• 87
  • 3
  • 1
  • English 
Mar 20, 2019 03:12
Ulysses’ Scylla and Charybdis episode, poses a number of difficult issues. The Homeric correspondences do not seem to provide a clear framework for the reading of the chapter. Given that the two scary monsters are the English Empire and the Catholic Church, there are still many doubts about the roles that the librarians play in the general economy of the text. Scholars, as Mary Reynolds and Blake Leland, have sustained that an important interpreting key lies in the cantos XV and XVI of the Inferno of Dante Alighieri.
Needless to say, in the work of Joyce, the references to the Italian poet are various and countless; in the Portrait, a novel that establishes the groundwork for the poetic influences of the author-narrator, a woman called Dante plays the double role of the protagonist`s first educator and of a strenuous defender of the Roman Catholic Church. Since the beginning of his intellectual path, the relationship of Joyce with the Italian poet is strong but ambiguous: like Dante in the Comedy, Ulysses` protagonist Stephen Dedalus is a young man in search of his spiritual father(s); however, as shown by the first three episodes, his point of view on metaphysics is more inclined toward the Radical Aristotelianism than the doctrine of orthodox Catholicism.
My idea on the use Joyce makes of Dante, on chapter nine of the Ulysses, lies in the interpretation of the key figure of the protagonist`s friend-enemy Buck Mulligan as a renewed Brunetto Latini, Dante`s first maestro. I argue that interpreting his role as that one of Dante`s ‘deviant’ educator will offer a fine account for many obscure elements present in the text. The starting point of my analysis will be providing the clues of a Dantean influence for this episode; there are many hints suggesting that the literary conversation on Shakespeare hold by Stephen, Buck and the librarians, in the Nation Library, alludes to the events narrated in the canto XV of the Divine Comedy. After that, the focus will switch on the treatment that Dante reserves to his teacher. The sin of ‘ser Brunetto’ is controversial in nature and it has been matter of an intense debate in the recent years. Dante`s representation of his first role model and paternal figure in a circle of hell may concern more the acknowledgment of a literary influence and authority than a personal judgment on a moral behavior. Lastly, I will give a detailed account for the similarities between Buck and Brunetto, arguing for a specific choice made by Joyce on the matter.
The episode of Scylla and Charybdis counts many references to the cantos XV and XVI of Divine Comedy. In these cantos, Dante meets the sodomites, those who do violence against God, and against their own nature. Although in modern times the nature of this sin seems easy to characterize, many scholars have struggled to give an exact definition of it. It has been argued that such a sin was intellectual in nature and that it referred to those who ‘have injured others, either by means of force or fraud’; which is also the definition that Virgil, Dante`s guide, gives to him of it. Brunetto Latini, whom Dante meets at the beginning of the cantos XV, was his first maestro, that one who helped him to reach literary eternal fame. Of course, from the Catholic theological perspective (that Dante-poet pursues in his poem) eternal fame without salvation and grace, ruins a man`s soul, instead of saving it. In other words, secular fame is a corruption of an healthy ambition of aiming to the salvation of one`s own soul.
The hints that, in this chapter, Joyce is dealing with literary theories and intellectual ambitions, by the starting point of Dante and Brunetto`s encounter are many. At the end of the episode, after Buck`s mockery play, Joyce writes: “He laughed, lolling to and fro head, walking on, following by Stephen: and mirthfully he told the shadows, souls of men”. This last, ambiguous definition of the souls of man as shadows, is the common way that Dante use to refer to the sinners in his Inferno. The words would not seem to adhere to any specific context other than Dantean`s one. A few line before, Stephen and Buck, out of the library meet someone (probably a Dedalus` love interest) and Joyce describes the scene in this way: “Is that…? Blueribboned hat…? Idly writing…? What…? Looked…? The curving balustrade: smoothsliding Mincius”. A woman with a blue ribbon is usually associated with the Virgin, one of the guide-figure of Dante`s voyage, together with Beatrix and Virgil. The mention of the Mincius river is an other obvious reference to Virgil.