: port wine and sherry and curacao to which we did ample justice. FAST AND FURIOUS IT WAS. AFTER LIQUIDS CAME SOLIDS. COLD JOINTS AND MINCE PIES...

That word “solid “ again, embedded amid a description which just happens to work very well describing something more than eating food.


Now, I conclude this post by circling back to the FIRST hidden allusion in Buck’s joke, which pointed to the melting wax on Icarus’s wings, which I demonstrated yesterday, and now I suggest to you that Joyce, by these TWO allusions to Hamlet, was showing that he ALSO understood that Shakespeare was ALSO alluding to that same Icarian melting wax in his “too too solid flesh”.

Because, as you may recall from my post the other day, Shakespeare had already, in Act 1, punningly showed us that Hamlet was a kind of Icarus in his situation, by having Hamlet refer to himself as being “too much i’ the sun.”

Which all goes to show what a complex allusive game Shakespeare played, and what a still MORE complex game Joyce played as he constructed a literary Chinese box to hold Shakespeare’s!

Cheers, ARNIE

Thursday, October 21, 2010

STEAL my beating heart (and other tales from the cryptographer)

First, my apologies for the outrageous pun in the Title of this post, you will have to believe me that it was not (at first) conscious---I was going to use the word "steal" for reasons which will be apparent from my discussion below, and only after I plugged the word into the Title did I realize that I had inadvertently punned on "steal" and "still". Which goes to show that the best (and the worst) puns are probably all bubbling up from the unconscious, but...the best (or worst) of all worlds comes when the unconscious becomes conscious and then can be further sculpted before display.

Anyway....I am back for an update on my post the other day in which I made the case for Edgar Alan Poe having intentionally but covertly alluded to Hamlet in Poe's famous story The Tell-Tale Heart.

I gave my talk to a small but attentive crowd of patrons at the Broward County North Regional Library as part of the celebration of Poe's writing this month in what is called "the Big Read", and two interesting things happened:

First, I made one inadvertent error in my presentation, when I reported that after Hamlet stabs Polonius through the arras (why say "curtain" when you can say "arras"!), Hamlet proceeds to chop up Polonius's body and hide it for a while, the same way that Poe's narrator does with the poor old man's body.

The hand of an eagle-eared member of my audience immediately shot up, and she informed me that Hamlet does not chop up Polonius's body. I started to argue with her, and then realized she was right, I had misremembered--but.....just as quickly i realized that this was not a problem, in fact it was BETTER for my argument of an intentional Poe allusion than the way I had initially (mistakenly) argued it.

Why? Because even though Hamlet (in all its versions, the bastardized Q1, the complete Q2 and the virtually complete First Folio) does not DISmember Polonius, I REmembered that in Saxo Grammaticus's saga Amleth (yes, that is not a typo, it is Hamlet with the first letter transposed to the end of the name), the Amleth DOES dismember the Polonius character--and what's more, he boils the body parts and feeds them to the pigs!

So, what this means is that Poe was not only a devotee of the text of Hamlet, he was ALSO a Hamlet SCHOLAR, because his version points to Saxo Grammaticus's saga, showing that Poe KNEW about Saxo Grammaticus--which is hardly common knowledge today in Shakespeare circles, but which in 1840 was RARE knowledge indeed!


That's the first vignette. The second is equally cool, in a geeky sort of way. I realized after my presentation that I had failed to see the full extent of ANOTHER wonderful Poe allusion to Hamlet, in one of Poe's Dupin stories, The Purloined Letter, which I briefly mentioned in my earlier post cited above.

Here is the part I did not see before. I realized that Poe, who loved cryptography, had played a very very subtle anagramming game in his title, the same way he used the title of The Tell-Tale Heart to point to Hamlet (via Henry IV Part 2).

Here's the question to answer: What word precisely describes the ROLE of DUPIN in THE PURLOINED LETTER?

And the answer is......

ROLE + DUPIN = ROLEDUPIN = R O L E D U P I N = P U R L O I N E D!

And before you say, that's just a coincidence, look at what the arrogant Auguste Dupin does in The Purloined Letter. He covertly substitutes a LETTER (in the sense of a written communication in ink written on paper, and sent by one person to another) in order to defeat the blackmailing scheme of the bad guy without the bad guy realizing it.

And what has Poe done with the title of this story? Exactly the same thing! He has covertly substituted (or jumbled) LETTERS (in the sense of letters of the alphabet) and thereby changed the meaning of what is written.

And the punchline connects back to Hamlet. Dupin's letter substitution hoists the bad guy on his own petard (the way Hamlet did to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern), and Poe's word game in a sense hoists the reader on HIS own petard, by concealing this hidden wordgame, leaving the unaware reader in the dark about another layer of meaning in the story.

All of which is to the greater glory of Poe and his idol, Shakespeare, and all of which only further bolsters my claim that Poe did all of this entirely off the radar screen of every Poe expert out there.

Sometimes the most interesting mysteries in mystery stories are those which the writer never overtly demystifies.

Cheers, ARNIE

I'm melting....... all over again....

Well, it looks like I just can't escape from the siren song of Ulysses today, because I just responded as follows in the Joyce Ulysses group to the comment quoted immediately below.

"I'm melting! melting! Oh, what a world! What a world!"... That line is from the 1939 movie and not found in Baum's 1900 children's book! Slan, PeteR"

Pete,

How terribly thoughtful of you to ignore all the thirty OTHER pieces of textual evidence I presented for the allusion to Oz in Ulysses, which evidently you could not rebut, so you ignored it all instead of acknowledging its validity, and instead chose, in a stunning display of objectivity and fairness, to post about the one mistake YOU THOUGHT YOU FOUND in my argument.

However, before your count your chickens, you might want to reread the FIVE references to MELTING in the following scene that DOES appear in Baum's novel, including (my favorites) "In a minute I shall MELT away" following by "the Witch actually MELTING away"--which of course are a million miles distant from "I'M MELTING", but still......I will have my adolescent imaginings....

The little girl, seeing she had lost one of her pretty shoes, grew angry, and said to the Witch, "Give me back my shoe!"
"I will not," retorted the Witch, "for it is now my shoe, and not yours."
"You are a wicked creature!" cried Dorothy. "You have no right to take my shoe from me."
"I shall keep it, just the same," said the Witch, laughing at her, "and someday I shall get the other one from you, too."
This made Dorothy so very angry that she picked up the bucket of water that stood near and dashed it over the Witch, wetting her from head to foot.
Instantly the wicked woman gave a loud cry of fear, and then, as Dorothy looked at her in wonder, the Witch began to shrink and fall away.
"See what you have done!" she screamed. "In a minute I SHALL MELT AWAY."
"I'm very sorry, indeed," said Dorothy, who was truly frightened to see THE WITCH ACTUALLY MELTING AWAY like brown sugar before her very eyes.
"Didn't you know water would be the end of me?" asked the Witch, in a wailing, despairing voice.
"Of course not," answered Dorothy. "How should I?"
"Well, in a few minutes I shall be all melted, and you will have the castle to yourself. I have been wicked in my day, but I never thought a little girl like you would ever be able TO MELT ME and end my wicked deeds. Look out--here I go!"
With these words the Witch fell down in a brown, MELTED, shapeless mass and began to spread over the clean boards of the kitchen floor. Seeing that she had REALLY MELTED AWAY to nothing, Dorothy drew another bucket of water and threw it over the mess. She then swept it all out the door. After picking out the silver shoe, which was all that was left of the old woman, she cleaned and dried it with a cloth, and put it on her foot again. Then, being at last free to do as she chose, she ran out to the
courtyard to tell the Lion that the Wicked Witch of the West had come to an end, and that they were no longer prisoners in a strange land. END OF EXACT QUOTATION

And by the way, you did me another service, Pete, which is make me wonder, for the first time, whether Noel Langley, the original screenwriter of The Wizard of Oz, or Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf, the script doctors called in to save the day, might have been a reader of Ulysses who recognized Joyce's allusion to Baum, and discreetly closed the loop and repaid the compliment by covertly alluding BACK to Joyce by EXACTLY tracking Buck Mulligan's and Zoe's words.

Another interesting avenue of inquiry to explore with an open mind......

Cheers, ARNIE

Tales of Brave Ulysses

This post was not supposed to have anything to do with Ulysses, or even James Joyce. I just have Ulysses on the brain at the moment, and so I thought of that title from Cream's album Wheels of Fire, and thought I would use it in a kind of Dadaesque way today to lead into a different topic entirely.....but then, I realized, that the title "Tales of Brave Ulysses" did NOT "just" pop into my head randomly---it bubbled up from the seething mush of cultural detritus in the deepest recesses of my overstocked brain for a reason, stirred up by the same provocation as stirred up my post last week about Donovan's Mellow Yellow.

So I believe we must attribute to James Joyce a secondary "inspirational" writing credit for the authorship of the following lyrics by one Martin Sharp, Sixties poet from Oz, friend of Eric Clapton, and adept at trippy lyrics:

You thought the leaden winter would bring you down forever but you rode upon a steamer to the violence of the sun and the colors of the sea blind your eyes with trembling mermaids and you touch the distant beaches with tales of brave Ulysses
How his naked ears were tortured by the sirens sweetly singing for the sparkling waves are calling you to kiss their white laced lips and you see a girl s brown body dancing through the turquoise and her footprints make you follow where the sky loves the sea and when your fingers find her she drowns you in her body carving deep blue ripples in the tissues of your mind the tiny purple fishes run laughing through your fingers and you want to take her with you to the hard land of the winter her name is Aphrodite and she rides a crimson shell and you know you cannot leave her for you touched the distant sands with tales of brave Ulysses; how his naked ears were tortured by the sirens sweetly singing

I suspect that while Mr. Sharp was writing those lyrics, he was under the influence not only of a large dose of psychedelics, but also, perhaps, of the following words spoken with one very long breath by one Molly Bloom:

that was a relief wherever you be let your wind go free who knows if that pork chop I took with my cup of tea after was quite good with the heat I couldnt smell anything off it Im sure that queerlooking man in the porkbutchers is a great rogue I hope that lamp is not smoking fill my nose up with smuts better than having him leaving the gas on all night I couldnt rest easy in my bed in Gibraltar even getting up to see why am I so damned nervous about that though I like it in the winter its more company O Lord it was rotten cold too that winter when I was only about ten was I yes I had the big doll with all the funny clothes dressing her up and undressing that icy wind skeeting across from those mountains the something Nevada sierra nevada standing at the fire with the little bit of a short shift I had up to heat myself I loved dancing about in it then make a race back into bed Im sure that fellow opposite used to be there the whole time watching with the lights out in the summer and I in my skin hopping around I used to love myself then stripped at the washstand dabbing and creaming only when it came to the chamber performance


Watch out for those rocks!

Arnie
sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com

ANOTHER TWO TRICK QUESTIONS ABOUT ULYSSES: I’M MELTING…..

I would like to add a bit more about the overall context of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz allusion I’ve discovered in Ulysses. I already claimed that the two instances where a character says "I'm melting" (first Buck, then Zoe) in Ulysses are part of an extended allusion to Baum’s Oz world.

However, I am not so foolish as to claim the Oz allusion to be the ONLY allusion implicit in "I'm melting". There are actually TWO MORE allusions hidden in that melting wax, one more amazing than the next, and all three of these allusions (i.e., including the Oz allusion) are connected to each other in an even more amazing web of intertextuality.

The first such other allusion is hiding IN PLAIN SIGHT in those two words "I'm melting". And, it’s an allusion which my quick search suggests I MIGHT very well be the first to detect, as is the case with the Oz allusion.

At the very least, I know it has never been mentioned in the history of the Joyce Ulysses group, because I just searched the archive to check.

So, think about it--isn't there a MELTING which is part of one of the stories which informs Ulysses at its deepest level? An actual physical melting of WAX, which Buck gives us an extra clue to, when he adds "said the CANDLE"? ……………

[SCROLL DOWN FOR THE ANSWER IF YOU CAN’T GUESS]


[SCROLL DOWN FOR THE ANSWER IF YOU CAN’T GUESS]


Of course some of you have by now guessed that I am referring to the WAX on ICARUS's wings!

That Joyce gave the surname “Dedalus” to the protagonist of several of his most famous and important fictions would suggest to the naïve observer that the myth of Daedalus and Icarus must have been pretty central in Joyce’s mind for a long time. It would probably be the first mythological allusion that a naïve reader of the novel would glimmer upon, after the most obvious one, i.e., The Odyssey.

And Buck’s dirty joke about the candle melting is not exactly an obscure passage in the novel. It is not only a very good dirty joke, it is also in the very first chapter. Given that Ulysses has probably been started by more readers who HAVEN’T gotten halfway through it than any other novel in history, that means a lot, because it means that a whole lot more people have read Chapter 1 than have read, say, Chapter 12!

So the upshot of the foregoing analysis is that a LOT of people would be likely BOTH to have read Buck’s joke, and ALSO to know Stephen’s surname and to have realized its mythological significance.

So how is it, then, that (as far as I could ascertain by a quick online search) I appear to be the first reader of the novel to notice that allusion---an allusion, which, once pointed out, is so obvious as to almost seem too obvious? It is the very epitome of hiding in plain sight.

I think it says a lot about the approach to the novel of many of its most dedicated devotees, which is that perhaps they are not going about it right. It should not be happening that a relative novice reading the novel can see things that the old pros don’t—doesn’t it suggest that all those rereadings may actually in some ways be ossifying old orthodoxies about what the novel means, making it even harder to see what is hidden six inches under the novel’s surface? And doesn’t it suggest that it requires a completely fresh perspective on the novel, coming from left field (as I do), in order to see certain things that apparently are (like Turko the Terrible) invisible to those who’ve “seen the show” many times before?

In that regard, I think I noticed someone make a recent, gratuitously nasty reference to “adolescent interpretations” and “obsessions” about Ulysses. Well, isn’t Buck’s penis joke the very epitome of “adolescent obsession”? I’m 58, but maybe I should be thankful that enough of the adolescent survives in me to still be able to see this novel with young enough eyes to see what is right under everyone’s nose.

And in case you were wondering, I do have ANOTHER allusion to alert you to…one which indicates that Buck’s penis joke was not only an allusion to the mythological Icarus--a “candle” who, like Norma Jean, burned out much too soon--- it was ALSO an allusion to ANOTHER source for Ulysses, another source which has its own very hidden-in—plain-sight penis joke?

Anyone want to take a crack at telling me what that other allusive source is, and prove it by also providing the first line of that earlier penis joke (which actually extends for a long while)?

Happy hunting, and when you put your hands on that other allusion, you will know you’ve found something which provides a very firm, unyielding foundation for a deeper understanding of Ulysses, one which will not melt away at the first onset of global warming. ;)

Cheers,
Arnie

Bloom's Dublin as Stephen's Emerald City

In the Joyce-Ulysses group, another participant, Charles Scanlon, has for a while been suggesting, speaking in generalities rather than specifics, that Leopold Bloom is Stephen Dedalus's literary creation. That Charles has not been specific does not mean he is wrong. It only means that he has not made an argument that could expect to convince, or at least give pause to, most of those readers of Ulysses who don't share his intuitions.

I continue to share Charles's intuitions, at least to the extent of viewing Bloom as being plausibly interpretable as an imaginary figure--whether deliberately OR involuntarily imagined by Stephen. I have just begun the project of amassing the evidence that supports my intuitions, and I have shared some of my findings so far in this blog.

My working hypothesis, based on my own prior discoveries about Hamlet, is that Joyce wrote Ulysses so as to be plausibly and validly interpretable in AT LEAST two radically different ways--one being what I call the "overt story" which is what the reader gets when you take what you read at face value in terms of apparently realisic action being taken as realistic; the other being what I call the "shadow story", which is what the reader gets when you work on the assumption, which is
suggested obliquely in so many ways in the text, that Stephen has in some way imagined all or many of his interactions with Bloom.

In that regard, my most recent discovery two days ago of the multifaceted allusion to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in Ulysses is an example, for an obvious reason. In Baum's original novel, it is not made explicit that Dorothy has dreamt the whole Oz episode. However, that is a very plausible inference from Baum's sly presentation
of the shift from Kansas to Oz, and then back again at the end. That is, it appears to me, why the screenwriter of the 1939 classic film took that germ of an idea and ran with it, creating a whole "real world" frame for the Oz episode, which shows that the fantasy characters in Oz are "metamorphoses" of real world people from Dorothy's real life.

But one more important point--there is ALREADY an excellent book, which I have now had the chance to read through, which, in an interesting way, sees Ulysses as having a similar structure, although the book makes no mention of The Wizard of Oz. It is a book which addresses the general theme of Bloom's character as in significant part an imaginary figure--and its title is _Ulysses and the metamorphosis of Stephen
Dedalus_ by Margaret McBride, published in 2001.

It is not surprising that it was almost entirely ignored by the Joyce critical community, because if it were engaged with, it would require a radical realignment, indeed a paradigm shift, of thinking from the prevailing dogmas of Joyce criticism. McBride obviously lacked the professional muscle to get more attention.

What McBride's book has, however, which Charles has not articulated (yet), is a great deal of specific textual and allusive evidence, presented very calmly and lucidly and in very readable prose, with no theoretical jargon. It essentially argues that Joyce has shown us Stephen in the act of writing Ulysses, and McBride sets her argument in the context of Joyce criticism, showing how she has picked up on "dicta" by Edmund Wilson and others and has taken THEIR vague intuitions and
extended them to a logical conclusion. She did not use the word "ouroboros", but that is what her argument tends toward, I think, a circular structure, where events reported in the latter part of the novel can be construed as providing the inspiration to Stephen to REWRITE the events reported in the BEGINNING Of the novel.

So, for those with curiosity and an open mind, take a look at McBride's book. Even if you don't ultimately agree with its central claim, you will at least understand better why you don't agree.

Cheers, ARNIE

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The sharp poker in the Garden of Austen

"The gist of what you've written in your post today -"Jane Austen was a sharp poker with a prodigious memory and a clever poking strategy", creates a Jane Austen that, inmho, could not have written the stories she wrote...especially, if her father, brothers, and family had been consistently betraying her. It's starting to feel, for me anyway, that the cumulative amount of conspiracy and betrayal you've assigned to this Austen family....would have made her prosed emanations reveal a very different kind of person and writer indeed."

Christy, I would not say it's "starting to feel", that is pretty much the reaction you have reported your having everytime I have presented variations on my theme of JA as a closet feminist who had a very complicated personality, which included but was NOT limited to her persistent anger and frustration at the manifold injustices toward women that her society presented as unchangeable givens.

We've been around this block a dozen times, and as always I appreciate your politeness in strongly disagreeing with me. We've just taken another turn through the Garden of Austen together. ;)

Cheers, ARNIE

P.S. Apropos my little pun on the Garden of Austen--note that "aus" means "south", and therefore Austen can be "translated" into South-ton ===> Sotherton, a place which had a very interesting garden, too.

Jane Austen the sharp poker

My earlier comments about Jane Austen as a sharp poker drew a rebuttal from Nancy Mayer in Janeites, which i reproduce below in quotes, with my counter-rebuttals:

[Nancy] "No one in her lifetime called Jane Austen a person who pokes at others. A neighbor did say she looked as though she had a poker ( a fireplace utensile) down her back. She did have exemplary posture."

Nancy, you have forgotten the actual (and very famous) quote, written by the (famous-in-her-own-right for, e.g., writing Rienzi, a hit play later adapted into a Wagnerian opera) Mary Russell Mitford, not long after the publication of P&P:

"Mamma says that [JA] was then the prettiest, silliest, most affected, husband-hunting butterfly she ever remembers; and a friend of mine, who visits her now, says that she has stiffened into the most perpendicular, precise, taciturn piece of " single blessedness " that ever existed, and that, till' Pride and Prejudice ' showed what a precious gem was hidden in that unbending case, she was no more regarded in society than a poker or a fire-screen, or any other thin upright piece of wood or iron that fills its corner in peace and quietness. The case is very different now;
SHE IS STILL A POKER—BUT A POKER OF WHOM EVERY ONE IS AFRAID. It must be confessed that this silent observation from such an observer is rather formidable. Most writers are good-humoured chatterers—neither very wise nor very witty:—but nine times out of ten (at least in the few that I have known) unaffected and pleasant, and quite removing by their conversation any awe that may have been excited by their works. But A WIT, A DELINEATOR OF CHARACTER, WHO DOES NOT TALK, IS TERRIFIC INDEED!"

That description simmers with passive aggressive digs like the "single blessedness" [a smarmy expression for an unmarried adult woman]--which Mitford even put in quotes so as to sarcastically suggest that JA was NOT worthy of blessings---but even so, there is a strong ring of truth in Mitford's brilliantly written description nonetheless--a sort of grudging respect from a rival female writer.

But if you read that paragraph and take from it that Mitford just happened to mention that a friend referred to JA as a "poker" (which carries not only the ominous aura of a pointed tool which gets used regularly as a murder weapon in country house detective stories, but, even mundanely, suggests what I think JA did all the time in her writing --stirring up a fire and raising sparks) by accident, then I have a bridge to sell you very cheap....I.e., I think it's obvious from that quote that the actual
topic is NOT JA's posture! Mitford was herself a kind of wunderkind and professional writer, adept at the deployment of metaphors. And I also don't have to tell you that "terrific" in those days did not mean "great!", it meant "terriFYING"! I doubt that anyone found JA's sitting very erect a terrifying experience!

The clear meaning of Mitford's characterization is that it takes one to know one, and Mitford KNEW that JA was WATCHING and (like Lizzy Bennet) quietly mentally delineating the characters of the people she was observing--after all, Mitford had herself, like the other literati of England, just read P&P and had taken note of Darcy's dry riposte to Lizzy during their memorable repartee while dancing with each other:

"...I could wish, Miss Bennet, that you were not to sketch my character at the present moment, as there is reason to fear that the performance would reflect no credit on either."

And so I bet a LOT of people in JA's neck of Hampshire probably felt very much as Darcy did--her piercing gaze must have penetrated to the corners of any room she was in, and that obviously made a lot of people very nervous indeed.

[Nancy] "Your idea of her as going around poking -- literally or figuratively-- at people who came to dinner or whom she met in public is greatly at variance with her over all portrait. She need not be a saint nor a Victorian aunt to be polite to people. her sharp comments were usually written or spoken to Cassandra. I think you distort Austen in one way while those who want her to be a sweet tea drinking country mouse distort her in another."

What I meant to suggest about JA's behavior at dinner parties was that if she were speaking, she would always speak politely--Mary Crawford almost always speaks very politely indeed--but it was the implications of what she said, the gray area, that might tend to unnerve some people. I imagine her dropping little Mr. Benneticisms, leading fools on for the entertainment of a trusted friend seated nearby, or even just for her own amusement and collection of foolery for dialog in her novels in
progress.

And, speaking of JA's modus operandi at dinner parties and the writing of her novels, listen to what JA wrote at age 30 about one of the women in attendance at one of her brother Edward's dinners at Godmersham in 1805:

"Fortune was also very civil to me in placing Mr. E. Hatton by me at dinner. I have discovered that Lady Elizabeth for a woman of her age and situation , has astonishingly little to say for herself, and that Miss Hatton has not much more.”

What I derive from that is both that JA is saying, in so many words, that Lady Elizabeth and her daughter were not very intelligent, or, at least, were not women of information, as JA might have put it. But I also infer that JA had asked these ladies questions which tended toward finding out something about their lives, and she had hit a stone wall in response. Now, why that is significant in that particular instance is that 7 years later, JA wrote a novel in which, in part, JA delineated the character of Lady Elizabeth's uncle----who was none other than Lord
Mansfield!

So I believe these folks had reason to be afraid, because (despite ALL the protesting WAY too much by Henry Austen and by James Edward Austen Leigh) JA DID write about real people in her novels, all the time--and people knew it!!!

Cheers, ARNIE

Too much i' the sun

As I noted yesterday, in a recent discussion in the Joyce-Ulysses group, Mr. Stack spotted a covert Paradise Lost allusion in the first chapter of Ulysses. I now am happy to report that it has yielded further bounties, beyond having catalyzed my seeing the allusion to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in Ulysses.

I just found an article by David Quint, entitled "Fear of falling: Icarus, Phaethon, and Lucretius in Paradise Lost." in Renaissance Quarterly 57.3 (2004): 847+, where Quint argues persuasively that he has found “a hitherto-undetected network of allusion and motif in Paradise Lost” in which, in part, “Satan falls through Chaos like Icarus in book 2”. Quint’s article is very long, and very convincing, and I recommend a full reading to those who are interested in this topic.

Here is Quint’s summarizing comment, after he quotes the following famous speech by Satan in Paradise Lost:

Which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath, and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is hell; my self am hell;
And in the lowest deep a lower deep
Still threatening to devour me opens wide,
To which the hell I suffer seems a heaven. (4.73-78)

“When he speaks these words Satan is no longer in Chaos, but on the terra firma of the Earth in the new, solidly-built universe that God has created in his absence. But he still feels that he is falling. Miltonic wordplay transforms Satan's flight into a vain attempt to flee both from an angry God and, more powerfully, from his own inner torment. This ICARUS IS DROWNING IN A DESPAIR as deep as the infinite reaches of Chaos itself. It is not the universe that is falling, then, Milton responds to Lucretius, but rather THE HARDENED SINNER, who, UNABLE TO REPENT, falls ever further away from his Creator. Moreover, Satan's interior state does not correspond here to the Chaos into which he was falling earlier, but to hell: the hell which is his consciousness of falling itself, of having fallen and continuing to fall from a former state of happiness and goodness. …” END OF QUINT QUOTE

It’s very interesting to think about the above in relation to Stephen Dedalus, isn’t it? I don’t think I need to spell out the many resonances to Stephen’s tormented state of mind as we meet him in Chapter 1.

I was also struck for the first time by ANOTHER allusion to Hamlet in Ulysses, which—I just verified-- I am not the first to spot, but which is precisely the sort of allusion that hides in plain sight from most conventional literary critics.

Schutte on P. 117 of Joyce and Shakespeare, refers to Icarus as an alter ego for Stephen, in relation to the following passage in Ulysses:

“Fabulous artificer. The hawklike man. You flew. Whereto? Newhaven-Dieppe, steerage passenger. Paris and back. Lapwing. ICARUS. Pater, ait. Seabedabbled, fallen, weltering. Lapwing you are. Lapwing be.”

He is responding to the word “Lapwing” which of course is what Hamlet calls Osric, and he is of course correct in this attribution. However, it never dawns on Schutte to step back a pace and realize that Hamlet ALSO compares himself to Icarus, COVERTLY, in one of his most famous statements:

“King Claudius How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
Hamlet Not so, my lord; I am TOO MUCH I’ THE SUN.”

That is Shakespeare’s witty ironic joke on the fate of Icarus! But I don’t think anyone has previously noted the resonance to Icarus in this equally famous soliloquized lament by Hamlet:

“O, that this too too solid flesh would MELT…”

And isn’t that why (in addition to the Wizard of Oz allusion) Mulligan wisecracks about the candle lamenting its melting?

So we see that Joyce has picked up on Milton’s covert allusion to Icarus via the character of Satan; has also picked up on Shakespeare’s covert allusion to Icarus via the character of Hamlet; and has also picked up on Baum’s covert allusion to Icarus in a wackily inspired combination of the falling Dorothy and the melting Wicked Witch of the West; and then Joyce has woven them ALL together tightly--mythology, epic poem, dramatic tragedy, and children’s fantasy--in a rich allusive tapestry which informs our understanding of his protean hero, Stephen Dedalus.

Cheers,
Arnie

Jane Austen was a sharp poker with a prodigious memory and a clever poking strategy

Prompted by Marilyn Marshall's very interesting post speculating about how Austen used her prodigious powers of memory in composing her writing, I have joined in the discussion.

First I rebutted Ellen Moody's suggestion that JA paraphrased most of the time from memory and not quite accurately as follows:

I haven't taken a count, but I have found at least a hundred exact duplications of phrases, and hundreds more paraphrases. You have to understand why they are there in the first place. They are not quotations because JA was doing this COVERTLY. She was not heavy handed like Radcliffe, with chapter epigraphs overtly flagging the allusive presence of Hamlet and other Shakespeare plays in her novels. JA did this, but she did it COVERTLY. These are "veiled epigraphs" (I prefer to channel Hansel and Gretel and call them "bread crumbs") for readers who have read the sources and recognize the allusions.

The question to then ask is, WHY did JA put the words of a Shakespearean character, or of a world famous philosopher or historian or scientist, in the mouth of one of her characters, or in the mouth of her narrator? Spotting the allusions is only the beginning of the reading process with her.

Now, the rare instances in JA's novels where there is a quotation, in quotes, it's usually by characters like Mrs. Elton, and the misquotation is completety deliberate, and thematic. And the same question arises, WHY that quotation (mis)spoken by that character?

At other times, when JA was lampooning a public figure, she had to "smudge" the allusion so that she could deniably say "Who me?" if asked, and yet, those who understood her agenda would get it.

I spoke at Oxford in 2007 about how JA deliberately changed individual two WORDS in the "woman" charade in Chapter 9 of Emma for thematic purposes. She did the same thing, EXACTLY, with her private handwritten copy of Byron's Napoleon poem that was found in her papers, where she changed two words- RHYMING words. These are not accidents, or misrememberings, they are intentional. JA was self-assured enough to alter Shakespeare, Byron, the Bible, ANY SOURCE, for her own purposes.

It's all of a piece. She was an EXTREMELY meticulous craftsman in whatever she did, artistic or everyday.


Then I rebutted the suggestion by Nancy Mayer that the Austen family was a family of writers so it seemed odd that anyone would complain or ridicule her, as follows:

It wasn't THAT she wrote, it's WHAT she wrote, that rubbed some in her family and friends circle the wrong way. She was known to be a "sharp poker" (in Mitford's words), and that could cause embarrassment for the family. Just think of any Sir Thomases in her family monitoring her behavior at a dinner party, waiting for her to mosey up to the line of speaking truth to male power, and tweak their noses, subtly. It's no accident that she invented the characters of Lady Susan and Mary Crawford, among others.

" her father sent her book Susan off to a publisher and sold it for £10."

Where it languished in publishing purgatory the rest of her life. And note, Northanger Abbey has several overt eruptions of passionate defense of female passions, like novel reading. One wonders if the book was sent to Crosby by Reverend Austen with a quiet understanding between gentlemen that it would NEVER be published, as a way of shutting her up. I think Sir Thomas 's quietly fascistic burning of all the copies of Lovers Vows upon his return from the slave plantation was symbolic of that event.

Note also that JA did not get M.A.D. and reclaim the Northanger Abbey manuscript until 1809, when her father was long dead, AND the Austen women FINALLY had Chawton cottage as a sanctuary. That says it all.

Sharp pokers had to be blunted somehow, after all, before they poked too hard. So she invented her own way to poke--often very hard--but ALWAYS with deniability.

Cheers, ARNIE

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Emerald Isle in the Emerald City: more about L. Frank Baum and Ulysses

This will be a (I believe) final followup to my previous two posts today about the connections between The Wizard of Oz and Ulysses. Here are THREE more connections of The Wizard of Oz to Ulysses:

ULYSSES CONNECTION #1: See the title of this post for starters! I am not the first to notice that Emerald CITY sounds suspiciously like the Emerald ISLE.

In that regard, it may be a coincidence that there are ELEVEN references to emeralds in Ulysses, including one to the Emerald Isle, almost all of which have an unmistakably patriotic resonance, but, given all the other allusions to The Wizard of Oz, I don't think it's a coincidence at all:

The viceregal houseparty which included many wellknown ladies was chaperoned by Their Excellencies to the most favourable positions on the grandstand while the picturesque foreign delegation known as the Friends of the EMERALD ISLE was accommodated on a tribune directly opposite.

We feel in England. Penitent thief. Gone. I smoked his baccy. Green twinkling stone. An EMERALD set in the ring of the sea.........

Every lady in the audience was presented with a tasteful souvenir of the occasion in the shape of a skull and crossbones brooch, a timely and generous act which evoked a fresh outburst of emotion: and when the gallant young Oxonian (the bearer, by the way, of one of the most timehonoured names in Albion's history) placed on the finger of his blushing fiancée an expensive engagement ring with EMERALDS SET IN THE FORM OF A FOURLEAVED SHAMROCK the excitement knew no bounds........

[Later in the same paragraph as "Mrs. Dorothy Canebrake"] The bride who was given away by her father, the M'Conifer of the Glands, looked exquisitely charming in a creation carried out in GREEN mercerised silk, moulded on an underslip of gloaming grey, sashed with a yoke of broad EMERALD and finished with a triple flounce of darkerhued fringe, the scheme being relieved by bretelles and hip insertions of acorn bronze...

I conceive you, says Mr Dixon. It is that same bull that was sent to our island by farmer Nicholas, the bravest cattlebreeder of them all, with an EMERALD ring in his nose. True for you, says Mr Vincent cross the table, and a bullseye into the bargain, says he, and a plumper and a portlier bull, says he, never shit on SHAMROCK.

How serene does she now arise, a queen among the Pleiades, in the penultimate antelucan hour, SHOD IN SANDALS OF BRIGHT GOLD, coifed with a veil of what do you call it gossamer. It floats, it flows about her starborn flesh and loose it streams, EMERALD, sapphire, mauve and heliotrope, sustained on currents of the cold interstellar WIND....

[Perhaps these are Joyce's version of Dorothy's magic Sliver Shoes?]

Bloom: (In housejacket of ripplecloth, flannel trousers, heelless slippers, unshaven, his hair rumpled: softly) I treated you white. I gave you mementos, smart EMERALD garters far above your station.....

The Citizen: (Choked with emotion, brushes aside a tear in his EMERALD muffler) May the good God bless him!....

Bello: (Gaily) Right. Let them all come. The scanty, daringly short skirt, riding up at the knee to show a peep of white pantalette, is a potent weapon and transparent stockings, EMERALDgartered, with the long straight seam trailing up beyond the knee, appeal to the better instincts of the blasé man about town.....

The Citizen: (With a huge EMERALD muffler and SHILLELAGH, calls)

May the God above
Send down a dove
With teeth as sharp as razors
To slit the throats
Of THE ENGLISH DOGS
That hanged OUR IRISH LEADERS.....

A vertical piano (Cadby) with exposed keyboard, its closed coffin supporting a pair of long yellow ladies' gloves and an EMERALD ashtray containing four consumed matches.....



ULYSSES CONNECTION #2: It turns out that Baum's mother was of Scotch-Irish descent, and Baum himself has been described by several different sources on the Net (NONE of whom had any axe to grind regarding Ulysses or James Joyce, by the way) as having been something of a rabid Irish nationalist, perhaps because, among other reasons, there were a number of Irish immigrants living in the Black Hills of South Dakota when Baum was a newspaper editor out there.

Previously, in 1882, he wrote a hit musical, The Maid of Arran, based on William Black’s 1874 novel A Princess of Thule, which included one number entitled (I kid you not) "The Legend of Castle Arran" and "When O'Mara is King Once Again" sung by a character named Shiela; "A Rollicking Irish Boy" sung by Dennie; "Oona's Gift" ("A Tuft of the Old Irish Bog"/"A Turf from the Old Irish Sod"), sung by Oona, among others. And although it could just be a coincidence, but Ulysses just happens to contain several references to the "Arran quay" in Dublin.

In short, whatever the reason(s), Baum apparently (and very vociferously publicly) had Ireland on the brain for most of his life, and Joyce, who was obviously a keen observer of popular and trash culture, as well as high culture, could easily have known all about Baum, and could have taken a special interest in him because of the "Irish connection".


ULYSSES CONNECTION #3: Baum (who was a generation older than Joyce) was a theater nut as a young man, and after a brief acting career went south, including a performance of Hamlet that became unintentionally comic when he fell through the stage floor into the "cellarage" where the "Ghost" was standing. Later, he wrote a short story called "They Played a New Hamlet" which appeared in the 28 April 1895 edition of The Chicago Times-Herald.

Plus, it has been argued (again by scholars with NO axe to grind about Ulysses or Joyce), and, I think, persuasively, that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz owes some significant debt to A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest.

So Baum apparently (and very publicly) had Hamlet, and Shakespeare generally, on the brain for a period of years during his life. And, similarly as with Connection #1, Joyce could readily have learned about Baum's interest in Hamlet, given that Hamlet was Joyce's special obsession.


So, is there anyone who has read along who has any doubt remaining about this allusion by Joyce to The Wizard of Oz? The $64,000 question is, "WHY?"

And I say, at the top of the list is the implication in the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which is made explicit in the 1939 film, that Dorothy has been dreaming the whole time. By the way, does anyone have any idea whether Joyce might have seen The Wizard of Oz the film before he died?????

In any event, we can safely assume that Joyce understood that implication in Baum's famous novel, and so it makes you wonder if there is any connection to the sense that many, like Charles and myself, have that at least some parts of what appears to be realistic action in Ulysses is actually a dream????

Cheers,
Arnie

Even more Oz in Ulysses.......

I keep shaking my head in disbelief, wondering how it is possible that I could be the first person in the 90 years since Ulysses was published--a novel that has been microscopically analyzed by generations of dedicated scholars, to see the allusion to the Wizard of Oz in Circe which I detailed earlier this afternoon.

But it’s really not so surprising, because it's just another major chunk of evidence for exactly what I’ve been claiming for a long while now. The status quo of literary criticism has for far too long set the bar for confirming allusions so ridiculously high, that they’ve missed many of the very best ones. They're so busy fitting whatever they find into a Freudian or a Lacanian or a Derridean or god knows what other kind of theoretical framework, that they've become completely detached from the experience of the attentive but “naïve” reader, who hears puns, who senses resonance, and who is not obsessed with a absurdly standard of proof that should only be applied in capital murder cases.

No wonder so much wonderful stuff like this is hiding in plain sight, and is visible to someone like me, coming to Ulysses with no baggage, only an open mind and an attentive eye, and some imagination, and the willingness to take a chance and explore possible allusions to see if they pan out. I know now more than ever before that the likes of Shakespeare, Austen, Joyce et al were writing for readers who were not obsessed with literary theory, but with the playful imaginative realm of the greatest literary geniuses, who loved nothing better than hiding their most important stuff in plain sight.

Anyway, I went back and did some MORE searches in the text of Ulysses on keywords from the land of Oz, to see just how far Joyce actually took this--and what I just found blows my mind even further!

As you read below, just keep in mind at all times that a girl named DOROTHY has, during A BIG WIND, a DREAM about being the companion of a LION, dealing with FLYING MONKEYS and a WIZARD wearing a funny HAT, and all this in famous stories written by the JK Rowling of a century ago, an extremely famous author named BAUM!:

Stephen: Mark me. I DREAMT of a watermelon.
Zoe: Go abroad and love a foreign lady.
[Remember, it was Zoe who said "I'm melting"]
Lynch: Across the world for a wife.
Florry: DREAMS GOES BY CONTRARIES.
Stephen: (Extends his arms) It was here. Street of harlots. In Serpentine avenue Beelzebub showed me her, a fubsy widow. Where's the red carpet spread?
Bloom: (Approaching Stephen) Look...
Stephen: NO, I FLEW. MY FOES BENEATH ME. And ever shall be. World without end. (He cries) Pater! Free!
Bloom: I say, look...
Stephen: Break my spirit, will he? O merde alors! (He cries, HIS VULTURE TALONS SHARPENED) Hola! Hillyho!
(Simon Dedalus' voice hilloes in answer, somewhat sleepy but ready.)
Simon: That's all right. (HE SWOOPS UNCERTAINLY THROUGH THE AIR, wheeling, uttering cries of heartening, on strong ponderous buzzard wings) Ho, boy! Are you going to win? Hoop! Pschatt! Stable with those halfcastes. Wouldn't let them within the bawl of an ass. Head up! Keep our flag flying! An eagle gules volant in a field argent displayed. Ulster king at arms! Haihoop! (He makes the beagle's call, giving tongue) Bulbul! Burblblburblbl! Hai, boy!

......

The crowd bawls of dicers, crown and anchor players, thimbleriggers, broadsmen. Crows and touts, hoarse bookies in HIGH WIZARD HATS clamour deafeningly.)
The Crowd: Card of the races. Racing card! Ten to one the field! Tommy on the clay here! Tommy on the clay! Ten to one bar one! Ten to one bar one! Try your luck on Spinning Jenny! Ten to one bar one! Sell THE MONKEY, boys! Sell THE MONKEY! I'll give ten to one! Ten to one bar one!

And someone in the Joyce-Ulysses group just sent me an email pointing out the following passage right smack dab in the middle of--where else?--Circe!:

"Mananaun Maclir: (With a voice of waves) Aum! Hek! Wal! Ak! Lub! Mor! Ma! White yoghin of the gods. Occult pimander of Hermes Trismegistos. (With a voice of whistling seawind) Punarjanam patsypunjaub! I won't have my leg pulled. It has been said by one: beware the left, the cult of Shakti. (With a cry of stormbirds) Shakti Shiva, darkhidden Father! (He smites with his bicycle pump the crayfish in his left hand. On its cooperative dial glow the twelve signs of the zodiac. He wails with the vehemence of the ocean.) AUM! BAUM! PYJAUM! I am the light of the homestead! I am the DREAMERY creamery butter."

Aum, Baum, Pyjaum indeed! Sounds like Joyce was in a Tourettish frenzy as he wrote those words!

And speaking of that wizard, and what his day job really was:

Stephen: (Nervous, friendly, pulls himself up) I understand your point of view though I have no king myself for the moment. This is the age of PATENT MEDICINES.

Which also makes it likely that the following reference is not merely about Macbeth:
"Printed by the weird sisters in the year of THE BIG WIND."

And aren't the Oz stories about things that NEVER WERE but which might have been?:
"But can those have been possible seeing that THEY NEVER WERE? Or was that only possible which came to pass? Weave, weaver of THE WIND.

And is it a coincidence that these lions in Ulysses are not so scary after all?:

"The LIONS couchant on the pillars as he passed out through the gate: toothless terrors."
"—Heart as big as a LION, says Ned..."
(Signor Maffei, passionpale, in LIONtamer's costume with diamond studs in his shirtfront, steps forward, holding a circus paperhoop, a curling carriagewhip and a revolver with which he covers the gorging boarhound.)
Signor Maffei: (With a sinister smile) Ladies and gentlemen, my educated greyhound. It was I broke in the bucking broncho Ajax with my patent spiked saddle for carnivores. Lash under the belly with a knotted thong. Block tackle and a strangling pulley will bring your LION to heel, no matter how fractious, even LEO FEROX there, the Libyan maneater.

And isn’t Leopold (as in Leo the Lion!) Bloom the lion Molly is talking about here, and isn’t he a lot like the cowardly lion, a sentimental gentle man?:

"...sure you might as well be in bed with what with a LION God Im sure hed have something better to say for himself an old LION..."

And which also makes it at least possible that the following name is a reference to more than just a species of Irish tree:

"Miss DOROTHY CANEbrake" (as in "I don't think we're in CANE-sas, Toto) ;)

Cheers,
Arnie

Still my beating heart: the quiz answer

The quiz question I posed yesterday was:

"What famous work of literature is covertly alluded to in Edgar Alan Poe’s classic story “The Tell-Tale Heart”, and what evidence can you provide to support the argument that such allusion was intentional on Poe’s part? Hint: the title of Poe’s story is a clue to the answer, but you’d have to be a literary scholar with a pretty remarkable memory in order to pick up on that clue without a major assist from your computer."

I will unfold the tale of my answer for you in stages, so as to maximize the chances of causing each particular hair on your head to stand on end, if you get my meaning, if you catch my drift.... ;)

First, the hint I was pointing to in Poe's title is the word "tell-tale", and the passage it pointed to, which you might have recognized IF you were a Shakespeare scholar with a photographic recall of the text of the history plays--I needed the assistance of a search engine myself!---is the following line spoken by Scroop, the Archbishop of York, about the dying King Henry IV in Part 2 of Henry IV (the play):

“For he hath found to end one doubt by death Revives two greater in the heirs of life, And therefore will he WIPE his TABLES clean And keep no TELL-TALE to his MEMORY That may repeat and history his loss To new remembrance…”

However, this allusion to Part 2 of Henry IV, while clearly intentional on Poe's part, is not, I assert, the end point of Poe' allusion in The Tell-Tale Heart. Yes, there are parallels between Henry IV's paranoia about his son Prince Hal being eager for him to die so that he might replace his father on the throne, on the one hand, and Poe's narrator who murdered the old man who might be his father, on the other.

But otherwise, I do not particularly perceive any strong parallels between the two stories. No, I claim that Poe's allusion to that passage in Part 2 of Henry IV is primarily a literary way station, the first stop in a two-stage allusive "flight" to Poe's main destination, the "rustic town" created by a great writer from a rustic town.

Because although most Shakespeare lovers would not, I think, recognize the above passage I just quoted from Part 2 of Henry IV, they WOULD recognize the FOLLOWING very famous passage in ANOTHER one of Shakespeare's plays--actually his most famous play, perhaps the most famous play ever written:

“Remember thee! Yea, from the TABLE of my MEMORY I'll WIPE away all trivial fond records, All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past, That youth and observation copied there..."

Of course that is HAMLET speaking to the Ghost of his dead father, and isn't it obvious that these two passages in two separate plays of Shakespeare are so closely connected--so obvious, that the connection was seen and footnoted hundreds of years ago by Shakespearean editors.

But what is not obvious, unless you think about it-- and this is where it gets interesting---is the powerful resonance between the situation and attitude of Poe's paranoid crazy murderer in The Tell-Tale Heart, and Hamlet. Both involve the protagonist being in the presence of the "ghost" (whether actual or imagined) of his "father"---a protagonist tormented by overpowering Freudian guilt over the death of that "father".

That resonance is what I sensed initially, that caused me to begin a course of literary sleuthing into the text of The Tell-Tale Heart in order to verify my intuitions of that resonance. And boy, did it pay off quickly!

That is when I actually read the text of The Tell-Tale Heart and found the following textual "bread crumbs" which sealed the deal, in terms of proving an intentional allusion on Poe's part:

[The Tell-Tale Heart]

True! nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard ALL THINGS IN THE HEAVEN AND IN THE EARTH. I heard many things in hell. How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story.

[Hamlet]

There are more THINGS IN HEAVEN AND EARTH, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.


[The Tell-Tale Heart]

So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, JUST AT TWELVE, I looked in upon him while he slept.

[Hamlet]

Hamlet, Horatio, and the guards all see the ghost at midnight


[The Tell-Tale Heart]

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening , and the old man sprang up in the bed, crying out, "WHO'S THERE?"

[Hamlet]

The very famous first line of Hamlet, maybe the most famous first line of any play ever written, is “Who’s there?”


[The Tell-Tale Heart]

I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself, "It is nothing but the wind in the chimney, it is only A MOUSE CROSSING the floor,"


[Hamlet]

And of course you know that Hamlet refers to the play within a play as the MOUSEtrap which he uses to try to trap Claudius into an admission of GUILT when he watches a murder of a king in the play. But also in the beginning of the play, the part with the Ghost, one of the guards responds to a nervous question as to how his guard has gone with the line:

“Not a MOUSE STIRRING”


[The Tell-Tale Heart]

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for THE CONCEALMENT OF THE BODY. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence.

[Hamlet]

Of course, after Hamlet kills Polonius (thinking he's really Claudius) by stabbing him through the curtain in Gertrude’s boudoir, Hamlet chops up Polonius’s body and hides the pieces for a while, to conceal what he has done.


And there are more less distinct echoes, which I think are not necessary to prove that Poe intentionally alluded to Hamlet in The Tell Tale Heart.

And inspired by the above findings, I subsequently found a great deal of background evidence to corroborate my interpretation of this allusion by Poe, which would take too long to spell out, but suffice to say that I've moved this on into the "certain" column.

But, as usual, this is not just a literary parlor game, there is meat on these bones (so to speak) worth considering by any student of literature. Think for a second about what it means to KNOW that Poe alluded to Hamlet in The Tell-Tale Heart. Poe has often been hailed as the creator of the detective story. Hamlet has often been hailed as a primordial form of the detective story. It now is clear that Poe derived significant inspiration from Hamlet in exactly this way! And it only bolsters that conclusion when you read the three Dupin stories by Poe (The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Mystery of Marie Roget, and The Purloined Letter, and you see that each one of them has its own Hamlet resonance, too.

And I consider this discovery even more significant, in terms of interpretation of HAMLET. What I see in Poe's allusion is a veiled interpretation by Poe of Hamlet, in which Poe is, implicitly, suggesting that Hamlet HALLUCINATES the ghost!

Poe was not the first to espouse that idea, and the idea really only caught the ear of the Shakespeare public when Walter Greg wrote his famous article on this subject just before Joyce published Ulysses nearly a century ago, but it still is big news that Poe was ONE of the earliest---and how interesting that Poe, who wrote an essay on Hamlet, did not mention this point at all.

There are indeed more things in literature than are dreamt of in the philosophy of most literary scholars, if I am the first person to see this profound connection between the famous writings of two great and renowned authors!

Cheers, ARNIE

The Firesign Theatre, The Wizard of Oz, and Ulysses

I just posted the following in the Joyce discussion group, in followup to an earlier post there where I picked up on another participant's spotting of a subtle allusion to Milton's Paradise Lost in the first chapter of Ulysses, and showed that the allusion was brought to its full fruition in the climactic scene in the Circe chapter of Ulysses, when Stephen Dedalus careens hallucinogenically through Dublin's Nighttown. Even those who are not particularly focused on Ulysses will, I think, enjoy the following:

As a nice reward from going through the exercise of pulling together the satanic highlights of the Pandemonium scene in Circe, I was thrilled to find two completely off the wall---and yet, in my considered opinion, completely certain---allusions which relate to that same passage, one looking back at Ulysses, the other where Ulysses itself looks back.

The first part of my Subject Line of this message is a tip of the hat to the Firesign Theatre, who, on their classic 60's surrealistic comedy album, "How can you be in two places at once when you're not anywhere at all?" have as the end of Side One an amazingly powerful rendition of the last 2 minutes of Molly's soliloquy, right through to all the Yeses....I always knew, as everyone who knew the album knew, about that allusion. Nothing surprising in that.

But....what I just realized this morning, as I was writing my previous post, was that at one point on Side Two, "The adventures of Nick Danger, Third Eye", there is ANOTHER allusion to Ulysses! It comes when Nick has been slugged by Lieutenant Bradshaw into unconsciousness, and then when he wakes up, groggily, he is in the midst of a hallucination where he is besieged by a welter of strange voices from earlier parts of his day, and that is when he says "Pandemonium was breaking out all around me".

Now I realize how clever the Firesign Theatre really was, because there can be no doubt that this is their send-up of that scene in Circe, where Stephen also gets slugged by a cop and hallucinates! And they show it by tagging their allusion with the word "Pandemonium".

And I just checked online, and found the following comments by Phil Austin, one of the four members of the Firesign Theatre, on the liner notes for the CD of that album:

"It has often been correctly note that the progress of Babe is linked with that of Odysseus, the hero of Homer's Epic poem, "The Odyssey". Although HCYB does not literally follow the form of "The Odyssey", there are several key meetings between the two stories and certainly, like Joyce's "Ulysses", HCYB derives much inspiration from the age-old story of a man trying to return home. Odysseus (Ulysses) finds himself imprisoned, bound by the spell of the witch Calypso, when his outrages against the gods are forgiven and he is allowed to return home. All we will see of this on HCYB is Babe running across a street, nearly to be killed, and entering the emporium of one {RALPH SPOILSPORT}, who may or may not be the god Hermes, sent to sell Babe the instrument of his homecoming. (Some see HCYB as the musings of Ralph, that Ralph is the storyteller and Babe portrays him as a young man. Well...)"

But I don't see that the Circe allusion in Nick Danger has been discussed previously....

That would be cool enough, but there's another equally cool allusion that I also just saw.

The SECOND part of the Subject Line of this message is a tip of the hat to Joyce himself, who, in that same Circe scene, was paying his own surrealistic homage to another work of imaginative literature, that ALSO involves a protagonist getting conked on the head and then having an extended dream with all sorts of fantastical alterations of everyday reality--of course I am talking about none other than THE WIZARD OF OZ!!!!!

Baum began publishing his Oz stories around the turn of the century, and there can be no doubt that Joyce was well aware of them, and he shows this by (at least) two textual allusions in Circe. The first is when the whore Zoe, while fanning herself with the grate fan, exclaims, "I'm melting!" The second, which is the (melting) icing on the cake, is when we read, in that very same paragraph in Ulysses which contains the word "Pandemonium", the following:

"Laughing witches in red cutty sarks ride through the air on broomsticks."

You can hear Margaret Hamilton, with her blue face, cackling as she rides the wind as the Wicked Witch of the West!

And, speaking of human beings melting, this also shed fresh light on the description of what happens to Mulligan earlier in that same Circe scene:

"(Tears of molten butter fall from his eyes on to the scone)"

And in a serious vein that goes to the heart of the matter in Ulysses, it's not just Zoe the prostitute who is a Wicked Witch, it's Stephen's MOTHER who Joyce is comparing to the Wicked Witch of the West!

And it also illuminates the Homeric subtext that Joyce saw in The Wizard Of Oz (Oxen?) that perhaps was what first attracted his attention--the flying monkeys in Oz under the command of the Wicked Witch seem to be the sailors turned into animals by Circe.

Or, is it possible that Joyce read one of Baum's Oz books and had a dream about it---and that was the birth of Ulysses???????

Cheers,
Arnie

Monday, October 18, 2010

Still my beating heart: another literary quiz

That last trick question seemed to generate a fair amount of interest, so I will present another one now. It happens that I will be giving a local presentation here in Broward County, Florida soon on the subject of this trick question, as part of a more general description of the methodology I have developed over the past six years of doing my literary sleuthing, to give encouragement to other independent scholars to give it a go, if they are so inclined. It only occurred to me a moment ago that it would make a good quiz question. Here it is:

What famous work of literature is covertly alluded to in Edgar Alan Poe’s classic story “The Tell-Tale Heart”, and what evidence can you provide to support the argument that such allusion was intentional on Poe’s part?

Hint: the title of Poe’s story is a clue to the answer, but you’d have to be a literary scholar with a pretty remarkable memory in order to pick up on that clue without a major assist from your computer.

As far as I have been able to determine from resources on the Net, no previous scholar has identified this allusion, even though, when you hear the answer, you may very well, as I did when I first saw it, slap your forehead and say “Doh!” for not seeing it before.

I will give the answer, if someone doesn’t get it first, by tomorrow (Tuesday) at Noon EST.

Cheers, ARNIE

C'mon baby light my pyre

Marilyn Marshall just wrote a brilliant post in Austen L, which I respond to below:

[Marilyn] "This is something I've been giving thought to lately and I think there was something more involved than Austen having a good memory for sources. People in Austen's time had a somewhat different relationship with books than we do now. Being rare(r) items, books were read and reread, often out loud to others, which I'm sure led to lively discussion and interpretation, but also had the effect of creating deep familiarity with what they read. Having shared a book, a group with the literary savvy of the Austens must have often bandied about quotes during family discussions and made many of the connections between plots and characters and ideas that you are now discovering."

Excellent insight, Marilyn, and totally valid! I think JA must have been born with a sponge-like memory for words anyway, but she grew up in the perfect family environment to nurture her lifelong obsession with wordplay and expression in words. No question, it was a perfect storm for creation of a full blown genius!

"Another factor is memorization. I suspect that Austen carried a large amount of favorite text around in her head. A hint at this can be found in Persuasion. When Captain Benwick uttered a few lines of poetry, Anne was able to finish the quote."

Excellent! A perfect example of her metafictional winking, of obliquely pointing to herself.

"Byron was the rock star of his generation and his poetry captured people's attention in much the same way as John Lennon's lyrics 150 years later."

You remind me that I discovered, quite by accident a few years ago, the following interesting correspondence:

"The time to hesitate is through, there's no time to wallow in the mire. Darling we can only lose, and our love become a funeral pyre. C'mon baby light my fire..."

Byron's The Two Foscari, Act IV:

“Yes, light us on, as to a funeral pyre.”

Byron's Don Juan, Canto VIII”

Thus on they wallow'd in the bloody mire


"The mechanics of memorization surrounded Austen. How many family theatricals of scenes from Shakespeare were performed where young Jane had to memorize her lines? How many dinner table disagreements were settled by the memory of an apt line? And what did she and Cassandra talk about during their many long walks across the countryside? Reciting poetry is as effective a way to pace your steps as singing a song. Memorization is a good method for understanding text. You read it, you reread it, then you memorize it and as it rolls off your tongue you get the sense and feel of its meaning. When you memorize something, it belongs to you, because it resides inside your head -- and when you sit down to write, as you search for a way to express your thoughts the words are there to be plucked from your brain, compliments of Mr. William Shakespeare ... or John Milton ..."

Yup, no doubt she had all of it on recall, and then she would check the texts themselves the next time she found herself in a good library, to make sure she had remembered correctly.

"Because literature was Austen's chosen field, she made it her business to be an expert. She read widely, she retained important information, she exercised her brain, and her involvement was continuous and driving. Like a baseball player who is able to hit the ball further over the fence than anyone else because of the thousands of times he has swung the bat throughout his life, Jane Austen was able to hit literary home runs because of the constant churning of words and ideas in her brain. Blessed with a facility, she dedicated her life to being at the top of her game. This is the quality, above all others, that defines her genius. No matter what century she lived in, this would be her gift."

No question, she took her work VERY seriously, that is obvious from the depth and breadth of the workmanship throughout all her writing.

"I often wondered if the distractions of the Internet and the pop culture noise of the 21st century would dim her lights, but I think what must have been an intense interest and drive to absorb beauty and inhabit the continuum of literary expression would insulate her from being drowned in drivel."

Oh, I think she loved the drivel, too, because she used it in her work--she did not only allude to the timeless classics, she alluded to the pulp as well. Which makes perfect sense, because JA was a kind of Camille Paglia or Tom Wolfe, an anthropologist on Mars, like Mr. Bennet, enjoying the entire human comedy, high and low.

Thanks for a great post, Marilyn!

Cheers,
ARNIE