James Joyce
Fritz Senn

There is a tendency of certain Joycean characters in conversation to evade the commonplace expression by giving their diction a particular, unexpected, impressive twist, and this verbal excess is perhaps proportionally more than ordinary human vanity would account for. This may or may not be a trademark of gifted Irish speakers who manage to bring a touch of sparkle into otherwise drab reality. Ulysses begins with such a commonplace action as the preparation for morning shave, but the first act is a ceremonious gesture and an out of place intonation of the Catholic mass in ecclesiastical Latin. It calls for attention and generates overtones, in this case liturgical ones, right from the start. Buck Mulligan elevates or magnifies every statement to an amusing level. Many characters will follow suit with different success and on different performative levels. Linguistic exhibitionism is predominant and in the long run will affect whole episodes.

Mulligan is particularly fond of using poems and songs. Within the first chapter alone he quotes, Yeats (“And no more turn aside and brood ...,” U 1.264), Swinburne (“Heart of my heart, were it more ...,” U 1.463), “when the French were on the sea ...” (U 1.543), “The Ballad of Joking Jesus” (“I’m the queerest young fellow ...,” U 1.584), with bawdy songs (“For old Mary Ann ...,” U 1.382) thrown in for good measure: “Redheaded women buck like goats” (U 1.707). His diction too is poetically punchy: “The jejune Jesuit,” “the bards must jeer and junket,” etc. (U 1.45, 468). At times Joyce marks quotations by italics, often they are mutely embedded in the text.

Quite apart from all those lyrical runs in Ulysses - Stephen’s thoughts in Proteus or the closing word of Molly’s are familiar examples - many of Joyce’s descriptive prose passages could pass for poetry, perhaps in a different arrangement of lines:

The high railings of Prospect rippled past their gaze.
Dark poplars, rare white forms.
Forms more frequent, white shapes thronged amid the trees,
white forms and fragments streaming by mutely,
sustaining vain gestures on the air.
The felly harshed against the curbstone: stopped. (U 6.486-90)

The subject here however is not poetic quality but efforts towards preciosity in speech.

An assumption made is that there is often a simpler way of expressing what in an illustrative example is rendered in parodic elaboration: “Will immensely splendiferous stander permit one stooder of most extreme poverty and one largesize grandacious thirst to terminate one expensive inaugurated libation?” (U 14.1529). Something trite is expanded into a glamorous display that emphasizes the phrasing more than what is being conveyed. The aim is to rise above the ordinary or the usual, to turn a pedestrian utterance into a verbal event, to give it momentary radiance, often in a gesture towards originality. A tiny bit of excitement is brought into lives that are otherwise devoid of it. The motive may be simple vanity, to impress by being different or humorous. It may serve as an antidote to the banality of everyday, to lend some sparkle to the drabness of existence (as it shows itself say in what Joyce called the “paralysis” of his city). This is in line with all those other substitute satisfactions we see at work, diversion through music (Sirens), through drinking, by vociferating (Cyclops) or the daydreaming in Nausicaa.

On a lower scale the attempt is to achieve something analogous to what an ambitious Stephen Dedalus grandiloquently aimed at: “transmuting the daily bread of experience into the radiant body of everliving life” (P 221). Some transient radiance is thus applied to the tiny crumbs of experience by fanciful ornamentation. High-flown endeavours of this sort easily fail.

The fancification of the ordinary is a common pastime in Ulysses. Buck Mulligan sets the pace as probably the most accomplished of its practitioners. In the present probe the key witness is Lenehan, his counterpart, who does his obsessive best not to say anything in a straightforward way. He amply displays his resourcefulness as he enters the stage of the newspaper office in Aeolus where his jocular circumlocutions are also in tune with the episode’s thematic concern, in fact he offers is a compendium of rhetorical tropes of his own.

Lenehan uses near synonymic repetition: “Our old ancient ancestors;” “Reflect, ponder, excogitate, reply.” He can cite palindromes: “Madam, I'm Adam. And Able was I ere I saw Elba.” He recirculates jokes: “Our old ancient ancestors, as we read in the first chapter of Guinness's, were partial to the running stream.” Everything is elaborated: “Owing to a brick received in the latter half of the matinée. Poor, poor, poor Pyrrhus!”, “A sudden-at-the-moment-though-from-lingering-illness-often-previously-expectorated demise, ... And with a great future behind him” (U 7.514, 683, 496, 574). Above all, he glibly calls up foreign languages: “Entrez, mes enfants!”, or “The accumulation of the anno Domini.” A simple “Thank you” is touched up into “Thanky vous” or “Muchibus thankibus.” At his most mechanical he shifts letters or words: “I hear feetstoops!”, “Clamn dever,” “O, for a fresh of breath air!” (U 7.507, 422, 468, 546, 393, 695, 812). He favours poetic or at least exalted diction and even contributes a limerick, not necessarily of his own invention, and perhaps simply modified for the occasion:

There's a ponderous pundit MacHugh
Who wears goggles of ebony hue.
As he mostly sees double
To wear them why trouble?
I can't see Joe Miller. Can you? (U 7.578) 

The effort is tritely unimaginative, but it reinforces themes at hand. A new, double vision is characteristic for Aeolus, which changes focus and perspective, it pits body text against headlines, it features language as spoken or as printed. One Homeric and Mosaic motif is not reaching a goal that is within view. “Joe Miller” for "joke" is a minute item of Lenehan’s habitual practice. 

His main effort is a punning riddle, “Silence! What opera resembles a railway line?”, with the solution “The Rose of Castile. See the wheeze? Rows of cast steel! Gee!”, and like any pun this one is instantly evaluated, with a feigned gasp (U 7.514, 591). “O, my rib risible!” (U 7.448) almost seems to indicate his customary aim to incite laughter.

There is something compulsive about his oratory, originality at any price tends to pall, an effect similar to how Stephen Dedalus feels about Mulligan’s witticisms that he has heard, he remarks, “Three times a day, after meals” (U 1.610). None of the quips offered by the jesters in residence, Lenehan and Buck Mulligan, may deserve spellbound acclaim but they remain hauntingly memorable.

Lenehan was already characterized in Dubliners: “... his adroitness and eloquence had always prevented is friends from forming any general policy against him. ... He was a sporting vagrant armed with a vast stock of stories, limericks and riddles” (“Two Gallants,” D 50) His first utterance on record is already typical:

-Well! ... That takes the biscuit! (D 51)

He instantly improves on the idiom, “to enforce his words ... - That takes the solitary, unique and, if I may so call it, recherché biscuit,” and he tenaciously returns to it: “- Of all the good ones I ever heard, he said, that emphatically takes the biscuit” (D 50-51). This is making a lot of a plain and, for that matter, entirely figurative biscuit though oddly enough we never learn what exactly causes his particular outburst.(1)

Manifestly Lenehan wants to say something that is unique and even recherché in emphatic French. “Recherché” is what has been “carefully thought out” and so fittingly characterizes Lenehan’s mannerism. He even carries his figurative biscuit into Ulysses when he comments on the Gold Cup race: “- Twenty to one, says Lenehan. Such is life in an outhouse. Throwaway, says he. Takes the biscuit, and talking about bunions. Frailty, thy name is Sceptre” (U 12.1226). Motivated, perhaps, by his own words, “... he went over to the biscuit tin Bob Doran left to see if there was anything he could lift on the nod” (U 12.1229-30), but is told that all the biscuits have been fed to the dog Garryowen. So there are no biscuits, real non-figurative ones, for him to take. The tin, like the phrase, is empty.

In the Bakery Line (U 7.339)

In “Two Gallants” Lenehan is manifestly hungry and so biscuits might in fact be on his mind. Joyce, transmuting the daily biscuit of experience, even introduces them into Aeolus by way of one unusual, unique and recherché adverb: “- The ghost walks, professor MacHugh murmured softly, biscuitfully to the dusty windowpanes,” where it is again applied to McHugh (U 7.237, who later on interrupts a speech with a “dumb belch of hunger,” U 7.860).

In Cyclops it is the empty biscuit tin that will be given prominence; in Circe the emphatic word in is elevated to liturgical heights: “Namine. Jacobs. Vobiscuits. Amen” (U 15.1241), where Jacob’s biscuits combine with Dominus vobiscus! Finnegans Wake even features “bixed miscuits” (FW 166.14). With so much emphasis on them, biscuits are worth another look. A “bis-cuit” is what has been “twice cooked,” the result of a process repeated, concocted one more time. Like most of Lenehan’s jokes, they are often patently stale, similar to Richie Goulding’s (“Jokes old stale now,” U 11.647). There is something déjàvu about Lenehan’s sayings; his contributions in Aeolus and elsewhere are mainly clichés or stereotypes, terms originating from printing, since the same plate can be used mechanically any number of times.

Aeolus sports a variety of the oratorical ornamentation, above all condensed form in Dan Dawson’s florid speech which becomes an object of satirical ridicule (U 7.240-8, 295-327). It is based on the same technique as Lenehan’s much more low key inspirations. Its clichés tend to be classical (“Neptune’s blue domain,” U 7.245), romantic and pleonastic (“translucent glow of our mild mysterious Irish twilight,” U 7.323). Bloom acknowledges, however, that “it goes down like hot cake that stuff. Why they call him Doughy Daw;” Dawson was “in the bakery line” (U 7.338-40). In the wind-blown episode the emphasis is on inflation: a lump of dough is extended into bread.

The language of Eumaeus is similarly inflated by failed attempts towards original expression, it blatantly strives to “pen something out of the common groove” (U 16.1230). It is bread, of all things, that calls up to Bloom a not very original twisted Shakespeare quotation, most likely a current Dublin joke: “O tell me where is fancy bread, at Rourke’s the baker’s it is said” (U 16.58). Dublin bakers sold and advertized plain as well as fancy bread.(2) From this perspective, Lenehan habitually turns plain into fancy expressions. In Eumaeus whatever might be plain is transposed to fanciful stylistic exploits.

All parodies, imitations, mockeries, pastiches (of which more later) are by definition twice-cooked. The most extreme manifestation is the Oxen of the Sun episode, where by stated authorial intention, everything consists in imitative, fancy concoctions.


Rhetorical embroidery or logodaedalia is not limited to Lenehan but distributes itself all over Ulysses, with a notable climax at the end of Oxen of the Sun, often referred to as a “Coda” where the group of men, including both Buck Mulligan and Lenehan, inspired by a Pentecostal spirit, engage in an impromptu revelry of twisted expressions and imaginative expansions where hardly anything is said in a straightforward way (U 14.1440-1591). The passage is one of the greatest challenges within the book for readers to figure out who might be saying what in what particular manner and idiom, and with what possible aim.

The results are confusing and often misleading. In “Where the Henry Nevil's sawbones and ole clo?” (U 14.1442) a conspicuous name leads astray as it primarily substitutes for “where the devil ...” in Cockney rhyming slang. “Sawbones” refers to the doctor in the group, and Bloom once sold “old clothes;” so the one clear name is a phantom (even if some Henry Nevil has been identified) and two real persons are hidden in circumlocution. For years Joyce readers have collectively unravelled most of the distortions and refractions. “Avuncular’s got my timpiece” (U 14.1471) hinges on the word “uncle” for a pawnbroker which is Latinized into a jocular adjective so that the sentence translates, around several corners, into something like “My watch is in pawn.” “Nix for the hornies” may lead to all kinds of stray associations; it is outdated slang for “Watch out for the police.” Plain words are meticulously avoided and, for practical purposes, the paragraphs are couched in a partly foreign language that has to be converted into the comprehensive standard. English itself becomes foreign.

Deviant elaboration may, and generally does, happen on less sophisticated levels. In Nausicaa Cissy Caffrey is the adventurous one, both in behaviour and diction. With “a frolicsome word on her cherryripe lips” she says “tea and jaspberry ram” (the transposition is reminiscent of Lenehan’s twists), or “I’ll run ask my uncle Peter over there what’s the time by his conundrum,” matched by “his waterworks were out of order” (U 13.272, 536, 551). She may be using existing facetious terms or make them up ad hoc just to sound a trifle more interesting, though perhaps not quite ladylike.

As usual Bloom is not rhetorically resourceful and tends to be fumbling rather than sparkling. Not that he would not try on occasion, but to refer to Stephen as “a friend of yours” to his father, or “Your son and heir” (U 6.39), or to Mrs Breen’s husband as “Your lord and master” (U 8.227) are comparatively fatuous efforts. His minor departure into another register, “natural phenomenon,” is felt to be out of place and evokes ridicule (U 12.464). He admires the “[m]ost amusing expressions” of Simon Dedalus and in Eumaeus aspires to contribute “the humorous element” in the vein known of Buck Mulligan (U 6.599, 16.280), but the envisaged literary dexterity generally results in out-of-tune gaucheness. Bloom is an Odysseus deprived of persuasive eloquence. His are not the gentle but winning words that a diplomatic Odysseus commands when confronting princess Nausikaa (“epeessin ... meilichioisi” Od 6.143); in fact when Bloom is approached by a young Cissey Caffrey he cannot even do what he is generally best at, give factual information, since his watch had stopped (U 13.546).

Logodaedalian bursts are found in odd places. The cast of Circe in Dublin’s Nighttown sports figures like a Bawd, a Virago, a Dark Mercury, all with their respective racy vernacular. Yet one would hardly expect a bystander named BIDDY THE CLAP commenting on Stephen in a remarkable jargon: “He expresses himself with such marked refinement of phraseology,” or CUNTY KATE topping it with “And at the same time with such apposite trenchancy” (U 15.4524). They even aspire to medieval or heraldic diction: “Methinks yon sable knight will joust it with the best” and “Nay, madam. The gules doublet and merry saint George for me!” (U 15.4638), with terms that might be fitting for Stephen in Nestor.

Highly diverting (U 11.272)

Lenehan remains true to type in Sirens where he tries to ingratiate himself to Simon Dedalus in another poetical burst, with classical decorations, referring to Stephen: “I quaffed the nectarbowl with him this very day ... In Mooney's en ville and in Mooney's sur mer. He had received the rhino for the labour of his muse” (U 11.263-65). The labour of Lenehan’s Muse falls on deaf ears and elicits only a curt “That must have been highly diverting” (U 11.272). Again “diverting” may be the appropriate term (apart for its musical vibrations) for diversion (from grim reality) is one of the aims of a person like Lenehan who faces so many snubs and disappointments.

In Sirens the trait of embellishment or fancification suffuses the whole episode. Tonal effects at times override the meanings, especially in the first sketchy arrangement that is often termed “Overture” (U 11.1-64), where “Full tup. Full throb” (U 11.25) is notable for its structure but makes little immediate sense. Music serves as a diversion or distraction for almost everyone. As Bloom muses, slightly off track: “Music hath charms. Shakespeare said” (U 11.904).

Simple words or phrases turn into motifs to be vibrantly elaborated. While the viceregal convoy is passing “Miss Douce said yes, sitting with his ex, pearl grey and eau de Nil.” It is followed by “-Exquisite contrast, miss Kennedy said” (U 11.67-68). The colloquial “ex” for “His Excellency” chimes with “exquisite” in the first of those many tonal glides that often link paragraphs. Soon “exquisite” becomes the subject for repetition and, some lines later, for variation:

Ladylike in exquisite contrast.
-The tuner was in today, miss Douce replied, tuning it for the smoking concert and I never heard such an exquisite player.
... where bald stood by sister gold, inexquisite contrast, contrast inexquisite nonexquisite, slow cool dim seagreen sliding depth of shadow, eau de Nil. (U 11.106, 277, 464)

This is on a par with Lenehan’s amplifications, but the device is applied to the entire composition. As it happens, “exquisite,” deriving from Lat. “exquisitus” (exquirere: to seek out”) is akin to an earlier “recherché,” something fastidiously chosen. Choice words can be used to express class: “With the greatest alacrity, miss Douce agreed,” and the narration instantly takes it up: “With grace of alacrity ... she turned herself ... alacrity(4) she served” (U 11.211-8).

What Bloom observed of a bird, “Blackbird I heard in the hawthorn valley. Taking my motives he twined and turned them” (U 11.633) is one of the chapter’s dominant devices, as in an early passage of echoing permutations:

With sadness.
Miss Kennedy sauntered sadly from bright light, twining a loose hair behind an ear. Sauntering sadly, gold no more, she twisted twined a hair. Sadly she twined in sauntering gold hair behind a curving ear.
- It’s them has the fine times, sadly then she said. (U 11.80-84)

The subject of the triple variations is slight and almost muted by the intrusive orchestration of sounds, motifs, words, assonances and alliteration.

Such salient effects are now taken for granted as the episode’s hallmark, but at the time of writing such startling mannerisms alienated even such a staunch admirer as Ezra Pound, who responded with a burst of jingling parody: “O gloire et decor de la langue Irso-Anglais: ... The peri-o-perip-o-periodico-parapatetico-periodopathetico - I don’t-off-the markgetical structure of yr. first or peremier para-petitec graph ... you have gone marteau-dingo-maboule -.”(5)

As usual Joyce extended the practice in fanciful variations. In marked contrast however the sonant pyrotechnics the episode can call up the extreme opposite, utter banality, mere conversational common places, which by repetition also turns into an arrangement:

George Lidwell told her really and truly: but she did not believe.
First gentleman told Mina that was so. She asked him was that so. And second tankard told her so. That that was so.
Miss Douce, miss Lydia, did not believe: miss Kennedy, Mina, did not believe: George Lidwell, no: miss Douce did not: the first, the first: gent with the tank: believe, no. no: did not, miss Kenn: Lidlydiawell: the tank. (U 11.815-20)

Give it a name (U 12.143) To celebrate the occasion (U 12.318)

Whatever else, the Cyclops episode also presents variations of in how many ways a drink can be ordered without being named:

-Give it a name, citizen, says Joe.
-Wine of the country, says he.
-What's yours? says Joe.
-Ditto MacAnaspey, says I. (U 12.143-46)

MacAnaspey is a name, though not of a drink, but a once current phrase, it looks thrown in simply for its out-of-the-wayness. Another round sports different labels, and Lenehan is contributing his quota:

-Could you make a hole in another pint?
-Could a swim duck? says I.
-Same again, Terry, says Joe. Are you sure you won’t have anything in the way of liquid refreshment? says he. (U 12.756-59)

-Hear, hear to that, says John Wyse. What will you have?
-An imperial yeomanry, says Lenehan, to celebrate the occasion.
-Half one, Terry, says John Wyse, and a hands up. Terry! Are you asleep?
-Yes, sir, says Terry. Small whisky and bottle of Allsop. Right, sir. (U 12.1317-20)

Helpful translations are provided for outsiders: an “imperial yeomanry” is explained as “Half one” and then further as a “small whisky;” “a hands up” is a phonetic approximation of Allsop beer, as well as a graphic illustration as the label on the bottle showed the Red Hand of Ulster. In tune with the chapter’s nationalistic concerns the roundabout references to drink carry historical overtones.

Beyond minor excrescencies in the dialogue the Cyclopean interpolations serve a similar purpose on a major scale. Simple events are elevated and transposed to a different place, occasion, perspective and mood. When drinks are served (“- Hurry up, Terry boy, says Alf,” U 12.279) a simple habitual act is magnified out of proportion into a ceremonial gift exchange as it might occur in classical epics. The prevailing technique is gigantic exaggeration and apposite diction:

Terence O’Ryan heard him and straightway brought him a crystal cup full of the foamy ebon ale which the noble twin brothers Bungiveagh and Bungardilaun brew ever in their divine alevats, cunning as the sons of deathless Leda. For they garner the succulent berries of the hop and mass and sift and bruise and brew them and they mix therewith sour juices and bring the must to the sacred fire and cease not night or day from their toil, those cunning brothers, lords of the vat.
Then did you, chivalrous Terence, hand forth, as to the manner born, that nectarous beverage and you offered the crystal cup to him that thirsted, the soul of chivalry, in beauty akin to the immortals.
But he, the young chief of the O’Bergan’s, could ill brook to be outdone in generous deeds but gave therefor with gracious gesture a testoon of costliest bronze. Thereon embossed in excellent smithwork was seen the image of a queen of regal port, scion of the house of Brunswick, Victoria her name, Her Most Excellent Majesty, by grace of God of the U nited Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British dominions beyond the sea, queen, defender of the faith, Empress of India, even she, who bore rule, a victress over many peoples, the wellbeloved, for they knew and loved her from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof, the pale, the dark, the ruddy and the ethiop. (U 12.280-299)

In old epics due weight is given to transactions; they are treated as unique events. The beverage handed out is appreciated as the work of the brothers Guinness in person (6) (who became knighted as Lord Iveagh and Lord Ardilaun). The bartender is addressed in a Homeric second person, and the penny offered in payment (hardly ever looked at) becomes a crafted work of art. The abbreviations of Queen Victoria’s titles on the coin are spelled out in dead earnest (with a nice overtone, “of royal port”). We are brought down again from a historical “testoon,” an appropriate word since the penny depicts a head (testa) of Queen Victoria, to the trite reality of the scene with a prosaic and slangy “- Here you are, says Alf, chucking out the rhino” (U 12.303).

turbatque notas

Interpolations in Cyclops are not visibly underlined; Joyce could have used italics or indentation. What distinguishes Joyce is that he does not mark variations or aberrations, he does not use signposts. In this he is like his early mythological prototype, Daedalus, the first artificer or engineer, a sculptor who fashioned a lifelike cow out of wood, who invented flying and built a labyrinth. The way the Cretan labyrinth was constructed is reminiscent of Joyce’s proceedings. Daedalus “... ponit opus turbatque notas et lumina flexum ducit in errorem” - he “... constructed the work and confused the [usual] marks [of direction] and led the eyes [of the beholders] astray by devious paths winding in different directions” (Ovid, Metamorphoses VIII.160).(7)

There were, in other words, no signs, no guideposts. In Ulysses they have to be supplied by commentary and annotations. The interior monologue, puzzling at first, is not set off from the rest.(8) Readers therefore can be misled (their eyes may go astray) and they frequently have to retrace or reinterpret, a common experience for example in the flowing syntax of Penelope.

No outward sign in Ulysses distinguishes imagination from fact, the real from the fanciful, what is straightforward from what is refracted. They mingle as in Stephen’s thoughts about a drowning case:

The man that was drowned, A sail veering about the blank bay waiting for a swollen bundle to bob up, roll over to the sun a puffy face, saltwhite. Here I am. (U 1.675)

The puffy saltwhite face is not seen, but mentally visualized. It is not Stephen of course who asserts his existence but the imagined corpse is proclaiming “Here I am.”(9)

An early tacit deviation from observed reality is to be found in Hades:

 -First round Dunphy's, Mr Dedalus said, nodding. Gordon Bennett cup.
 -Praises be to God! Martin Cunningham said piously.
Bom! Upset. A coffin bumped out on to the road. Burst open. Paddy Dignam shot out and rolling over stiff in the dust in a brown habit too large for him. Red face: grey now. Mouth fallen open. Asking what's up now. Quite right to close it. Looks horrid open. (U 6.421-24)

It takes a few beats to realize that the coffin bumping out into the road is not something actually witnessed but occurs in Bloom’s imagination, it is not part of the so far prevailing reality. Correspondingly, in Proteus Stephen Dedalus asks himself “Am I goidng to aunt Sara’s or not?” The sequel, soon after: “I pull the wheezy bell of their shuttered cottage: and wait. They take me for a dun, peer out from a coign of vantage ...” (U 3.61ff) has made many readers backtrack to find out that the visit did not take place outside of Stephen’s mind. Visible signs might have helped.(10)

In the larger analysis

Whole episodes, in particular the later ones, can be subject to elaboration. From the perspective adopted here headlines in Aeolus can be seen as extensions from ad hoc verbal antics. One instance, “-Clever, Lenehan said. Very,” in point of fact has been converted into the heading, nearly verbatim: “CLEVER, VERY” (U 7.674). But the capital letters make them stand out from the context in rare cases of typographical emphasis. Some of the later ones increasingly attract by their fanciful extravagance and their (attempted) verbal ingenuity.


This elevates a simple speculation (in a treatise attributed to Antisthenes of which only the title is known, “Helen and Penelope”) to a pre-Homeric beauty contest with national overtones; it also bathetically equips the most beautiful woman of antiquity with an elephantine “proboscis” - the elaborations are in the manner of Lenehan, but with heightened sophistication.

If Lenehan can turn “footsteps” into “feetstoops” (U 7.394) or invert the initial consonants of “Damn clever” (U 7.695), in Sirens elements can become displaced out of syntactical sequence:

Goulding, a flush struggling in his pale, told Mr Bloom, face of the night, Si in Ned Lambert's, Dedalus house, sang 'Twas rank and fame. (U 11.783-84, the split elements are marked in bold)

Musically perhaps, one instrument in the orchestra seems to play out of step; the result is a double take in reading and the necessity of a mental rearrangement. After the sample given the device is instantly varied by another re-arrangement of the same event, this time in pedantic over-identification:

He, Mr Bloom, listened while he, Richie Goulding, told him, Mr Bloom, of the night he, Richie, heard him, Si Dedalus, sing 'Twas rank and fame in his, Ned Lambert's, house. (U 11.786-88)

Cyclops is split up between a straightforward oral tale and excrescent interpolations, tangential offshoots of the prevailing theme. Nausicaa continues the process but separates the artificial first part, a type of romantic fiction, from its realistic second one where Bloom’s extended interior monologue is felt almost as a relief from the preceding excrescencies. Most of them, parodies, imitation, special effects seem to converge in Oxen of the Sun where practically nothing is natural or obvious and everything is transposed in time, lexis and situations before it ends, in its “Coda” in a concentration of demonstrative oral contortions.

What Buck Mulligan or Lenehan start off in small scale verbal exploits seems to magnify into the salient idiosyncrasies of later episodes.

Deshil Holles Eamus (U 14.1)

A claim could be made that the introduction to Oxen of the Sun is the most extravagant element in all of Ulysses, a multiply erratic block and a genuine obstacle in reading. The opening is “obvious” in an original sense of now almost opposite meaning. Originally “obvious” meant just what stands in the way (ob-viosus, via, way) and arrests a smooth progress. In English the meaning veered towards that. Since what obstructs is clearly noticed the English “obvious” has changed its meaning. There is perhaps nothing that is less obvious in the common sense and more obvious in its etymological, obstructional one than the opening of Oxen of the Sun. It obviates, stands in the way of, instant comprehension. We are brought up against a cryptic:

Deshil Holles Eamus. Deshil Holles Eamus. Deshil Holles Eamus. (U 14.1)

Three words are apparently unconnected, but repeated three times. Whenever something looks enigmatic or meaningless, attention is diverted to its formal aspects, in this case the threefold nature, three times three. On one, secondary, level this could be suggestive of the nine months of pregnancy, since the chapter deals with Birth in a maternity hospital. Purely structurally the opening continues the end of the previous episode which closed in a threefold “Cuckoo,” repeated also three times (U 13.1289-1305).

A formal pattern is dominant, but no meaning emerges, and speculation becomes necessary (one view once took it for a nearly Irish name: “Eamus, Deshil Holles”). Clarification was provided by Stuart Gilbert, who was close enough to the author to consult him. And so - prematurely, for better or worse - we have it straight from the stable that the wording is an incantation, “in the manner of the Fratres Arvales,” that resolves itself into “Let us go south to Holles Street.”(11) It is a hybrid composition. The first word is Irish deasil (with spelling variants), towards south, towards the right, sunwards, Holles is the name of the street, and Eamus is the Latin imperative for “go.” Conceivably someone like Mulligan might utter it. Once decoded, it sets the place, and it may function as a meta-injunction to the reader. It so happens that the opening contains the main ingredients of the language as spoken in Ireland, English (in the name Holles), Irish, and Latin. There is also something analogous to the first departure into a liturgical direction, Mulligan’s “Introibo ad altare Dei” (U 1.5) at the beginning. “I will enter” matches “Let us go!”

Threefold repetition is common in liturgies and prayers (“Sanctus! Sanctus! Sanctus!”). Gilbert tipped us off that the three words take us also back to the beginning of Latin literature, a prayer for fertility of the Fratres Arvales in Rome; it is, based on threefold repetition:

enos Lases iuuate,
(e)nos Lases iuuate,
enos Lases iuuate

The episode that rehearses the development of the English language goes back to the beginnings of Latin poetry. “Arval” gets a passing mention in Scylla and Charybdis, among names and terms in occultism: “Dunlop, Judge, the nobles Roman of them all, A.E., Arval, the Name ineffable, in heaven hight” (U 9.65). “Arval,” the name of a college of priests, derives from “arvum,” a ploughed field (arare, to plough). It is fittingly also used for the female genital. A ploughing metaphor also occurs in the episode: “has [Bloom] not nearer home a seed field that lies fallow for the want of the ploughshare?” (U 14.929-30). In the Library episode Shakespeare’s “uneared wombs” (U 9.664) echo ”Where is she so fair whose unear’d womb / Disdains the tillage of thins husbandry?” of Shakespeare’s sonnets (III, 5-6), where “unear’d” means unploughed. The verb “ear” is a cognate of Latin arare; “uneared” is misleading (compare a librarian “bald, eared and assiduous,” U 9.231), and yet it may bring to mind views according to which conception could take place through the ears.

The point of such ramifications is that the cryptic formula serves as a manifold and fertile stimulus (for fruitful or fatuous speculation), the secondary harvest may be significant, but compared to the lack of obvious meaning, they appear like side issues or embroideries. Why this particular formula, which may be thematically apt, but is not part of the book’s chronology? Nobody says it, no one seems to think of it. It is an intrusive, egregious, extraterritorial, gratuitous and amply significant addition on a meta-level, it is logodaedalian par excellence. Such was Joyce’s way, per vias indirectas. Aldous Huxley long ago described Joyce in negative terms, that a large part of Ulysses “is taken up with showing a large number of methods in which novels cannot be written(12) which is one way to designate many of Joyce’s innovations.

All of the foregoing could be subsumed under the general heading of Making a Lot out of Very Little. Joyce’s plots, right on from Dubliners, are notoriously unspectacular. All of Ulysses consists of relative minutiae within a limited area lasting less than a whole day. And what actually happens in Finnegans Wake, a work whose nets are probably cast widest in all literature? Secondary elaboration seems to be ubiquitous, and logodaedalia is one particular aspect.

An underlying assumption has been by stressing departures from the normal or the “obvious,” it is the assumption that we know what is the norm and what is the departure. Joyce implicitly questions such premises along with others. Is there a valid standard? What is rule and what exception? What is worth telling and which possible expectations ought to be fulfilled? Put slightly differently in Bloomian naiveté: “How can you hold water really?” (U 8.93).

1 As it happens, the “[L]ittle jets of wheezing laughter followed one another out of his convulsed body” in his description (D 49) are indicative: something like wheezing laughter is what he generally produces, quite apart from his own remark, quoted above: “See the wheeze?”
2 Bloom at his most unimaginative inadvertently tips off a race-oriented Bantam Lyons about the Gold Cup race, who then communicates his error to Lenehan in Wandering Rocks (U 10.517), who in turn proclaims the rumour that Bloom won money on a bet himself. In this intricate network Bloom refers to “that halfbaked Lyons” who “ran off at a tangent in his impetuosity to get left” (U 16.1290-91). Half-baked Lyons and Lenehan’s twice cooked biscuits seem to be in some peripheral relation.
3 Logodaedalia, Greek logodaidalia, combining word (logos) with daidalos (cunning), denotes skill in verbal artfulness, or the arbitrary or capricious coinage of words. It serves as an apt description for techniques of an author who chose the mythical Daedalus for a penname, and silence and cunning for defensive strategies. There is also something labyrinthine in verbal logodaedalia. Stephen Dedalus appropriately has his own virtuoso way with words, different in kind and scope from the variety treated in this probe.
4 The underlying adjective, alacer (lively, brisk) was to spawn the musical term “allegro” in Italian.
5 (10 June 1919). Forrest Reid, ed., POUND/JOYCE: The Letters of Ezra Pound to James Joyce with Pound’s Essays on Joyce (New York: New Directions, 1967), 157.
6 Bungiveagh and Bungardilaun: Brewers were called “bungs” in slang; hearing trains overhead under the railway station Bloom had imagined Guinness barrels and “bungholes sprang open” (U 5.315).
7 Fritz Senn, “Layrinthine Joyce ‒ classically detailed,” in Sabine Kyora, Axel Dunker, Dirk Sangmeister (eds), Literatur ohne Kompromisse. Ein buch für jörg drews (Bielefeld: Aisthesis Verlag, 2004), 263-78.
8 A new edition, Ulysses Remastered, by Robert Gogan, facilitates orientation by putting dialogue between quotation marks and marking interior monologue by italics and isolating it in separate paragraphs. It also separates the interpolations in Cyclops. (Stalteens: Music Ireland Publications, 2012).
9 This links to the controversial issue of who pays the rent for the Martello tower and who deserves to be in charge of the key. Is “It is mine. I payed the rent” (U 1.631) Stephen’s position, or else a memory of what Mulligan had said or a guess at what he might say?
10 They are provided in Robert Gogan’s “masterminded” edition where the whole passage is italicized and thus identified as interior.
11 Stuart Gilbert, James Joyce’s Ulysses (London: Faber & Faber, 1934), 290-91.