THE COMPLEAT ANGLER
The 4th installment of the YoU Lecture Series features Tom Grieve from Simon Fraser University. The lecture itself will appear in full in October. Until then, this short blog post by MVP Board member James Gifford (FDU) gives an entry to the text and responds to the topics broached in the very active chat accompanying it.
Liam Lanigan’s Twitter Chat whirled round the winds and news headlines as well as what Lanigan reminds us is the “fallibility of the medium” in relation to Parnell and other matters, which for Elizabeth Switaj binds it closer to the “spoken word,” or for Ronan Crowley functions as an entry point to the distinctly textual matter of drafts and manuscript states. However, Lanigan prompted his participants to take up a subject position that would identify the “angle” or perspective from which they approached the text – an intriguing possibility for a text that is plural typographically, fallible, voiced through print headlines and spoken dialogue, and caught between distinct states by the 1921 addition of the headlines. My own subject position is at a peculiar angle; it anamorphically shaped the text before I first read it, and continues to do so throughout the YoU (shades of John Paul Riquelme’s reading of “The Dead” here).
I first spoke of the YoU in London on Bloomsday 2012 during the closing banquet of the centenary conference of the Lawrence Durrell Society, and two distorted images were at play. There was nothing for it but to rethink one author from the perspective of the other, and then imaginatively to reverse the direction. There was Joyce’s deep influence on Durrell’s texts as well as Durrell’s attempt to play the strong poet during his 1974 CalTech lectures on Joyce. Both seemed clear from one angle, from one subject position – but both couldn’t make sense at the same time. Until there were headlines…
Headlines speak from a different timeline. Headlines speak from a different voice. And headlines make the narrative plural. Whether we think puerilely through “HOW A GREAT DAILY ORGAN IS TURNED OUT” the decadently logocentric phrase “? ? ?” or the fourth type of ambiguity in “SOPHIST WALLOPS HELEN SQUARE ON PROBOSCIS” we find ourselves in different timelines. This was my first anamorphic position from which to read: Durrell’s insistence in his lectures on reading Joyce through three timelines (“Ancient Medieval Modern, or three times, Present Future and Past”) and of seeing the Odyssey in three zones (“HEAVEN EARTH UNDERWORLD”). Reading Ulysses from this perspective is, of course, also an obfuscation of Joyce’s influence over Durrell, in particular his play with time or the tired notion of the other Bloom’s ephebe in a creative misprision. In short, it’s a call to understand Joyce through his 1974 reader, and at the same time is a distraction from reading Durrell from his 1922 strong influence. That seems a cheap strategy, and surely rereading Joyce in such a manner wasn’t at issue but rather rereading Joyce’s strong influence. “? ? ?” Yet, each of those perspectives would reshape the “angle” from which I could come to the image of Ulysses. But headlines do pull us daily between “Present Future and Past” through the idiomatic rejection of tense. “SOPHIST WALLOPS” is a simple present indicating a past event while “ORGAN IS TURNED OUT” offers not only a simple present and past but does so to create the passive. The reader is not only drawn between narration and headings but between times and zones.
And through both blows the Aeolian wind whispering a third level of discourse in allusion between the narration, discourse, and headlines. The Aeolian process reshapes the texts Ulysses touches by retracing its own erosion and accumulation.
And that is my subject position for the reader over my shoulder.
James Gifford (Fairleigh Dickinson University Vancouver)
Associate Professor | English | U. of Victoria