Short of rereading the book — an unlikely event at this late stage of my life — I'm rather given to outlining James Joyce's Ulysses. For it's Bloomsday today, and old Styles must mark at least Bloom's Centennial, since Ulysses merits some brief mention, especially at 100.
But what, pray tell, does that mean? Possibly that I might ignore the full text while concentrating, partially, on Chapter 14, "Oxen of the Sun." After all, what Joyce chapter better celebrates "English style."
OXEN OF THE SUN
Time:10.00 pm. Scene: The National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street. Organ: Womb Art: Medicine Colours: White Symbol: Mothers Technique: Embryonic development Correspondences: Trinacria-the hospital; Lampote and Phaethusa-the nurses; Helios-Horne; Oxen-fertility; Crime-fraud. (Helios Hyperion, Jove, Ulysses. Fecundation, frauds, parthenogenesis. Sense: The eternal herds).
Homeric Parallels: After passing between SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS Odysseus and his crew land on the island of the sun god Helios. Despite warnings from Circe and Tiresias in HADES, Ulysses' men kill and eat the divine oxen on the island of the sun. When they depart Lampote informs her father Helios, who petitions Zeus to punish the travellers. Death by thunderbolt ensues, and all of Odysseus' crew are killed, fulfilling the dark prophecies of Circe and Tiresias. Lashed to a mast and keel, Odysseus drifts back through SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS and is beached on CALYPSO's island, where years of sexual slavery await him.
Summary: Mrs Purefoy is in labour, and Bloom is visiting her at the hospital. A party is in progress, and Dr Dixon is there (who once treated Bloom for a bee-sting) along with Stephen, Lynch, Lenehan and others, and Mulligan who comes later. A nurse begs for quiet. The group are discussing problems in the philosophy of medicine: whether, in a dire childbirth, the mother or baby should be saved, and the ethics of contraception. Bawdy comments and noise ensue (like Odysseus' men, they lack respect for the sacred inhabitants of the place). Bloom can think only of his dead son Rudy. The talk turns to Stephen's choice of literature over the Church. There is a storm, and Bloom provides a scientific explanation of thunder. Papal Bulls are the next topic, then Mulligan gets bawdy. The nurse again asks them to keep the noise down, and Bloom too disapproves of the way things are going as the party gets drunker. Mulligan tells a gothic horror story, the Purefoy baby is born, and then the group pour into the street — Stephen and Lynch head for the red light district.
Comment: Stylistically, this is one of the densest chapters. It Begins with a primitive invocation, moves through (symbolically) nine stages of the development of the English language (which parallel the nine months of pregnancy), and ends in a chaos of Dublin slang, student witticisms, an evangelist's speech and nonsense — a sort of chronological synopsis of the English language and a sustained metaphor of the process of gestation. For Joyce here ontegeny (the development of the individual) recapitulates phylogyny (the evolutionary history of the species). Again the emphasis is on the dependency of narrative events on discursive style, and the relativity of styles in their mediation of reality. In the style of the 15th century, for example, Bloom's bee sting and treatment becomes "a spear wherewith a horrible and dreadful dragon was smitten him for which he did do make a salve of volatile salt and chrism..." The line-numbers and opening words of each stylistic imitation are given below:
1-6: "Deshil Holles..." primitive incantations.
7-32: "Universally that person's..." Latin prose style of the Roman historians Sallust and Tacitus.
33-59: "It is not why therefore..." mediaeval Latin prose chronicles.
60-106: "Before born babe bliss had..." Anglo-Saxon alliterative prose.
107-22: "Therefore, everyman..." Middle English prose.
123-66: "And whiles they spake..." imitates the C14th Travels of Sir John Mandeville.
167-276: "This meanwhile this good..." C15th style of Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur.
277-333: "About that present time..." Elizabethan prose chronicles.
334-428: "To be short this passage..." C16th-C17th Latinate prose styles of Milton, Richard Hooker, Sir Thomas Browne.
429-73: "But was Boasthard's..." John Bunyan.
474-528: "So Thursday sixteenth..." C17th diarists John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys.
529-81: "With this came up..." Daniel Defoe.
581-650: "An Irish bull in..." Jonathan Swift.
651-737: "Our worthy acquaintance..." C18th essayists Joseph Addison and Richard Steele.
738-98: "Here the listener who..." Laurence Sterne.
799-844: "Amid the general vacant..." Oliver Goldsmith.
845-79: "To revert to Mr Bloom..." Edmund Burke.
880-904: "Accordingly he broke his mind..." Richard Sheridan.
905-41: "But with what fitness..." C18th style of the satirist Junius.
942-1009: "The news was imparted..." Edward Gibbon.