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James Joyce's sense of esthetic symmetry

Jorn Barger July 2000 (updated Sept2000)

U3.503: "He turned his face over a shoulder, rere regardant. Moving through the air high spars of a threemaster, her sails brailed up on the crosstrees, homing, upstream, silently moving, a silent ship."

Budgen: "I stopped at the door as I was about to leave. 'You know, Joyce,' I said, 'when Stephen sees that three-masted schooner's sails brailed up to her crosstrees.'

'Yes,' he said. 'What about it?'

'Only this. I sailed on schooners of that sort once and the only word we ever used for the spars to which the sails are bent was 'yards'. 'Crosstrees' were the lighter spars fixed near the lower masthead. Their function was to give purchase to the topmost standing rigging.'

Joyce thought for a moment. 'Thank you for pointing it out,' he said. 'There's no sort of criticism I value more than that. But the word 'crosstrees' is essential. It comes in later on and I can't change it. After all, a yard is also a crosstree for the onlooking landlubber.'" --Frank Budgen, JJ&MoU p56

U9.493: "He Who Himself begot, middler the Holy Ghost, and Himself sent Himself, Agenbuyer, between Himself and others, Who, put upon by His fiends, stripped and whipped, was nailed like bat to barndoor, starved on crosstree, Who let Him bury, stood up, harrowed hell, fared into heaven and there these nineteen hundred years sitteth on the right hand of His Own Self but yet shall come in the latter day to doom the quick and dead when all the quick shall be dead already."

The purpose of this webpage is to discover what theory of esthetics might have compelled Joyce not to change this word, because of an effectively undetectable repetition 139 pages later on!

My extremist, 'IQ Infinity' hypothesis will be that Joyce built the entire structure of Ulysses as a whole in his head, using such linkages to keep it organised.

This is not to assume the links were laid out mathematically-- to keep it esthetic, he would have had to allow subtler variations than that.

(A simpler theory that I need to explore is that 'crosstrees' just needed to echo the cemetery crosses in Hades/Glasnevin.)

Radial or mirror symmetry

Exhibit B is from an early draft of the Mamalujo vignette of Finnegans Wake. [more]

Anno Domini: nostri sancti Jesu Christi
Nine hundred and ninetynine pound sterling in the
black bowels of the bank of Ulster
Braw pennies, my girleen, and gold pounds, by God,
'll prank thee finely
And no damn lout'll come courting thee or by the
Holy Ghost there'll be murder.

O come all ye sweet nymphs of Dingle beach to cheer
Brinabride from Sybil ariding
In her curragh of shells of daughter-of-pearl and
her silverymoonblue mantle round her
Crown of the waters, brine on her brow, she'll
dance them a jilting jig.
Yerra, why would she bride with sloomysides or
the gogram grey barnacle gander?

You'll not be lonesome, Lizzy my love, when your yank
is the worse for for his soldiering + his steel.
Nor wake in winter, widow machree, for you'll have
my old Balbriggan surtout
Wisha, won't you agree to take me for nothing at all
A power of fine fellows died
game right enough. but Who lives for you?

(JJA56, pp60-61)

Hayman supplies a clear image of this page on p218 of his "First Draft Version of FW", and emphasizes Joyce's network of lines connecting the poem's internal rhymes. Going verse by verse:

[1] Anno Domini: nostri sancti Jesu Christi
[2] Nine hundred and ninetynine pound sterling in the
[3] black bowels of the bank of Ulster
[4] Braw pennies, my girleen, and gold pounds, by God,
[5] 'll prank thee finely
[6] And no damn lout'll come courting thee or by the
[7] Holy Ghost there'll be murder.

Domini [1] echoes damn [6]
nostri sancti [1] echoes Ghost [7]
Nine [2] echoes finely [5]
black [3] echoes Braw [4]
Ulster [3] echoes murder [7]

[1] O come all ye sweet nymphs of Dingle beach to cheer
[2] Brinabride from Sybil ariding
[3] In her curragh of shells of daughter-of-pearl and
[4] her silverymoonblue mantle round her
[5] Crown of the waters, brine on her brow, she'll
[6] dance them a jilting jig and jilt them fairly.
[7] Yerra, why would she bride with sloomysides or
[8] the gogram grey barnacle gander?

Dingle [1] echoes jilting jig [6]
Brinabride ariding [2] echoes brine [5]
curragh [3] echoes Crown [5]
daughter [3] echoes waters [5]

[1] You'll not be lonesome, Lizzy my love, when your yank
[2] is the worse for for his soldiering + his steel.
[3] Nor wake in winter, widow machree, for you'll have
[4] my old Balbriggan surtout
[5] Wisha, won't you agree to take me for nothing at all
[6] as your own nursetender
[7] A power of fine fellows died
[8] game right enough. but Who lives for you?

worse [2] echoes nursetender [6]
winter widow machree [3] echoes Wisha won't you agree [5]

I'll suggest that this peek into Joyce's esthetic for poetry works very similarly for Ulysses as a whole. And I draw particular attention to the way the rhymes follow, overall, an ABCCBA pattern.

I believe this sort of 'mirror symmetry' around a central point is Joyce's first structural principle, going back at least to "A Portrait" but also predominant in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.

Ulysses' dance of hours

The only proposal I'm aware of for a large-scale 'symmetry' pattern in Ulysses was Ellmann's in Ulysses on the Liffey where he looks for triplets of chapters forming thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. (I find it wholly unconvincing.)

I was first led to look for an ABCBA pattern in Ulysses based on a consideration of the three known stages of its evolution, regarding the number of chapters:

On 16 June 1915 Joyce wrote to his brother Stannie that Ulysses was to have 22 episodes: 4 + 15 + 3.

On 18 May 1918, Joyce wrote his patroness, Harriet Weaver, that it would have 17 episodes: 3 + 11 + 3.

But by Jan 1919 he had added one more episode to the central 'Odyssey' (his term)-- ch10 Wandering Rocks.

The only sort of structural symmetry that could have survived these changes is one that views the eventual chapter nine (Scylla and Charybdis) as a center with no mirror-mate, with ch10 then being added in place of the (unneeded) mirror.

The central 15 or 11 or 12 episodes are Bloom's Odyssey, corresponding to Odysseus's adventures. They pair off like this (vaguely mirroring the sun's path):

                Scylla WRocks
            Lestry         Sirens
           Eolus             Cyclops
          Hades                Nausikaa
         LotusE                 OxenSun
        Calypso                  Circe

in a rough image of Bloom/Ponchiarelli's choreography of the "Dance of Hours".

I've come to believe each of these pairs represents a moral dichotomy:

Calypso-Circe = tame/wild
Lotus-Oxen = religion/irreligion
Hades-Nausikaa = realism/sentimentality
Eolus-Cyclops = control/license (= red/green)
Lestryg-Sirens = pessimism/optimism
Scylla-Charybdis = dogma/mysticism
WRocks = church/state

Bloom has to avoid the risk of extremism at each pole of each dialectic (corresponding as well to Odysseus's winning Penelope's contest of shooting an arrow thru a straight row of axeheads).

Wandering Rocks

Since the 19 sub-episodes of ch10 are probably a microcosm of the 18 chapters of the book, we should look for symmetries here, too:

    a. Conmee      s. Cavalcade
   b. Corny         r. Patrick Dignam Jr
  c. sailor          q. Artifoni/Farrell
 d. girls             p. Mulligan & Haines
e. Boylan              o. Cunningham & Power
 f. SD/Artifoni       n. Simon et al
  g. Miss Dunne      m. Stephen/Dilly
   h. Ned Lambert   l. Kernan
    i. Lenehan     k. Simon/Dilly
          j.  Bloom

(e and o are 'quarter nodes' here.)

a has 'inclusion' of Maginni
b includes c
c includes h
d includes a and k and Elijah
e includes j
f includes nothing
g includes i and HELYS
h includes p and a
i includes Four Courts and s and r and c
j includes Maginni and Four Courts
k includes racers and l and s
l includes n and Elijah and Breen
m includes midwives
n includes Farrell and h
o includes s and r (? Mooney)
p includes c and Elijah q includes nothing
r includes nothing
s includes nothing [diagram]

The overall pattern of the chapter starts around 3pm with a centrifugal movement away from St Francis Xavier in the northeast, and ends around 4pm with a centripetal convergence on the Ormond in the southwest.

Sections e and p both show 'suitors' spending money frivolously.

Sections e, g and i start simultaneously at 3:05. [map] Sections b, c, r and s start simultaneously at 3:15. [map].

SD and AA meet in f at the same time as SiD and Dilly in k, at 3:21. [map] SD and AA part as the girls arrive home in d. [map]

Sections l and p start together at 3:23. [map]

Penelope

Richard Stack notes: "Diane Tolomeo's essay "The Final Octagon of Ulysses", published in the James Joyce Quarterly in 1973 (volume 10). What Tolomeo shows is that the eight 'sentences' of the chapter are organized as mirror images of each other, the themes repeating and inverting each other like the parallel sides of an octagon"

Other Ulysses symmetries

24 Oct 1920 to Budgen: "Last night I thought of an Entr'acte for Ulysses in the middle of the book after 9th episode Scylla & Charybdis. Short with absolutely no relation to what precedes or follows like a pause in the action of a play. It would have to be balanced by a matutine (very short) before the opening and a nocturne (also short) after the end." (SL273)

Gilbert schema: [more]

ch1 = narrative (young)      ch16 = narrative (old)
ch2 = catechism (personal)   ch17 = catechism (impersonal)
ch3 = monologue (male)       ch18 = monologue (female)
       ch4 = narrative (mature)

Stephen seems to masturbate in ch3, Bloom in ch13, and Molly in ch18. [more]

Portrait

A Portrait has five chapters, so these probably conceal an ABCBA symmetry, with the Hellfire sermon as the centerpiece.

Joyce definitely juggled the reallife timeline, most likely to achieve this symmetry, most particularly in moving Parnell's death to Stephen's first year at Clongowes (1889 instead of 1891), and his first prostitute to his Belvedere days rather than the summer before University.

Finnegans Wake

Joyce explicitly stated that Book Three of FW offered "a description of a postman travelling backwards in the night through the events already narrated [in Book One]"

And the first four vignettes he wrote ended up either at the midpoint (ROC and T&I) or very end of the book (Kev and B&P). [more]


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James Joyce: main : fast portal : portal
major: FW : Pomes : U : PoA : Ex : Dub : SH : CM : CM05 : CM04
minor: Burner : [Defoe] : [Office] : PoA04 : Epiph : Mang : Rab
bio: timeline : 1898-1904 : [Trieste] : eyesight : schools : Augusta
vocation: reading : tastes : publishers : craft : symmetry
people: 1898-1904 gossip : 1881 gossip : Nora : Lucia : Gogarty : Byrne : friends : siblings : Stannie
maps: Dublin : Leinster : Ireland : Europe : Paris : Ulysses
images: directory : [Ruch]
motifs: ontology : waves : lies : Church : wanking : MonaLisa : murder
Irish lit: timeline : 100poems : Ireland : newspapers : gossip : Yeats : MaudG : AE : the Household : Theosophy : Eglinton : Ideals
classics: Shakespeare : Dante : Pre-Raphaelites : Homer : Patrick
industry: Bloomsday : [movies] : Ellmann : Rose : genetics : NewGame
website: account : theory : early : old links : slow-portal fast-portal

Ulysses:
chapters: summary : anchors : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12a 12b 13 14a 14b 15a 15b 15c 15d 16a 16b 17a 17b 18a 18b
notes: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
reference: Bloom : clocktime : prices : schemata : Tower : riddles : errors : Homeric parallels : [B-L Odyssey] : Eolus tropes : parable : Oxen : Circe : 1904 : Thom's : Gold Cup : Seaside Girls : M'appari : acatalectic : search
riddles: overview : Rudy : condom : Gerty : Hades : Strand : murder : Eccles
maps: Ulysses : WRocks : Strand : VR tour : aerial tour : Dublin : Leinster : Ireland : Europe
editing: etexts : lapses : Gabler : capitals : commas : compounds : deletes : punct : typists
drafts: prequel : Proteus : Cyclops : Circe
closereadings: notes : Oxen : Circe

Finnegans Wake:
txt: [I.1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 II.1 2 3 4 III.1 2 3 4 IV] : [HTML]
shorter: main : I.1-4 : 5-8 : II.1-2 : 3-4 : III.1-2 : 3 : 4 : IV
reference: thunder : Quinet : waves : [MP3 ALP] : FrALP : ItalALP : ch4 digest : Finn's Hotel : JAJquotes : search
drafts: NewGame : ROC : Kev : B&P : T&I : HCE : Mmlj : Cad : Rev : Pacata
closereadings: notes : ROC : T&S : Kev : B&P : T&I : HCE : Mmlj : Cad
theory: AI : archetypes : WakeOS : notes : origin : Scribble

Portrait:
ref: main : ch1 : ch1 notes : ch2 : 3 : 4 : 5a : 5b : Pinamonti : [notes] : [Cave] : [Gabler]

SHero: outline : quotes : PoA04

Dubliners:
etexts: Sis : Sis04 : Sis05 : Enc : Araby : Evel : After : 2Gall : Board : LitCl : Cntr : Clay : Pain : Ivy : Moth : Grace : Dead
guides: main : [Cave] : [Peng]

Other:
Exiles: Ex1 : 2 : 3

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