Semiarid Yarns — Ulysses (Tua mare grega)*

16 June -
17 June 2022
Mildura

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On the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the publishing of James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses,’ artist Domenico De Clario will be performing an exclusive public reading of the seminal novel at the Arts Mildura Hub.

The novel describes the fictional events that take place during the 24 hours between sunrise June 16 1904 and the early hours of the following day, June 17. In a celebration of both the writing of Joyce’s novel and its first publishing the reading will begin at sunrise on Thursday June 16 2022 and will continue until sunrise June 17, or until the reading is completed.

Each June 16 is known as Bloomsday, the day on which the life of James Joyce (1882 – 1941) is commemorated and celebrated, both in Dublin and globally.

ARTIST STATEMENT — Domenico De Clario

You are welcome to a public reading of James Joyce’s masterwork ‘Ulysses’, on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the publishing (1922) of the novel in Paris.

The reading will take place in various locations both upstairs and downstairs in the Arts Mildura Hub, and as it unfolds all that is taking place in the Hub immediately becomes an aspect of the reading of ‘Ulysses’; opening celebrations, launch of the AM program, glasses clinking, musical acts being offered downstairs that might be faintly heard upstairs. In fact the entirety of Mildura becomes, through these twenty-four hours, Joyce’s Dublin and consequently all that can be seen and heard manifests, for the listener, as various aspects of it.

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The novel describes the fictional events that take place during the 24 hours between sunrise June 16 1904 and the early hours of the following day, June 17.

Thursday June 16, 1904, was the day in which Joyce first explored his sexuality with his wife to be, Nora Barnacle. Until then, like many males of his generation, his only sexual experiences had been with prostitutes.

Since 1924 each June 16 has been known as Bloomsday, the day on which the life of James Joyce (1882 – 1941) is commemorated and celebrated, both in Dublin and globally, and is named after the novel’s protagonist Leopold Bloom. This year June 16 also happens to fall on a Thursday and 2022 marks the 100-year anniversary of the publishing of the novel.

In a celebration of both the writing of Joyce’s novel and its first publishing my reading will begin at sunrise on Thursday June 16 2022 and will continue until sunrise June 17, or until it is completed.

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I was born in Trieste in 1947 and the fact that both the concept and the writing of the 20th century’s most revolutionary novel took place in the multicultural crucible of my birth-city is of great interest to me. The Triestine dialect, which Joyce spoke fluently, had a significant role to play in the titling of the novel and as I was growing up Joyce’s name and his exploits were still part of the cultural dialogue and consequently became part of my memory-body. In fact many wine bars and cheap trattorie mark an itinerary one can follow in order to better understand Joyce’s Triestine experience. The Faculty of Arts and Letters of Trieste University has since the 1950’s established an entire department devoted to the study and research of Joyce’s stay in that city.

domenico de clario / june 2022

* tua mare grega

When Joyce left Trieste for the final time in July 1920, nearly 16 years after first arriving in the Adriatic city in October, 1904, he was not only leaving the place where he had written or seen published all of his early works – Chamber Music, Dubliners, Portrait, Exiles and Giacomo Joyce, and where he had begun and written significant episodes of Ulysses, a novel which had already begun to change the course of modern literature even before its publication in 1922 – he was also leaving the city where, at 38 years of age, he had spent most of his adult life.

There is thus an extremely significant personal dimension to Joyce’s years in Trieste, which is inextricably interwoven with his development as a writer and absolutely essential to understanding certain aspects of his works and literary activities during this period. If Dublin was the city where Joyce’s personality was constituted and formed, then Trieste is where that personality developed and matured, the place where, as the Irish novelist Colm Toibin puts it, ‘Joyce grew up’.

Like Ulysses in the Mediterranean, Trieste was Joyce’s periplum, the place where he voyaged for more than a decade, knew many different men and had many different experiences. Here he fathered two children and lost a third child through miscarriage. Here he knew illness, grinding poverty and an endless series of personal and literary setbacks, but also a growing number of successes.

Here he was teacher, lecturer, journalist, clerk, singing student, translator and aspiring entrepreneur – he invested heavily in one of the city’s first cinemas, the ‘Volta’, which failed miserably after a short period (as well as being ‘husband’, father, brother, and friend or acquaintance to many of the city’s economic, political and intellectual elite). And here of course, he developed and honed his craft, drawing on many of the elements and experiences of these years and at many different levels in his own writing.

His friendship with Triestine businessman and novelist Italo Svevo (Ettore Schmitz) let to him to propose to Svevo the name for his new novel: ‘tua mare grega’ – in Triestine dialect literally ’your mother is Greek’ – constituting the most damning insult a Triestine could launch. The phrase referred to the many women who had migrated from the Greek port city of Salonika to walk the streets in Trieste. But ‘mare’ in Triestine dialect translates as both ‘mother’ and ‘sea’. In Joyce’s mind this was the perfect play on words that contained both a reference to the site of Odysseus’ wanderings – the Aegean Sea – and to its generative qualities, as well as directly referring to Joyce’s first sexual awakening.  Through his discussions with Svevo Joyce ultimately condensed the play on words to simply ‘Ulysses’.

Summary of ‘Ulysses’

All the action of Ulysses takes place in and immediately around Dublin on a single day (June 16, 1904). The three central characters—Stephen Dedalus (the hero of Joyce’s earlier Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man); Leopold Bloom, a Jewish advertising canvasser; and his wife, Molly—are intended to be modern counterparts of Telemachus, Ulysses (Odysseus), and Penelope, respectively, and the events of the novel loosely parallel the major events in Odysseus’s journey home after the Trojan War. The book’s narrative begins at sunrise in a Martello tower (a Napoleonic-era defensive structure), where Stephen lives with medical student Buck Mulligan and his

English friend Haines. They prepare for the day and head out. After teaching at a boys’ school, Stephen receives his pay from the ignorant and anti-Semitic headmaster, Mr. Deasy, and takes a letter from Deasy that he wants to have published in two newspapers. Afterward Stephen wanders along a beach, lost in thought. Also that morning, Bloom brings breakfast and the mail to Molly, who remains in bed; her concert tour manager, Blazes Boylan, is to see her at 4:00 that afternoon. Bloom goes to the post office to pick up a letter from a woman with whom he has an illicit correspondence and then to the pharmacist to order lotion for Molly. At 11:00 AM Bloom attends the funeral of Paddy Dignam with Simon Dedalus, Martin Cunningham, and Jack Power.

Bloom goes to a newspaper office to negotiate the placement of an advertisement, which the foreman agrees to as long as it is to run for three months. Bloom leaves to talk with the merchant placing the ad. Stephen arrives with Deasy’s letter, and the editor agrees to publish it. When Bloom returns with an agreement to place the ad for two months, the editor rejects it. Bloom walks through Dublin for a while, stopping to chat with Mrs. Breen, who mentions that Mina Purefoy is in labour. He later has a cheese sandwich and a glass of wine at a pub. On his way to the National Library afterward, he spots Boylan and ducks into the National Museum. In the National Library, Stephen discusses his theories about Shakespeare and Hamlet with the poet AE, the essayist and librarian John Eglinton, and the librarians Richard Best and Thomas Lyster. Bloom arrives, looking for a copy of an advertisement he had placed, and Buck shows up. Stephen and Buck leave to go to a pub as Bloom also departs. Simon and Matt Lenehan meet in the bar of the Ormond Hotel, and later Boylan arrives. Leopold had earlier seen Boylan’s car and followed it to the hotel, where he then dines with Richie Goulding. Boylan leaves with Lenehan, on his way to his assignation with Molly. Later, Bloom goes to Barney Kiernan’s boisterous pub, where he is to meet Cunningham in order to help with the Dignam family’s finances. Bloom finds himself being cruelly mocked, largely for his Jewishness. He defends himself, and Cunningham rushes him out of the bar.

After the visit to the Dignam family, Bloom, after a brief dalliance at the beach, goes to the National Maternity Hospital to check in on Mina. He finds Stephen and several of his friends, all somewhat drunk. He joins them, accompanying them when they repair to Burke’s pub. After the bar closes, Stephen and a friend head to Bella Cohen’s brothel, where Bloom later finds him. Stephen, very drunk by now, breaks a chandelier, and, while Bella threatens to call the police, he rushes out and gets into an altercation with a British soldier, who knocks him to the ground. Bloom takes Stephen to a cabman’s shelter for food and talk, and then, long after midnight, the two head for Bloom’s home. There Bloom makes hot cocoa, and they talk. When Bloom suggests that Stephen stay the night, Stephen declines, and Bloom sees him out. Bloom then goes to bed with Molly; he describes his day to her and requests breakfast in bed.

Legacy of ‘Ulysses’

While the allusions to the ancient work that provides the scaffolding for Ulysses are occasionally illuminating, at other times they seem designed ironically to offset the often petty and sordid concerns that take up much of Stephen’s and Bloom’s time and continually distract them from their ambitions and aims. The book also conjures up a densely realized Dublin, full of details, many of which are—presumably deliberately—either wrong or at least questionable. But all this merely forms a backdrop to an exploration of the inner workings of the mind, which refuses to acquiesce in the neatness and certainties of classical philosophy.

Although the main strength of Ulysses lies in its depth of character portrayal and its breadth of humour, the book is most famous for its use of a variant of the interior monologue known as the stream-of-consciousness technique. Joyce thereby sought to replicate the ways in which thought is often seemingly random and to illustrate that there is no possibility of a clear and straight way through life. By doing so, he opened up a whole new way of writing fiction that recognized that the moral rules by which we might try to govern our lives are constantly at the mercy of accident and chance encounter, as well as the byroads of the mind. Whether this is a statement of a specifically Irish condition or of some more universal predicament is throughout held in a delicate balance, not least because Bloom is Jewish, and is thus an outsider even—or perhaps especially—in the city and country he regards as home.

Ulysses was excerpted in The Little Review in 1918–20, at which time further publication of the book was banned as the work was excoriated by authorities for being prurient and obscene. It was first published in book form in 1922 by Sylvia Beach, the proprietor of the Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Company. There have since been other editions published, but scholars cannot agree on the authenticity of any one of them. An edition published in 1984 that supposedly corrected some 5,000 standing errors generated controversy because of the inclusion by its editors of passages not in the original text and because it allegedly introduced hundreds of new errors. Most scholars regard Ulysses as a masterwork of Modernism, while others hail it as the pivotal point of Postmodernism. Perhaps the most notable of the works of analysis is Don Gifford’s Ulysses Annotated (1988).

The following are the main characters in the novel:

Stephen Dedalus: also the protagonist of James Joyce’s autobiographical novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). Joyce gave his hero the surname Dedalus after the mythic craftsman Daedalus, who devised the Labyrinth for King Minos of Crete and who created wings of wax and feathers for himself and his son Icarus. In Ulysses Dedalus is once more a searcher, this time for meaning in his past and present life. He symbolizes Telemachus, the son of Ulysses (Odysseus)—here embodied in Leopold Bloom, the universal man.

Molly Bloom is the unfaithful wife of Leopold Bloom, Molly makes a derisively mocking parallel to Penelope, the faithful wife of Odysseus (Ulysses) in Homer’s Odyssey. In Episode 18, the last section of the book, Molly (in bed with her husband) engages in a celebrated soliloquy, one of the most famous dramatic monologues in literature.

Leopold Bloom is the Odysseus figure whose wanderings through Dublin during one 24-hour period on June 16, 1904, form the central action of the novel. Bloom is curious, decent, pacific, and somewhat timid. Though he never leaves the streets of Dublin, Bloom is a wanderer like the Greek mythological hero Ulysses (Odysseus), to whom he is compared throughout the book.

In Stephen Dedalus, who represents both Telemachus and Joyce himself, Bloom finds a surrogate son. Through Joyce’s use of stream of consciousness, the reader knows all of Bloom’s thoughts on that June day. After Bloom’s psychological and literary wanderings, he returns home to his unfaithful wife, Molly, who has spent part of the day in bed with her lover, Blazes Boylan.

When
7.36 am (sunrise) Thursday June 16 2022 (Bloomsday)
until 7.36 am (sunrise) Friday June 17 2022
Where
Arts Mildura Hub, 39 Langtree Avenue, Mildura

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